Stray Kids are not so stray after all. In the midst of everything that’s going on in the world, let alone with K-pop’s global domination, the nonagon gives off a refreshing tone of humility, earnest and empowerment in their music and personalities.
“Hi, we’re Stray Kids,” Bang Chan, the multi-faceted leader of the troupe, began as he gave me his 11-second elevator pitch. “And if I were to do a quick introduction of ourselves, we do make our own music and also we make music that really reaches out to people and we can relate to them.”
It’s true. Their music speaks for the younger generation: the ones who are going “through it”, depressed, alone and in darkness. Songs such as their debut single “Hellevator” alongside other tracks like “Voices” and “Insomnia” are potential anthems to the current mental and emotional struggles of many young adults. While songs such as “My Pace”, “Victory Song” and their latest single “Miroh”, contain some upbeat, bass-heavy tempos and empowering messages that encourages listeners to avoid the inevitable act of comparing oneself to another, conquer their inner demons and keep their head up high.
The group, comprised of members Bang Chan, Woojin, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, Han, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N., made their debut under JYP Entertainment on March 25, 2018. Formed through a reality show of the same name, the former rookie group released their first EP titled I Am Not consisting of self-produced and written tracks.
“If there was a process, I’d make a track and then we would write lyrics on it and also write our favorite lines as well “ the 21-year-old Korean-Aussie artist began explaining their music production process. “Sometimes we would separately write lyrics and then we would show the others and we’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s actually a pretty good lyric!’”
Catching up with the guys backstage before the second night of their sold out Newark, NJ show for the I AM: Unveil Tour in the U.S., I couldn’t help but bring up their sampling of a Jersey Club remix of DRAM’s “Broccoli” they did during their reality show days.
“One of our goals while making music is to really try a lot of vast genres. So for us, any music is welcome and we don’t have any boundaries so maybe sometime in the future we might try doing something like that,” he said.
While dancing and singing go hand in hand in the realm of K-pop, charisma in body language and expression gives an extra punch. When it came to asking them about some advice they received from fellow label mates prior to the tour, Felix, one of the lead rappers and dancers of the group and also the other Korean-Aussie, emphasized the power of facial expressions. “Whenever we’re on stage, we always have an audience that has their eye on us so we’d always have our facial expressions on camera and we always keep our cool,” he explained.
Though keeping it cool, is no stranger to them. Neither is the power of communication. Stray Kids can be considered one of the most socially active groups to communicate with their fans, Stays. Hyunjin, the group’s main visual and also the lead rapper and dancer, expresses the importance of communicating with Stays.
“We can show them what we’re doing and we can read off their comments and it’s all done live,” the Seoul-born idol explained the power of live stream. “So through that we can get closer, we can know what Stays are doing, know what’s on their minds, give them advice and that whole process gets us closer with stay and that’s what I think is very important.”
“Our Stays give us very big energy,” Changbin, one of the group’s main rappers and member of hip-hop sub-unit 3racha, chimed in. “Because of them, our stages and performances can shine brighter.”
As Stray Kids recently concluded their U.S. leg of their tour last month in Houston, TX, the group wants to make sure that they don’t want to be known as “a group that just sings and dances” once the world tour is over.
Han, who is also the main rapper and member of the group’s sub-unit, concluded our chat saying Stray Kids wants to be a group that influences a lot of people.
“We want to show them our stories and what we’re made of and really show how we’ve been communicating with Stays and the chemistry we have between our stays as well. We want to show that to the whole world.”
Following their first EP of 2019, Clé 2 : MIROH, Stray Kids is set to release Clé 2 : Yellow Wood, a special album that sequels their last project. The new project is set to release on Jun. 19.