K-pop idol groups have become adored for their ultra-defined concepts and deeply artistic lore, but newcomers EVNNE take this to a new level by being so blunt and honest with audiences through theirs.

Comprised of seven members who previously participated in the reality show Boys Planet, KEITA, PARK HANBIN, LEE JEONGHYEON, YOO SEUNGEON, JI YUNSEO, MUN JUNGHYUN, and PARK JIHOO faced a crushing reality when they failed to clinch the competition’s final nine places and their dreams of stardom were seemingly left in the shadows.

Turning this pain into their inspiration to succeed, the seven individuals soon joined forces as EVNNE and have been aiming to prove the non-believers wrong as a formidable new group, blazing their own path since their official debut with the mini-album, Target: ME, in September 2023.

Making it clear from the get-go that EVNNE doesn’t plan on playing it safe and are here to shake the table, the group boldly declared on their debut, club-ready single “TROUBLE” that “ain’t nobody wanna come with a new thing, but I just might” – a cocky yet charming calling out of those who dimly fit the mold, which doubled as EVNNE’s bold proclamation to redefine the K-pop landscape.

Swiftly following up with their second collection, Un: SEEN, in February, the thumping dance-pop of EVNNE’s latest hit “UGLY” sets an immaculate foundation for the track’s quirky hook to thrive, commanding audiences to “get ugly – I love it.”

Beneath the lively facade of the energetic track lies a vulnerable message, urging us to accept our scars. This mirrors the approach taken by the members of EVNNE, who embrace their self-proclaimed identity as the “ugly ducklings of K-Pop” to demonstrate that occasionally, losing can lead to victory.

In between heavy promotions for Un: SEEN, we caught up with the rising band via email about their latest mini album, the “new thing” they’re bringing to music, as well as the intricacies of being the so-called “ugly ducklings” of K-pop.

I am loving your latest comeback “UGLY” from your 2nd Mini Album, Un: SEEN. What is a treasured memory for each member from the overall process of preparing this comeback?

KEITA: The process of working on “Festa”, one of the songs on this album, was particularly precious to me. The inspiration behind “Festa” stemmed from our desire to capture the moments we shared with ENNVE during our fan meetings and the emotions we experienced during those times.

YOO SEUNGEON: I recall the moment when we completed all the work on this album and listened to the final results. We began preparing for our comeback immediately after our last promotion concluded, and we approached our work with a strong determination to excel. As a result, I believe we felt an even greater sense of pride upon completing everything.

PARK JIHOO: Un: SEEN is an album that delves into EVNNE’s wounds and growth. The production process provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the journey we’ve undertaken – from our time as participants on <Boys Planet> to the period of uncertainty after the show concluded, to overcoming various challenges and rising again through EVNNE’s debut and its promotions. It was gratifying to recognize the efforts we’ve put in and the extent of our growth along the way.

“UGLY” encourages listeners to embrace the word without hesitation or worry. In what ways do you believe this song challenges societal norms and stereotypes, and how important is it for EVNNE to convey messages of acceptance and self-pride through your music?

PARK HANBIN: If something is considered “UGLY,” it typically carries a negative connotation with a desire to conceal it and prevent others from seeing it. We interpreted this aspect as an opportunity for EVNNE to bravely acknowledge the frustrations and internal wounds we’ve encountered along our journey thus far and embrace them as part of our identity. In particular, I believe we effectively showcased our confident demeanor through EVNNE’s distinctive, upbeat atmosphere and exhilarating music.

MUN JUNGHYUN: We aim to challenge the stereotype that being ugly is inherently negative by conveying the message that accepting our vulnerabilities is integral to personal growth. We wanted to emphasize that one can become stronger and more resilient by embracing every aspect of themselves, including their flaws, wounds, and unpleasant memories, and confronting them with confidence.

YOO SEUNGEON: Expressing our stories through music is central to our creative process as I believe that music is a powerful medium for sharing our stories and pride with others. Therefore, when we contribute to an album by writing lyrics or composing music, we carefully consider the message we want to convey, how to best express it, and whether it will resonate effectively with our audience. 

The phrase “get ugly” is repeated throughout the song. What does this repetition symbolize and how does it tie into the overall theme of the track?

JI YUNSEO: The central message of the title track “UGLY” is to embrace and have confidence in every aspect of yourself, including your inner pain and the parts you may wish to hide from others. The phrase “get ugly” encourages acceptance of oneself in its entirety. You can interpret the lyrics as an invitation to embrace your true self including flaws and all.

“Yeah, we sla-la-la-la-lay” is a catchy and defining moment in the song’s chorus. What is a personal quality about each EVNNE member that you think ‘slays’? How does each EVNNE member ‘slay’ in your own opinions?

PARK HANBIN: Firstly, I ‘slay’ the stage with my facial expressions. I excel in maintaining focus and immersing myself in the performance, and please pay close attention to the nuances conveyed through my eyebrows and mouth movements. Additionally, as a group, EVNNE possesses captivating qualities that we ‘slay’ with each member bringing a unique charm to the group particularly evident in their rap or vocal performances.

MUN JUNGHYUN: I’m known for my cuteness offstage to our fans, ENNVE, but I ‘slay’ on stage with my captivating charisma.

PARK JIHOO: SEUNGEON and YUNSEO slay the stage with their vocal skills, while HANBIN, MUN JUNGHYUN, and I shine with our dance skills. KEITA and LEE JEONGHYEON, on the other hand, impress the audience with their rap talents.

In the “UGLY” music video, there’s a twist where EVNNE, initially portrayed as rowdy troublemakers, end up saving the world. Can you provide insights into the symbolism behind this unexpected turn and how it connects with the lyrics?

JI YUNSEO: If you watch the music video, you’ll notice our members often confronting or keeping a distance from the supporting cast. In the beginning, there are dark scenes portraying our members being shunned due to their differences, but the atmosphere gradually brightens as each member showcases their hidden abilities. As our outfits become more diverse and our expressions brighter, it signifies our acceptance of our ugliness and uniqueness, despite how it may appear to others. 

Particularly noteworthy is the scene where it snows, with “UGLY DUCKLING” written on the wall. This references the theme of our title song “UGLY”, which centres on becoming more beautiful by embracing one’s own flaws or perceived ugliness. It felt incredibly fitting on set, reflecting the journey we’ve taken as EVNNE.

Could you elaborate on how the narrative in Un: SEEN builds on the narrative established in your debut mini album Target: ME?

YOO SEUNGEON: Our first album Target: ME signifies the beginning of EVNNE. Being our debut album, it primarily focused on our relationship with the audience, expressing our aspirations for the future and how we wished to be perceived by the public.

In contrast, Un: SEEN delves deeper into our internal narrative, exploring our growth and maturity since our debut. It narrates the journey of spirited youths initially focused on changing the world, but as they mature, they shift their focus inward, reflecting on personal growth and self-discovery.

JI YUNSEO has mentioned that Un: SEEN contains the group’s “not-so-smooth story” and the pain of not making it to the final nine contestants in “Boys Planet.” How do you all find the bravery to be so vulnerable and open with audiences about these experiences? 

JI YUNSEO: If our debut album Target: ME marked the beginning of EVNNE, Un: SEEN talks about our growth. Reflecting on our journey, it was imperative to revisit the time we appeared on <Boys Planet> to see where it all started and to understand our progress.

Undoubtedly, the scars from that time still linger, but standing here today as EVNNE signifies our resilience in overcoming those adversities. Embracing these experiences not as internal wounds but as integral to our artistic evolution, we approached our audience with greater honesty.

A sign in the “UGLY” music video reads ‘ugly duckling’ and the concept of being the ‘ugly duckling of K-Pop’ is intriguing. What do you think EVNNE can do to break free and ‘turn into a swan’?

JI YUNSEO: The story of Ugly Duckling talks about the journey of a duckling that was initially rejected by the group, goes through times of solitude, and eventually transforms into a beautiful swan. Similarly, if we correlate the phase where the ugly duckling endured hardship after being disregarded by others with our individual struggles after <Boys Planet>, then the time since we united and made our debut as EVNNE signifies a phase of growth into a swan.

Certainly, as artists, we acknowledge the need for further effort and improvement to fully embody the swan’s elegance. However, we wish to someday present EVNNE’s music, showcasing our profound growth, and leaving everyone in awe, acknowledging our growth and maturity.

Un: SEEN is described as a mini-album where you share the untold stories behind the scars created by your road to debuting. In what ways has the process of creating this album contributed to your personal growth as individuals and as a group?

KEITA: I believe we’ve made significant strides forward in terms of music. Throughout the creation of this album, our focus shifted towards conveying deeper and more sincere messages through our lyrics and compositions. We’ve experienced growth across all aspects, including stage presence, vocal delivery, and dance performance, and worked hard to showcase these improvements effectively.

As mentioned by PARK HANBIN, the album is divided into two concepts: the “rascal2 side and “vulnerable” side. How did EVNNE approach incorporating these contrasting concepts in the lyrics and visuals of Un: SEEN, and were there challenges in expressing both aspects cohesively?

PARK HANBIN: Whether it was the ‘RASCAL’ version or the ‘vulnerable’ version, I felt that both ultimately showcased the growth of our members, so it wasn’t as challenging as I had anticipated. Through the ‘RASCAL’ version, we intensified the troublemaker energy that we’ve shown to the public thus far and maximized EVNNE’s unique, fun atmosphere. On the other hand, with the ‘vulnerable’ version, we depicted the personal growth and our mindsets as artists we’ve achieved while working as EVNNE. There weren’t any major difficulties because I saw the process as looking at EVNNE’s journey from a different perspective.

PARK JIHOO: The ‘RASCAL’ version is an extension of the upbeat vibe that EVNNE has displayed so far, so expressing it came naturally to me. Similarly, the ‘vulnerable’ version allowed me to convey my usual personality more authentically, so I didn’t encounter much difficulty with either rendition.

The visual elements, such as the scrapped cars, portraits with wounds, and graffiti, are very striking. Could you expand on how they contribute to the storytelling in [Un: SEEN] and why these felt like the right visuals to express the music?

LEE JEONGHYEON: Through this comeback, we aimed to showcase something more intense while preserving EVNNE’s carefree spirit and exhilarating vibe. While our debut album emphasized our livelier side, for this album, we incorporated visual elements like junked cars and wounded portraits to reveal a grittier exterior, along with concealed inner wounds.

We manifested our edgier persona through graffiti, outfits, and accessories such as tooth gems, simultaneously hinting at the lyrical depth beneath that intensity through junked cars and scars. This allowed us to effectively convey the ‘RASCAL’ aesthetic of EVNNE, the main theme of this album, while also revealing our previously concealed ‘vulnerable’ inner side.

Members KEITA, YUNSEO, and LEE JEONGHYEON contributed to the writing of the lyrics for “SYRUP,” and KEITA and SEUNGEON wrote the lyrics for “Chase.” Can you share some insights into the dynamics behind creating these tracks together?

LEE JEONGHYEON: “SYRUP” was written to encapsulate EVNNE’s charms in a single track. We aimed to infuse the lyrics with fresh and refined words, allowing our charm to radiate through the song.

YOO SEUNGEON: “Chase” is a song that shares the determination to pursue a dream relentlessly, even if it proves to be an illusion out of your reach. I recall emphasizing pronunciation that complemented the melody, enhancing the fantastical ambiance of the track. I thought it would be a song that would resonate with me, so I dedicated a lot of time to writing its lyrics.

The sub-concept for Un: SEEN also pays homage to 90’s Hong Kong films. Where did this specific inspiration come from and how did these films influence the visual atmosphere of Un: SEEN?

PARK HANBIN: In contrast to the bold and confident vibe of the ‘RASCAL’ version, the ‘vulnerable’ concept in our album draws inspiration from Hong Kong films of the 90s. We aimed to delve into EVNNE’s inner selves and expose our hidden wounds through a sentimental atmosphere. For this, we incorporated dreamy colors and atmospheres, utilizing props like flowers and glass to express a soft and vulnerable inner state.

Both “UGLY” and your first title track “TROUBLE” from Target: ME have a strong sense of confidence in both the lyrics and music. What are your techniques for feeling confident and staying strong during the adversities you talk about in the songs? 

KEITA: I believe the vibe and energy we exude as a team are also contributing factors. Given how close-knit our members are, during hardships, we come together to lighten each other’s burdens. Also, in moments of joy, we uplift each other’s spirits and share positive energy. I, too, make an effort to foster a nurturing bond with the members to sustain this supportive atmosphere.

LEE JEONGHYEON: I believe it’s passion. I’m someone who dedicates myself wholeheartedly to achieving the best possible outcomes, and I persist until I gain results that meet my standards. My passion for music is particularly intense, driving me to practice hard and maintain resilience to consistently deliver improved musical performances.

MUN JUNGHYUN: Our fans. Without ENNVE’s support, we wouldn’t have had the chance to come together as EVNNE and create music. That’s why we always strive to give our best, keeping ENNVE in our minds every step of the way.

PARK JIHOO: Our confidence and strength are sustained by our love for the stage. The joy of delivering exceptional music, sharing memorable moments with our fans, and feeling their unwavering support empower us to persevere and thrive.

Speaking of “TROUBLE”, the opening lyric “Ain’t nobody wanna come with a New Thing, but I just might” has become one of my favorite opening lyrics! I’m curious to know, what do the members of EVNNE think is a ‘New Thing’ that they bring to the world of K-Pop?

KEITA: I believe that the unique image I envision and the music I create, which is currently only in my mind, have the potential to offer something fresh to the K-pop industry.

PARK HANBIN: First of all, I believe we’ve introduced a sense of novelty by embracing the ‘troublemaker’ image since our debut. Additionally, by venturing into a less commonly explored genre within K-pop, I believe our music offers a unique freshness.

JI YUNSEO: EVNNE’s debut title track “TROUBLE” is like our declaration to jump into the K-pop industry, so when the lyrics refer to a “new thing”, it symbolizes EVNNE itself. Through the lyrics of our debut title track “TROUBLE”, we portray ourselves as the shining star destined to rise to the highest and brightest in the K-pop realm.

Also, your Asia tour has been announced for March/April, which will be your first major tour. What EVNNE song are you most excited to play live and why?

LEE JEONGHYEON: “Festa” because it’s a song that can be enjoyed and celebrated with ENNVE fans from different countries as we travel and perform worldwide.

YOO SEUNGEON: Our strength lies in our dynamic energy and captivating stage performances. Therefore, I believe we can convey our energy most effectively through songs like our title tracks “TROUBLE” and “UGLY”, as well as the B-side “Role Model”. These songs will get the crowd pumped up and make them enjoy our other performances even more!

MUN JUNGHYUN: Since we haven’t performed the B-side tracks from our 2nd mini album yet, I would love to showcase them.

PARK JIHOO: “SYRUP,” because it is a great song with a difficult choreography so it’s enjoyable to watch and listen to!

Can international ENNVEs outside of Asia expect any live appearances this year?

KEITA: We’re putting in a lot of effort to prepare a fantastic performance for the fan concert in the regions we’ll be visiting. We hope you’ll come and enjoy the show! While nothing is confirmed yet, we’re eager to explore other countries in the future and meet as many ENNVEs as possible. If given the chance, we’re ready to hit the road and have a blast, so stay tuned for updates!

Looking ahead to 2024, what are your aspirations and goals for this year as a group?

LEE JEONGHYEON: I’m eager to connect with as many fans as possible through our music and performances and create unforgettable memories together. The 2024 EVNNE FAN-CONCERT [SQUAD:R] ASIA TOUR is just around the corner, and I’m excited for the opportunity to showcase different aspects of ourselves through new music, content, and stages throughout the year. 

MUN JUNGHYUN: During this comeback, we had two main goals which were winning first place on music shows, which we’ve accomplished, and getting our song on the Billboard chart. The second one hasn’t been achieved yet, so we’re still working towards it!

This interview has been translated from Korean to English.