When Lady Gaga was spotted at SXSW 2014 watching 4Minute's HyunA work a room of fans, K-pop Twitter went into overdrive with the possibility of a future HyunA/Gaga collaboration. But while Gaga may have enjoyed HyunA's bubble popping, she'd already quietly clambered on board the K-pop starlight express by courting last year's viral joy pixies Crayon Pop to open up for her current ARTRAVE tour. The Korean five-piece will join the show on June 26, in Milwaukee, replacing current opening act, Japan's digi-hologram popstar Hatsune Miku. Lady Gaga fans swiftly took to the comments section of Crayon Pop's infectious signature hit "Bar Bar Bar" to praise or condemn the decision.
Crayon Pop's quirky style – more akin to J-pop than K-pop – has already delivered beyond the tag of “internet sensation” immediately slapped on "Bar Bar Bar" as it inexorably took over last year. Band members Gummi, twins Cho A and Way, Ellin, and Soyul categorise themselves as a group that “amuses and energises”, producing earworm synthetic pop with nonsensical lyrical couplets. It's smarter than it first appears – plucking out clean 80s brass and 70s disco to give depth to heavy layers of laptop beats – and, like their "Bing Bing"/Daft Punk mashup performance, cheekily adventurous. Unlike groups who play with various concepts for every single release, Crayon Pop itself is the concept. Between rehearsals for the US shows, Cho A (second from right in the above picture) chats with Dazed about group life, neon sweatsuits and breaking into America.
You're heading to America to play shows supporting Lady Gaga. How did your support slot come about?
Cho A: We were called by Lady Gaga's management company at the beginning of this year. We heard she wanted to go on stage with us after watching 'Bar Bar Bar'.
What kind of reactions have you had from fans and media?
Cho A: Fans and the public were surprised by the news we'd go on the opening stage with Lady Gaga since she is very famous and loved by so many fans. We also couldn’t believe it and felt like it was a dream when we first heard. The public felt the same as us! But other groups have wished us good luck by saying, "congratulations" and "show your colours there as much as you can."
Do Crayon Pop have a favourite Lady Gaga song or video?
“People are amused and happy when they see us, and that gives them energy, like a vitamin"
Crayon Pop: If the American crowds react well, will you focus on becoming more known in America? Is that a priority for the group?
Cho A: To be honest, we haven’t thought about going to the US seriously. We're not sure if we are popular enough to go there (by ourselves) – it can happen only if we get enough of a reaction and love from people there with our performance with Lady Gaga.
Do you see this as a way to help break America? It's something that no K-pop groups have truly managed to achieve. Could Crayon Pop be bigger than PSY?
Cho A: It's a great honour to be mentioned with PSY. We really appreciate the attention to us from abroad and thank our international fans. "Give pleasure to those listening to our music" is our motto, so we'll try to become a group that makes more people happy rather than being controlled by success of failure.
You're going to have nearly a month in the US, apart from the shows what would you like to do most while there?
Cho A: We'd like to have famous dishes! Chicago pizza in Chicago! Lobster in Boston! We want to try their popular restaurants everywhere we go, and maybe it'd be fun if we make a map for those restaurants later. (laughs)
Cho A: Of course we'd like to get dressed with fancy clothes and shoes on stage since we are girls! But we can do our own special performances like the Kicking Dance in 'Dancing Queen' and Chicken Step Dance in "Uh-ee" since our stage clothes are comfortable sweatsuits. Heels would hurt our feet now so we'd refuse to dance in them!
Crayon Pop didn't become popular straight after your debut – was that a difficult time for you?
Cho A: We hadn’t become popular after our debut and no music programmes called us (to perform) since we were a new, unknown group. So we asked our record company if we could promote ourselves through street performances. That's how we started those guerilla shows and fortunately we could get fans’ support that way. It was difficult at that time, but thanks to this we've really grown as a group.
Crayon Pop has no official leader, which is unusual. How would you characterise the dynamic within the band?
Cho A: Each of us has a different role so we thought we didn’t have to have a leader. Each member has different leadership. Gummi has a unique responsibility as the oldest member, Way has great speech skills, Ellin has the geniality to take care of others, Soyul has such maturity even if she is the youngest one, and I have a calm personality to lead members.
You and Way, being twins, must be asked a lot about what makes you so similar... so what makes you both unique?
Cho A: We have completely different characters and tastes! I have a calm personality but Way is more like an active person. She likes silly jokes and being silly too, but I'm not like that. I have a tendency to be careful.
Finally, if you could sum up Crayon Pop in three words what would they be?
Cho A: Unique. Joy. Vitamin. Because people are amused and made happy when they see us, and that gives them energy, like a vitamin.
Translation: Jungwhan Lee
Follow Taylor Glasby on Twitter here @_xtgx