BOYNEXTDOOR Talk Sophomore EP HOW?, First Year Since Debut & Relationship With Fans

Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for Teen Vogue

Before BOYNEXTDOOR even officially debuted in May of 2023, the world first got to know them by their tastes. Leading up to the big day, six mysterious doors appeared on the group’s newly created social media channels teasing each of the members’ names and personal preferences highlighting disparate elements ranging from fish tanks and dog bowls to posters of Nirvana, Matisse, Michael Jordan, and people breakdancing. When the six members finally came out of the door — quite literally — with their first single album, WHO!, it was clear why they had chosen to swing it wide-open personality first.

As the first-ever K-pop group from Zico’s KOZ Entertainment, BOYNEXTDOOR burst onto the scene with a concept firmly rooted in boyhood and a trifecta of lead singles — “Serenade,” “But I Like You, ”and “One and Only” — narrating the thrills of a crush. WHY.., the group’s first official EP comprising the three previously released tracks and another three all-new songs, followed suit a few months later, trading the tingles of that initial infatuation for the harshness of the first heartbreak. Now, BOYNEXTDOOR is closing out the first chapter of their career with their sophomore six-track EP, HOW? released on April 15, bridging the two sides of the story.

From start to finish, HOW? takes listeners on a rollercoaster ride that starts with odic lead single “Earth, Wind & Fire,” equating a partner to the entire world, and culminates in “Dear. My Darling,” a mournful ballad about forfeited love. (The EP also includes an English version of the lead single, which serves as the project’s seventh track and marks the first all-English release for the group.)

No matter what side of the spectrum they are singing about, there’s an air of nonchalance, mixed with unbridled confidence and charisma, that permeates through all of BOYNEXTDOOR’s releases, most of which are self-penned, self-produced, and even self-choreographed. Sungho, Riwoo, Jaehyun, Taesan, Leehan, and Woonhak are not trying to be like anyone else. Actively straying away from trending sounds and leaning heavily into conversational lyrics, the sextet are blazing their own path, creating pop earworms tinged with hip-hop and rock sensibilities and rife with infectious melodies and high-octane adlibs.

Two weeks after the release of HOW?, Teen Vogue caught up with BOYNEXTDOOR over Zoom from Seoul to chat about their youthful concept, the closing of their first trilogy, their desire to become Gen Z tastemakers, and their connection with fans, known as ONEDOOR. Read the interview and enjoy the exclusive selfies below:

Teen Vogue: First of all, I have to ask. “Earth, Wind & Fire” is supposed to be an allegory of some being your entire world, so why not water? We're 60% water, you guys.

Woonhak: [Laughs.] To be honest, we didn't even think of water.

Taesan: [Laughs.] But I think we're going to add that as an ad-lib.

TV: [Laughs] It's a joke, you don't need to.

Jaehyun: Well, if you think about it, water's included in the Earth, so it's kind of there.

TV: I'll take it. I'll take it.

TV: You've done WHO!, WHY.., and HOW!, and now your first trilogy is complete, going from first love to first heartbreak. What made you want to tackle young love as the theme for your introduction to the world?

Jaehyun: We gathered as a team and [figured out] we wanted to put out songs that talk about stories that everyone can relate to. We thought long and hard about how to start off our albums, and we believe that a lot of people have experienced [some type of] first love. It's something that's universal, so that's why we wanted to start off with the first love trilogy.

Woonhak: I think first love is a subject that we could only [tackle] at this moment in time, as newbies, so that's why we wanted to delve into this topic [right now.]

TV: It makes sense, do it while you can. Even if the topic changes in the future, do you think you'll keep doing story-led albums where each song continues from the one before?

Taesan: After we select the right topic, if we think it's right to lead it with a story-led kind of narrative, then we'll go with a story-led narrative. But if it doesn't suit the album that way, then we will go otherwise. It's not a must for us.

TV: How do you go about picking the topic that you want to tackle next?

Woonhak: We always try to choose topics that we want to talk about and that we can only talk about at this moment in time as young people living in this era. Because our name is BOYNEXTDOOR, we are supposed to be the familiar boy-next-door kind of guys, so we tend to go for topics that a lot of people can resonate with. So we'll do that as well for the next album.

<h1 class="title">BOYNEXTDOOR TEENVOGUE INTERVIEW</h1><cite class="credit">Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*</cite>


Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*
<h1 class="title">BOYNEXTDOOR TEENVOGUE INTERVIEW</h1><cite class="credit">Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*</cite>


Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*

TV: I know most of you are involved in composition, lyrics, and even choreo. Why is it important for you to be creatively involved and hands-on in your music and also your stages?

Jaehyun: Each member has a place where they can really excel and just add their flare into the album, so we can all be hands-on in that aspect. We always try to find the reason, the "why" — why are we creating this song, why are we dancing this way, why is the choreography this way? When we ponder on the "why," we come up with a lot of different ideas to incorporate into the albums and tracks. That's why I think it's important for us to be involved in the creative process, including the choreo, the songwriting, and the lyrics writing.

Woonhak: We always want to do something that's uniquely BOYNEXTDOOR, that only we can do, and for that, our ideas have to be incorporated into the album. I think that's what we've been doing so far, and that's what we're going to do going forward.

TV: For the members that are not as involved in the credits, do you want to participate in composing? I know Riwoo, Leehan, and Sungho don't have writing credits yet, but do you want to do it in the future? And how do the others make sure that the vision is still BOYNEXTDOOR, even if it's not all of you taking part in the process?

Sungho: Unlike the other three, Riwoo, myself, and Leehan might not be directly involved in the creative process, but when we think of a new album, all of us get together, think of the concept from the very beginning, and we try to come to an agreement on what concept and what kind of framework we want to work with. So, I guess that we are indirectly involved in the creative process as well. Currently, I don't have credits on the album, but I would like to in the future. Or maybe I could create some solo content later on. All of us have these aspirations for creating things. So when the time is right, I think we always are open to creating new concepts, new songs, and new content.

Leehan: Yeah, we are always open to all kinds of ideas and chances.

Sungho: Right now, I don't have credits in the album, but I'm still working [on stuff]; whether or not it goes into an album [is another story]. But, sooner or later, I think you'll get to see me on the credits.

<h1 class="title">BOYNEXTDOOR TEENVOGUE INTERVIEW</h1><cite class="credit">Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*</cite>


Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*
<h1 class="title">BOYNEXTDOOR TEENVOGUE INTERVIEW</h1><cite class="credit">Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*</cite>


Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*

TV: You don't have many songs out, but you do have a very distinct sound, which is very rare. What would you say are the trademarks of BOYNEXTDOOR at the moment? What are the markers that you absolutely need to recognize a BOYNEXTDOOR song?

Taesan: I think definitely one of our trademarks is our lyrics. We tend to write our songs in a very colloquial manner, and we use the words that we [as Gen Z] use in real life. I think we really speak from our hearts. For example, “Earth, Wind & Fire” is very distinctive. We use words that maybe other artists don't use in their lyrics or in their titles. When we are writing the lyrics, we think long and hard about what kind of language we should use to make it look and sound uniquely BOYNEXTDOOR. When we were creating this album, we wanted to write the lyrics so that when people listen, they can unleash their creative imagination.

Jaehyun: I think we are on our journey to creating this uniquely BOYNEXTDOOR style so that you can recognize the song is ours from the get-go. I think one other marker that we have is that you can't put us into one box. We're not limited to one genre or one story. I think that versatility is what is very uniquely BOYNEXTDOOR. For this album, HOW?, we used the concept of “kitsch-core,” which is a portmanteau we came up with combining kitschy and normcore. These two might not seem like things that go along well, but it was our take on these two words, and we made it uniquely BOYNEXTDOOR. So, for example, when we picture a love song, we all tend to think it should be mellow and adorable, but that's not always the case. We try to make sure that our songs can make people look at them from various perspectives.

TV: From what you are telling me, you seem to focus a lot on how other people interpret your songs. Do you monitor online reactions at all? And if so, do they influence your creative process? Or do you try not to let it interfere with your vision?

Taesan: I think it's the latter. Because we participate in the creative process, we're curious about how people react to our songs, so we do try to check out online how people react to our songs. But we try not to be swayed by those reactions, and we don't try to change our direction just because there is a certain thing people are saying. We have our vision from the very beginning, and we try to stick to that original vision when we create works.

Sungho: Yes, when we are creating an album, we tend to focus on the original vision and the story we had in mind. But when we are promoting the album, we want to think about various ways to convey our message or songs, just think about ways to market our songs. So then we do think about what people enjoy, what they like, what kind of format they listen to our songs on. When we are promoting the album, we tend to look at the trends and try to maybe adjust a little bit according to [what's popular.] I think it'll be really nice if we could become trailblazers in the trend world, so that's something that we take into consideration as well.

Jaehyun: I just want to add to that. I think this is a topic with different answers from different artists, but monitoring gives you a lot of inspiration. It's a source of inspiration for artists. You should not be swayed by the reactions online, but still, it's important that we look at the market trends and understand what people like as artists. That's something I think is very important, to catch the trend and think about how we could use it in our next step forward. So I think it kind of goes both ways.

Taesan: And lastly, instead of being swayed by the reactions of people, I think about whether this kind of lyrics would fit my age and the life stage that I'm in. I try to write in words that can really show our personality as individuals and as BOYNEXTDOOR.

TV: Okay, so you don't necessarily follow trends, but you like to be trendy, and you don't want to be put in a box. Now that you have a clean slate with closing the trilogy, what concepts or genres do you want to explore in the future and give them that BOYNEXTDOOR flair? What are some things that you have had your eye on for your next projects in the future? Not necessarily the next one.

Riwoo: So, we said this earlier, but we want to focus on the stories that we can tell only at this moment in time. What we do first is pick the story that we want to convey and then pick the genre. Currently, we are talking a lot amongst ourselves about what story we want to convey next rather than what genre or style we want to try. I guess we are going to pick something that's something we could do as BOYNEXTDOOR in this stage of life, and then we will find a genre and make it uniquely BOYNEXTDOOR.

<h1 class="title">BOYNEXTDOOR TEENVOGUE INTERVIEW</h1><cite class="credit">Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*</cite>


Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*

TV: For people who might not be as familiar with you. What initially inspired each of you to pursue a career in music? Or who or what is your main source of inspiration right now when creating music, and performances as well?

Leehan: There was a song that I worked on together with other members, but it wasn't released. But when I was working on that, I got inspiration from images and pictures. There are certain vibes and moods that you can feel through an image. You can almost smell it. I get a lot of inspiration from pictures and images and using that, leveraging that, I write lyrics and rhymes.

Woonhak: I listened to a lot of music growing up. I always just danced and sang and rapped together with my friends, so it was just natural for me to think of a dream of becoming an idol or joining a boy band. When I'm in my creative process, I get inspired by fiction, like books or movies.

Jaehyun: My mom was in the music industry, so I listened to a lot of music growing up, and I really fell hard for this one genre, which led me to love all the other genres in the music field, and that's what led me to start a career in music. As far as my creative process, I get my inspiration from conversations with people. Because BOYNEXTDOOR always deals with themes that are very relatable, I think it's really important that we listen to other people talk about their experiences and what they can say about different things. So I'd just call up my family or my friends and ask them, "Were you ever in this kind of situation? What were you like when you were growing up?" and I ask all these questions to listen to their experience.

Taesan: When I was little, my dad loved Michael Jackson and The Beatles, so he would always put that music on, and I grew to love it too. And then my mom recommended me to dance as a hobby, and that's how I [started thinking I could join] a boy band. I started dreaming of becoming an artist at 12 and became a trainee about a year later.

My creative process… I don't think there are a lot of things that I rely on except for my imagination. I come up with this character and then I think about what this character would do in a certain situation, and then the lyrics just come to me naturally. Recently, I was working on this song, and my inspiration was my dad's words. I can't go too deeply into it, but there's something that my dad said that really inspired me so…

Sungho: For me, I was always a big fan of music when I was little. After I was done with school, I would always watch music videos and listen to a lot of songs. I think when I was in middle school, I thought about what I should do when I grew up, and I think becoming an artist was the best way to go because then I get to dance, I get to sing, I get to perform; I get to do all the things that I like. So, that's why I auditioned for KOZ Entertainment.

Riwoo: I loved sports. I was an athlete when I was little and my mom recommended me to dance, so that's how I got started with this music business. And as I was dancing, I fell in love with music and that's why I wanted to become an artist. I take part in creating the choreography for the group, and I get a lot of inspiration from video clips. I watch shorts where people dance or rap ciphers and freestyle clips. I watch a lot of other artists' choreo videos as well. I think video clips are my biggest source of inspiration. When I watch, I try to kind of analyze what kinds of movements are used a lot and what kinds of movements are the most trendy.

TV: Your one-year anniversary is coming up in a month. How do you plan to celebrate?

Woonhak: Welllll, good news is that right after the day of our anniversary, we have a fan meetup planned so we are going to be seeing our fans. It's just going to be the stage, us, and fans so we are really looking forward to it. It's going to be a big wild party for us.

Leehan: And after the fan meetup is done, we are going to gather with all the staff and members, and then we are going to eat out together. Yayyyyyy.

TV: Your fan meeting is actually going to be your first concert on your own. You've only ever done stages and Weverse Con before. Do you feel nervous hosting your own event? How are you preparing for it?

Jaehyun: It's very heart-fluttering for us. We have butterflies in our stomach and we want to prepare in a way that we haven't ever done before. We want to show some performances and stages that ONEDOOR hasn't seen yet and those stages that ONEDOOR would really love, so we're working hard to prepare a really nice show for them.

<h1 class="title">BOYNEXTDOOR TEENVOGUE INTERVIEW</h1><cite class="credit">Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*</cite>


Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*
<h1 class="title">BOYNEXTDOOR TEENVOGUE INTERVIEW</h1><cite class="credit">Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*</cite>


Courtesy of KOZ Entertainment for *Teen Vogue*

TV: Reflecting on your journey since your debut, what accomplishments do you feel most proud of, and what has been the most surreal moment for you in that year or two?

Sungho: I think the most memorable moment was when we first met our fans on stage. I'm most proud of that accomplishment, of being on stage for the first time and meeting our fans. It kind of hit us really hard. It's like, "Oh, we really debuted. This is our debut." So that's the moment where I really felt most proud.

For the second question, I feel this with every stage that we perform on, but we see that there are more and more fans as time progresses and we have more albums. When we go on stage, we see the fandom just expanding in size. We can feel it. We can see it. We also see that there are a lot of positive reactions as we have more albums, so we are very happy about that. It feels very surreal. Also, just recently, we were number one on a terrestrial TV music show for the first time. We work on every album with a lot of grit, but we never expected that we would become number one in a terrestrial TV music show in such a short time. So it's much quicker than we expected, and I'm very happy that we have this very steep curve of growth. We feel very grateful and honored about this, and it came to us as a surprise.

TV: I was watching the MNET show that you guys did, BOYNEXTDOOR Toni3ht, and I was so surprised by just how good you are at interacting with fans. Why do you think your connection with fans feels so comfortable and authentic?

Sungho: Well, thank you so much.

Leehan: When we're up on stage, we see our fans, ONEDOOR, and they have these stars in their eyes. They're just so beautiful to see from the stage, so we can't not go back to them and do something in return. You want to go to them, say hi to them, and do something cute to them. We really enjoy the stage together with ONEDOOR and these interactions on stage give us a lot of strength. So I was happy to see these clips [from the show] as well because they captured everyone on and off stage genuinely having fun in the most beautiful way possible.

Woonhak: [In English] So sweet.

TV: Last question. I know you have your fan meeting planned for June, then you're also doing Weverse Con again. Obviously, performing in front of fans is likely your top priority, but what is something else that you're looking forward to for the rest of 2024? If you could manifest how you want the latter half of 2024 to look like for BOYNEXTDOOR.

Taesan: We want to go on as many stages as possible. And if possible, we want to release maybe one or two more albums. We also want to go on a tour and go on bigger stages. I think because we are still rookies, there are so many things that we haven't done and still want to do. And if there are people that love us, we want to go anywhere and everywhere to perform and show them what we got.

TV: Is there anything else that you want to add for ONEDOORs that might be reading this interview? Something that you want them to know?

Jaehyun: I love you.

Taesan: I love you.

Sungho: [Laughs.] I love you.

TV: Nice. Okay. Succinct, clear, simple, to the point.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. BOYNEXTDOOR's answers were translated from Korean via an interpreter.

Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

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