Culture, Lifestyle

MINGI, YEOSANG, WOOYOUNG and YUNHO have formed a world of their own

MINGI, YEOSANG, WOOYOUNG and YUNHO have formed a world of their own

Well into their idol crusade, ATEEZ has hit the jackpot time and again. Men’s Folio sits with MINGI, WOOYOUNG, YEOSANG and YUNHO of ATEEZ in an exploration of their journey, their destination and the friendships they have made along the way.

(On MINGI) Jacket, top, pants, all Onitsuka Tiger

There is a cliché along the lines of “it’s the journey, not the destination” — used to illustrate the value of savouring a process without fixation on the end result. As trite as this catchphrase may be, there is legitimacy in its wisdom. Uncannily, these allegorical journeys and destinations come to head when examined in the scope of the eight-piece K-group ATEEZ.

Unravelling first as a concept of “K-Pirates” fronted by eight teenagers, ATEEZ has now carved out a signature for themselves. Their lore involves Krakens and multiverses (have you heard of Halateez?), symbols of rebellion, and cameos of the Möbius strip. It seems intimidating, but the boys are, after all, a band of sea-faring brothers, ready to take on anything to spark a revolution among today’s youth. Equipped with their intricately fabricated concept and distinctively impactful sound, the boys’ voyage towards super stardom thus far has ultimately proved successful. Four months into the new year, ATEEZ is set to embark on a new world tour while making history with a Coachella pit-stop — they will be the first K-pop boy band set to take the stage. The achievements seem more impressive when one considers the group’s beginnings in a company that only had 10 staff members.

(On MINGI) Shirt, pants, all Bottega Veneta

Fast forward to today, with these achievements in tow, one would realise there is more than one hero in ATEEZ’s underdog story. Hits like “Deja Vu” and “Bouncy” only scratch the surface of their musical prowess. Stints on reality programmes like Kingdom: Legendary War (2021) — a reality broadcast where they ranked third — confirm the effort the boys feed into their work. There has also been a dynamic that has been in development for longer than their careers, which qualifies the boys as more than colleagues — birthing genuine interactions and friendships that go the distance.

In particular, MINGI, YUNHO, WOOYOUNG and YEOSANG exemplify this. On stage, they are hardened “pirates”, explosive with intense passion and conviction in their craft. Off stage, they are companions whose friendships date back to their pre-debut days: WOOYOUNG, for instance, famously chose to depart his previous company for a shot at accompanying YEOSANG on a journey towards idol-dom; YUNHO and MINGI, on the other hand, did not have to choose. By a stroke of luck, the music academy schoolmates landed the same audition, which brought them together as two-eighths of ATEEZ.

“Maybe the real treasure is the friends we made along the way” is another cliché that touches on the real meaning of adventures. MINGI, WOOYOUNG, YEOSANG and YUNHO discuss the new odysseys they are embarking on as ATEEZ, as friends and as earnest entertainers trying to navigate the world, one performance at a time.

(On WOOYOUNG) Jacket, Loewe

ATEEZ is known for its very distinct “flavour”. Can you describe it?
MINGI: I’ve been obsessed with hot fried chicken these days. It’s so addictive it lingers in my mind. I can’t stop thinking about it, and I can’t stop craving it. I think ATEEZ has that same charm. [Laughs]

Could you elaborate on what that charm is?
YEOSANG: We have so many! [Laughs] Among them, I would say it’s our sincerity in performing. We cherish every stage and work really hard for a great stage.

MINGI: Our music has a clear concept, a unique universe and a strong narrative, which creates a rich and dimensional feeling in performance and production.

WOOYOUNG: We will show them one by one! One of our strengths is our wide musical spectrum. But there are still many concepts we have yet to try and many charms we have yet to show.

Coachella will be a history-making achievement for ATEEZ — something no other boy group has accomplished before — how do you feel about it? 
YUNHO: I joined the company at the very beginning, so I have a lot of memories. Sometimes, I look at our members from afar, and it’s really rewarding to see how far we’ve come, and I go, “Wow, I’ve made it, and we’ve made it together.”

WOOYOUNG: When I first heard about it, I was so surprised and thankful to ATINY from the bottom of my heart. I have always kept running forward and working hard, but Coachella feels like an unexpected gift. I’m a little nervous because it’s a big stage in the world, but I will prepare hard and give a great performance!

It seems like this is the ATEEZ era. Your December release — THE WORLD EP. FIN: WILL — reached #1 on the US Billboard 200 charts and you became triple million-sellers. Now you’re about to take on Coachella. Did you ever dream of these achievements as trainees?
YUNHO: I remember every single moment of being on stage. I can vividly recall the air, the temperature and especially the first time I walked into a stadium on our tour. It was an unbelievable feeling, and I’m so happy just picturing it.

YEOSANG: Billboard, Coachella, etcetera… These were my dream goals, which I worked hard for from my trainee days until now. I’m thrilled to have achieved these dreams, and they will motivate me to work hard in the future.

WOOYOUNG: Since debuting, I’ve been lucky to perform on so many big stages, which was my dream as a trainee. From then until now, the company has given me a lot of confidence, and my members have always been by my side, supporting me. But most of all, so many ATINYs have come to see us, support us, and show us so much love. Our dreams have been fulfilled thanks to ATINY. You are our biggest driving force and strength.

(On WOOYOUNG) Jacket, vest (worn around the waist), all Diesel; Tank top, Stylist’s own

Given that ATEEZ knows how to put on a show, what kind of energy can we expect to see on the Coachella stage? Could you spare us any spoilers? 
WOOYOUNG: ATEEZ is really strong on stage. Our biggest weapons are our spectacular performances and intense energy. So you can expect that!

MINGI: ATEEZ is well known for its performances. We will show you the best stage to prove why we are known for that. Coachella is also a world-renowned music festival, so I’m very grateful to have this opportunity. Just thinking about it gets me excited and happy, so I’m going to take that feeling and enjoy it.

YUNHO, some fans call you “Lucky Charm” because you always win at group games. Do you think you’re the type of person who can achieve anything you put your mind to?
YUNHO: I don’t think I’ve been able to win by myself. [Laughs] It’s truly because of my ATINY, who always supports me and wishes me good luck. [Laughs] With ATINY, I can do anything.

(On YEOSANG) Jacket, Onitsuka Tiger

Do you think it is this energy and determination that has given ATEEZ the success of today? For instance, I heard that YEOSANG once broke his finger mid-performance but continued on.
YEOSANG: It is my responsibility to ATEEZ. If I had broken the flow of the performance, the overall image of the group performance would have been disrupted. I didn’t want to waste the efforts of my other seven members, so I got immersed in the performance and forgot about the pain.

ATEEZ encompasses very prominently the quality of “duality”. How different are you in real life and on stage?
WOOYOUNG: I’m usually very playful and energetic. But when I’m on stage, I really get into the moment, which brings out a different, more intense image. Fans have described me as “born to be idol”, so I’m glad they like it.

MINGI, you are known for your “Fix On” and “Fix Off” energy — the first being a rockstar vibe and the second being a more raw side, as seen in your solo work like “Tunnel” and “무제 (Untitled)”. Which one do you relate more to? And how do you get into these characters?
MINGI: “Fix On” is me, with a stronger image and impact, while “Fix Off” is me expressing myself as Song Mingi. So I’m more “Fix Off” in real life. [Laughs] I still get nervous before I go on stage for “Fix On” performances, but it’s more about wanting to have fun. Each time I go on stage, I approach it with a mindset of “I’ve worked hard, so let’s go crazy and have fun.”

You have been on this career path for nearly 10 years — from training and music academies to performing sold-out world tours — what are you most proud of so far?
YEOSANG: The fact that I’ve been on this path for nearly 10 years, and I’ve always been by ATINY’s side. I don’t think the path we’ve taken would have been possible without ATINY.

(On YUNHO) Jacket, pants, all Prada

What have you learnt from growing up in the industry?
YUNHO: I have learned a lot about happiness. There are many things, but I’ve learnt that I am blessed to be loved by so many people while making music and performing, doing what I love. My motto is to always stay grounded and never lose sight of my original intentions. I think that’s what I’ve been doing all these years, and that’s why I’m able to be the person I am today.

After all this time, ATEEZ is now known to be a close-knit group with a great bond.
YEOSANG: I don’t think of the members as co-workers but as friends. I feel like we really know each other by eye now.

What does that mean — to “know each other by eye”?
YEOSANG: We can tell what each other needs just by a glance, and we’re happy to help each other where we can. We all respect each other and will share advice; that’s why we’re able to stay so close because we know and understand each other so well.

(On YEOSANG) Jacket, pants, all Onitsuka Tiger

I guess this is where “8 Makes 1” comes in. What does each member bring to the mix?
WOOYOUNG: HONGJOONG is a pillar who keeps the team on the right path. SEONGHWA is like ATEEZ’s mum, he has a good and gentle charm. YUNHO is unwavering, so he is the stabilising force in our team. YEOSANG has a very striking visual, and his voice brings a very charming bass tone to the team. SAN draws attention because of his cool stage expressions. MINGI’s rap style makes our songs more appealing, and JONGHO has an explosive vocal ability, so the energy overwhelms the stage.

It’s interesting because YUNHO and MINGI have a strong friendship that dates back before debuting. 
YUNHO: We perform “Youth” together on our world tour, and from there you can see that MINGI and I are friends who had the same dreams and supported each other. A day before our respective auditions, we were on a call together and discovered we were heading to the same audition. It was truly fate! [Laughs]
MINGI: When I first heard we were making “Youth” as a unit song, YUNHO was the first person to come to mind. If we had made the song with any other members, it would sound and feel totally different.

And the same goes for YEOSANG and WOOYOUNG?
WOOYOUNG: Before I came to KQ, I was very close to YEOSANG, and I wanted to be with him regardless of whether I debuted or not. I came to KQ only because of him, but I am lucky that all the other members are good people. Joining this company and debuting with ATEEZ is the biggest blessing in my life.

So, how do you support each other? 
YEOSANG: WOOYOUNG and I are still so close, and we still rely on each other. If anything, we have grown closer because we have seen each other sweat and strive together.

YUNHO: Because we are close, we can relate well to each other. MINGI has a lot of special things to say, and he always compliments me. Since I know him so well, I will take his words to heart. As a true friend, I tend to listen to MINGI’s concerns and give him feedback.

MINGI: I consider us family. YUNHO is indispensable to me, and we will silently support each other no matter what.

(On YUNHO) Jacket, sweater, pants, all Dior Men

Do you have any words for ATINY?
WOOYOUNG: ATEEZ will continue to work hard and get better as time goes by. We are working hard to show you that we’ve grown more than we have last year. Stay tuned, and we’ll come back with something as awesome as ATINY has come to expect from us.

MINGI: We hope to be the best group you can be proud of.

YUNHO: I hope we can continue to be together. I don’t tend to talk much about myself to other people, but with our members and with ATINY, it feels natural. Even if I don’t say more, ATINY is my happiness, and I hope you feel my sincere love because I rely on you a lot.

YEOSANG: When I become a grandfather in the very, very distant future, I would like to relive the ATEEZ of now with ATINY. All these memories are very precious to me, and I will cherish them for a lifetime. Likewise, I hope to be a memory that ATINY can cherish for a lifetime. [Laughs] Let’s be a part of each other’s memories.

Photography Park Sang Jun / Poish Studio
Creative Direction & Styling Izwan Abdullah
Interview Vanessa Grace Ng
Grooming Seul Ji Lee
Hair Jeong Dayoung / Cheongdam Contigo
Fashion Coordination Manfred Lu
Production Oh Seoyul / SY Production
Set Producer Park So Young / Poish Studio