[Interview]B.A.P Brings Party Baby Tour Stateside, Talks 'Wake Me Up': 'We Are Part of the Current Generation'
From the first moment of “Hurricane” to the final note of their encore performance of “Bang X2,” Korean boy band B.A.P hyped up the crowd at New York City’s Terminal 5 on Saturday (April 8) night. The second stop during the US leg of their 2017 Party Baby world tour, the set list was built around the group’s most danceable songs to create a club-like environment where the band and their fans, known collectively as BABY, could party it up and revel in the group’s artistry.
Water guns, a costume contest, and a handful of solo sets – beginning with the two youngest, Jongup and Zelo, each of whom showed immense growth as singers since their last visit to New York – helped set a festive, intimate tone for the night, which saw B.A.P radiate with joy throughout as fans cheered and danced along with their high-energy performances. There was certainly a lot to celebrate on this latest tour, which was the group’s fourth throughout their time together: Five years into their career, B.A.P has seen multiple No. 1 albums on the World Albums Chart, including last year’s Noir. More recently, the group returned with their Rose EP and the profound single “Wake Me Up” in March, their first new music since rapper-songwriter Bang Yongguk returned after taking a break last year from B.A.P’s promotions due to mental health-related issues.
Billboard sat down with the K-pop act (Zelo, Bang Yong Guk, Him Chan, Dae Hyun, Young Jae and Jong Up) ahead of their New York show to discuss their latest releases and what makes the Party Baby tour a new experience for B.A.P and their fans.
Welcome back to New York! How does it feel to be performing here once again?
Him Chan: It was hard getting over from Atlanta to New York as there were some [weather-related] difficulties. But the fact that we’re here in New York right now fills us with positive energy. We’re looking forward to putting on another amazing performance for our fans tonight.
You toured the United States multiple times in the past, but is there anything that you’re looking forward to particularly on this tour?
Young Jae: I’m looking forward to going to Washington D.C., just because I’ve always wanted to visit.
Him Chan: On our first US tour we went to Washington, but because a lot of things have changed since then we’ve wanted to visit again.
This is the Party Baby tour even though in the past you’ve always brought your Live on Earth tours to the US. How are the two different?
Jong Up: Compared to previous concerts that we’ve put on in the past, we tried to orientate Party Baby more towards interaction between ourselves and fans so that we can have more of a party or a club atmosphere and just be able to have have a good time. I think that, compared to our previous performances, we want to focus on the whole collaborative effort of just all our fans and us working together to create one performance.
To get more involved you provided fans with a dress code, with a different style corresponding to each specific member. How did you come up with that idea?
Young Jae: This dress code idea for the tour was something that us as the artists – along with the tour directors – thought up since we thought it would be a good way to interact with our fans.
The tour’s set list seems to focus a lot on your newer songs and doesn’t really have a lot of your older music on it. What does that choice say about B.A.P’s musical growth as performers?
Him Chan: We’re really not holding back on this tour. We’re just unlocking all of our abilities and our skills, putting them together for this show. This time, we wanted to be able to show our fans everything that we have. There’s no significance of us not performing many older songs. We just want to be able to put on a good performance with all of our recent songs.
B.A.P has had multiple No. 1 albums on the World Albums Chart. How has that made you feel as a group?
Young Jae: We think it’s amazing, and we’re really fascinated that we can continue to find love from across the world from all of our fans. We’re always grateful and we’re always thankful towards our fans, and we want to continue to show them love for their support for us.
There are only three songs on your new EP Rose, but they each are distinct stylistically. How did that come about?
Young Jae: We’ve released happy songs and we’ve released songs with strong, positive messages, but it’s been a while since we released an album so we wanted to show a third side to B.A.P, one that we knew we were capable of doing and really wanted to show to our fans this time.
Him Chan: “Dystopia” was one of those songs where we just wanted to show B.A.P in all our attributes with rock, heavy metal, and just pay homage to that. For “Wake Me Up,” it was one of those songs for our generation, because we are part of the current generation, where we just wanted to show that we’re present and that we are with the fans and how they feel about current events. As for “Diamond 4 Ya,” we wanted to be melodic, we wanted to play with pitches and instrumentals, and that was something we were looking forward to showing as well.
How was approaching your return with the single “Wake Me Up” different from your past releases?
Him Chan: When we were approaching this album in comparison to previous albums we just wanted to have something that’s more lively, more one on one with our fans. We wanted something that would resonate with our fans, through the message that we’re trying to spread.
Dae Hyun: We feel that we’ve grown a lot individually and together as a group and we wanted to show that in our work this time.
The music video for “Wake Me Up” featured one of the most diverse casts that K-pop’s ever seen. How did that come about?
Dae Hyun: Every time we shoot a music video we have meetings with the producers who help us create them and we put together all of our ideas. Everything from the individual shots of the video to the casting of everyone who will appear. We just come together and put together our ideas, and then we put it all into a final product. But the most important thing is that our ideas have changed, and that helped shape how we felt towards this music video and how we wanted it directed. Initially the plan was to use a Korean cast but after the members got together and we put together our thoughts, we wanted to go with a more diverse cast to show that we have an accurate representation of our society today. Not just of in Korea or America, but all over the world. We wanted to express that through our music video, which is why we decided to go with such a diverse cast.
Him Chan: It was never really something for us that we wanted to do, just stick to a Korean cast because we are Korean. We wanted to represent every part of the world and pay homage to the fans who’ve come out to support us.
The music video’s storyline, which features messages about self-care and mental health, was incredibly progressive, but while making it did you expect that it would resonate with so many fans from around the world?
Him Chan: When we were putting together the music video, we didn’t think that extensively into it, but we did intend to insert multiple meanings into certain aspects of it. We just wanted it to be interpreted by the fans.
B.A.P has been together for five years now, so how do you keep motivated during the rough times?
Dae Hyun: What’s kept us together as a group so strongly was our fans. We really feel that because of the support from our fans we’ve been able to continue stronger and better than ever each time we release a new album as a group. It’s really all thanks to the fans, and we want to pay respect to them.
Young Jae: Before I got on the stage in Atlanta, I really wasn’t feeling well. But as soon as I got on stage and saw the faces of all our fans I felt so much better and became energized and ready to perform.
You guys have shown a lot of different artistic sides over the years. Are there any other sounds or concepts you’d like to try, or musicians you’d like to work with?
Dae Hyun: What I’ve always admired, and what I’ve wanted to do a lot recently, is a duet. That’s something that I’m going to look forward to doing in the future.
Zelo: I don’t really have anything I want to focus on but I want to connect with the fans and show a more amazing, more awesome performance each time and that’ll be reflected in my music.
What’s next for B.A.P? Are you working on anything new?
Dae Hyun: The [Party Baby] concept of this tour is completely new for us and we think that the most important thing for us right now is to finish the rest of this tour successfully, then return to all our fans across the world and back home in Korea. So that’s our priority currently.
Do you have any final words for your American fans?
Zelo: [In English] I love you.
Him Chan: We want to tell our fans in the United States that we’ll continue to work tirelessly and continue to show them a new, better improved performance and better side to B.A.P every time we can visit and perform for them.
All answers have been translated from the original Korean.