Boy band ATEEZ arrived on the scene last October with the release of their dual singles “Treasure” and “Pirate King” from their first EP, TREASURE Ep. 1: All to Zero, and by the time they released their second album, TREASURE Ep. 2: Zero to One in January, they made their debut on the World Albums chart thanks to the support of their fierce, and growing, fandom.
Known as ATINY, a hybrid of the group’s name with the word “destiny,” the eight-member act’s fans have proven stalwart supporters of the rising group, making them one of the most prominent rookie acts on the K-pop scene.
Less than six months since starting out, ATEEZ launched their 2019 Expedition Tour in March, heading first to five shows in the U.S., and then to Europe for another 10 shows. Each stop was reportedly sold-out and full of dynamic synergy between ATEEZ and their European and American ATINY as they met one another for the first time.
Following the final stop of their tour in New York City, ATEEZ spoke with Billboard about their teamwork, their career so far, and what listeners can expect from their next project.
How do you guys feel after finishing your U.S. tour?
Hongjoong: We were worried a lot about coming here and communicating and interacting with fans, and seeing the fans and feeling their energy. But it was really fun, and next time we’d like to have even more opportunities to meet up with ATINY and interact with them even more if we have the chance.
Was there anything about the experience that was a surprise for you?
Wooyoung: There are a lot of ATINY so we’re really thankful and it made us feel very excited. It made our hearts flutter.
Mingi: At our [first] show in LA, it was really unexpected that there was a lot more excitement than we thought there would be.
You only debuted recently but have a very strong following already and sold out your tour. Why do you think makes ATEEZ so appealing to fans?
Yunho: ATINY like our real and earnest expressions.
San: Most importantly, it’s our team work that attracts people, we think.
What’s the meaning behind ATEEZ’s name, which stands for “A TEEnager Z”?
San: We represent all teens and what teens like.
Does it matter that you guys aren’t all teenagers?
San: It doesn’t matter.
Jongho: In the U.S. I’m still a teenager. My American age is 18! [According to the Korean age system, which considers newborns 1-years-old rather than from the first birthday, all of the members are adults.]
Your greeting is “Eight makes one team,” so what are each of the member’s unique strengths or charms that they bring to make ATEEZ whole?
Seonghwa, after the members decide to each share their strengths: My charm is that my first impression when you meet me changes after you get to know me.
Hongjoong: My charm is that I’m able to [get] better still. And loving ATINY continually.
Yunho: I offer up great performances, and I have a beagle-like personality. [In the K-pop world, many stars are considered “beagle-like” for their boisterous and playful attitudes.]
Mingi: For me, I offer up a special ATEEZ energy.
Wooyoung: For me, there’s a difference of being on stage versus off stage.
San: I have very many charms.
Yeosang: I may look like I have a cold personality based on my appearance but I’m a very warm person.
Jongho: I may look strong, but inside I’m cute. I’m the youngest member so it’s fitting.
You guys have released two EPs already and both have explored the idea of seeking treasure. What does that theme mean to ATEEZ?
Seonghwa: Everyone has a treasure in their hearts, so we want listeners to be able to find that treasure with us.
What treasure do people have in their hearts?
Seonghwa: Everyone has their own, but for ATEEZ, it’s teamwork.
What are you trying to express through your singles?
Wooyoung: Our most recent single “Say My Name” is about us expressing our desire to, as we say, hear our name. Our albums Treasure Ep.1 All to Zero and Treasure Ep. 2: Zero o One are related so people should watch all of the music videos together, it will be fun.
So you must be really happy at concerts where fans cheer for ATEEZ and cheer on each one of you by name?
ATEEZ has received a lot of attention for your charismatic performance style and dedication to storytelling, so what’s your creative process like ahead of a new release?
Hongjoong: We have many sectors in our company. Someone makes the choreography, someone makes the styling, someone makes the song. We have many staffs, and we talk about our concepts with them, and our styling we’d like with them. They give us feedback about many things. We think about and talk with them many time so we can come up with a new concept and new album.
What’s your favorite part of the process?
Hongjoong: [pointing to the members] They work so hard so I can’t choose one. Everything is [the] best for ATEEZ.
In both the performance video for “Hala Hala” and “Say My Name,” you’re seen wearing masks on multiple occasions. What’s the meaning behind this?
Mingi: “Hala Hala” ATEEZ and “Say My Name” ATEEZ are oppositional to one another, so we thought that would be fun to observe. The masks are used to express the intensity of the “Hala Hala” ATEEZ.
Hongjoong: There’s more meaning, but it’s for later.
Are there any songs members have personal connections with?
Seonghwa: I like “Promise” because it has a direct message to our fans.
Hongjoong: I like “Say My Name” the most because of the concept. I like that styling and music, and on the stage it’s more interesting than other songs.
There are a lot of narrative elements incorporated into ATEEZ’s releases. What are some stories that ATEEZ members particularly like and draw on for inspiration?
Hongjoong: We don’t actually have any book or movie references that are directly referenced in the entire album, so we can’t say something like one book or one movie directly. But personally, my inspirational “Pirate King” is Jack Sparrow. Do you know Pirates of the Caribbean? I’m inspired by him.
San: Pirates make me think of something funny, strange, unique. Scary maybe? I’d like to play that kind of character, so I always think of the Joker. “Why so serious?”
Are there any characters or fictional stories you want to draw inspiration from in the future?
Mingi: Captain America!
Jongho: For me, The Avengers. Since we’re a team, we always talk about being a team. The eight of us together has a better charm then us individually.
San, pointing to Seonghwa’s blond hair: Oh, Thor! Your hair is like Thor.
Hongjoong: We all like Marvel movies.
Jongho: We want to be a group like The Avengers.
San: But in Civil War they fight, Captain America and Iron Man…
How did the members of ATEEZ decide to pursue this career path and end up in the group?
Seonghwa: It took us a long time to prepare for ATEEZ and we spent time practicing, and it made us become acquainted and comfortable with one another. On an individual level, I really wanted to perform on stage.
Jongho: I started out when I was really young in this field. The lifestyle is a bit difficult and I’ve had many hardships, but after coming to this company and meeting these members, we had a lot of time to get to know one another and with that time we got to become familiar with one another and were able to become ATEEZ.
How long ago did ATEEZ come together?
Wooyoung: I was the last member who joined, and it was about two years…?
Hongjoong: We’ve all been together for about two years before debut.
ATEEZ often posts on social media a lot. Do you feel it’s important for K-pop stars to communicate with fans this way?
Jongho: The biggest advantage is that we have another way to interact with fans aside from our concerts. Seeing our fans’ reactions give us great enjoyment.
Hongjoong: We try to have a unique style. Before we were using SNS, we just could go somewhere and meet up with ATINY. But after we’ve started to use SNS more, we’re always able to be in communication with them. They’re always searching and replying.
What do you guys like sharing the most with fans?
San: Just daily everyday things.
Jongho: ATEEZ’s daily life.
Hongjoong: On this tour, I was always uploading pictures and videos when we moved cities.
What’s next for ATEEZ? Treasure Ep. 3 maybe?
Hongjoong: Maybe. Maybe. We can’t talk about that but we can promise that our next album is awesome. We’re preparing that, and I can’t talk about that but it will connect with our second and first album. That’ll be awesome too. I’m sure nobody will be disappointed by it.