Every Friday this summer, Refinery29 explores the passionate, rollicking world of fandom. We’ll take a look at how we organize, create, debate and show our passion for the things we love — the good, the bad, and the loud.
Last night, while performing a gritty, razor-sharp, and impassioned dance cover of Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy" onstage at KCON New York, The Boyz looked like anything but regular boys. Today, sitting in front of me, all giddy smiles and palpable energy, the 12-member group seem much more like the down-to-earth bunch of guys that their name suggests.
Cre.Kerz Entertainment's rising stars Sangyeon, Jacob, Younghoon, Hyunjae, Juyeon, Kevin, New, Q, Ju Haknyeon, Hwall, Sunwoo, and Eric range in age from 18 to 23. And throughout the two years since their debut — from the lively "Giddy Up" to their most recent "D.D.D" — the K-pop group have been known for their captivating charisma and all-around talent when they take the stage. But they're also beloved by their fans (called The B) for their humor and warmth offstage. They’re unafraid to be unabashedly themselves as they navigate their unconventional lives as international stars, as well as share their diverse passions, which help distinguish each of them within the large group.
Refinery29 sat down with The Boyz following the whirlwind convention to talk about their own journeys as fans and how they nurture their interests. And now that they’re in the spotlight, how these experiences have helped them relate to the fervor of those who look up to them.
Refinery29: What kind of music did you listen to in your households growing up?
Sangyeon: "I liked to listen to a lot R&B, such as Eric Benét and Brian McKnight."
Younghoon: "I would listen to K-pop songs, such as Super Junior's 'Sorry Sorry,' Girls' Generation's 'Gee,' and TVXQ's 'Balloon.'"
Kevin: "Since I was young I've been exposed to lots of different kinds of music. I did musical theater as a kid, so I grew up listening to songs from Hairspray and Chicago. I like jazz music because I did jazz band in high school. But most of all — and all of our fans know this — I'm a huge Beyoncé fan."
Jacob: "I used to listen to a lot of rap, like Eminem. But nowadays I really like acoustic music, such as songs from Ed Sheeran and Tori Kelly."
What else were you fans of growing up?
Eric: "I love sports, and I'm a Dodgers fan. I was a baseball player back in LA: I played shortstop, second base and center field. l'm a fan of collecting hats, so I have at least 50. "
Hwall: "Since I was young, I've been really interested in fashion. I bought a lot of clothes. I'm currently trying 'hard fashion,' and researching and studying clothes and trends. I love a lot of clothes that are unique. I think I have the best style out of the members."
Kevin: "Whenever we're in casual or practice clothes, Hwall is always dressed in high fashion." (Laughs)
Sangyeon: "My hobby is photography. I love classic, film cameras and I've been taking lots of pictures of the members recently."
Have you ever gone to great lengths for the things you love? Seeing artists live, waiting for a shoe drop, etc.?
Kevin: "I used to and still am a huge fan of [a capella group] Pentatonix, so when they came to Vancouver I lined up super early with my friends and brought them art that I made because I love drawing. We went to two different concerts, and at one of them we went out before the encore song so that we could see them backstage. We said 'hi' to their videographer and saw them going into their tour bus, which was really cool."
Was that your most fan-boy moment?
Kevin: "Yes, probably, because Beyoncé rarely comes to Vancouver." (Laughs)
Hyunjae: "I'm a really big foodie. I especially love chicken. All kinds."
Kevin: "He can identify the brand of Korean fried chicken just by looking and smelling it. Not even tasting."
I've been in our fans' shoes. Even the smallest action that Pentatonix did during their concert – the little gestures, making eye contact — made me feel recognized and special. The fact that someone I adore knows I exist means the world.
You've all experienced these fan-boy moments, so how does it feel when you see your fans doing that for you?
Sangyeon: "I've waited in really, really long lines for a rollercoaster ride, but it's hard for me to even wait an hour for something like that. So when I see how long our fans wait in line to see us, it's something that really touches me. I'm so thankful that they'd do that for us."
Hwall: "Being a devoted fan in the way that ours are is not something that just anyone can do. It takes a lot of time and energy. The fact that our fans wait for so long just to see us one more time shows how much they love our group, and it gives us a chance to show them how precious they are to us. It encourages us."
Sunwoo: "When I see their smiling faces after they've waited it gives me so much strength. To echo was Sangyeon said about the roller coaster, waiting for so long is tough, but once you go on the ride it's such a fun time that it makes you completely forget the work it took to get there. So we want to be a roller coaster for our fans, and want to repay them with our performances on stage."
Kevin: "I've been in our fans' shoes. Even the smallest action that Pentatonix did during their concert – the little gestures, making eye contact — made me feel recognized and special. The fact that someone I adore knows I exist means the world. So in knowing how that feels and being able to relate to that, I always try to make the effort to make that extra eye contact and send a heart here and there, because I know that my smallest gestures mean everything to some of our fans. I'm so grateful for that relationship."
What was a fan moment that touched you?
Juyeon: "We were in Japan, and it was the day before we had gotten our first win on a music show. When we were backstage at this show we could hear our Japanese fans singing us a congratulatory song...in Korean!"
Sunwoo: "After that first win fans put up congratulatory messages and pictures of us in Times Square. We cried when we saw it."
Eric: "Recently we wrapped up our first Asia fan-con tour. At one of the stops, the fans prepared a surprise video for us that we didn't know about. At the end of the concert, they told us to look behind us. We turned around and there was a minute-long video that they had prepared for a really long time. That made us very emotional — some of us teared up, some cried. The kinds of gestures that fans take time to make in general really touch us and motivate us to keep making our music. Because in the end, they're the reason why we do all this, and why we'll continue to do it in the future."