A Bold New Beginning: Catching Up With The Kingdom

Discussing their history, their future, their fears, and more...

A little over a year has passed since the members of k-pop group The Kingdom last met with Clash, and it’s been an eventful one for these young royals. They’ve completed their first tour, hitting twelve cities across six countries; won an award at the Asia Artist Awards; and completed the seven-album series that built their artistic and conceptual foundation from 2021 onward. 

They bid adieu to their first chapter and original group name, marking the shift into their next era. As they march onto the first pages of their next chapter, they enter a vibrant, modern world with the release of their newest album ‘Realize’. 

The History of Kingdom series was grandiose, drawing musical and visual inspiration from cultures worldwide, introducing fans to the seven kings making up The Kingdom. Listeners had the chance to get to know the group to the tune of betrayal, sacrifice, supernatural ability, and traditional fanfare. Now, with one flip of a coin, their royal garbs have been traded for sleek modern attire, their album filled with striking pop tracks. 

As leader and eldest member Dann puts it, “Many people say we’re finally k-pop idols”. It’s a substantial conceptual change, but could a group of kings do anything half-heartedly? 

We reconvene for the first time in a year in Seoul’s Gangnam district, to discuss their history, their future, their fears, and more. 

How would you describe The Kingdom’s growth since the start of the History of Kingdom series, artistically and personally?

Dann: When we first began our albums and had to do the royalty concepts, we weren’t used to them. We became more confident in the concept and got so much love from our beloved Kingmaker, so we became more skillful. It’s a lot more relaxed. 

Mujin: For me personally, I found a way to have inner peace. I found a way to overcome when I am having a hard time mentally. I learned how to control my emotions, and my perspective is a lot different than before.

Hwon: Spending years together, our teamwork got better. We take care of each other, we’re there for each other. Skillfully and mentally, I’m more confident.

How do you handle conflict within the group?

Dann: We take each other’s opinions into account, think through what would be better, and don’t think emotionally. We usually go with the majority. Because we’re seven young people, young men, we needed to learn to control our emotions, because every day is different for us. Now, we’re so used to each other. We live together, eat together, sleep together, so just by looking at each other’s face, we know how we’re feeling. If someone’s feeling downcast, we’ll go up to them and laugh together, and after doing so for a few minutes, they’ll come back to normal. But it took time. Seven people as one team, it’s hard. Even when you live with your family, when you’re always together, you have quarrels or fights over nothing. We had all the fights when we were trainees. Each member has their own sensitive parts, and we all know who has what parts. We don’t have fights these days. We’re not a team, we’re a family.

What have you learned from the History of Kingdom series?

Dann: We learned about cultures, because we had to study them to perform onstage. We studied culture all around the world. For our seventh album, we actually went to India to film our music video. (The experience) came to our skin. We were in the desert, filming there in the sand…The atmosphere, the sound, the smell. All of those things.

Arthur: Before even starting History of Kingdom, I learned about our own unique color as The Kingdom. Even just by listening to the intro, you know it’s ours. 

Now that you’ve moved into season two, how do you feel about the History of Kingdom chapter closing?

Louis: I feel that I’ve been waiting for this new chapter for a while, so I feel more excited than nervous to begin this new start. 

And what would you like to accomplish in season two?

Dann: B-b-billboard. 

Louis: It’s true that our musical color has changed, so I hope that everyone can really acknowledge our change and see how diverse our musical color is. 

What can listeners and fans expect from season two?

Dann: That’s easy. More handsome visuals (The group laughs). Better music. Until now, we’ve had this royalty concept, and it was very cinematic sounding. To many people, it was hard to join the Kingmaker family, because our music is extraordinary. It’s very unique. There will be as many likes as dislikes. Now, it’s more modernized, it has hip hop in it. Many people in general will like our songs – we’re confident about that. We were kind of worried in the beginning, when we changed our concept, because there are many Kingmakers who really love our royalty concept. “Well, what if they don’t like us anymore?” We’re looking to them right now, seeing how they speak to each other, seeing when they write to us on Weverse. But they’ve all said that no matter what, they love us and they support us. It’s really amazing and I really appreciate that. 

The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you would love to be able to branch out and try something a little different than destroying things and fighting.

Dann: Many people say we’re finally k-pop idols. (More group laughter) While everybody else is doing some kind of love songs or sexy stuff, we’re like “Destroy your fate, get back to battle, with a coup d’etat”! 

Because this comeback is so different from your last albums, what were your thoughts, hopes, and concerns while preparing for this comeback? What are your thoughts now that you’re almost two weeks into promotion activities?

Mujin: It was our third anniversary, and it felt like a good time to change our concept. We were so confident about this change, we were so ready, and we knew that listeners and Kingmakers would love our new concept. 

Dann: Like I mentioned earlier, we haven’t destroyed our concept. It’s just modernized. Also, speaking to promotion activities – we’ve done all of our shows live. Live vocals. I think we’re way more matured onstage, skillfully, mentally, and visually. I think it’s the best album until now – we were that confident when preparing for it. 

Mujin: We’ve joked that we’ve done all of the concepts for our seven albums, so there’s nothing that we can’t do. 

Hwon: I was scared that, since we changed the concept, all of our fans would leave us. 

Louis: I wasn’t scared. 

What do you want listeners to take away from this album?

Louis: Previously, there was more of an acting aspect. This time, it’s more modern, more music focused, and each of our distinct charms can be shown. One of our B-sides on the album, as well, is a song for the fans. It shows our emotions toward them. So I hope fans can really listen to that point.

What are your goals moving forward, with your kings concept?

Dann: I want to talk about this for the first time. We want to make a The Kingdom universe like Marvel. We want to unite all of the kingdoms, and with our Kingmaker, we want to make our own kingdom. Like what they do in Universal Studios… And build a castle…

Mujin: Unexpectedly, we have the perfect concept. Honestly, there’s so many things we can do. We could film a movie. 

Dann: I want to build a castle, and all of the Kingmakers could live together there. We’re all equal. I believe this. This is gonna happen. I’m gonna make a castle. In Korea. In the countryside. If you want to come in, you need our lightstick. 

Dann and Mujin once again took part in writing lyrics for this album – what was the creation process like for each of you this time around?

Mujin: Our producer asked if there were any songs I wanted to work on. When I heard ‘RusHush’, I thought right away, “Wow, this song is so good”, and I wanted to write lyrics for it. When I showed him my work, he liked it, and I was able to participate happily. 

Dann: ‘Gundam’ sounded really nice, and thankfully, our producer gave me the chance to write the lyrics. After writing them and singing it to him, I asked if he wanted me to change anything, and he said it was all good. 

In the last half of 2023, you did your first tour across Grand America. How was that experience? Is there anything you’d like to change, or improve for next time?

Jahan: It was our first tour, so we weren’t perfect. There were parts in which we were lacking. After the tour, we had some regrets about the planning. We want to prepare better than before. 

Dann: I know Kingmakers really enjoyed it. We enjoyed it too, but we wanted to do more. We’re already preparing for (our next) tour. It’s going to be different. 

Mujin: When we went last time, our focus was only on the stage, on the concept. We were very busy with preparing, and we didn’t get the chance to experience each of the cities, or have much interaction with Kingmaker. We’re looking forward to different activities and experiences this time, with greater interaction with the fans. 

Arthur: Overall it was a very positive experience for me. With it being our first tour, it went very well. Many Kingmakers came, and they did our fan-chants… I think that’s why I have more regrets, because we could do so much more. Next time we’ll do two, three, four times better. 

Your first full concert was also the first day of your tour, in Vancouver. What was that experience like?

Arthur: Since Mujin was missing, it was the best time. 

Louis: I agree.

Dann: We didn’t know we were getting so much love from our Kingmaker abroad. We didn’t know people would come, but so many did, and we’re so happy. 

Louis: I was really surprised. Having our overseas Kingmaker know our songs, and sing them…

Dann: I really want to add this – We thought we were going to be so nervous, but the energy and atmosphere, the way they enjoyed the concert, it really changed all of our thoughts. We wanted to give them the best time of their life. We let out all of our energy, and it was the best night for us, too. 

Aside from your concept, what do you believe makes The Kingdom special? What do you think The Kingdom’s identity is?

Mujin: Family relationship. 

Dann: I think it’s in our members. Arthur, I read his (Weverse) DMs. Some Kingmaker were anxious about the changed concept, and he was telling them soothing words, reminding them that the members didn’t change. Each member carries a different identity. I think that’s what makes The Kingdom special…That was such a nice answer (There is a drawn out silence, followed by Dann bursting into laughter). 

Ivan: Each member carries different charming points. Some in their vocal tone, some in their dance…

Dann: Vocal color is a huge weapon for us. 

Jahan: We’re very strong, performance-wise.

Hwon: We were the artist with the most posts on Weverse, last year. 

Dann: We have to put this in the top of the article: The love for the fans. Our (Weverse) posts were over 5000, and the second place had over 1000. Our love for our beloved Kingmaker is extraordinary. It’s different. Because we’re (sings to the tune of ‘I’m Yours’ by Jason Mraz) one big family, and it’s our… I’m dead serious about this.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about The Kingdom? 

Dann: Wow, they’re hot!

Hwon: If they become a fan through this latest album, they’ll be surprised to learn about our past albums. 

Ivan: Especially now, our debut stage for Excalibur on Mcountdown would be surprising for a new fan.

Dann: When we debuted, our performances were with about eighteen dancers. Unfortunately, no one was able to see that in real life, because of the COVID situation. When we go to tour, if there’s a huge audience, I got a promise from our CEO that we’ll bring all of the dancers, and show the actual version to our fans in real life. That’s something different that you’ve never seen before. Even my family…We showed it once at the Lotte Family Concert, and it was my brother’s first time actually seeing our stage. He’s not into k-pop, but he said he got goosebumps while watching.

Arthur: There’s a huge gap between who we are when we perform onstage, and who we are (as people). People may think it’s hard to talk to us because of our heavy makeup and our concept’s appearance, but we’re so friendly.

Dann: We’re like seven comedians.

In the time that has passed since last year’s chat, one can’t help but notice a change in The Kingdom’s presence, however subtle it may be. Their certainty fills the room more solidly, their ambition seems to burn brighter. No matter their fears regarding their conceptual shift, it is clear that they truly believe in themselves and their work. 

As we wrap things up, youngest member Jahan says, “I hope that Kingmakers don’t think our universe has ended. It’s an extension, and I hope people will look forward to that.”

Mujin adds, “We’ve brought a new concept that Kingmakers will love, so whoever has left…” He pauses for a moment, showing a slight, knowing smile. “Come back.”

Words + Photography: Ciara Glagola | @ciaraglagola 

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