“Friendship Isn’t Always Beautiful And Perfect”: Clash Meets P1Harmony

The K-pop collective on the creative synergy that binds them...

If you had to sum up a conversation with P1Harmony in one word, it’d probably be chaos. Nevermind that it’s nearly midnight in Seoul, the six-member boy band – comprising Keeho, Theo, Jiung, Intak, Soul and Jongseob – are still teeming with energy when we meet on Zoom, each of them radiating a friendly eagerness as we settle into the conversation. “I’m so sorry, it’s like – English and Korean, I have to warm up a little,” Keeho tells us a few minutes in. The 21-year-old leader and vocalist acts as P1Harmony’s official Korean to English translator. It’s no easy feat – if their chat with CLASH is any indication of their usual dynamic, given the boy band’s propensity to playfully bicker their way through answers. 

On top of being incredibly entertaining though, it is through these interactions that the tight bond P1Harmony share is made abundantly clear. From finally getting to tour the world to making their US television debut on The Kelly Clarkson Show, it’s been a year of firsts for the sextet – one that has brought them closer together, as vocalist Theo explains: “It was all very new to us, so we really had to trust and rely on each other.” Now a little over two years into their career, P1Harmony have learned to turn the sum of their parts into a magnificent whole, propelling their shared musical creativity and dynamic performances to astronomical heights. It’s apt then, that their latest release ‘Harmony: Set In’ seeks to explore the many facets of friendship, as their own bond proves to be the boyband’s greatest asset.

As they wrap up promotions for their latest single ‘Back Down’ and begin preparations for their upcoming North American tour, P1Harmony share in conversation with Clash how their friendship has evolved throughout 2022 and what the world can expect from them in the days to come.

Congratulations P1Harmony on the release of your fifth EP, ‘Harmony: Set In’! Since you’ve described this record as one centred on the different sides to friendship, what are some of the ideas surrounding friendship you’ve explored in it?

Keeho: This album is about the importance of friendship and having one another. A big topic that we wanted to touch on was the fact that conflict and a difference of opinion can – and should – exist between friends, and that it sometimes makes our friendships better. You know, friendship isn’t always beautiful and perfect. Being able to come together and accept those differences, I think, is what’s important, and that’s what makes friendship so fun and dynamic. 

That’s definitely expressed through your title track ‘Back Down’, which is surprisingly aggressive, both sonically and lyrically – definitely not what most would immediately expect from a song about the love shared between friends. What led you to approach it this way?

Intak: I feel like as you get closer to someone, the fights and arguments you have with them can only get bigger and more heated. So this song is very much about that aggression that can exist between friends, but also the drive to keep the friendship going.

“Friendship Isn’t Always Beautiful And Perfect”: Clash Meets P1Harmony

Meanwhile, the album’s key B-side ‘BFF’ – which you’ve been promoting on TikTok – is the complete opposite of ‘Back Down’ and probably one of P1Harmony’s most bright, wholesome songs to date. Was it intentional to make the two tracks so starkly different?

Jongseob: Because the album is about friendship and conflict, we tried to express these ideas in lots of different ways (through each track), as you see in ‘Better Together’ or ‘BFF’. We didn’t exactly choose for ‘BFF’ to have such a contrast with ‘Back Down’, but it was just such a good representation (of the two sides of friendship) next to the title track, so it naturally became one of the main B-sides in the record.

Among yourselves, who do you think embodies the energy of ‘Back Down’ and who do you think embodies that of ‘BFF’? Why?

Here, P1Harmony get into a spirited debate over the question, escalating into a friendly but rapid-fire exchange, fingers pointing back and forth over who fits which song best.

Keeho: Sorry, we’re literally in a conflict right now. It’s a good question!”

After a few minutes of contention (and protests from Intak as he insists that he’s definitely a ‘Back Down’ kind of guy), Keeho finally consolidates the group’s answers.

Keeho: Okay, so pretty much, we said me and Jiung are like ‘Back Down’. Intak, Theo and Soul are definitely more ‘BFF’ vibes. As for Jongseob, we’re not so sure…we said ‘Secret Sauce’.

Care to explain why Jongseob is ‘Secret Sauce’? 

Keeho: Ah, umm.. I don’t know… he just looks like ‘Secret Sauce’.

Jongseob: (Shrugging nonchalantly)

As we’ve just seen, you all have very different opinions and personalities. As a group of artists who are so deeply involved in your craft, how do you deal with disagreements that come up during your music-making process?

Jongseob: We’re definitely not about creating conflict over different opinions. We’re old enough, we know each other well enough to not be too stubborn about our ideas. I think we’re very realistic (in our approach), in that we focus on what suits and brings out the best in us. Be it musically or conceptually, we’re all willing to put aside our personal pride for the sake of the bigger picture during these conversations. It’s not about our individual ideas, but the team, and how we can make the team better.

Aside from the songs we discussed before, are there any other tracks from ‘Harmony: Set In’ that you’d like to spotlight and talk about?

All: (Nodding and murmuring) ‘Look At Me Now’. 

Jiung: You can definitely look forward to seeing ‘Look At Me Now’ at our upcoming shows. We’re very excited to perform it.

“Friendship Isn’t Always Beautiful And Perfect”: Clash Meets P1Harmony

Moving on to the past year: P1Harmony have hit a lot of career milestones in 2022, such as making your US TV debut on The Kelly Clarkson Show and holding your first overseas tour. Has your friendship changed after the experience of touring and taking on these major performances together?

Theo: The tour definitely did a lot for us to get closer. It was all very new to us. We’d never been on tour before, so we really had to trust in and rely on each other to make things happen. We could really see each other’s energy on and off stage, and learnt to respect each other’s boundaries; just knowing when to be there for each other and give one another space.

Soul: A lot of the content (we shot on tour) really helped us become closer; just be able to have fun and joke around with each other, even as we’re working. That was a big factor.

Keeho, on top of being one of the main vocalists of P1Harmony, you’re also the group’s leader and translator. How do you balance these responsibilities, especially in settings like international tours and interviews like these?

Keeho: I’ve decided not to think about the responsibilities (laughs). A long time ago, I thought it was such a huge weight to carry. The more you think about it, the worse it gets. Now that some time has passed, I realised that it wasn’t just me – all the members have their own weight to carry, and they’re also very good at what they do, so I don’t need to feel that burden. My constant overthinking was what made everything so much worse. Now, I just do my best in the place I’m in. Nothing too serious, nothing too crazy. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it, especially throughout this year, because – as you said – we’ve done so much. I’m feeling good.

“Friendship Isn’t Always Beautiful And Perfect”: Clash Meets P1Harmony

P1Harmony will also be heading on your next North American tour in January 2023. Is there anything that you think you’ll do differently this time around?

Jiung: Because we have so many more songs now, you guys are going to see a whole bunch of new performances. We’re trying to give a show that’s a lot different from the last, as much as we can. Definitely a lot of new songs, and some new special stages you might want to look out for.

Finally, looking back on 2022, what are some of the moments you find yourselves feeling particularly proud of P1Harmony?

Theo: This moment, right now. I feel really proud of P1Harmony. And when I look back at our schedules and calendars it’s like, “wow, we really did work hard this year.”

Intak: We just finished ‘Back Down’ promotions a few days ago, so it would be that. We worked really hard.

Keeho: It’s all the time, for me. Whenever we finish anything, whenever we work really hard to do something, and complete it. That’s when I’m the most proud, because it’s like a weight off my shoulders. I’m very, very proud of P1Harmony.

Words: Gladys Yeo / @gl99dys

Photo Credit: FNC Entertainment

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