We can only describe it as a surprising happening. The phenomenon that EXO recently showed was one that was unpredicted from a rookie who debuted just over one year ago. ‘Growl,’ which was released over a month ago is still in the top 5 on music charts and their first album <XOXO> and repackage album sales combined together surpassed way over 700 thousand albums. Debuting with ‘MAMA’ in April 2014, after having a hiatus of around one year, they passed ‘Wolf and Beauty’ and can now say they were a success by certainly stamping the name EXO with ‘Growl.’ And during the time of debut the 12 members that were split into EXO-K, Korean promotions team, and EXO-M, Chinese promotions team, have become one like their cheer, “WE ARE ONE” and showed a performance on the next level. In order to ask them how they were able to grow in such a fast time, <IZE> met EXO. Starting today, EXO interviews that will be revealed throughout four days, the first day is the story of how ‘Growl’ was prepared for and Xiumin, Luhan, Tao, and Sehun’s individual minor yet exciting stories.
‘Wolf and Beauty’ vs ‘Growl’
You guys received a lot of popularity with ‘Growl,’ do you guys realize it.
Suho: I went to the dermatologist and a male student recognized me in the elevator. I realized it a little bit then.
Chen: Also when we went to the Han River to exercise, grandmothers asked us if we were EXO. (laughter)
Baekhyun: And people who ride bicycles turn their music on and go around, but hearing our music it’s amazing.
Kris: I felt it when we went on Idol Star Athletics. A lot of fans came and even though we filmed till 2AM in the morning, they stayed till the end.
Xiumin: They all had vigor. Really, not lying, starting from the beginning to end, they stayed in the same spot and cheered for us. Even from far away they would see if they could see us. Even if there were hundred something celebrities all wearing the same thing, if we did a bit of a movement, from the fans there was a huge cheering sound going “Wah~.” Thanks to them, I gathered a lot of strength.
Kai: I think it’s because of the hair color. (laughter) They cheered for us really loud. I also conducted the fans myself and when I clap, they would clap along as well, and when I scream, they would all scream together.
Not long after ‘Wolf and Beauty’ ended, you guys came back with ‘Growl,’ but how long did you guys practice?
Chanyeol: We prepared for ‘Wolf and Beauty’ and ‘Growl’ together. At around the same time we received both songs’ choreography so we started practicing. The song last November, choreography, starting from this year February until comeback, we practiced for about three months.
Aren’t both ‘Wolf and Beauty’ and ‘Growl’ songs that express a wolf’s image. How did you guys feel that the the wolf’s feeling from the two songs were different?
Lay: In my opinion, ‘Wolf and Beauty’ is a charismatic wolf and ‘Growl’ wolf is a slightly joking feeling? It seems like a cool wolf. (laughter)
Baekhyun: Should I say it’s a wolf that you dislike but can’t dislike.
Chanyeol: If ‘Wolf and Beauty’ is a wolf that has a harsh feeling like a beast, I think that ‘Growl’ is a bit gentle and sophisticated wolf.
D.O: I think that the latter is somewhat close to the Wolf Boy.
The choreographies for these two songs are very different styles, thanks to it, it must have felt like you were fulfilling a quest while doing one after the other.
Kai: Since my trainee period, I usually danced to urban style. That is why seeing the choreography for ‘Growl’ I felt rather than it being hard, that “we could do this while really enjoying ourselves on stage.” We also did it fun while practicing. In ‘MAMA’ or ‘Wolf and Beauty,’ the songs were not only very strong but on stage not only dancing, we needed expressions more. In ‘MAMA’ earnestness, in ‘Wolf and Beauty’ because they said we needed to really express ourselves as wolves, we listened to the song a lot. I think we either decided ‘at this time we should do this expression’ or just listen to it as it came out.
Baekhyun: If in ‘Wolf and Beauty’ the point was group dance, ‘Growl’ is a funky and a dance with groove. And also because the music video was taken in one take, isn’t the angle a bit different. I was really happy that we were able to show our own music video that can differentiate us from different teams. I thought ‘will we be able to do well this time around?’ but because really a lot of people loved us, thank you.
How to express a wolf
For the music video there are two Korean versions, two Chinese version, and a total of four version. Wasn’t it confusing when doing the choreography.
Chanyeol: Even while practicing we compared those parts. We didn’t practice just one version constantly but we mixed up the one take version, Chinese version, performance version, etc. all together so we don’t get it confused. So that when someone says ‘this!’ the choreography for that version will come out right away.
How was the vocal recording? There is R&B vocal mixed in, but it is a song that is not soft instead it calls for a need to make rebellion feel alive.
Kai: If you look at the story of ‘Growl,’ it is a warning to the other person. That is why we sang or rapped as if we’re really warning someone. (showing the gestures he does on stage) Like the lyrics, “I’m warning you in cause you don’t know,” I think I sang it while imagining that I was telling the person in front of me to be careful.
Then I think practicing expression acting would also be important.
Baekhyun: Before we filmed ‘Wolf and Beauty,” we watched things like <Animal’s Kingdom.> We researched how a wolf lays and with what feeling it looks up to the sky and howls, etc. We watched a lot and even while copying, we tried to express ourselves as close as we could to a wolf. We tried to show things like a wolf’s charisma.
Sehun: I was the same but not all the members watched the video, only a few. (laughter)
Chanyeol: And we also saw each other’s expressions that we make on stage.
D.O: In Suho hyung’s case, he asks how he is shown a lot while we practice, and the rest would practice gestures, expressions, etc. on their own so they did well. That is why I don’t think we said anything about who does it better. We just expressed it as to how we wanted. Of course if there was a member with a weird expression, we would have told him, but there was nothing like that.
Do you also have a time when you monitor the performances together?
Kai: We always gather together and watch it again after the music broadcast finishes. To be honest, after we debuted, the first week, we were awkward and because we didn’t know the camera well, we talked about that aspect a lot but as time passed, everyone got used to it. These days we monitor regarding the lacking aspects and confirm the parts that each member did good by saying “Wow, you did that well!”
Performance and Acting
In the one take version, the camera passes by quickly only showing the twelve members very briefly but I’m curious as to how each member tried to appeal themselves during that time.
Luhan: I wanted to show a very sexy side but even if I tried to be sexy, the fans just said I was cute. I don’t think I can do anything about it.
Tao: (Luhan hyung) is a bit manly inside. However, he is not sexy. (laughter)
Luhan: I don’t really know what being sexy is. I think Kai is sexy.
Xiumin: I think that goes in hand in hand with your appearance. Appearance wise, rather than myself or Luhan, doesn’t Tao seem sexy.
Tao: I am jealous of Luhan hyung’s cute appearance.
Xiumin: However, you are not cute. Only the way you act is cute. (laughter)
Tao: I know. (laughter)
Xiumin: In my case, there is a bit of the choreography where I steal a hat so I wanted to give the feeling of a rascal. Because I look so much like a rascal, I think I did a good job. (laughter) Although it is different from my real personality.
Luhan: No, I think it’s similar.
Xiumin: I seem like a rascal?
Luhan: Yeah. You have a lot of joking feeling. You’re really funny.
Xiumin: I’m do that only to you. Because I cherish Luhan.
How was it for the other members?
Kris: In the first performance of ‘Wolf and Beauty,’ I did something like a wink but I gave up because it was hard. For ‘Growl,’ I confirmed where the camera would come in from and only stared hard at that. But I tried my best to be as different from the other members and I tried to show a different image than from ‘MAMA’ or ‘Wolf and Beauty.’ There were times I messed up but I think the thing that I have showed up till now were okay.
Baekhyun: In my case, I had the concept of a man who sees only one girl and is nervous but want to make her his. Because each member had their own image and range, the people who watched felt if and the members’ colors showed well.
In the end, acting is also included in expression during your performance.
Suho: Isn’t the choreography itself one that a complex feeling that has both the cute and sexy feeling. The lyrics are a feeling that is appealing its strength. That is why while doing a cute choreography, I would smile, and when there were lyrics like “you just stay like that while looking at me,” I thought a lot to try to be sexy. I tried to grab two rabbits but I don’t know if I did a good job.
Baekhyun: I think the acting that we say generally and the acting during a performance are the same context. When looking at Seo Inguk sunbae or Apink’s Jung Eunji sunbae, who acted in tvN <Reply 1997>, as much as they act a gesture and expression on stage, it was cool in the drama as well.
Is there a member by any chance that acts on stage without any burden?
Suho: I am the style to do it with a lot of burden but even though it’s a serious and fierce choreography, I am try my best to enjoy the fact that I am up on stage.
Baekhyun: There is a gesture that Kai and I do at the part of “it’s dark in front of my eyes.” I think it’s really fun how we change it each time to how we like without any burden. The fans also like it.
Can you guys attempt those things because you have gotten used to the stage since debut?
Baekhyun: When we did ‘MAMA,’ we were too nervous. That is why, if during debut times we did exactly what our teacher taught us to do, now we try to express gesture by adding how we feel on the stage on top of that. At the same time as we find ease, we are able to show our ease.