"Each Moment We've Spent Together Has Been A Great Memory For Me" NCT 127 Interviewed

"Each Moment We've Spent Together Has Been A Great Memory For Me" NCT 127 Interviewed

K-Pop icons pause to speak with Clash...

“Each moment we’ve spent together has been a great memory for me”, says Taeyong, the multifaceted leader of NCT 127. “I really cherish my members and we’ve gone through thick and thin together, which is why our team has been able to come this far.” The 26 year-old is reflecting on the years he’s spent with fellow members Taeil, Johnny, Doyoung, Yuta, Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Mark and Haechan since the K-Pop group’s emergence onto the scene with the bombastic 'Fire Truck' in 2016. Debuting as the second sub-group of SM Entertainment’s experimental Neo Culture Technology boygroup, an expansive web of projects positioned across the globe, they were met with intense intrigue and more than just a hint of scepticism. Now, five years later, the group are celebrating their third million-selling album, two of which in the space of a month.

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The genre-spanning ensemble just released 'Favorite', a repackaged version of their third full-length album 'Sticker' which came out last month. It contains 14 songs, 11 carried over from the previous record as well as three new songs - 'Love On The Floor', 'Pilot' and title-track 'Favorite (Vampire)'. As lead singles go, 'Favorite (Vampire)' provides a stark contrast to Sticker’s titular song. Where 'Sticker' leaned into the group’s reputation for avant-garde soundscapes, 'Favorite' explores the flowing undercurrent of NCT 127 with swelling harmonies and a classic, sensual R&B melody.

“It’s our first title track that is very sentimental so we are very excited to see how our fans will react”, Chicago-born member Johnny tells Clash, and the results speak for themselves. Sticker was the group’s most successful comeback to date, earning them their highest spot on the Billboard 200 and their most music show wins (popular weekly music performance competition shows in South Korea). But 'Favorite’s pre-order numbers proved their triumph, and the steadily growing fanbase dedicated to their success, wasn’t an anomaly. “This album was an opportunity for us to showcase the things we’ve been practicing both musically and personally, so it was a great relief to see how much our fans enjoyed it”, vocalist Jaehyun admits.

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K-Pop is a fast moving industry, and the idea of releasing back-to-back albums, each with different concepts and promotional cycles, within weeks of each other isn’t rare. “We haven’t been able to fully celebrate yet”, Johnny reflects, regarding the huge success of 'Sticker', “but just from being able to see how far we’ve come is enough to make us happy”. Fellow bandmate Yuta agrees, adding: “even though we haven’t had the time to celebrate yet, I remember feeling so proud when talking together with the members. I think we were able to prepare for ‘Favorite (Vampire)’ with even more energy because of the great results we received through ‘Sticker’.”

Over the course of their five years together as a group, NCT 127 have not only released multiple full-length albums, repackages and EP’s, but they’ve been busy creating personality-driven content outside of the music. YouTube content like Johnny’s Communication Center (a series led by Johnny more-often-than-not including other members vlogging or taking part in tasks), competitions (like one where they made their own version of Next Top Model) and semi-scripted skits give fans insight into the dynamic at play between the members. It’s compulsive viewing, and often you’ve watched hours of their content before you notice you’ve even finished the first video. In a time where personal connections are still being reintroduced to our lives, the comfort of seeing friendships on screen cannot be underplayed. There’s a shorthand evident between the members when you watch them, an ease born from working, training and living together for so long. “Since we spent a lot of time together, we really care for each other and know one another so well”, says singer Doyoung. “We’ve spent a lot of time together before debut”, echoes youngest member Haechan, “so we’ve gone through a lot and achieved so much together. That’s why our teamwork is so great!”.

Teamwork is an ethos entrenched into NCT 127, and one clearly valued by the members despite their group’s unusual set-up. As a sub-group of NCT, each member is also part of a wider 23-member group as well as other various sub-groups like NCT U (a group with no fixed members) and NCT DREAM (formerly built as a rotating group where members ‘graduate’ after a certain age but now a fixed group including NCT 127 members Mark and Haechan). In addition, in 2019 members Mark and Taeyong were also added to the line-up of SuperM, SM Entertainment’s supergroup boyband containing members from different groups within the company. Detailing this calls to mind the image of Charlie Day frantically making sense of a corkboard full of threads from It’s Always Sunny, but for all the paths that exist in the intricate labyrinth of NCT, there is a sense of homecoming when you look at the road leading to NCT 127. Watching them feels like seeing a group of young men grow and evolve before your eyes, an anchor that enables a confidence that’s more palpable with every passing year. “Each moment we’ve spent together has been a great memory for me” reflects Taeyong, who as leader is tasked with ensuring the wellbeing of the group. “I really cherish my members and we’ve gone through thick and thin together, which is why our team has been able to come this far.”

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Watching NCT 127, like almost all musical artists over the last two years, has primarily taken place through a screen. Following the release of their critically acclaimed album 'NCT #127 Neo Zone' back in March 2020, it would be only weeks until the world more or less shut down as we know it. To this day, they’ve not been able to meet fans in person to promote that album, which is something the group collectively mourns. “I really miss performing in front of our fans [and] would like to be able to have a concert and meet them soon. I think it’d be really exciting and feel completely different!”, admits an introspective Jungwoo. With the natural cycle of release, promotion and touring disrupted, the pandemic gave the members of NCT 127 more space for themselves - a luxury not necessarily regularly afforded to idols in the tireless throws of their career. Johnny admits he’s relished time to pursue more interests: “Through the pandemic, I feel like I was able to have a lot of time for myself”, he admits. “I was able to think through a lot of things, try and start making my own music, and also save up my energy for this comeback”. Rapper Mark also notes how he’s spent his (slightly) freed up schedule: “I’ve probably spent the most time watching movies because it’s an easy way to spend time in a fun and interesting way. I actually think there was a period when I saw at least one movie a day!”

Thoughts have also shifted to reflecting on their goals, both together and individually. These past years have provided space for many of us to contemplate the things that are important to us, and it’s clearly been no different for the members of NCT 127. When asked what they hope their future holds, Enigmatic Yuta says “as NCT 127, I want to continue showing our unique color and charms to even more people. I’d also like to show various new sides of myself”, while Doyoung adds: “I’d like for us to become a group that never stops taking on new challenges. And personally, I hope to continue living my dream of singing as much as I’d like”. Taeyong also reflects on his future wishes, thoughtfully admitting “I’d like to give back to all our fans who have continuously shown us their support by sharing good music and performances for a long time. As for my individual goals, I want to create music that expresses my own thoughts and emotions.”

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With tours across the world slowly re-entering our lives, a future where NCT 127 can perform their unpromoted music and meet the fans (known as NCTzens) they’ve been interacting with online for the last few years is closer than ever before. “I would love to go to all of the countries that we haven’t yet been able to go to when touring!”, vocalist Taeil reveals - a sentiment echoed by Jungwoo: “I would love to go on a world tour again! I think it’d be a very emotional moment to go on tour and I’d also want to visit the places we haven’t gone to yet and connect with the fans there”.

Fans, it’s evident, are the driving force of NCT 127, moreso now than maybe ever before. The powerful interconnection between the people we share our time with online has become more obvious than ever as each of us across the globe forge through unprecedented times together. Who we have attached ourselves to, whether we know them personally or they’re a member of a band we love, somehow feels more raw and unfiltered than ever before. For NCT 127 and NCTzens, there’s a sort of mutual understanding that they need each other to get through turbulence, and now, with bluer skies hopefully on the horizon they can both look ahead. “I’d like to express my gratitude to our fans”, says Taeil, “and give back for all the love and support they’ve shown!”

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'Favorite' is out now.

Words: Lucy Ford / @lucyj_ford

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