FT Island 「Singles」January 2013 Issue Interview
“FT Island’s Path”
They grew up beat by both heated praise and misunderstandings. But now, they have solved their biggest question. They only need to walk down their own path. Just like the way the five of them have already been doing; smiling and fighting together.
One by one, five young men entered the studio and fought their way to say hello to their friend, the photographer. Then they exchanged their first-ever greetings with the editor and the stylist as if they had already met. While waiting for their turn to get their hair and make-up done, FT Island members sat around playing a guitar.
FT Island’s guitarist, Jonghun, had brought the guitar. Without stopping, Jonghun played a song after another. The rest of the members listened, said a few words, and got a chance to play a tune of their own. It all looked as a natural part of their daily life for these band members, who debuted as teenagers almost six years ago.
From the moment they first appeared with an unfamiliar title of an idol band, escalating scandals and doubts haunted FT Island. At times, the members would explain themselves and express their frustrations on air.
The scandals mostly pointed to the same direction: a band should be composing and writing their own songs but FT Island wasn’t doing so. To the general public, FT Island was a mere idol group brought together by an entertainment agency.
“We’ve talked a lot about the public’s perception of us as an idol band,” said Hongki. “It’s now time to share the songs that we’ve wrote. We are always writing and composing songs.”
Just like Hongki said, FT Island was waiting for the right moment.
All five members were disappointed that they still have not released their own track as the title song in Korea. It was the same case with their official album, ‘Five Treasure Box,’ released in September. The album featured several songs composed and written by the members. But they still say, they wish they could’ve done more.
“The album includes songs by us but we can’t take credit for it entirely,” said bassist and vocalist, Jaejin. “That’s why we can’t help but to feel disappointed.”
On a televised music program, FT Island members said they are going to go down the middle path between an idol and a band. It may be an ambiguous expression. But it is an answer that FT Island came up with after a long time.
“We aren’t trying to hide in the middle. We no longer care about being criticized or not. The time for that is now over. We didn’t like the word ‘idol,’ and wanted to become something different overtime. But an image doesn’t change easily. There were benefits to being an idol so we can’t simply deny it. That’s why we are trying to find the middle ground between an idol and a band. Fans who first liked us for our looks could come to our concert and like our music better.”
Because the general public did not always give the preferred response, FT Island suffered from heartaches for a long time. But the result of their diligence is shown in Japan.
In Japan last year, FT Island released its first official album, ‘Five Treasure Island.’ About 37,000 copies got sold and the album topped the Weekly Oricon Album Chart. It was the first time in Oricon history for a foreign male artist to take the number one spot on the weekly chart with a debut album. In addition, the album sales record is especially meaningful because it reflects the number of royal fans.
In Korea this year, FT Island members also got to perform their own songs several times.
“I felt so happy because I got to register copyrights for the first time,” said drummer Minhwan. “It was just for one or two songs but at least I can let people know that I’m making music.” Until now, the youngest had been quietly listening to the older members. But his innocence soon turns into seriousness. “Just like other bands, we would like to work together on an album for anywhere between 3 months to a year. But it’s difficult to even get 3 months. And that’s really disappointing because we want to play and perfect our own tracks.”
While talking about music, the members listened closely to each other, responded actively and offered their two cents. They had said that they get along well but their conversations show that they have discussed many things with each other over the years. If Minhwan fails to finish his thoughts, Jaejin was right next to him to help. And even if Seunghyun cut off Hongki from speaking, everyone let Seunghyun finish talking.
Even though they don’t work in an office, FT Island members have been out in the real world for six years. And to them, a band can be seen as their small society. How are these young five men staying so organized?
“I think when it’s just us, we can fight or make mistakes. But when we are outside, we should do well,” said leader Jonghun without hesitating. “But our younger members are such introverts that they always do as I say. Even when they have things to tell me, they keep it to themselves until later or beat around the bush. If they tried, they could easily be telling me what to do.”
Jonghun seemed to criticize the younger members but he first emphasized their ability to do well on their own and follow his guide
“I met the older members when I was in elementary school,” said Minhwan. “They all feel like a family now and more so because I don’t have any brothers.” The youngest seemed to have finished figuring out the older members long time ago. “When I see them fool around, even I think they are still babies. But when they are serious, they are really serious and can be trusted.”
Jaejin is the middle child among the five of them. And since the members started living separately six months ago, he’s been leading Seunghyun and Minhwan.
“When we got to live on separate floors, Jaejin opposed the move. But I think he’s enjoying the split the most now.”
Hongki said teasingly and Jaejin did not deny it.
“Life is beautiful,” said Jaejin. “I don’t want to be the tail. I want to be the head.”
Even when the five of them lived together, Jaejin acted as the bridge between the older members and the younger members, and worked hard to make communications smoother. Seunghyun calls Jaejin the most understanding of the older brothers.
Towards the end of the interview when the subject changes into episodes that happen at home, FT Island members get louder than ever. They try to speak first, get too excited and laugh out loud. The five young men who have talked about their future have disappeared. Five raucous teenagers have replaced them.
FT Island may appear as full-grown adults. But they are still growing.
Standing firmly on their friendship that they’ve built from years of happiness, sadness, arguments and conversations, FT Island will be expanding their grounds. Even if they can’t see the change right away, they will be patiently walking. ♥