Officially, NCT 127 was not the headliner of KCON 2018 New York, but the intricate setlist and crowd screams would have made one think otherwise. Kicking off with an intense dance introduction, pin-point performances of singles like "Touch" and "Cherry Bomb," and even a special rendition of their 2017 b-side track "Whiplash," the boy band delivered one of the longest sets of the fest and left an audibly obvious impact on the Prudential Center arena. The scene-stealing showcase marked the latest step in NCT 127's steady trajectory to more American visibility that recently included stops at Beats 1 radio, BUILD Series, and even a live Apple Store performance.
Talking to Fuse the morning ahead of the set, the nine members reflected on their growth in the past year, where they see their band going in the future and the love that they have for the other members in their NCT brand.
FUSE: NCT 127 is back in America! We first talked to you at KCON New York last year, your first U.S. show, so how are you feeling a year later?
Taeyong: It's similar. What we're feeling is very similar, but now we're headed towards new goals in what we want to do. We're always thinking about what kind of songs we need to sing, what kind of performance we need to put on and what's good to show our fans. So overall, it's very similar, but it's always comes down to what's next to show to the fans.
Mark: One more thing to add to that, like what Taeyong said, we do feel the same way with how thrilled we are to stand in front of our fans and with as much that has happened in the year, we have new things to show to the fans music-wise and performance-wise. We want to show how much we've developed as well and so we're just glad to meet our fans who have waiting for us. We also prepared a new intro for "Touch" and it's a lot stronger than what people are expecting, it's going to be the first thing that everyone sees. We also have three members perform one of our new songs "Whiplash" so people can look forward to something new.
It really does feel like you guys are leading this kind of "new generation of K-pop," as they say. Do you guys feel this yourselves?
Taeyong: Rather than being able to feel that we are leading this new generation, we feel that K-pop as a genre is at the forefront of attention around the world. We have to try really hard as just one of the K-pop artists in this genre and we feel like we need to really just do our best within this genre. But I think we're going to be in every spot in the whole wide world.
Recently, you participated in the Empathy album by NCT that included a song and video performed by NCT 2018 with all 18 members in the band. What is a video shoot like that like?
Haechan: All the members were involved and because there are so many members we had to concentrate a lot harder and there were a lot more things to pay attention to. But because we tried hard, the end result was actually a lot better. In regards to atmosphere of the music video, because everyone was there it was actually really great. Everyone was feeling great and, in general, it was just good.
We saw you in Los Angeles recently performing and doing interviews. Now you're back in New York. Is the US more of a priority for NCT 127 this year?
Johnny: [Clarifying] I feel like we are always getting ready to come out to wherever, even America, even anywhere else, because NCT 127 as a team is a group that starts in Seoul and we want to spread out into the world just to tell everyone what K-pop is. We want to show everyone what NCT 127 is, so we're always ready to come to America—come to anywhere, practically!
You also recently made your debut in Japan and fans are hoping for news about a Korean comeback. What are you working on right now?
Jaehyun: We are always preparing new songs, new performances, and I hope we have more opportunities to meet more fans like over the world. I think we are always ready.
Mark: We actually don't know the exact date or anything [in regards to new Korean music], but I feel like we are always getting ready to kind of like make something, you know, to get back to our fans as quickly as possible. [We're involved with] every angle of the preparation, we're just trying to interact with the music. We are working on it.
“I ask fans to keep their expectations high for the group.”
KCON has a great lineup this year including some of your label mates like Super Junior and Red Velvet. But if you bring on one more artist to the lineup, who would you bring?
Taeyong: There are a lot of different artists in SM Entertainment, and there are a lot of our seniors in SM, but because there are a lot of our members in NCT, I think we would really like it if we could perform at KCON with the other members of NCT.
And do you have a message to the fans that are reading around the world and that may not get to see you as often as other areas of the world?
Johnny: So, first off, I would like to say thank you for always, I guess like, always rooting for us and supporting us. We are always working on something to show you guys, so I hope you guys are always ready to come out and be like, "Whoa, NCT is finally back!"
Taeyong: We're really happy that we can, once again, meet all our fans in New York and we want to continue to make great memories with our fans. NCT is going to continue to grow as a group, and I ask fans to keep their expectations high for the group.