CIX on finally performing overseas: “It’s just the beginning for us”

The rising K-pop boyband also speak to NME about going through “tough times” and what’s ahead for them

The present – truly the only place in time where life happens – is also where we can contemplate the rhythm of how things are moving and the only place where we can nourish the conscience. In CIX’s reality, whose existence has been gracing the K-pop industry since 2019, this instance is full of opportunities and conviction, which leads to anticipation of what will come. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

It’s a warm evening in Los Angeles, California, and BX, Seunghun, Yonghee, Bae Jin-young, and Hyunsuk are currently pensive about the inflection point occurring in their careers. And for good reason. Just the night before, they performed overseas for the first time since the pandemic hit, sealing a hallmark long in the making.

“I think CIX still have a lot to show,” assures BX, the group’s diligent leader. “It’s just the beginning for us.” His answer comes drizzled with firmness, knowing they have been preparing for this moment, although a little uncertainty can be perceived. However, that’s what makes life exciting. Being more than 9000km away from home for their first US tour is definitely a revelatory enterprise as the group pierce bit-by-bit the heyday of their trajectory, leaving the “rookie” label behind.

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Therefore, talking about their here and now, it feels appropriate that Dante Alighieri’s magnum opus, The Divine Comedy, is the cornerstone of their expansive fictional world. The epic poem chronicles an ascendant journey where the main character goes from Hell to Heaven, intending to find bliss and redemption. In that same vein, CIX braved gut-wrenching obstacles during their ‘Hello’ series, a compelling initial statement bound by a malleable lexicon that has defined their artistry. Moreover, with the release of their first full-length album titled ‘OK Prologue: Be OK’ last summer, the group changed the course by sailing towards the borders of Purgatory.

Main vocalist Seunghun, ever-smiling with a radiant charisma, likens the symbolism of ‘OK Prologue: Be OK’ to that halfway phase between cloudiness and healing. “I think it resembles where CIX stands today,” he says. “We went through some tough times, including the pandemic, but now things are looking up, and we’re able to meet our fans after a long time. We’re heading towards more happy days now.”

This notion of hope that aligns their stride reflects – coincidentally or not – the aural and visual metamorphosis they have been experiencing in the past year. It’s not unusual for rising K-pop acts to sway in the conceptual spectrum to establish a cohesive identity, so learning how to master intricacies and daydreams has become one of CIX’s most essential qualities.

With their latest single, ‘Wave’, the quintet glaringly declared that their destiny is theirs to forge, but it was the acclaimed synth-pop jewel ‘Cinema’, the outline for a new artistic vision. In the music video, they dance in front of a movie theatre that exhibits film posters from previous records, a reminiscence that also serves as a cue of desired expectations.

“I believe people design their future based on their experiences, and with our experiences as a group so far, we want to design and build our stories with our fans,” Hyunsuk, the group’s towering maknae, says. “The stories that are expressed through our music can be different and new, sometimes stimulating. I think that’s what we and our fans find so special and unique about CIX.”

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“There is CIX’s own universe and storyline that we follow and unveil through each album,” Jinyoung chimes in, his tone contemplative yet elegantly confident. “I think it’d be interesting to make concepts and music that are not necessarily related to our universe’s story.”

Much of the magnetism that CIX have showcased thus far is rooted in the intersection of their individualities. All the members had different roads within the Korean entertainment industry before debuting – survival shows, going from acting to singing, changing companies, you name it – so their first steps as a group consisted of finding harmony. It wasn’t an easy task, of course, but they managed to break through under the bright lights to encapsulate the meaning of their name: Complete In X.

In Paradiso, the third canticle of The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri wrote that “a great flame follows a little spark”, alluding that small vignettes may propel a panorama imbued with prominence. CIX’s stardom has been gradually increasing to reach a solid presence that resonates inside the K-pop landscape, putting audiences under a spell with their eclectic musicality and breathtaking performances. While all in collective effort, it’s also a subjective process that invites an honest self-reflection.

For Jin-young, whose enthralling aura on stage diverges from his day-to-day lighthearted disposition, his previous trail cemented a framework that attests to his growth. Still, he’s not the type to be complacent, either. “I think my experiences as a member of Wanna One, as a solo artist, and now as a member of CIX have become my strengths,” he observes. “With such various experiences, I got to really set my dreams and goals.”

He also briefly reunited with the now-disbanded Wanna One at the Mnet Asian Music Awards 2021, an evocative occasion that meant looking inward before moving forward. “I wanted to show my improvement while performing for Wanna One as Bae Jin-young of CIX,” he says. “It was a valuable time to realise how much I have worked and grown up so far.”

cix interview hallyupopfest us tour future
CIX. Credit: Roger Tam

Several attempts are necessary to lighten up a spark, however, when the glow finally appears, the struggle turns dim – and Seunghun knows it. “I was known as the kid who can’t sing and I was called a tone-deaf and bad singer many times,” he says. Nowadays, according to his own admission, his voice is the medium through which he can express himself the best. “After a long training period, I think I finally found my style as a vocalist. My singing is the proof of my experiences and practices so far, so I’m trying to improve it.”

That evergreen promise to be better could be the compass of CIX’s vision. The group tease through their answers that self-discipline is part of their restless mindset and calibrating their pathway, as artists and individuals, is an open-ended venture. Small steps every day. New lessons to be collected. Yonghee, for instance, says that he had personal concerns when he debuted, but now he feels happier and more confident.

When I inquire about how he would describe the artist he is today, a moment of introspection unfurls. “I think I’m still growing,” he states with a half-smirk following the pause. “At first, I didn’t know things because I didn’t have much experience. Working with my members and on my own has helped me see things in different directions. I’m still learning and growing, but I think I’m now on the right track.”

And what about Hyunsuk, who is considered an all-rounder? This descriptor applies to K-pop artists who embody a versatile range of abilities, and the youngest of CIX could be a strong candidate. Yet, he takes this portrait of him with a disarming sense of modesty. “I think it’s a relative description,” he ponders. “Some people might like my rap, dance and singing while others might not like them at all.”

“At first, I was told to introduce myself as ‘Hyunsuk from CIX who can do rap, dance and sing’, but after some time, I realised that I’m not especially talented in any of those,” he explains. “I can do all those things, but at an average level, in my opinion. That’s why I constantly try to fill in the gaps so people who don’t even like my rap, dance, or vocal, can acknowledge my efforts and give some credit to me.”

cix interview hallyupopfest us tour future
CIX. Credit: Roger Tam

The thing about the present – or time in general – is that transition is inevitable, and today yields to yesterday, clearing the way for tomorrow. And for CIX, rather than a wandering run, it’s a fated place where reinvention is their catalyst for that ongoing progress. “We’ll continue learning and practising to become better artists,” Hyunsuk extends. “I hope you keep your eyes on what’s next for CIX.”

As for the soon-to-be, after cruising North America, the London edition of this year’s HallyuPopFest and other sonic realms are drawing near. “I feel very honoured and thankful to know that our songs and K-pop, in general, are dearly loved in a country far away from Korea,” Yonghee smiles. “I wish CIX to become a group that shares joy and happiness with more people through good music and influence.”

CIX’s first studio album ‘OK Prologue: Be OK’ is out now.

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