LOOΠΔ are a girl group who are ambitiously announcing their 12 members over a string of solo singles – we speak to the members of subunit ODD EYE CIRCLE
A little over a year ago, something big was quietly manifesting on the edges of South Korean pop music with the reveal of HeeJin, a then-15-year-old who was the first person to be announced for a new, 12-member girl group called LOOΠΔ. The process of introducing LOOΠΔ to the world ranks as one of the more ambitious projects undertaken by a single entertainment agency (in this case, Blockberry Creative), with each of the group’s members unveiled not over a matter of weeks but over 18 months. Each girl has a symbolic colour and animal, and each releases a solo pre-debut single and video, interspersed with music by subunits formed of the already-revealed members.
While LOOΠΔ’s multi-pronged announcement strategy might seem hard to wrap your head round, large scale concepts and storylines for girl groups aren’t an anomaly in K-Pop. One only need look back upon T-ara’s 15-minute film around “Cry Cry” and videos like “Lovey Dovey” for precedents, or to newer groups like the J-rock-centric Dreamcatcher and GFriend’s ‘school trilogy’ of music videos. But LOOΠΔ stand apart amongst girl groups and even in the wider K-Pop world for the sheer ambition of their world-building, with each music video knotting another thread into an increasingly complex web of theories and imagery. Only EXO have in recent memory so carefully created a far-reaching origin story.
LOOΠΔ are yet to make their official debut. Right now there are still four members who’ve yet to be revealed – currently HeeJin, HyunJin, HaSeul, ViVi and YeoJin make up the subunit LOOΠΔ ⅓, while Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry combine for LOOΠΔ/ODD EYE CIRCLE. For now it’s the latter who have become key purveyors of what’s known as the ‘LOOΠΔVERSE’. The trio’s solos (Kim Lip’s “Eclipse”, JinSoul’s “Singing in the Rain”, Choerry’s “Love Cherry Motion”) are sleek, compelling cuts of electronic pop, stylistically linked via their MVs (music videos) and tinged with 90s R&B, future bass and Katy Perry-esque vibes respectively. As LOOΠΔ/ODD EYE CIRCLE, they’ve also solidified themselves as one of 2017’s brightest groups, with both their EP Mix & Match (which climbed to #10 on Billboard’s World Chart) and its just-released repackage Max & Match pulling together the boldest elements of their individual songs.
“Chaotic”, “Uncover” and “Starlight” are drenched in unpredictable percussion and spacey synths against the girls’ feathery yet firm vocals, while on “LOONATIC”, they skip beyond familiar turf and channel Grimes’s dream pop. Two singles – the upbeat and assured “Girl Front” and “Sweet Crazy Love” – pile on new and existing visual clues (circular mirrors, maps, their ‘odd’ eyes) and recreate shots from the group’s previous videos.
As they discuss the struggles of debuting and breaking the mold, Choerry (at 16 the youngest of the three) calls their overarching concept “a first”. “It’s new, intriguing, and we’re proud,” she says. “It’s like being in a fairytale.” Open and assiduous for this, their first ever international interview, Kim Lip, JinSoul and Choerry are also feisty, confident and endearingly prone to dissing each other like siblings. Say hello to your new favourite girl group.
You each have a colour and an animal... did you get to choose either?
Kim Lip: The company chose each animal based on each member’s character. When I heard I would be an owl, for a moment I was like, ‘Huh?’, because everyone would want something pretty, like the deer for ViVi or a cat for HyunJin. But I like my symbol animal now. I think it goes well with my solo track.
JinSoul: When we first heard Choerry would be the fruit bat, everyone was surprised because it’s not very girl group-like. But given that Choerry will be going back and forth between both LOOΠΔ ⅓ and the new one coming later, I believe it fits the theory very well.
Theories already abound about multiple dimensions in the LOOΠΔVERSE – one for each sub-unit, including those yet-to-debut – and everyone needs to find each other to debut a whole. Can you give us any hint to the full story?
Kim Lip: There are several theories, but we want to show the process of putting puzzles together through our videos and music. I’ll give you one hint – we’re wearing a band on our wrists based on each of our colours and that band is twisted. People might not have noticed, but ‘Möbius’ is an important hint for LOOΠΔ moving forward.
JinSoul: LOOΠΔ is 12 solos, three units, then the complete group, but I can tell you that this is not the end, rather just a beginning. There could be a new unit with different combinations, for example, HyunJin and I could be a new unit.
It’s unheard of for girl groups to develop narratives that are as complicated and prolonged as yours. What did you think about LOOΠΔ not only having a story but their own world?
Kim Lip: When we first heard about – like, how it would be actualised – we were quite surprised, because normally girl groups would just perform good songs with nice clothes. But as the theory unfolds, even we’ve gotten more curious and we’re finding it enjoyable!
If I said LOOΠΔ has the potential to change the creative landscape for K-Pop girl groups, how would you feel about that?
Kim Lip: It’s definitely a goal we’d like to achieve. Each solo has its own power, and each unit has an independent power rather be a typical unit, then all together we become LOOΠΔ. We want to be like Marvel’s Avengers.
How did each of you join LOOΠΔ? What did your friends and family say when you told them you were to be in an idol group?
Kim Lip: I tried out in so many auditions to find the right agency. I was pretty exhausted. But then my company contacted me through Instagram. I auditioned, made it, and became a trainee. It was challenging to adjust, realising ‘This is what a trainee’s life is like,’ and I spent time worrying about if I’d be able to become a member. But I practiced hard and finally became part of LOOΠΔ. All my family and friends celebrated with me. They were as happy as I was.
JinSoul: I auditioned a lot. I had good opportunities through street casting but didn’t make it through. But, like Lip, our company contacted me through Instagram. My family is very proud, and my friends have been supporting me a lot even before my debut.
Choerry: I participated in a vocal contest and got casted for an audition and became a trainee. My parents didn’t like the idea of me becoming a singer at the beginning, but they support me a lot now and give me the strength to go on.
LOOΠΔ/ODD EYE CIRCLE is said to have ‘strange and mysterious charms’. What’s your strange charm that only your family or friends understand fully?
Choerry: Kim Lip may pretend to be inattentive or indifferent, but actually she always keeps her eyes on others and takes care of them. She has that cold-but-warm charm.
Kim Lip: JinSoul may look cold and have a strong personality but, in fact, she has sloppy charms (makes cute mistakes).
Kim Lip: Choerry has a bright energy and charm to think always positively, even in bad situations.
Your EP has several tracks that really stand out for their ethereal synth pop. Which track seemed most interesting to you at first?
JinSoul: I have affection for all the tracks, but I liked ‘LOONATIC’ especially because it’s a type of genre only we can do in K-Pop.
Cheorry: Also, ‘Chaotic’ is a bit masculine, but we’re proud to express it with our voices.
LOOΠΔ/ODD EYE CIRCLE is based around the ‘girl crush’ attitude – what does that mean to you personally?
Kim Lip: Girl crush for me is a complete turning point from (the ‘pure’ image of) LOOΠΔ ⅓.
Choerry: I think it’s a girl who has a strong gaze and who is cool, a girl who approaches proactively and confidently. Girl crush might be difficult to pull off, but I think we’re good at creating a strong appearance, so it fits us. Haha!
Lip, you have a natural authority about you on and off stage. Have you always been this type of confident person?
Kim Lip: When I was little, I was so shy that I couldn’t even get food on my plate at a buffet. When I thought ‘I want to be a singer’ and went to audition, I thought I should become more confident. I tried hard to change my personality so I could become the Kim Lip of now.
What did you emotionally experience while waiting to debut? What was your biggest fear and biggest hope?
JinSoul: Would I really make it to debut? I did my best in everything with many thoughts. In the beginning, I was shy and had low self-esteem, so I was worried if it’d be okay to debut with this talent and visual (appearance). But I was also so excited for my song coming out!
Choerry, you’re still at school... what does the average day look like for you? How do you juggle schoolwork, rehearsing and performing?
Choerry: Normally I wake up at 6am and go to school. When I have a schedule, I attend only morning classes or take a day off, so it’s sad that I don’t have much opportunity to meet with friends.
Now you’re promoting as a trio and spending a lot of time together, what’s something new you’ve discovered about each other?
Kim Lip: I didn’t know when JinSoul was a trainee but, as we’ve lived together, I’ve noticed her sleeping with her eyes open. I thought it was only in the car because it’s quite uncomfortable, but she always sleeps with her eyes open.
JinSoul: Choerry tends to be bloated well in the morning, so when she wakes up, her double eyelid is gone. So in the morning it’s quite different version of Choerry.
Choerry: Lip is very easy-going, that was quite unexpected. But she is surprisingly cleaner than I expected.
Translation by Dana Hong