Fast-rising girl group Weeekly on their first year together and viral smash ‘After School’

The bright and captivating seven-piece also reflected on songwriting and where they want to be in a year’s time

It’s only been a year since Weeekly burst into our lives with the constantly shifting, unpredictable and incredibly infectious ‘Tag Me (@Me)’, but in that time they’ve marked themselves out as potentially one of the top girl group’s of K-pop’s fourth generation. They’ve done so with a slew of songs that burrow into your brain with big hooks that neatly span genres, prop-wielding performances and a commitment to being uniquely themselves. As they sing on ‘Tag Me (@Me)’, “I’m me, not anyone else.”

The wider world is starting to pay attention too. Their latest title track ‘After School’, from their mini-album ‘We Play’, is all over TikTok still – a true viral star on the platform, even outside of the K-pop corners of the app. The viral song has even garnered almost 80million views on YouTube and over 50million streams on Spotify. Outside of simple numbers, the group have also collected six rookie of the year awards last year, including at MMA and MAMA, and are steadily growing with each release.

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Like other artists who’ve debuted over the last 16 months, Weeekly have been restricted in how much they can show the world so far, but what chances they have been given they’ve grabbed, making a brilliant impression each time. In their music, member Jiyoon often contributes to the writing, with five credits to her name so far, including the breezy ‘Lucky’ and the zippy ‘Weeekly’.

On the live side, just check out their music show performances or their debut appearance at KCON’s virtual festival KCON:TACT, the latest instalment of which took place last week, for more proof. At the latter, Soojin, Ji-yoon, Monday, Soeun, Jaehee, Jihan and Zoa showed exactly why they’re one of K-pop’s most exciting new groups, captivatingly presenting their own work while putting the Weeekly stamp on a boyband classic.

We caught up with the seven members to talk about their KCON:TACT debut, going viral and their first year together.

weeekly interview after school we play
Weeekly. Credit: Play M Entertainment

Hello Weeekly! Congratulations on your first appearance at KCON:TACT. What were you expecting going into the event and what was the experience of performing on the KCON:TACT stage really like?

Soojin: “I was so honoured to be able to finally perform at KCON, which I dreamed about since when I was a trainee. It’s very unfortunate that we can’t meet our fans in person, but we were so happy and thankful to see our fans support us. We want to meet you soon in the near future so we can show our performances in person.”

Zoa: “I had this goal to perform at KCON as I dreamed about being a K-Pop artist and it was such an honour to join KCON:TACT 4U. We had so much fun on stage as much as we did preparing for the performances. Daileee (the name for Weeekly’s fanbase) who supported us through the screen made our stages even better.”

Why did you choose to cover EXO’s ‘Ko Ko Bop’ during your performance?

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Ji-yoon: “We wanted to give a summer vibe, and that’s why we chose ‘Ko Ko Bop’. There’s a saying in Korea, ‘Fight fire with fire’, meaning you eat or do something hot when the weather’s hot to beat it. We thought everyone could beat this hot weather with our energetic performances!”

Soeun: “Right, also we thought ‘Ko Ko Bop’ was the perfect song to show our powerful performances, which is one of the strong points of Weeekly. It was physically a little exhausting to do EXO’s powerful choreography, but it was an honour to cover the amazing song at KCON.”

Jihan, as a noted Orbit, you also had a successful fan moment when you got to have a video call with LOONA during their own KCON:TACT 4 U performance. How do your own experiences of being a fan help you connect with and understand Daileees?

Jihan: “As a fan of someone, I think about how we can communicate with our fans, and what our fans would like. I put myself in Daileee’s shoes, and I try hard to repay Daileee’s support.”

Over the last year, Weeekly have become known for your unique performances. What would you like to show on stage that you haven’t had the chance to yet?

Jaehee: “We have done performances using a lot of props, and we will continue to lead with the strength of being ‘unique’ but we want to grow into a group that shows memorable performances to the viewers regardless of whether or not there are props. I want to show you me singing a sweet song on stage.”

Monday: “Right. We’ve been using props for the performances so far, and we’d like to fill up the big stage with facial expressions and performances without objects – because we all love and enjoy our performances. I hope many of you can see that!”

weeekly interview after school we play
Weeekly. Credit: Play M Entertainment

‘After School’ recently went viral on TikTok and could easily go down as a catchy K-pop classic in the future. What were your initial impressions of the song when you first heard it? What does it mean to you now, after seeing so many people connect with and enjoy it?

Soojin: “When I heard it for the first time, I remember that I thought of the sunset on my way home from school, and it was very overwhelming. I feel so happy and proud whenever I see people all over the world who love, listen to, and interact and enjoy ‘After School’.”

Soeun: “When I first listened to ‘After School’, I thought it was a sentimental song that brings back memories. I think a lot of people felt the same way. The affection of everyone who listened to ‘After School’ really helped us a lot. Thank you!”

Ji-yoon, you have contributed to the writing of five Weeekly songs so far. How did you first become interested in songwriting, where do you get your inspiration from and what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about songwriting while working on Weeekly’s music?

Ji-yoon: “I liked music and writing since I was young. At first, I started writing lyrics because I wanted to write a song with my story, and I added notes to the lyrics, and I fell in love with composing. Inspiration is often obtained from conversations with people around me or ordinary daily life. I have a habit of taking notes whenever ideas come up. And I think the most important thing about songwriting is ‘the songs that I make’. I think I need to be more affectionate about the songs I make and keep revising it in a better way to make a better song.”

As you move forward into your second year, how do you want the message in Weeekly’s songs to develop? What do you want to share or make people think about with your music?

Monday: “I get comforted by music when I’m having a hard time, so I hope we can give hope and comfort to other people. There are various types of comfort. I think there’s a kind of consolation that makes you forget your pain and sadness with a smile, and I want to give comfort and smiles to those who are having a hard time with bright music.”

You made your debut just over a year ago, on June 30 2020. What has been the highlight of the past 12 months for you? How do you think you’ve changed since your debut and why?

Jaehee: “I remember the first face-to-face fan signing event. Since our debut, we haven’t been able to meet our fans in person for a long time, so I was very happy when we first met up close. What’s changed over the past year is that I debuted as Lee Jae-hee of Weeekly and met many fans. Every day feels like a dream and I feel happy.”

Zoa: “I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I made my dream debut. The most memorable past year has been filled with happy moments. Among them, I think I can pick the debut stage and the KCON stage as the highlights. Coincidentally, we’re performing our debut stage and KCON stage at the same venue. There’s a year difference in time, but I don’t think there’’s a difference between overwhelming and exciting feelings on stage.”

weeekly interview after school we play
Weeekly. Credit: Play M Entertainment

You took your first steps as a group during a strange time for the music industry and the world in general. How have your experiences as idols in the last year compared to what you expected your debut year to be like when you were trainees?

Soojin: “When I was a trainee, I imagined myself performing in front of everyone, and I think the biggest difference is that I haven’t had that many opportunities [to do so] yet. Nevertheless, I’m very thankful that we’ve made a lot of good memories over the past year thanks to Daileee, and I want to make more warm memories in the future.”

Monday: “As Soojin said, I imagined that I would be able to meet our fans in person and make a lot of fun memories. I’m sad that I couldn’t do that. But because of that, I think the time we spend together is more precious and special. I’m excited to enjoy my daily life with Daileee, which will be better and better in the future!”

Jihan: “I’m receiving a lot more love and support than I imagined when I was a trainee. So I’m so happy, but I want to show you better performances. Also, I imagined that we would have a strong relationship after our debut, but after a year, I think it’s similar to what I imagined that we’ve relied on and learned a lot from each other.”

Fans are such an important part of an artist’s experience and you have had few opportunities to meet Daileees. How has this separation – and the events of the last year – changed what you want Weeekly to mean to your fans?

Soeun: “I want to show you more familiar sides of me since I’m meeting my fans from a long distance, especially online. Even though we can’t meet in person, we share our daily lives and try to give you the feeling of being together. I hope Weeekly will be Daileee’s ‘Daily Life’ itself!”

Jihan: “Daileee means everything to Weeekly. Since we didn’t have many chances to meet, you’re even more precious and we miss you all so much. I want to show more to Daileee. I want to return the love and support that you always give us. I’ve never received so much love from someone, and I’ve never wanted to give so much love to someone. I want to be a ‘hope and happiness’ for Daileee.”

You picked up six rookie awards during awards season, which is incredible. How do those victories motivate you to become even better? On the flip side, do they also bring more pressure and expectation that you have to deal with?

Ji-yoon: “Thankfully, we received six rookie awards, and thanks to that, we have strong confidence and faith in ourselves. Even when we were having a hard time or anxious, our confidence and trust supported us. Of course, there’s a lot of pressure from winning rookie awards, but thanks to that, I practice harder and move forward. We’ll continue to work hard to show you better performances!”

Jaehee: “It motivated me to think that I should work really harder. The Rookie Of The Year award is a very valuable award for us, and I’m just grateful to everyone who helped and supported us to receive this honourable award.”

Other than meeting Daileee around the world, what are your ambitions for your second year as a group? If we were to speak again in June 2022, what would you like to be able to say you had improved on?

Zoa: “If I’ve shown you [an image of a] bright and bubbly teen so far, I’d like to show you my growth through various genres of songs and performances. I will work hard to become a singer who can pull off and express various concepts well, and I will continue to develop into Weeekly and Zoa!”

Monday: “There are so many things I want to achieve as Weeekly. Among them, in an interview just a year later, I hope I can say, ‘Weeekly has its own genre’. There’s a clear genre that comes to mind when you think of Weeekly, and I’d be very happy if we could show you how much we’ve grown.”

Soojin: “For the next year, I’d like to work hard so that more people can know about Weeekly, and make a week new and special for many people! And I want to grow into a singer who can express more diverse music.”

Weeekly’s latest mini-album ‘We Play’ is available on all major streaming platforms.

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