The last time Highlight visited New York, Highlight didn't even exist. It's been more than five years since the boy band band formerly known as Beast last visited the East Coast with Doojoon, Junhyung, Yoseob, Gikwang and Dongwoon experiencing a lot of changes including leaving the company that created them, starting an independent record label for themselves and reforming as the group you see today.
Backstage at KCON 2017 New York Presented by Toyota before their headlining set to close out the first day of activities, the band is at a calm and relaxed state with the members clearly comfortable with one another at this point to not only calmly chill with one another, but also crack up together when they do their best to shoutout some English phrases—with Dongwoon and Gikwang particularly catching a case of the giggles towards the end of the chat. But after nearly eight years together, it's clear that a passion and respect for one another permeates throughout these five individuals. There isn't any bitterness from their past (they even gave a shoutout to their former label mates BToB) and they clearly want each member to shine on his own in this new, exciting chapter for the group.
Read on for more with Highlight and look out for more from KCON on Fuse.
FUSE: Welcome back to New York, Highlight! How you feeling about this return?
Junhyung: As a group, it's been quite a long time since we've been in New York. We felt really sorry about not being able to see our fans abroad because we do have a lot of fans here. We're really happy to meet our fans and see them at KCON. If the opportunity arises, we would like to come as a group for a separate performance or concert tour as Highlight.
At this time last year, you were gearing up to release your last album as Beast. Now here you are a year later headlining KCON as Highlight. What advice would you give yourself back then?
Yoseob: I would like to say to myself from a year ago that there's no need to worry much. Looking back, it was a challenging time for us. But I believe in the trust and faith I had in my members, but also the fans and the new company's people that were joining us as family really, really helped support us to get to where we are today. I would tell him it's important to keep soldiering on.
Gikwang: In general, the five of us are all in the same boat. We have similar thoughts and worries. Around that time we probably all had similar advice to what to Yoseob said to give ourselves.
“I believe in the trust and faith I had in my members, but also the fans.”
How do you feel about this first year as Highlight?
Dongwoon: I would first like to say, as Highlight, we've received so much love and support as group so we're feeling really full as a group. I was naturally a little worried about starting with a new management company and whatnot, but everyone's been so supportive and so we've been able to come back from those initial doubts. We've worked hard this first half of the year as Highlight, but the next half of the year we'd like to work harder and give back to our fans.
When I listen to a song like "Plz Don't Be Sad," it sounds almost like you're a different group. But then songs like "It's Still Beautiful" and "Danger" have a classic "Beast" feel. Do you feel like a different group nowadays?
Dongwoon: As a group, I'd say we're not all that different from what we were doing originally. One thing that I think has shifted is that before we've released a lot of singles that have been a little more toned down, but with a name like Highlight we're able to bring a brighter side to our songs and I feel like we're growing a lot more comfortable into these songs. Not that we're always going to be releasing bright and sunny songs, but right now I feel like we're able to give off this enjoyable energy.
From being under Cube to creating your own company at Around Us Entertainment, you've now found a home to thrive. Do you think they'll be more artists coming to Around Us?
Junhyun: It's not that we don't have plans to invite other artists into our company, but if we find an artist we'd like to collaborate with or grow with, I think there is a possibility of that in the future.
Junhyun recently released his solo single "Wonder If" with Heize. Are there plans for any solo releases?
Dongwoon: Each of us area preparing some sort of solo "thing." I can't be specific at the moment [Laughs] but we all want to express our individual sides with our music so when we find the right songs, one by one, I think we'll start getting on those types of releases.
Gikwang: You won't know when it comes. Just...boom.
Do you have plans for a group comeback for this year? 2018?
Doojoon: We're not really sure yet, but we'll have to get back to you on that. But we're always writing and recording music all year round.
KCON has so many great artists this year, but if you could add one more artist to the lineup. Who would you choose?
Yoseob: BToB. In my opinion, they sing really well and their performances are really on point. I feel like I would like them to have the opportunity to have them shine.
Dongwoon: I don't know if you know this group, but there's a band called Dru Hill, which is where Sisqo came from. I've been a fan of Sisqo for a long time and dreamed of becoming a singer while watching him. I want to invite him to be able to say I've been able to come here because of him.
Check out all of Fuse's coverage from KCON 2017 right here. Below, watch BToB talk about performing in New York and Cube Entertainment: