Think of your favorite puzzle—any kind. It could be a jigsaw, crossword, sudoku, or even that one level of Candy Crush you lost countless hours of sleep trying to win. Regardless of the type, each piece serves a very specific purpose in making the puzzle whole again, a picture-perfect image created out of patience, precision, and most importantly, practice. When applying this framework to the technicolor world of K-pop, where the landscape changes by the minute, no one embodies a thoughtfully pieced-together puzzle quite like P1Harmony.
Members Keeho, Intak, Jiung, Jongseob, Theo, and Soul are each other’s pillars, happily stuck together like glue, and it shows throughout our conversation via Zoom as they reminisce, laugh, and playfully squabble on every topic from touring to putting together a new album, and whether or not bagels should be crispy. “We were actually arguing about this earlier, and we said bagels were supposed to be chewy,” Jiung explained with a grin. (Everyone is pretty much on board with the concept of chewy bagels, except for the group’s leader and resident translator Keeho, who, in a perplexed state, insists bagels should at least be a tad crunchy.) But we digress.
From their second U.S. tour to a recent collaboration with British pop trio New Hope Club, two members branching off as radio DJs and preparing for the final EP in their Harmony series, 2023 has already proven to be a busy year for P1Harmony, but they’re blissfully thriving and taking it all in strides. As CLASH catches up with the guys ahead of their latest release, ‘HARMONY: ALL IN‘, it becomes very apparent that even with nearly three years of experience under their belt, the group is only just getting started.
“We do feel like this album is very genuine and serious for us,” Intak said, who’s one of two rappers in the group. “Because of that, I’m able to be more explicit with our lyrics, not language-wise, but [in terms of] the context and the things I wanted to express. I feel like I was able to play around more and express everything that I wanted to, so I would say it’s definitely more intimate and genuine.” Keeho interjects with a witty smile for clarification, “Not saying our other albums aren’t, but this one is definitely more intimate.”
Co-written by all six members, ‘Harmony: All In’ closes the chapter of P1Harmony’s second trilogy series, which saw the group convey messages of freedom, individuality, and the multiple facets of friendship they face as they come together in harmony. Not only is it a fulfilling end to a dynamic body of work, but it also comes at a reaffirming time in P1Harmony’s career considering the top of 2023 held many uncertainties for the band.
Back in January—just weeks before heading out on the road—Keeho got candid on live stream and opened up about his worries about P1Harmony’s future moving forward, much of which he revealed was riding on the success of their latest tour, P1ustage H: P1ONEER. But even before the official stats rolled in, the thrills of hearing thousands of voices singing their songs back to them every night was already enough reassurance they needed to know they were on the right path to success; it was only a matter of time before the numbers followed suit with $3.17M in revenue being reported over 12 North American shows. “Obviously, statistically with the numbers, I’m super happy with the way it turned out,” Jiung said. “But more importantly, the energy we received from the audience was so much more than we expected, so it just made me want to practice and prepare even more for the next time we have more shows in the U.S.”
Now with all the stars aligned and peak harmony achieved through their new album, it’s only fitting to end this instalment with a celebratory ‘JUMP’, ironically the title of their lead single that combines the group’s existing hip-hop sound with alternative pop. Notably, it’s also their first single to receive both a Korean and English language version since 2022’s ‘Do It Like This‘. During our Q&A, P1Harmony explained why ‘JUMP’ became the perfect party anthem to wrap up the Harmony series.
I know everyone’s been talking about how hard the choreography is for ‘JUMP’, and I can’t wait to see that, but can you explain what the song’s about and what made you decide to release US/English version for this comeback?
The minute ‘JUMP’s choreography was mentioned, a mix of nervous waves of laughter filled the silence, along with a few reluctant “oh yeah’s” and an amusing head shake from Jiung.
Jongseob: ‘JUMP’ is just so direct and that’s why I was able to have fun with the lyrics because the song is just about what the title says: to just jump, have fun, and let go, so we definitely hope that as direct as the song is, it’s able to resonate with our fans more because it’s so much easier to understand.
Keeho: Yeah, and I feel like songs like ‘Do It Like This’ and ‘JUMP’, because they’re such fun songs to listen to and perform and sing along with our fans, we wanted to make another song where no matter what language you speak, no matter where you are, you’re able to just sing with us, so we wanted to release another version that is more international. Because the song is simple, you know, and we feel like the more people get involved and jump, would be more fun for us, as well.
In addition to the infectious title track, ‘Harmony: All In’ covers a wide range of genres throughout the remaining five tracks. From introducing newer sounds like gentle synths and Afrobeats to revisiting the R&B genre that’s very much beloved among P1ece (P1Harmony’s fandom), this EP is a prime snapshot of the group’s core identity thus far and how connected they are to their fans. But one thing that’s always stood out when it comes to P1Harmony’s overall message, is that they’re consistently uplifting, self-affirming, and triumphant to the point where you have no choice but to feel confident and comfortable in your own skin every time you hit play—and maybe that’s the goal.
Listening to this EP, you cover a lot of ground in terms of musicality and positive messages throughout, so now that it’s finished, which track would you say best represents your life right now?
Jiung: (Smiles and raises an eyebrow) Oh, that’s hard. I would say ‘Love Me For Me’ because there’s a lyric that says, “Nobody can love me like I do, like I do,” and I feel like that line especially represents my life.
Keeho: For me, I really like ‘I Am You’, it’s just a nice R&B track, and you know I’m all about that R&B.
Intak: Me too for ‘I Am You’. I feel like it’s definitely important to co-exist with the people around you—I get a lot of strength from that, and I was able to express a lot of my personal thoughts, opinions, and experiences in this song especially, so it kind of resonated with me a lot. But I’m also a big fan of ‘Love Me For Me’. We’ve had that song for the longest time ever, and I really wanted it to be on this album.
Jongseob: ‘New Classic’ because as a job where it’s very demanding and you’re constantly creating new stuff all the time, I feel like this resonates with me because I’m always trying to think of a new classic and break away from what people think is the “original” classic.
Soul: ‘Love Me For Me’ because I think the message is very important for everyone to understand and listen to: to ask to be loved as yourself and nothing else, and just be loved for your genuine you.
Theo: (Momentarily looks at the camera, then at Keeho, and back at the camera with an all-knowing glint in his eye) Not this album, but I really like ‘AYAYA’ on our ‘Breakout’ album and I think that represents me the most.
Jiung instantly hides his face in his hands with laughter while the others chuckle at Theo’s unorthodox response. You know, just a normal day in The Land of P1Harmony.
It’s funny you mentioned ‘I Am You’ because that song instantly stood out to me; it’s such a vibe. What was the thought process behind putting it in the final cut of the album?
Intak: For me, these days, I get a lot of inspiration from easy-listening R&B and artists that I really love, so I really wanted to generate that, make it my own, and display that in “I Am You,” so I had a lot of fun writing on it.
Keeho: Intak and Jongseob wrote lyrics for it like they always do, but I feel like the song itself, when we first got the track and listened to the demo—I feel like a lot of our fans really liked ‘Butterfly‘ on our debut [album], and we’ve never really touched base on a song like that after it, so we felt like we needed something more R&B-oriented, slow and something just very classic. When I listen to that song, and I’m hearing the adlibs, I’m thinking ‘This is like Ne-Yo, this is old-school,’ and so I thought a song like this would be great to have in our catalog, and I think our fans will appreciate it a lot as well.
Outside of music, many of you have had some experience as radio DJs—what made you decide to try it out and how do you feel you’ve developed so far?
Keeho: I’m gonna be dead honest—I told them I didn’t want to do it at first cause I’m not good at Korean (laughs). I was like, you’re gonna have me read all these Korean scripts and I’m gonna look stupid cause I’m not good at it, but I’m very glad I didn’t turn down the offer because it has been such a learning curve for me, and I think it’s really helped me learn Korean and push myself out of my comfort zone and try stuff that I wouldn’t try if I had the choice, so I’m just having fun and working my way through it, and I’m very glad Jiung is doing with me because he’s a huge help, as well. And he’s always wanted to be a DJ, it was his little side hustle.
Jiung: Yeah, I’ve been dreaming to become a DJ since I was maybe 18 years old, and I would always practice the scripts, so when I heard I would be a DJ, I thought, “Wow, dreams came true.” And yeah, I’m really glad to be there and teach Korean to the fans from abroad.
As if on cue, the duo immediately breaks out into their radio personas with comically over-the-top gestures to plug their show, Let’s Learn Korean, while the others stare and clap in amusement.
Keeho & Jiung: 4:20 [PM] KST on EBS FM Radio, Let’s Learn Korean, put it down in the chat, find us on YouTube, you can message us at #1045, comment down below, whatever you want… tune in!
Exactly, plug it all. So now that you’ve done two trilogies, what’s next? Do you want to start a new trilogy, or would you rather focus on a full-length album?
Keeho: Ooh, we would love a full-length album. I think it’s about time…FNC, let’s move (laughter). Hopefully soon though—we never know what’ll happen, and it just depends on the timing, the situation, and what we’re doing at the moment. And I kind of personally want to get away from the trilogies because we’ve already done two, so I feel like we want to just start doing music that we just really want to do, you know? Like, there are good and bad things that come with trilogies and stories, but I feel like there’s a certain aspect to where you need to stay on theme with a trilogy, so I feel like moving forward, just being able to do what we want without having to think about a theme might be a little more freeing for us.
Since you’ll be continuing the P1ONEER tour in Canada and Latin America this summer, will there be any differences that fans can expect from what we’ve already seen so far?
Theo: Because it is the second leg of the same tour, it’s very similar, but there are going to be small changes. (A mischievous smirk emerges) We can’t disclose what’s going to change, but we definitely didn’t want to change too much because, for the next tour, we want to show you a completely different and new thing, as well.
Keeho: So if you’re in America, get on that flight—come to Latin America, come to Canada, you already know, and you’ll see a little bit of a different show.
P1Harmony has always prided itself in having a clear vision for their music and expressing a cohesive, overarching storyline; it’s part of what’s made both their trilogies, Disharmony to Harmony, so engaging and consistent. “It’s the end of the Harmony series, which is very big for us—emphasis on ‘the end,’” Keeho stated. “We’ve been creating this whole story ever since our debut, and I think the theme for this album, is throughout this continuation, we talked about friendships, conflict, how can we overcome conflict, how we can create an environment that’s fitting for us, and how we can achieve that, and I think this album really brings it all together and shows that we have complete harmony, now we’re full.”
‘HARMONY: ALL IN’ is out now.
Words: Chyenne Tatum / @chyandblack
Photo Credit: FNC Entertainment