stray kids interview
photo: JYP Entertainment

Stray Kids

After releasing their first full-length album, GO LIVE, this past June, which showcased Stray Kids’ dynamic hip-hop/EDM sound, the group came back with the 1st repackage, IN LIFE, in September. Stray Kids are constantly innovating and standing out, from dynamic performances to high energy sounds, to self-written and produced music, the group serves as a sense of hope to their fanbase, STAYS, while demanding attention with their vigor and passion.

The 8 members of the group: Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, HAN, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N have had a wildly successful year, which began with a US tour earlier this year to experience an increased level of success with their summer release of “God’s Menu,” the title track from GO LIVE. Their repackage album IN LIFE, is a continuation of their previous album, GO LIVE, adding a delectable array of new songs that remind their passionate fanbase of their range and expert execution of their signature sound.

With in-house producing group 3RACHA, and the rest of the members also actively participating in creating their music, Stray Kids stand out from other K-pop groups and showcase a future of idols who are also authentic artists. The guys let us in on their creative process, their thoughts on the new repackage album, and how the pandemic has affected their work amongst other things.

3RACHA is known for producing your music, and all 8 members have contributed towards the making of the album. Which songs were you most excited to showcase to fans and which ones do you think best represent Stray Kids?
Bang Chan: I think we were most excited about our 2 new title songs for this year. “God’s Menu” and “Back Door” both represent Stray Kids’ color the best which is probably the biggest reason why we were so hyped about them.
HAN: First off, I was the most excited for “Back Door,” and there was a mix of feeling excited, yet nervous about how people would react to it. It’s hard to say which one song best represents Stray Kids, but if it was based on albums, I’d say that GO LIVE and IN LIFE are the two albums that best fit us.
I.N: I was looking forward to “God’s Menu” the most, and I think it’s the song that best represents Stray Kids.

 This repackage includes a handful of new songs, some you guys worked on with outside producers, like ear attack and Tele. What was that process like working with these producers and what does the repackage bring differently from GO LIVE?
Bang Chan: First things first, it was, again, such a great pleasure and honor to work with the producers. Every time we have a session, we learn something new, and the experience itself is always memorable. I honestly think there isn’t a big difference between the two albums because they both have the concept of us making and putting in whatever song we want. If there were to be a difference… there are more songs? Haha
Changbin: Definitely, when we work with other producers, it adds a little something extra to our color, so we’re able to produce more diverse music. IN LIFE includes our first love song and demonstrates a wider musical spectrum as well as a more mature side of Stray Kids. 

Both “Back Door” and “God’s Menu” are high energy songs with demanding choreography, how do you think the choreography helps bring the songs to life?
Lee Know: I’ve heard that the two greatest senses for people are their sense of vision and hearing. If our music satisfies your sense of hearing, then we perform so you can visualize the music with your eyes through our choreography.
Hyunjin: I think the party-like vibe and excitement of “Back Door” corresponds well with our choreography. Sometimes it’s lively, sometimes it’s powerful, and I enjoyed how refreshing and new the intro/outro parts felt.

Out of the new tracks on IN LIFE, which ones are your personal favorites and why? Are there any lyrics on any of the songs that you want to highlight?
Bang Chan: Honestly, I would say they’re all my favorites, but if I had to choose one, it would be the title song “Back Door.” The message that it has is the message that we really want to tell everyone. You don’t HAVE to be a part of the Stray Kids party, but if you want to join, just keep in mind that our doors are always open and that everyone is welcome!
Lee Know: I like “B Me” because it’s easy on the ears.
Changbin: My personal favorite is “Any” because it’s a song with the blended sound of a hip and unique track, and although it’s sonically exciting, the lyrics have a bit of a depressing twist to it. A lyric I’d like to highlight from “Any” is “별의 별건 많아 근데 다 별로 […] 가야하나 저 다른 별로” (“There are so many different things in the world, but I don’t want any of it […] Do I need to move to a different planet?”). I think these lyrics are witty and helpful in understanding the meaning of the song.

(Note: If you notice, the letters “별” show up a few times in those lyrics. “별” is pronounced byuhl, and depending on the context and whether it’s used alone or as a component of another word, it can mean different things. Changbin is referring to how the play-on-words of using the word “별” in different forms make the lyrics witty.)

Hyunjin: I like our title track “Back Door.” It’s lively and makes you feel good when you listen to it.
HAN: I like the song “Ex” the most. I really like this particular song because it’s not only exceptional story-wise but lyrically as well. My favorite part of the song is “날 향한 증오가 화 정도가 될 때까지 화가 풀려 다시 돌아갈 수 있다면” (“Until your hatred for me decreases to just anger, so that you can relieve that anger, and we can be together again”).
Felix: I personally like listening to “Any” because it carries an addictive melody throughout the whole song that’s energetic itself.
Seungmin: My personal favorite is the track “Ex”! I think I like it so much because it was our first time doing a song that was so deeply emotional, and the song itself had a lot of parts that really touched my heart. I’d like to highlight the following lyrics, “그땐 내가 미처 몰랐나봐 너 없는 공간 숨쉬기도 벅찬데 뭘 믿고 그랬을까 미친놈이었던 날” (“I guess I didn’t know back then. In this space without you, I can hardly even breathe. What was I thinking when I did that? I was crazy that day”), and how this part is sung with regret while trying to pretend to be composed.
I.N: I like “Back Door” the most, and my favorite lyric from this song is, “관계자 외 출입금지 여긴 back door” (“Authorized personnel only here, back door”).

What’s the backstory behind the “Mala-flavored genre” theme seen in GO LIVE and IN LIFE? Why did you guys choose cuisine as a metaphor?
Bang Chan: For me, I’ve always thought that the concept of making music is very similar to cooking. Making new cuisines/songs for everyone and entertaining their taste buds/eardrums is something I’ve thought of as very important.
Seungmin: From the perspective of the listeners, I think we’ve combined something a little more fresh and new! Based on the popular “Mala” flavor, we wanted to once again bring another new flavor to the table and show everything that Stray Kids is capable of.

stray kids interview
photo: JYP Entertainment

You guys also added your unit songs from live performances to IN LIFE. Why were those chosen for IN LIFE, and what do the units showcase about the group?
Lee Know: We wanted to show our versatility in different genres and showcase each other’s strengths.
HAN: I think we’ve shown a lot of Stray Kids’ colors, but we also wanted to show more of our individual colors. We included these unit songs because we felt we could exhibit a wider musical spectrum through these units.
I.N: We wanted to show our various sides through the unit songs, and we added them [to the album] because we wanted to further share the charms from those songs.

Releasing music and performing during the pandemic obviously presents a new challenge, but what do you hope Stays gain from listening to the album and watching your latest performances?
Hyunjin: Since we can’t meet with STAY in person, I think we showed [everything] on stage. I hope STAYs gain strength through watching our performances, and enjoy the party that you can’t actually go out and have right now through our music instead.
Felix: I hope STAYs gain, not only the enjoyment of our music and content but the confidence, comfort, and safety from us. It’s important to us that STAYs not only release stress but also gain faith in themselves as they do for us.

Besides promoting and making music, how have you guys been making the most of the pandemic?
Changbin: While continuously working on music, I’ve also developed my strength/stamina by working out at home.
Seungmin: I’ve been focusing on practicing singing and playing guitar more than usual. I don’t want to waste even one day!!
I.N: I’ve been practicing singing many different songs.

What has been the most exciting part about promoting “Back Door”?
Lee Know: At the beginning of our choreography [for “Back Door”], we are face-to-face, so it was fun trying hard not to laugh.
Hyunjin: It was really exciting when we won first place on a music show, and I think it gave us the opportunity to work even harder.
HAN: The song itself is so exciting and has a party atmosphere, so whenever I was on stage, I was really happy and had a lot of fun!
Felix: Being able to perform on stage live for STAYs who are trying to stay safe and as comfortable as possible in their homes. I believe that we are doing our best to comfort those who are feeling lonely or negative.

After the success of GO LIVE and now IN LIFE, what’s next for Stray Kids, and do you have any new goals?
Bang Chan: I think our goals are to just really expand our music spectrum, try new things, and try our best to reach out to all STAYs that are in need of our music and performances!
Lee Know: Just like now, we won’t feel rushed, but instead go at our pace, and we plan to continue to share our music.
Changbin: I don’t have any new goals, but I hope the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end soon, so we can go on tour again, and be able to meet STAYs at music shows and our performances.
Hyunjin: I want to prepare even more spectacular performances for STAYs to enjoy.
HAN: We want to try new challenges, and create albums and songs that only Stray Kids can make. We’re not sure what songs we’ll produce, or what lyrics we’ll write, but we always aim to exceed people’s expectations. Please continue supporting us, and look forward to us in the future! Thank you!!
Felix: We are climbing up, step-by-step, closer to our goals in our hands, all thanks to the STAYs supporting us deeply. It not only motivates us to strive further, but to dig deeper into the hearts of our STAYs as we are willing to understand, communicate, and relate to each other in our daily lives.
Seungmin: We’re going to study how to capture STAYs’ eyes and ears with new music and new styles!
I.N: Going forward, we’ll continue to bring you even better music! I hope this period passes soon, so we can show you lots of greater and cooler performances.