Despite being one of the newest acts on the bills, KARD at KCON 2017 Los Angeles was a real-life representation of how connected K-pop fans are to their scene. The group had technically only made their "official" K-pop debut with their Hola Hola EP a month prior with the co-ed quartet hustling for months to truly earn not just one of the festival's most anticipated performances, but one that proved how K-pop's international audience is helping shape act's futures and shake up traditional industry standards.
While most Korean acts hype up their debut releases with an album for fans, TV appearances and as many musical performances as possible, B.M, J.Seph, Somin and Jiwoo took a different route by quietly releasing three buzz tracks and music videos, letting fans online control the response instead of any traditional media system. With their songs boasting the trendy, tropical-pop sound being touted by Justin Bieber and Kygo, along lyrics sharing both the male and female perspectives, fans around the world latched on to KARD to give them impressive sales in the States, tours in both North and South America, a Brazilian TV show appearance, endorsement deals and other opportunities to hint that K-pop's traditional debut method isn't as strict as it once was thanks to the scene's increasingly international fanbase.
From their take on the unexpected response to what we can expect from their next release, KARD opens up to Fuse below. Don't miss all thing KCON right here.
FUSE: I've been watching for you a minute, I love that KARD is not only bringing a new perspective to the scene, but your sound and feel is also refreshing. It's clearly connecting overseas where you were announced for KCON even before your debut. How's this all feel?
B.M: It's happening all so fast, you know what I mean? In six months, we were able to tour in Brazil, come to LA, have upcoming shows in New York, go to Canada. It's a really big blessing to be busy and be able to perform in front of lot of different types of people and different cultures. It's a beautiful thing.
How's it being back in your hometown of Los Angeles, B.M? Any spots you showed your band mates?
B.M: Man, awesome, feels awesome. Every time I'm back it feels awesome. We all went out together and I showed them In-N-Out Burger, and we went to Santa Monica, the beaches.
When I first heard "Hola Hola," to me it sounded like a mix of the past three singles. I even thought the dances were reminiscent of one another. Was that the plan all along?
B.M: You got that, nice. "Oh NaNa," "Don't Recall" and "Rumor" were like the parents of our debut song. Like you said earlier, when you listen to it, you hear other elements of the past songs. [Singing] "Hola Hola" isn't far from "Oh Na Na," and the dances are similar, you got that.
With the three pre-release singles, I saw a parallel in that most western artists release a few singles before touring and releasing their debut album. Did you consciously follow that plan?
Jiwoo: We didn’t really model after western artists, we chose to debut like that because we wanted to show everyone who KARD is beforehand and what our music is about. We’re pretty content about it.
Your music itself also has a more global focus. Are you fans of the tropical sound?
Jiwoo: Because our music is focused on trendy music styles and tropical music styles are globally popular right now, we worked with such sounds. Ultimately, it’s our style.
Your next U.S. tour is coming in September and October. What can you tell us about this upcoming run?
Jiwoo: We have different units and will do signings this time. It's our first time performing in certain cities [like New York and Minneapolis], and I think it'll be more exciting to see our performance live.
B.M: There's going to be a couple covers you may have seen from our past tours, but a couple we haven't showed in the U.S. It's going to be really good. I can tell you that, we're going to turn up really hard.
What's coming next? Can you confirm a comeback before the end of the year?
B.M: Definitely, definitely. Well, um, I can't say straightforward because we have to talk with our label to get ready. But definitely, in our plans, we want to come back before the year ends for sure.
Do you think you'll stick to a similar sound? Something different for the end of the year?
B.M: We might put a little twist, maybe a winter twist, something new that you can hear. It feels better when we put a little bit something fresh on it.
“We’re going to turn up really hard.”
KCON 2017 has a lot of awesome artists, like yourselves. But if you could choose one more artist to join the lineup, who would you pick?
BM: The Rose. [Whole group shouts in approval] One of the members, Sammy, is my best friend. He's also from California. Let's give him some love.
Somin and Jiwoo: Same, The Rose.
...Twice was actually at KCON last year!
J.Seph: Oh. I should have been at KCON last year... [Laughs]
Any last thoughts?
BM: Like always, we always appreciated anyone who supports and shows love. KCON is going to be crazy, shoutout to Fuse for coming out to interviewing us, can't wait to see everyone on tour.
Listen to a classic episode of Fuse's podcast K-Stop where we share our thoughts on KARD's initial foray into the scene with "Oh NaNa" below: