LIGHTSUM, CUBE Entertainment’s new eight-piece girl group, will be the first band to debut on the label since (G)I-DLE in 2018. Their first single ‘Vanilla’ is, according to leader Juhyeon, full of the “positive energy and power” that they want to share with the world, with the hopes that listeners will “look forward to the positive message and the charms that each of the members will show through their performances on stage”.
As the rookie group take their first steps into the world, NME caught up with them to find out who first inspired them to become idols, following in the footsteps of their self-producing and composing label mates, and their ultimate goal for LIGHTSUM. Get to know K-pop’s newest girl group below.
Why did you first want to become an idol? Were there any artists or people in your life that inspired you to take this path?
Hina: “I was in junior high and, at that time, TWICE were very popular so after seeing them perform on the stage, so I came to Korea because I wanted to be like them.”
Juhyeon: “I started my trainee life at 11 and at that time I saw a video of BoA and seeing her fill the stage alone, I was impressed by how she filled the stage by herself and that’s how I started my life as a trainee.”
Huiyeon: “Before my trainee life, I had experience of figure skating and I went to [an] academy. There, my teacher recommended I audition for a K-pop [agency]. Luckily, I passed the audition and I had an eagerness to become a K-pop idol so I started working hard as a trainee. I also went to a concert and listened to live music and then I felt like I really had to do this job.”
Nayoung: “I started my trainee life when I was in junior high and that’s when BTS became really famous. After seeing BTS being really synchronised on stage and after feeling that they really worked hard, I also wanted to be an idol like BTS.”
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt in your time as trainees that you’ll be bringing forward with you as a member of LIGHTSUM?
Juhyeon: “I started my trainee life when I was young, so I was used to the evaluation process and practising according to the schedule, but I always had this mind that I had to look back and think why I am working so hard? What’s my goal? Why am I running so hard? After debut, I don’t want to forget the goals I had as a trainee.”
Nayoung: “The one who endures is the one who wins. After going through a lot of struggles, I learnt that the person who endures all those challenges becomes a winner. Brave Girls are the best model for this to me.”
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced leading up to your debut and how have you overcome them?
Chowon: “I had long years of training and there were times where my debut was in front of me, so I had chances of debuting. It was like a carrot in front of me and I could run towards the carrot, but once the carrot is gone – which is the debut – I don’t have any goal to look forward to. There were times like that and I felt anxious about it, but I had friends and other trainees around me so I was able to overcome those struggles.”
Sangah: “Compared to other trainees, I started my trainee life at a later age, but luckily I was able to [get picked for] debut straight away. Since it was my first time as a trainee, I felt there were so many things that I hadn’t prepared and that, skill-wise, I wasn’t enough. That was my biggest struggle but, just like Juhyeon said, there were other trainees and friends who supported me around me so I was able to get through that struggle.”
You’ve all spoken about what kind of artist you want to be, saying you want to give positive energy to and act as friends for your listeners. Are there any artists who have played similar roles in your own lives, and what impact have they had on you?
Chowon: “Just like Nayoung said, after seeing BTS, I wanted to become like them. It’s not like I wanted to be an idol because of BTS but through them I got a lot of comfort and energy from their songs. Because BTS have various stories in their music, no matter which situation you are in, there was always a song that comforted me in many ways. I also want to become an artist where a lot of people listen to my stories and get comfort from it.”
Juhyeon: “Just like Chowon got comfort from BTS, I used to listen to IU’s songs. I could really relate to her lyrics. Just like her, I want to be an artist that’s really influential to other people.”
What’s the first thing you’re going to do after you’ve made your debut?
Hina: “I want to thank my parents first because when I wanted to become a K-pop idol my father really liked it but my mother was really anxious because I had to give up so many things and [also because] I’m the only child in my family. But eventually I made it, so that’s the first thing I want to do after I debut.”
Juhyeon, Chowon, Nayoung and Yujeong, you’ve all been a part of survival shows like Produce 48 and The Unit in the past. How do you think that experience has helped you in preparing for idol life?
Yujeong: “When I was just a trainee, I just did what I had to do. But after being a part of a survival programme, my dream was to become a winner and I became more ambitious about my dream. Since there were people supporting me, I worked harder.”
Chowon: “When I went to the survival programmes, there were people who really liked me and my name was known to a lot of people. I gained confidence through that and, although I was spending a lot of time inside the company as a trainee, the outside world seemed really different. But then through doing the programme and talking with a lot of adults, I was able to experience a bigger society and that’s why these days whenever I meet new people I get less nervous. Recently, it’s been a really big help to me.”
Juhyeon, you have experience with composing and CUBE has a long history of self-composing/producing idols. What are your ambitions in this field?
Juhyeon: “I respect artists who self-produce and compose their own music and that’s why I’m always trying to learn [about that]. In the future, I want to make my own self-producing album.”
Hina, you can probably relate to a lot of international K-pop fans who begin to learn Korean and about Korean culture after falling in love with K-pop. For you, what was it about K-pop that made you want to learn more about Korea before you became a trainee?
Hina: “When I saw K-pop idols’ dance moves and songs for the first time, I thought it was really cool and that’s why I wanted to learn more about it.”
Nayoung and Yujeong, you both used dancing and cheerleading when you were younger to help overcome your shyness. How did these activities help you gain confidence?
Nayoung: “It’s not that I gained confidence through dancing, but it helped me join the K-pop industry. After I joined the survival programmes and dancing on stage, that’s when I gained confidence, after seeing all the fans supporting me.”
Yujeong: “Cheerleading helped me to overcome my shyness because if I hadn’t done that I feel I wouldn’t have been able to perform in front of people, but it’s not the main reason I got confidence.”
Chowon, you’ve also trained as an actor. Do you feel like music and acting offer different ways to express yourself or are there similarities between the two? Are you tapping into a different part of yourself when you’re finding emotions and a story when you’re recording songs and performing compared to when you’re building a character for an acting project, or does it feel the same?
Chowon: “I feel that music and acting feel the same when I express them. There are people who act by calculating those feelings and there are people who act by inviting you into the scene. I’m the one who becomes really immersed in the environment when I act so whenever I’m recording or acting I can just do it right away because I’m really immersed in it. As for comparing music and acting, since I have to think of my vocals and facial expressions I used to think a lot more with music than acting.”
Sangah and Jian, you are the rappers of the group. When did you first try rapping and how easy was it for you to pick up? How do you feel your confidence and style has developed since then?
Jian: “I started rapping five months ago because I only had been practicing my vocals before. But I was interested in rapping so I started learning really fast. I heard that my tone for rapping is really unique so I’m trying to make it my own strength.”
Sangah: “I started learning rap five months after I joined the company and at first I didn’t expect that I would learn rap. That’s why I also had a little struggle learning it and I was a slow learner since it was my first time learning rap. But then after meeting my coach, I started to find my own style, which is powerful and mid-low tone – which is different from what I look on the outside. As of now, I don’t have full confidence in my rapping skills since it’s only a year since I started learning rap so I still want to learn more about it and gain more confidence.”
Huiyeon, in your PR interview you said that “We can do anything”. Thinking with that limitless attitude, what is your ultimate goal for LIGHTSUM?
Huiyeon: “Talking about the ultimate goal for LIGHTSUM, it’s not that there’s a specific goal for us for now, but each and every year there will be a new goal for us since we will grow day-by-day. Also I want LIGHTSUM to be the artists who can share their feelings to all the people around the world and that each of the members shine bright.”
Looking into the future, how would you like people to think about LIGHTSUM? What kind of legacy would you like to create?
Juhyeon: “I want LIGHTSUM to be a group who’s really friendly, who’s always by your side and always makes you smile. Whenever there are delightful moments, I want our music to be with you and our stages too. As a goal, I want us to be a friendly group who can approach people in many ways.”
LIGHTSUM’s debut single ‘Vanilla’ is out now.