Solar and Moonbyul on the creation of MAMAMOO+: “It was a road we had to achieve at some point”

The MAMAMOO duo also talk to NME about ‘Act 1, Scene 1’, milestones in their solo careers and their upcoming US tour

Arriving from a small K-pop agency in 2014, few had expected MAMAMOO – made up of vocal queens Solar, Wheein, Moonbyul and Hwasa – to take the K-pop industry by storm. But they came, they saw and they conquered, breaking stereotypes and pushing artistic boundaries far and wide. Though it’s a calmer phase for them as a group now, as they look to shine in equal parts together and individually, their journey is a continuing source of creative surprises.

This time, Solar and Moonbyul join forces as MAMAMOO+, the first sub-unit of the quartet, to put out their single album ‘Act 1, Scene 1’. But as the duo explain to NME over Zoom, the dawning of this project was not a matter of if, but when. “We have spent a lot of time together since our trainee days,” Moonbyul says earnestly. “We fought sometimes, we agreed sometimes, and we had a lot of experiences to come this far. Becoming a unit wasn’t that difficult, and it was more of a road we had to achieve at some point.”

‘Act 1, Scene 1’ is the overture to their new zeitgeist, which Solar and Moonbyul first previewed last August with the digital single ‘Better’ with BIG Naughty. The three-song project melds their buoyant personalities with shapeshifting pop melodies, encompassing a well-known balance off and stage. “We felt the good parts we individually had supported each other, and the lacking parts were also fulfilled,” Solar adds smiling, her voice always poised throughout the conversation.

Here, both K-pop artists talk about their synergy, devising ‘Act 1, Scene 1’, last year’s solo milestones and MAMAMOO’s upcoming North American tour.


mamamoo solar moonbyul

When did you start conceptualising ‘Act 1, Scene 1’ and how was the decision-making process to better reflect the artistry MAMAMOO+ want to construct?

Solar: “Preparing for this unit isn’t something we did overnight. We had a lot of concerns and a lot of questions about which [creative direction] we should take. With all the pondering from last year, the actual time when we started to work on [‘Act 1, Scene 1’], it didn’t take that long.”

Moonbyul: “We have been wanting to do the unit for a while now, but it really came together when we started to prepare for our US tour. The identity we want [to achieve] as MAMAMOO+ is for our music to have a happy vibe.”

You mentioned that putting together a unit was the hardest – compared to MAMAMOO as a whole or your solo releases – because of the differences in opinions that may arise. Were there any creative discrepancies when outlining this record?

Moonbyul: “When [we are working as soloists], we create our own ideas, and there’s no other [perspective] to contrast or compare, while as a group, we all work together, and there’s a company behind what route MAMAMOO [should take]. But as a unit, it’s something between. The musical part wasn’t a big problem because we did brainstorming since last year, so that was okay. But some of the difficult parts were, for example, the design of the album cover and those [kinds of details]. It wasn’t necessarily a big conflict, but we [needed to] come with those different pieces and work together.”

MAMAMOO+ signifies “adding something to MAMAMOO to glow in a different colour”, and it could be said that your B-side, ‘Chico Malo’, embodies this concept the most because it is fierce and compelling. Why did you go this sonic direction, and how does it relate with the message you want to convey?


Solar: “The song ‘Chico Malo’ is very strong, and we thought a lot about how we should put the video, the outfits and the style of the song [together]. We wanted to combine the modern with the traditional because we really feel it matches the [vibe] of the song, and that’s why the lyrics are [very poetic]. They can reveal the beauty of Korea.”

Title track ‘GGBB’ depicts a dangerous and exciting love atop a mellifluous production. It feels the polar opposite of ‘Chico Malo’, but both songs have a lyrical connection. What made you choose ‘GGBB’ as the title track of ‘Act 1, Scene 1’?

Solar: “We want to show a lot of different aspects and different styles of music as MAMAMOO+, and to do that, we considered both ‘Chico Malo’ and ‘GGBB’ [as candidates] to be the title track. But overall, in real life and as a group, we’re very bright and positive so we really wanted to show that side.”

Of all the three songs on your new album, which one is the one you cherish the most?

Solar: “For me, it’s ‘GGBB’ because, of course, it’s our title track. But [I cherish] all the songs from this album.”

Moonbyul: “Our fan song ‘LLL’ is the one that we created together with the most coming back and forth in opinions. So this is the track I feel like it’s something I’m pretty attached to.”

Moonbyul, you recently won The Second World, the reality TV competition that put your singing abilities centre stage. What are some of the emotions you will forever treasure from this experience?

Moonbyul: “[The Second World] was a great program, and at first, I had difficulties [thinking about] whether I should be part of it or not. But I had a lot of support from our fans and I had great support from my members as well. They always gave me confidence and energy and they gave me a reason to be part of this show. That’s what I will remember the most.”

You’re also the most credited female idol in the Korea Music Copyright Association (KOMCA). This creative autonomy is essential to your musicality, and it has become more prominent throughout the years. What does songwriting mean to Moonbyul?

Moonbyul: “I was pretty amazed [to know] I’m one of the highest female artists that [are credited] in KOMCA. At first, this process of writing lyrics was very stressful, but there were many supporting me from behind. As time went by, I could see my work being accumulated in KOMCA and I felt very proud. I hope I can continue to be part of creating lyrics and producing songs as well. And songwriting really means a lot to me because it [represents] my musical freedom. I can challenge different genres and the lyrics I want to write, and that freedom really helps me become a better artist and a better producer.”

Solar, your portrayal of dancer Mata Hari marked your debut as a leading actress in a musical last year. What’s something that you learned while personifying such a complex and enigmatic character?

Solar: “Being a singer and idol compared to a musical artist is very, very different. Musical artists are someone that have to sing on stage, and at the same time, they also have to act as a different person. This [experience] was very challenging because I had to show the audience all the details, the feelings and the meaning of [Mata Hari], so expressing that through acting was something that I wasn’t very aware of and I didn’t have that much experience with. It was a new stage and a very difficult time, but I really enjoyed it.”

And how do you feel about the artist and the person you have grown to be?

Solar: “Oh, this is a difficult question! [laughs]. Since I was a trainee, I’ve always wanted to be an artist that could heal people and transmit positive energy to those that listen to my music. And as MAMAMOO, as a unit and as a soloist, I think I’ve worked to show that exact vibe and this brightness that I have to the fans. But the thing is, I have very high standards and expectations, and I always have different goals that I want to achieve. As an artist, I feel there’s still a long road ahead for me, and now it’s a process where I’m going towards that final goal I have in mind.”

MAMAMOO+. Credits: RBW Entertainment.

‘Act 1, Scene 1’ has been described as the start of MAMAMOO+, and your objective is to create expectations about the future steps. Do you already have a new chapter in mind?

Moonbyul: [Laughs] “Yes, of course! We do have a lot of plans, but it’s very early to reveal the details of [what’s coming next]. However, what we’re going to do is to meet a lot of fans – both in South Korea and overseas. It could be a concert, or it could be a fanmeet, but we want to meet them.”

Speaking of new chapters, MAMAMOO recently announced their long-awaited US stops for the first world tour, ‘MY CON’. How are you currently feeling, and what are some of your hopes for these concerts?

Moonbyul: “This is the first time we’re actually going on a US tour, so we are very, very excited to meet our fans there. We are preparing a lot, but at the same time, we are a bit worried if there will be a lot of MooMoos that are going to be part of the show. We hope to meet every single MooMoo in the States that we haven’t seen in person. That’s something we are looking forward to.”


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