If you've had a keen eye for K-Pop over the last year, you've probably heard of the group EXP Edition. They're a group that consists entirely of non-Korean members, and that fact alone has been enough to draw the public's attention and even ruffle some feathers. They follow a unique path in the K-Pop world, one previously uncovered by other acts. Will this unique group be able to rise to the top? Here's how they see it, in their own words.
AKP: What is the long-term goal for EXP Edition?
AKP: That makes sense, and it's definitely been exciting to watch more acts crossover like that. On that note, does EXP Edition ever plan on taking advantage of their background to promote in Western countries?
Hunter: Our long term goal is to become a touring and fully functioning pop group, and to meet our fans all around the world. A lot of our fans tell us that after seeing us, they too got the courage to pursue their dreams, and it would be amazing to meet them in person.
Frankie: It's been amazing to see BTS and CL make their crossovers into America, and seeing that fluid crossover for Kpop as a genre. Our long term goal would be to also make our crossover while continuing to make music and to tour the world sharing our music and our story.
AKP: what was the audition process like? Did anyone know each other in advance?
Sime: In recent years, Kpop has become a global music genre. There are kpop fans literally all over the world and it is only a testament to the fact that music indeed has no barriers. We would love to travel the world and share our story and music with people everywhere. We will see what the future has in store for us, we are very grateful for every opportunity we get.
Hunter: We are concentrating on Korea for now, but we'd love to promote where we're all from, whether it be NY, Texas, Japan, Croatia or Portugal.
Koki: Isn't every artist's goal to be able to spread their music worldwide and promote anywhere possible? Race isn't a relevant determining factor for wanting to promote your music.
Frankie: The audition process was pretty normal in regards to others, once I
submitted to the casting online I was notified that the team wanted me
to audition in person. When I auditioned in person I had to sing in
several different languages, freestyle dance, I had to act as if I was
at a press conference with many different personas. I think they
really wanted to see how open minded we were as artists and really get
a taste of our personality because after all the documentary has
played a huge part of our story.
Koki: My audition was a bit different since I joined a couple months after the group started. So the guys actually watched and graded me. I did ballet for the dance portion of my audition and that's what probably "WOWED" the guys to keep me on.
AKP: How do EXP Edition songs and videos come about creatively?
AKP: Which other K-pop groups or performers inspire the group?
Hunter: We work very closely with our music producer, Ben Hostetler, who comes up with an idea (usually an instrumental or chorus), and after we all hear it, we collectively decide whether to flesh out the idea or not. That includes all of us writing parts and then presenting them. The ones that fit the mood of the song or are the catchiest make the cut, and then we work with our CEO Bora Kim, who translates the lyrics.
Frankie: Ben is constantly making new beats and developing concepts. Whatever
beats we really like, we talk about the type of feeling it gives us and then we all write to it and come up with different melodic lines. Then we get in the studio and try them out and narrow it down to what we like the most. Once the lyrics are set we work with Bora Kim to have it translated into Korean and make sure that it still works and
fits the vibe that we originally wanted. Then we hit the studio for the actual recording sessions and Ben makes it all come to life!
AKP: How do you gauge the success of a group trying something new like this?
Hunter: Sooo many. I really admire BTS. Their stage presence and overall show is so dope, and as performers, they have it all. I also really respect their hustle in the industry and their crossover into the states. It's been amazing to see how much they've accomplished.
Koki: We all come from different music backgrounds, so our inspirations vary greatly. In Kpop there are so many talented artists, so it's difficult to choose only a few, but some of our original sources of inspiration came from Big Bang, BTS, SHINee, Zico, Zion.T, etc.
Frankie: Since the beginning BTS and Big Bang have been very influential for
us. They're the kings of Kpop for us and were the first two kpop
groups we were lucky enough to see LIVE. Now that we've been in Korea for some time our love has grown for Hyukoh Band and Zion.T. I've always loved
Ailee and CL as well. I personally love artists with unique voices, Bruno Mars, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and I LOVEEE Alessia Cara. An artist that can sing really well and put on a great show with a special energy that makes it unforgettable is something that we always strive to be.
AKP: How has EXP Edition dealt with adversity, practically speaking? Have
Koki: At the end of the day, if we can sustain ourselves enough to be able to continue making music and promoting, that's the first goal. Honestly though, seeing comments from people who use us as inspiration to pursue their own dreams is a success in its own right.
Frankie: In some ways, I feel like we've already been successful in the sense that certain accomplishments we only dreamed of happening, have actually happened. Of course, success also means that people are buying our albums and tickets to our shows, otherwise there's only so far we can go. So far this album release has
surprised us with some wonderful successes. We'll see what the future
continues to have in store for us.
Hunter: Its really hard to gauge the success of something new in entertainment. But at the same time, a lot of people who make it in this field are told at the beginning that they will never get to the top or that they're crazy for even trying. There's a first for everything, and none of us assumed it would be easy. Of course we knew entertainment is a tough industry but just the fact that we've been able to work and meet some of the top and most talented people here is something we never could have imagined. We are all willing to work hard to continue and we hope that shows above everything else.
changes been made since the early days? If so, what kind and why.
AKP: What type of impact do the members of EXP Edition want to leave on the world?
Frankie: At first when EXP Edition debuted I don't think we expected such an
overwhelming backlash. Every time we get a negative response we take
into account what it is that people are collectively feeling and we
really try to improve those things. After our first music video not
having any choreography in it we insisted that this next video
showcase our choreography. Also our goal has not been to "fit in"
we're by all means very different and its something we continue to
embrace, but in many other ways we had to step it up. Creating a song
that was more "Kpop" but still had EXP Edition flare to it was key.
Improving our Korean and pronunciation, which is something that has
come with a lot effort but also just living in Korea for a longer amount of time. I love 'STRESS' because it's really us, we wrote it, we could relate to the concept ...as you might imagine, and it has a darker edgy vibe to it. Also we're a Kpop
group, we're not typical idols and we don't expect fans to see us as that. The
truth is we didn't grow up in Korea training under these big companies
for years and years just waiting for the chance to debut. But what we
have done is trained at many other institutions and schools for our whole lives, in our own ways, each bringing different strengths to the table.
Koki: We're all human, so were not immune to the effects of rejection/backlash. We know we're not perfect, but I think our fans see our drive to get better.
Sime: We want to inspire people to chase their dreams no matter how unattainable or "strange" they may seem. If you have passion and persistence to work hard anything is possible. I often receive messages from Kpop fans all over the world saying how it's their dream to become a kpop singer but they thought it was impossible because of their race or nationality. Seeing EXP Edition break these barriers gives them hope and inspires them to work harder to fulfill their dreams. Kpop is a global phenomenon and as a global music genre it is only natural that more people want to be a part of it. Knowing that I have inspired a few individuals to go after their dreams makes it all worth it. As a performer, that's exactly what I strive to do; to inspire and move people.
Hunter: We want to instill in people that you shouldn't let people bring you down and try your best to add kindness and love to the world. Surround yourself with positive people, and try to be happy. Doing this all the time is a constant effort, that of course, we also struggle with. It's easy to give in to the negativity everywhere, but if you work at it, you can overcome anything (corny, I know, but true!).
Koki: Spread love and unapologetically be yourself.
Frankie: We want to be an example to others who have always wanted to do
something but have been to afraid of what others might think, or felt
like they couldn't for whatever reasons are constantly put out there.
Challenge the minds of people who think so inside the box. If you love
it do it! We dreamed of doing many of the things we have accomplished
in our journey and solely because we believed and didn't let any of
the hate bring us down. Most importantly we want to shed that
positivity and love that is missing in the world today. I want us to
be that group that people can look back on and say "Damn they did that
and no matter how hard it got they pushed through and now look". There
will always be haters no matter what, the question is will you do
what's in your heart or what's in the heart of others.
The group's commitment and sincerity are infectious, and it may make you view them in a new light. It was refreshing to hear a group address criticisms head-on but in a level-headed manner, and if for nothing else, EXP Edition should be admired for their self-belief. What do you think about the group now that they've had the chance to speak? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!