KARD Are Something Special

A conversation with the bold K-pop quartet...

Co-ed K-pop ensemble KARD have something special, and they want people to know about it. They just aren’t sure what that something is quite yet.

 “People come to us and say KARD is special because of this, but that this isn’t really clarified,” Says J.Seph, as we sit around a table at the group’s New York City hotel. “There’s no answer for it at the moment, but there’s something about us that really stands out in the K-pop industry right now.”

Whatever it is surrounds all that KARD is. Their existence as a co-ed group in the K-pop space is a rarity. Additionally, a mix of reggaeton and moombahton-inspired sounds that the group calls “Experimental, rhythm-based, and performable” creates KARD’s bold, signature sound. However, that still-nameless special something may be most apparent when J.Seph, BM, Somin, and Jiwoo take to the stage. It surrounds the foursome in a powerful aura that captures attention tightly and piques curiosity. A KARD concert is a mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind experience, because KARD themselves are one-of-a-kind. 

The night prior, KARD kicked off the American leg of their Playground tour at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Though KARD’s songs stand strong on their own, watching them be performed shows that they are meant to be something bigger than an auditory experience. When these performances are matched with the ardor of the Hidden KARDs (the group’s fan name) in attendance, the energy cannot be contained by any room. For BM, their concerts are characterized through this. “Our concerts are extremely high energy, and have so much passion.” 

Wherever they go, the members are sure to emphasize that creating a KARD concert is a collective effort between them and their fans. As each of their shows draws to a close, J.Seph asks the joyous crowd, “Who makes a good concert?”. His question is met with the obvious answer: KARD. Each time, he is sure to remind everyone there that “We” make a good concert.

Within these concerts, KARD wishes to create a safe haven. “The reason we named the tour ‘Playground’ is for you to have a chance of escape,” BM explains that they wanted to emulate the worry-free spirit of a kid on the playground, devoid of stresses, depression, and anxieties. “To send you back home with that energy, and the reminder in your heart and head, that you have an escape.”

Our discussion took place just one day shy of the group’s sixth anniversary. To be six years into standing strong and “paving their road”, as Jiwoo puts it, is no small feat. This can be attributed to KARD’s unceasing future-mindedness. “I am in a state of mind where I’m starting to realize that not every artist has a lifeline as long as ours,” BM adds. “Not every artist has the next step planned out well as we do right now.”

Somin says, “In order for us to be here, now, we went through so much pain and suffering, since our trainee days. After all those experiences and that time, we aren’t expecting to finish up our careers quickly. We want to improve, as time goes by. We want to be in this for the long run.”

Alongside their forward thinking, the group puts great importance on their team dynamic. Crossing over into their official sixth year, with even more years logged away together prior to debut, the KARD team is one that has existed and thrived together for a long time. They see the culture within their team as a healthy one, but this does not come without work.

“We’re constantly working at it,” BM says of their dynamic. As people who met through a casting process, each member brings their own background and opinions to the table. This means that clear communication and finding a middle ground are crucial for deciding direction on music and performances. It also means having a well-rounded collective that could only be created through putting together four individuals’ distinct life views. 

@clashmagazine Behind the scenes with @KARD in New York. Our exclusive photos and interview with the group can be found on clashmusic.com now! #kard #fyp #kpop #kpopphotoshoot #hiddenkard ♬ ICKY – KARD

Curious of some of the makeup of those life views, Clash inquired what each member would consider their personal life motto. 

“Don’t pretend, try to be truthful at all times, and try to work for everything.” Jiwoo notes that these values are most important to her. She explains that she often finds herself looking within, to question, “Is this true, or not, even inside myself?”

Somin swears by perseverance being the key to success. “I am standing here, doing a tour in the States, our sixth anniversary is soon, and all of this came through persistence, perseverance, hard work,” She muses. “Nothing is impossible. If we can work for it, we can achieve it.”

BM’s own personal motto comes in the form of a Frederick Douglass quote: Without struggle, there is no progress. The words are so significant to him that he has them tattooed. “Nothing comes easy. The harder something is, when you do achieve it, it tastes that much better.”

J.Seph quotes a line by writer Lee Oi-Su: “새 한 마리만 그려 넣으면 남은 여백 모두가 하늘이어라”, which roughly translates to, “If you draw just one bird, all the blank space left is the sky.” He favors it due to its wittiness. “I feel that it’s smart. Not to struggle too much.”

Despite each person holding their own unique history, ideas, and perspective, they are tied together by their need to create, perform, and utilize their influence as artists in the most positive way they can. If they can help someone to breathe a little easier, then KARD has done their job right. 

Words + Photography: Ciara Glagola // @ciaraglagola 

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