It has been nearly five years since LOONA first entered the K-pop music scene with their 18-month-long pre-debut project, where each member introduced themselves with a solo single and music video. Over time, the girl group have slowly but surely made their mark on the industry, on the way forming one of the largest and most passionate international fanbases (called Orbits) among their generation of K-pop idols.
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The 12-member act – comprising HaSeul, HeeJin, HyunJin, YeoJin, ViVi, Kim Lip, JinSoul, Choerry, Yves, Chuu, GoWon and Olivia Hye – now boast an extensive discography of solo, subunit and group releases. Be it the addictive bubblegum pop sound of their debut title track ‘Hi High’, the uplifting synth-infused ‘Butterfly’ or last year’s experimental electropop single ‘Why Not?’, LOONA have proved their ability to transcend genres time and again.
Eight months following their last mini-album ‘[12:00]’, the girl group are back, now more confident than ever with their fourth mini-album ‘[&]’ and its energetic new title track ‘PTT (Paint The Town)’. This comeback also marks the return of the group leader HaSeul, who went on a two-year hiatus shortly after the release of their sophomore project ‘[X X]’ in 2019 due to personal matters.
Days before the release of their new mini-album, the group spoke with NME over a video call about ‘[&]’, their leader’s return and their massive international following.
Congratulations LOONA, on the release of your brand-new mini-album ‘[&]’! What can fans expect from this new comeback?
Yves: “Since HaSeul is back, I think the biggest thing is that we can all perform together again. I think it would be great if fans can see our synergy as a group of 12.”
What are some of the challenges LOONA have faced while preparing for this comeback?
Chuu: “Because we are a performance group, I was worried that what we prepared this time wasn’t what fans expected. We were really worried and thought a lot about the performance aspect and practised a lot, so I hope people look forward to it.”
LOONA have always delivered interesting b-sides – songs like ‘Stylish’ and ‘Satellite’ have turned into fan favourites. Which B-side from ‘[&]’ are you most excited for your Orbits to hear and why?
Olivia Hye: “For me, it’s ‘WOW’. There is choreography for this song, which shows the bright and fresh concept we had in ‘Hi High’. It also has a really refreshing vibe, which makes it a good song to listen to in the summer.”
HyunJin: “I also recommend ‘Dance On My Own’. Like our previous single ‘Star’, the lyrics are all in English, so I think fans can look forward to that.”
What are some of LOONA’s goals for this new mini-album?
HeeJin: “Winning first place on music broadcast shows!”
HaSeul, it’s been nearly two years since you have promoted with LOONA. Fans are really excited to see you again, how does it feel to be back?
HaSeul: “Because it has been two years since I participated in a comeback, I prepared a lot for this one. I was really nervous preparing for this comeback, but my members helped me fill in where I was lacking. So I think that people will really be able to see our synergy as a group of 12.”
LOONA have such a massive following around the world. What do you think it is about your music that appeals to your fanbase?
Yves: “I think it’s because we don’t set limits in terms of our genre. For example in our ‘[12:00]’ album, we challenged EDM. Meanwhile in our new mini-album ‘[&]’, we also tried a deep ballad. So I think we have many fans around the world because of the variety of genres we challenge in our music.”
Among all of LOONA’s title songs, which do you think best defines the group and why?
JinSoul: “I think it’s our title song this time!”
YeoJin: “The performance aspect of our new song ‘PTT (Paint The Town)’ is really great. I feel like when people think of LOONA, most of them think of us as a performance group. So, I would say that ‘PTT (Paint The Town)’ defines us the best.”
Yves: “Also, in ‘PTT (Paint The Town)’, we are able to show a wide variety of colours. Since all 12 members’ colours are in this song, I think it is the best song that defines LOONA.”
On another note, you guys also made it onto Billboard’s Pop Airplay chart with ‘Star’ earlier this year. LOONA previously mentioned that the song was released as a gift to international fans. Did you expect ‘Star’ to be as successful as it is?
JinSoul: “We didn’t expect it at all! Although we have a lot of international Orbits, we didn’t have a full-English song, so we just wanted to do it for them. We never imagined that it would be such a huge success, and it was really unexpected!”
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
HeeJin: “We all gather and put our hands together to do a cheer! Shall we do it now?”
All: “Let’s go, let’s go, 가자 (pronounced gaja, which means “let’s go” in Korean)!”
Are there any unexpected genres that LOONA would like to try in the future?
Yves: “Kim Lip, did you have any?”
Kim Lip: “For me, I think we have tried many genres, but R&B is something that we’ve never done. So if we get the chance, I would really like to challenge the R&B genre.”
Each member of LOONA released their own solo single before debuting as a group. If you could choose to take on another member’s song, which one would you pick and why?
Choerry: “Rather than doing another member’s solo, I would like to try performing YYXY’s song ‘Frozen’. It had a really grand and mysterious vibe when they performed it during our concert, so I wanted to give it a try.”
HaSeul: “Instead of performing on my own, I want to team up with JinSoul and Yves, who are the same age as me. I would like to try doing Odd Eye Circle’s ‘Sweet Crazy Love’ with them. That’s my personal idea.”
Yves: “That’s your idea, not mine.”
What are LOONA’s favourite songs at the moment and why?
Olivia Hye: “For me it’s ‘PTT (Paint The Town)’! I had to listen to it over and over again while we were practising for this comeback, but I never get sick of it. Normally, you would get very sick of your title songs because from listening to them too many times.”
Choerry: “Definitely, I agree.”
Olivia Hye: “With our new song ‘PTT (Paint The Town)’, we can listen to it for a long time without getting tired of it.”
Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to Orbits around the world?
ViVi: “A lot of Orbits must have waited a long time for this and this time, we’re returning as a complete group with HaSeul and we’ve prepared a lot, so please look forward to it and show us lots of love!”
LOONA’s fourth mini-album ‘[&]’ is out now.