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[Herald Interview] Enoi talks about debut, hiatus, value of teamwork

Starting from scratch during a time of uncertainty definitely wasn’t easy for rookie act Enoi. The seven-piece act debuted under the newly established Kithewhale Company in April last year with the digital single “Bloom,” but then had to take an unexpected nine-month hiatus -- quite a long time for a rookie band in the fast-changing K-pop field. Now after putting out a new single, “Cheeky,” the bandmates talked about the twists and turns in their blooming career and how they managed to keep up the momentum through teamwork.

“After the long hiatus, it feels like we debuted again. Everything’s so new now. We feel really grateful for finally having held our first media showcase,” said band leader Laon during a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Enoi recently held its first press event for its first EP: “Red in the Apple,” fronted by lead track “Cheeky,” a melodic dance track that builds upon soaring vocals and a powerful rap style.

(Kithewhale Company)
(Kithewhale Company)

It was a do-or-die game for Laon and bandmates Dojin, Hamin, Avin, Jinwoo, J-Kid and Gun, who practiced the dance moves for “Cheeky” as many as 1,000 times. It was intense from start to finish, and several members experienced knee injuries, but the act wouldn’t change the choreography even after its agency suggested it. “We loved the original choreography, and thought it was our job not to get hurt. So instead, we came up with an alternative method that hurts our knees less,” said Laon. And it was worth the effort, as “Cheeky” has drawn accolades internationally and the video has surpassed 700,000 views on YouTube.

When the group was on hiatus, a showcase event was delayed three times and the seven boys had ample amounts of free time. During that time, Laon recalls, there wasn’t a single moment they weren’t together.

“All of us live in the same dormitory. Although we didn’t have an official group activity, we always spent time together, literally 24/7, even when going to movies and playing games. We never let any member eat alone. It was our way of staying strong during the hiatus,” Laon said.

J-Kid chimed in, saying, “We focused on our own self-improvement and honing teamwork during the break,” and added that they didn’t even get a chance to visit their parents as they’d promised to return home only after winning first place on a music show.

“Cheeky,” written and composed by Laon, also came to life during his daily conversation with Gun, a testament to the close bond among the band members.

“Although we were at a standstill, nobody was lagging behind,” said Laon.

The heartwarming story of how the boys met was more evidence of their family-like bond. Laon, who first formed the group, said he’d decided to follow his K-pop dream at a comparably late age -- and, surprisingly, out of nothing. All he had was the one-room studio he lived in -- which the group later used as its one and only studio -- and a rather “reckless” desire to form an idol group. “Everything was built from scratch. I’d once considered giving up, but I couldn’t resist my love for music that was boiling deep inside,” he said.

So he reached out to Hamin, his close friend, and shared his plans. “I still don’t know why, but I just trusted in Laon. There wasn’t any information about the agency, nor any concrete plan, but I just gave up on other auditions and followed him,” said Hamin, the second member to join Enoi. One by one, Laon picked the rest of the members himself. Having worked in various roles ranging from manual labor and part-time costume jobs to content development, the band leader said his past experience helped him understand his bandmates. It also broadened his perspective and eventually led him to take concrete steps toward achieving something.

“I think all of us made the ‘cheekiest’ decision from our given circumstances back then,” said Laon. To pursue their dreams, Jinwoo had to drop out of high school and Avin gave up on university. Dojin, who moved to Seoul from far away, had lived a wandering life before joining the group. Gun, who had previously moved from company to company, joined Enoi despite fears and uncertainty about a K-pop career. In J-Kid’s case, Laon bought him tteokbokki for three days in a row to persuade him to join Enoi and waited for three weeks until he made his final decision.

“I’m so grateful for our members for trusting me -- (a person) who had absolutely nothing. Now I can’t imagine us not being together. I should be a good leader for them,” he added.

Gun, who spent years as a trainee, also said: “Aside from singing and dancing skills, I think teamwork is the most important element for any group. If its members don’t get along well, that (can be a group’s) downfall.

“We trust and depend on each other. I can sacrifice myself for the sake of the group.”

With teamwork at the center of their value system, the bandmates wrapped up the conversation by expressing their hopes of taking another leap and promoting the group further. They also said the next album is already in the works.

“Promoting ‘Cheeky’ in 2020 turned out to be better for us, as we got to have a new start,” said Dojin.

“Cheeky” was dropped Jan. 14.

By Hong Dam-young (