Two words best describe my sit-down interview with K-pop group Stray Kids last Friday: chaotic and fun. It was partly my fault. I went ahead and asked my first question as soon as I sat down.
“Oh, so we’re going straight ahead to the questions, huh?” Bang Chan said. I panicked. Did I seem rude to him? His observation threw me off.
I gave a lame excuse about wanting to maximize the 10 minutes I had with them, which as per instructions from Bench, we had to strictly adhere to. The press conference started late because their flight was delayed by an hour, causing a domino effect on their schedule. I really wanted to squeeze in as many questions as possible. But my real reason for rushing into the interview was far from this.
I’ve been watching Stray Kids videos for so long that when I went inside the interview room, it felt like I was meeting old friends. I forgot that it was not the case for them.
Pink for ‘Maxident
It didn’t help that their faces brightened up when they saw me. No, it wasn’t because I dazzled them with my beauty. I was wearing the brightest pink dress I found in my closet and matched it with a pink mask. My dress was the same shade as the cover of their latest album, “Maxident.” It’s their love album or, as they put it, the first album they did with a love concept.
They gave me big smiles. I heard some of them say one word repeatedly, “Stay!” pertaining to my pink dress. Stay is the name of their fandom. Some fans who went to their fan meeting in the afternoon were wearing pink clothes, too.
The members were seated in a semicircle, in this order from left: I.N., Felix, Bang Chan and Lee Know. There was a space between them, and then it was Han, Seungmin, Hyunjin and Changbin. My seat was directly across from Lee Know and Han.
As I approached, they were smiling brightly, all looking good in their Bench denim jeans and t-shirts. They were promoting Bench’s Everyday collection. They wore the same clothes in the fan meet hosted by Bench at the Mall of Asia Arena.
As cliché as it sounds, the way they shone on their seats made me forget my name. Thus, my blooper.
Bang Chan, at least, seemed to accept my explanation and answered my question about their plans for the new year.
“As a team, we all want to spend 2023 healthy. That is the biggest goal that we all want,” Bang Chan said.
I finally collected my thoughts and introduced myself after that. I apologized for my blunder. He said that it was alright and added, “Hello, Ruth, we’re the Stray Kids.”
It was a spontaneous decision to tease him with my next question. I asked them about their song “Case 143” and how the idea of using the pager code for “I love you” came about. I told them that none of them were born when 143 was being used—none of them, except for Bang Chan.
The group’s leader was born in 1997 when pagers were popular. Other members were born in the following years, but those extra months are enough fodder for torturing him.
The room erupted in laughter when this was translated. The boys howled. Han, in particular, cupped his mouth and gave the longest “whoah.” I believe Lee Know clapped his hands. While Changbin gleefully said, “Chan will explain it to you.”
Bang Chan helplessly smiled, bowed and shook his head, before he answered.
“Alright, because I’m the one who knows what this is about. We wanted to express it in a very Stray Kids way. Nothing too straightforward. Why not say it in a code?” he said.
He then proceeded to type on an imaginary laptop.
Bang Chan continued, “I remember we were in the studio and we were looking at numbers and asking what this means.”
Bang Chan looked in the direction of the other members of their sub-unit 3Racha when he answered. Han and Changbin nodded their heads in agreement.
Stray Kids are a self-producing group, and they take pride in being involved in all of their songwriting. This is what sets them apart from other K-pop acts. Changbin said that they have more songs in their library waiting to be released.
“We have a computer where all of this is stored. We want our Stays to listen to our songs, even those that have not been released yet. I hope you can be excited about this,” Changbin said.
Seungmin is the main vocalist of Stray Kids so I had to ask him how he prepares for his vocals. The members often praise him for working hard on his technique.
“To be able to produce a very soft voice, I loosen up. I prepare for a long time. I make sure that before I go on stage, I let everything go and just give a good performance,” he said.
“Case 143” is the first single they made about love. “Maxident” has eight tracks and one of them is “Give me your TMI (too much information).” I based my next question on this and asked them to share some embarrassing or funny moments that they have not shared with anyone before.
Changbin liked the reference and told me that it was a good question. Most of the members seemed like they wanted to share a lot of things. However, from the corner of my eye, I saw I.N. raise his hand. They immediately stopped talking to let him speak.
The moment reminded me of their song “Maknae on Top” which I.N. wrote. Maknae means the youngest in the group.
“I started a diary to write about my day. I find it embarrassing for me to write about my day to express what I’ve felt that day so that’s my TMI ,” I.N. said. He told me that he writes in his diary every day.
I turned my head to look at Hyunjin and asked him about his TMI because he looked like he was going to share something before I.N. spoke.
“It’s not an embarrassing moment. But today, I had a moment where I accidentally took a sip of Felix’s coffee. I thought I was drinking syrup, not coffee,” Hyunjin complained.
Hyunjin referred to Felix in his Korean name Yong-bok. The group’s official visual (most attractive) likes Caffè Americano. Felix, on the other hand, is known to hate coffee and gets his caffeine from sodas. But a few weeks ago he revealed that he started drinking coffee.
Han piped in to say, “Felix’s coffee is too sweet.”
Felix laughed at Hyunjin’s story, nodding his head and pointing at himself.
When my 10 minutes were over, I apologized to Lee Know and Han for not being able to ask them direct questions.
“That’s okay. That’s okay,” Han said in a singsong voice.
I heard Bang Chan say, “Philippine Daily Inquirer, huh?” He remembered my publication. I pray to the K-pop gods that it’s because he enjoyed the interview and not because he marked me for teasing him.
There are so many aspects that I love about my conversation with the boys.
They made it a point to give everyone a chance to answer a question, allowing me to get to know them even for a very short period.
Their tones would change and become serious when they talked about work. But they would react to each other’s answers when they were funny. Sometimes, they would finish each other’s stories like best friends do.
All of them gamely posed with me for our photo session, especially when I requested that we do the “143” hand signal. I didn’t know how to do it properly, so Lee Know taught me.
Three days later, I still think about them and how they are easily one of the best interviewees I ever had the opportunity to meet.