ATEEZ was on the rise. The group, whose name stands for "A TEEnager Z," debuted in 2018 as an ensemble of teen boys with the philosophy to do everything they can to the best of their ability. They represented youthful, electric energy and took the music industry by storm, becoming one of the leaders that ushered in the fourth generation of K-Pop. But as they were gaining even more momentum, the world stopped.
The octet kicked off their second world tour with a two-night stint at Seoul's Olympic Hall in February 2020. And just as they were getting ready to travel and perform in Europe, Japan and the US, COVID-19 hit and got in the way of their plans. They had to postpone the tour and reschedule concert dates. Still, they didn't let time go to waste. Over the past couple of years, they've released a series of EPs, had major collaborations that yielded new hit singles, held an online concert, appeared on several variety shows and, most importantly, prioritized keeping in touch with their fans, ATINY.
Now, the boys are back and ready to meet everyone in person once again through their The Fellowship: Beginning of the End world tour, a repackaging of what was supposed to be their Map the Treasure tour. They're embarking on this much-awaited reunion with renewed enthusiasm and undeniable vibrance that resonates with their audience.
"It’s been a really long wait for us to come here. I just want to say to our fans that we don’t want to make them wait this long again," ATEEZ's leader Hongjoong told PAPER. "We will continually try to meet them and continually try to communicate with them. Don’t worry no more. That’s what I want to say the most."
PAPER spoke with Hongjoong, Seonghwa, Yunho, Yeosang, San, Wooyoung and Jongho (member Mingi was feeling unwell and had to rest) ahead of their performance at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
The original title of this tour was supposed to be The Fellowship: Map the Treasure, why change it to The Beginning of the End?
Hongjoong: The Beginning of the End title seems like our situation where we’ve been waiting for this for a long time. In our concert, our opening song is “Wonderland.” The message of the song is similar, which is why we changed the title. That’s our big message with this world tour. The beginning of the end of a long wait.
What is it like to perform for big audiences live again? It’s been a while.
Yunho: We waited for so long to meet our fans, ATINY, on the road. And during the concerts, we really felt the energy of the fans and we were able to give our 100% to them.
Hongjoong: It’s really a different feeling. With an audience of 10,000 fans, it’s our first time to perform in front of so many ATINYs. It’s really something else. Though it’s not finished yet, but in the middle of the pandemic, we performed in front of just cameras. It’s different with energy, because in front of cameras we just performed what we planned. In front of fans, ATINYs, we just enjoy the stages.
San: Now that we see people in front of us, actually, it makes a lot of difference. We can translate to the fans all our feelings and our artistry through our music.
Has the pandemic made you think differently about your music and your work?
Hongjoong: We wrote many messages to our fans, saying “We’re still here,” and “Don’t forget us. We can’t meet now, but we’ll wait for the time.” So we included many messages to communicate with our fans more deeply to keep them closer.
Seonghwa: During the recording of our songs, we tried our best to translate all of our feelings in the songs so when the fans listen, they can understand what we want to say. Because we couldn’t see them in person, we wanted to carry that emotion over through our voices.
What are you most excited to show your global fans this time around?
Wooyoung: During these last two years, we’ve been able to have more fans that have never seen them in person and through this concert we want to show them who ATEEZ is. To see them through videos and to see them in person is another feeling, another experience that we want the fans to witness, and then get into what is ATEEZ even more.
Hongjoong: And during the two years, we released lots of albums. We have many new songs and we have many new performances. So that’s the most exciting things to ATINYs.
And what about new listeners who aren’t necessarily ATINY yet? What do you want them to know about ATEEZ?
Yunho: We want to show other people watching our relationship with our fans. How we connect with them, and how ATINYs are important to us. And by seeing that, they will understand and tune in.
Hongjoong: If they hear our songs, or see the concert, we hope they see and say “They’re real.”
How has your music changed over the years and grown?
San: We’ve tried more genres and showed different colors of ATEEZ. We also worked hard to show a different side of ATEEZ.
Hongjoong: Our singing ability has grown a lot. The messages are also bigger than before because we have album series and a core story. We just released the Treasure series, we’re already done with the Fever series, too. So we can include many more messages than when we first debuted.
Has your dynamic as a group changed over the years, too?
Yeosang: Since we’ve been working together and living together, we’ve gotten way closer and understand each other, to know how to make compromises, and to work well as a team.
San: Like family.
Hongjoong: When we debuted, we were just friends. But now we’re like family. We’re brothers.
Everyone was going through a rough time during the past couple of years. How did you as a family deal with difficult times?
Seonghwa: Our main thing was that we communicated well with each other. Each one of us had our personal problems. And while the members are around the same age, I’m a bit older than everyone else so I kind of made sure to check up on them because communication is important for a good family.
San: He's awesome.
How do you hope that you guys as a group grow in the future and improve?
Jongho: We want to have fun while making the music and we want to show new sides to us that are cooler, because we’re also getting older and we want our fans to understand and relate as we mature together.
San: Our main thing is to connect with ATINYs through any form of art, with our music, or anything else whether it’s our pictures or whatever. That’s what we want to do.
Hongjoong: We want our music, stage performances, everything…We just want ATINY to be able to follow us on our path.
This is your second time touring in the U.S. And since the last time you’ve been here, other artists from Korea have also made their global debut. How do you feel about this generation of K-Pop coming over to the other side of the world?
Hongjoong: We have respect for many senior groups because they paved the way to show our songs more easily. I really thank them. Other K-Pop artists a few years later, some of them feel that ATEEZ is making the same way for them. We hope in the future the groups that will debut will see that we also paved the way for them to come here and perform here, through ATEEZ’s cool music and performance.
Last year you released collabs with artists like Kim Jong Kook and Pentatonix.Who are the other artists do you want to work with?
Wooyoung: Since my pre-debut, I’ve been saying it for a while. I would love for us to collaborate with Shawn Mendes.
San: We also love Bruno Mars. We’ve covered his songs like “Leave the Door Open,” so we want to collaborate with him.
Hongjoong: If we have the opportunity, we’d love to work with anyone whose "colors" match ours. We like to try new things, so we’re open.
With your songs, you guys have dabbled in rock, pop, R&B, and more. What other styles and genres would you like to try and explore?
Wooyoung: As you’ve said, we’ve tried a lot of genres and there are a lot of genres in this world, and we hope that someday when people listen to our music they can tell, “Oh, that’s exactly ATEEZ.” We want to create a genre that’s ATEEZ’s genre.
Hongjoong: Yes, we’re continually trying different things out to work towards that.
Photos courtesy KQ Entertainment
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