The Girls Take a Leap
Words by Yang Soo-bok of The Big Issue.
Loona appeared to us with the catchphrase of “We meet a new girl every month”. Coming to us through a novel method of sequential debuts, in 2020 - two years after the full group debut - Loona entered the Billboard 200 main chart with mini album 12:00 in a record-setting achievement. Given the many implied meanings in the word “girls”, they do not settle for any single “girl” image, but rather expand themselves as they sing and dance. Most representative of this is the 2019 music video of “Butterfly”, expressing a narrative of oppressed girls all around the world becoming free through Loona and imparting a message of solidarity with a soaring choreography like a butterfly. Returning with new song “PTT (Paint the Town)”, the girls declare that “No one can stop us here,” that they will “break the taboo” and paint this world with their colors. What colors will these twelve girls, the starting point of unity, paint us in now? We met with Loona, who create radiant hues with their individual colors.
After coming back with mini album [&] you’ve won a music show for the first time as a full group. This was the first promotion in a long time for Ms. Haseul, coming back from rest, and we’re curious to know how you felt.
Haseul: I was nervous and really tense coming back after so long. We prepared the concert and fan meeting at the same time, and the members helped me loosen up and as I kept going up on stage the nerves went away. I think I had a lot of fun in the promotion.
Choerry: We gained just one more person in Haseul unnie, but that increased the energy so much and we had more life in the dorm. I thought, we really cannot lose even one out of 12 people.
The organic combinations in performance is another reason that people waited for full group activities. It’s heart-swelling to watch but surely difficult to dance. Wasn’t the choreography practice difficult?
Kim Lip: We try to get better every album so we can give even greater satisfaction. We put in the work to do choreographies that satisfy viewers even if they’re hard for us, so I hope you’ll look forward to the next album too.
Jinsoul: Actually there are two moves that we gave up on because they were too hard in practice. One is a move where someone steps and climbs on other members’ bodies, and the other is one where we get down and roll about twice. We took it out because the song was too fast, but the choreographer said she wanted to try it in another song later. (Laughs) I figure it might show up someday.
Yves: Jinsoul could do it. (Laughs)
Jinsoul: I’m nervous. (Laughs)
We heard that you decided to call each other “Jagiya” [Honey] to avoid hurting each other’s feelings. Who used this the most?
Jinsoul: Haseul and Choerry were the only two who actually used it.
Haseul: We have a lot of members and we’re always practicing through the night until 5 or 6 AM when the sun comes up, so it’s easy to get tired and sensitive. So we decided to use this like a pet name so even when you make a mistake you won’t feel as hurt. At first we were going to use “Love you,” and then decided on “Jagiya”. But now that we made this, no one uses it except me and Choerry. (Laughs)
Heejin: This spread to the staff too and they call each other “Jagiya”.
You’ve handled a lot of different concepts in solo and unit and full group activities until now. Which member fits this concept the best? Whoever is selected should pick the next member.
Hyunjin: I want to pick Heejin as someone who really transformed. She went blonde for the first time and her image completely changed. She has Western features so blonde hair makes her stand out even more and it looks great on her.
Heejin: It’s so hard to pick. It really fits everyone well and Hyunjin too (laughs), but I want to pick Yves unnie. There’s a scene filmed in a temple in the music video, and when Yves unnie did the “When the eyes of the moon are masked” she really looked like a god.
Yves: I… (Ponders) Thought Hyunjin fit well. (Laughs) Hyunjin has this innocent image, but she actually handles any concept really well. Hyunjin, you wanted to hear this, didn’t you? (Laughs)
This is a group with unique lore. You’ve been showing a process where girls encounter each other and become one, and the slogan for this album is “And all Loonas are one”.
Yves: Haseul joined us this time, so at last we’ve become twelve. And given the circumstances right now, everyone might feel isolated and lonely. We wanted to give people strength with a message that even though all girls around the world might be separated they can become one through Loona, that we all might be in different countries but we are together.
In the “PTT” music video there was an element that hinted at lore connections. Ms. Kim Lip and Ms. Jinsoul appear in outfits from your debut tracks “Eclipse” and “Singing in the Rain”. It must have been a welcome sight.
Kim Lip: I wore that in 2017, back when I was thinner than now, so I worried a lot that I wouldn’t fit in that skirt anymore. I nervously tried it on in the fitting room with Jinsoul unnie, but fortunately it fit well so I filmed happily. The director played “Eclipse” for me on the set, and listening to that took me back to those days and also made me emotional thinking that I’ve grown this much already.
Jinsoul: I like school uniforms so I was excited to wear this outfit again. The problem is, I was so excited waiting to film but we only filmed my back and it was over. (Laughs) I assuaged my disappointment by filming Tik Tok videos and stuff on my own. If I get a chance I’d like to wear it again at a concert.
You filmed a lot of music videos on location abroad, but it must be disappointing that you can’t easily go abroad due to COVID-19. Is there a foreign location that you’d like to revisit?
Go Won: We filmed the yyxy unit music video in Hungary, and I want to go back with all the members. The streets were so pretty and the night view was beautiful too. It’d be nice to film outdoors as well.
Yeojin: Abroad is good too, but I want to go to Jeju again. We filmed the 2020 Summer Package there and Choerry unnie’s solo music video too, and the ocean was so pretty. And I think it’ll be good to tour the members’ foreign locations again, but rather than filming I want to use vacation and just travel. (Laughs)
You have lots of international fans and your Billboard chart numbers are great. What do you think makes you popular as a global girl group that the world pays attention to?
Olivia Hye: I think it’s the music. They usually encounter us through music, and if you dig deeper you find the members’ solo debut music videos and you find the lore, so I think they find that attractive. The members have attractive personalities too. In my case, I’m fascinated when fans call me cute. (All: cheers calling her cute)
Meanwhile Ms. Chuu formed a running crew with other artists on the variety show Running Girls.
Chuu: It was the first opportunity to become close with other artists outside of our members. I’m more shy than you might think, and I felt awkward so that made me even more high-strung and active. The members probably felt very familiar watching their first impressions of me on the screen again.
Go Won: I imagine she was really worried because she wasn’t going with any other members and she was the youngest cast member. But Chuu unnie always does well wherever she goes, so as expected she did well there. (Laughs)
Jinsoul: After coming back Chuu was complimenting the other artists and said she wished they’d become friends with the other members too. I think it was a really great opportunity for Chuu.
For the other members, is there someone you’d like to run with or become close with, if you got the chance?
Yves: The members all had fun watching the Olympics. The athlete An San in archery even promoted “PTT” on the news for us, so we all cried emotional tears. An San-nim, wanna go on a run together?
Jinsoul: We all tried archery on Chuu Can Do It and I was terrible. I wish An San-nim would teach us archery.
A word for An San?
Yves: An San-nim, Loona is just twelve small girls and yet someone who competes on the world stage promoted us on the news. My relatives and my mom’s friends had great reactions. Thank you for giving us tremendous strength during our rest period after the promotion. Let’s have archery class together!
Ms. Choerry and Ms. Olivia Hye both showed out on a fishing show. Both of you were good at fishing. Do you have experience?
Olivia Hye: That was my first time but I think there’s beginner’s luck in everything. And I think a good memory should remain as the final one, that way it’s most beautiful. (Laughs)
Choerry: We must all have good luck. It was my first time too. We have a lot of members, so I figured I need to feed at least one octopus per two members so I fished diligently.
It was your first time going on a variety show alone without the members. Were you worried?
Choerry: I was very worried. I realized the burden that the members felt when they went on variety alone. I was with greatly senior sunbaenims and they told me “Now that you did this with us, any other variety show will come easy to you,” and they took good care of me so I was able to do well.
What other variety show do you want to try?
Choerry: I think going on Running Man all together would be fun.
Olivia Hye: I’ve been wanting to go on Amazing Saturday. I think we’d do well.
Maknae Ms. Yeojin turned an adult this year. Curious to know how you feel, and also how the oldest unnie feels watching the maknae.
Yeojin: I said before that I wanted to stay at the sauna past 10pm when I became an adult, but because of these circumstances I can’t go outside. I think everything’s the same as before except I don’t go to school anymore. (Laughs) I hope the fans will keep watching how I do as an adult.
Vivi: Yeojin was my first roommate after coming to Korea. I watched her grow up, so I feel a lot of complex emotions when I see her now. She dresses maturely now, and when everyone else is doing a cute concept she sometimes expresses a sexy feel by herself. But she’s an adult now, so I hope Yeojin will do everything the way she wants. (All: laughs)
After individual debuts, the group was completed in August 2018. It happens to be August right now so it’s been three years. When do you realize that you have grown?
Heejin: Comparing the early days to now, I feel that we come together well when we practice or decide on something. We connect with and understand each other well, without needing many words. I’m so proud because I feel like all 12 of us live together so amiably. This feels like a real family now. When something bad has happened to someone, or when someone is sick, we notice it immediately.
Hyunjin: Both in interacting with other members and also in our work - when I feel like we’ve gained tact, that’s when I think we’re really growing. We were inexperienced near the beginning, but as we grow more familiar and learn more, I think we’re changing for the better.
Haseul: I was just reminded of this. So Heejin is normally not good at expressing her emotions. But the other day we were talking on the phone, and Heejin goes “Unnie! Ah, never mind…” I told her to go on, and she said “I just wanted to say I’m thankful and I’m glad to have you!” (All: laughs) That’s when I realized we’ve really become family. When you’re not that close, you don’t often express gratitude or apology to avoid misunderstandings, right. But I think we’ve grown so close that it’s hard not to do that.
It seems that the fans cherish the group even more because they watched the members get revealed and promote one by one. When were you most grateful for the support of Orbits, your fan club?
Olivia Hye: When we won the music show after our comeback, the other candidates were so outstanding that I literally had no expectations. But then I heard we won the max score in text voting. I was deeply grateful because it seemed like they knew we’d be happy to win and they pulled their strength together.
Kim Lip: When they always support us from our side and take care of us in little ways, not only during promotions but even afterwards when we are resting. And just the fact that they remember us is a huge strength for us. I always say I thank them and I love them, but I also feel sorry that I can’t give them anything more than words. I wish I could show them the size of my heart of love. Due to the existence of Orbits who are always cheering for us, because of Orbits, thanks to Orbits, Loona can be in motion.