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Words / JoAnn Zhang

Photos / Courtesy of FNC Entertainment

With their newest album Killin’ It currently holding #1 on the Billboard World Albums Chart, K-pop boyband P1Harmony appears to be rising above the rest of K-pop’s Gen Z squads. Three years since their debut, they have distinguished themselves as a remarkably media-savvy group; they are in their element on TikTok and YouTube, and their videos are as natural and genuine as a good friend’s voice memo. In K-pop, celebrity-fan relationships are particularly important, and P1Harmony are attentive idols, going as far as to write songs in response to fan messages, released on SoundCloud. In turn, their fans are devoted admirers, calling them ‘superheroes’ on online forums. Artistically, P1Harmony does not disappoint; one of their most creative projects thus far has been their film, P1H: The Beginning of a New World, an allegorical sci-fi story. During our conversation, P1Harmony, with their quick banter translated for me by Keeho, shows me why the world is falling in love with them, with their funny yet tender humility, as they discuss their tour, being artists under pressure, and their dreams outside K-pop. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


What has this past experience of being on tour— your first international tour— taught you?

Keeho: Jiung says he learned how to maintain his stamina throughout the show, because he feels like communicating with fans is such an important thing. But if you’re running and running throughout the entire thing, you burn out so quickly. So learning how to give and take, make sure you’re breathing—  not necessarily taking breaths in between songs, but technically, in the choreography, how he’s able to rest in between points. It’s very strategic, so that we’re able to continuously have that energy up throughout the night. He’s trying to give that energy nonstop, and he’s learned how to control that throughout the show.


What’s the song that reminds you guys most of your fans?

Keeho: “Peacemaker”— I think that’s one of our first-ever fan songs. And also, the new song off our album, “I See U.” Jongseob said we also have these things called P1-POSTs on SoundCloud; we make these songs off of messages our fans have given us, so songs from that as well. 


What are the songs that you think best reflect you guys?

Soul: AYAYA!

Keeho: [laughs] That’s the loudest he’s been all night. There’s a song called “AYAYA” which is one of the songs on our second video album, and he says that really suits us.

Jiung: And I think the title song of the album we’re about to release, “Killin’ It.”


When you’re writing a song, what feelings inspire the lyrics?

Keeho: For Intak, it depends on the vibe of the song, and what the song says to him personally. For this album, like “Street Star,” he wanted to just write lyrics depending on what he felt from the song. But, on the other hand, in a song like “Countdown to Love,” he imagined all six of us really having fun with the song, dancing and singing along. He thought of that image and wrote the lyrics based on what he felt all six of us would feel. 


What goes into the stories you want to tell in your music— personal experiences, etc.? 

Keeho: Every time we release a new album, or a new song, we always think of a storyline, or we always think of what we can portray with this song. It kind of builds up from that, and we add more and more and more to it. And that becomes the full product at the end. With K-pop, there are just so many layers to storytelling— with personal songs, it’s dependent on personal experiences— but with K-pop there’s just so much stuff that goes into it. So that could be a mix of the members’ ideas and thoughts lyrically or visually, or even with the choreography. There are just so many different ways we can interpret or express a certain message. 

This song “Killin’ It” is about being the best and showing people that we are the best thing, that we are cool, you know. So each member, when they were writing their own lyrics, I feel like that was their own take on what feels cool— like how do I feel cool, and what words do I have to say that are cool? I guess that that’s a kind of personal experience as well. There are just so many layers to K-pop songs and how we portray stories, in every aspect, so it’s very, very different and fun for us. 


What did you guys want to be when you were children?

Jiung: I had two dreams: one of them was vet, the other was singer, performer.

Keeho: Soul says that he wanted to be a dancer or a singer. And Theo says he wanted to be a person who makes light bulbs. [They discuss.] Sorry, I misinterpreted. Theo said he wanted to be someone who creates stage equipment, like lighting and stage stuff. 


What are some of your dreams for the future aside from K-pop?

Jiung: A farmer! A farmer, a farmer. I’m gonna be a farmer.

Keeho: I love houses. I love everything that has to do with houses. I would love to sell houses— I don’t know if I would say real estate though… but I love interior design. I would love to be an interior designer, like build a house and furnish it all by myself. 

Keeho: Intak says he really wants to be an artist, like a visual artist. So that could be sculpture or painting or glass, just art, he wants to do art later on. 


What is your guys’ step-by-step creative process when you’re writing music?

Keeho: So when Intak thinks of a keyword, for example, in “Killin’ It,” he thinks of those words and then he makes a mind map, branching off different words he gets inspired from, from that main keyword. That’s where he gets a lot of inspiration for his lyrics. 

That’s very poetic.

Keeho: Because you said that, I want to say he was really good at writing poems. He used to love reading and writing poems.


What is the impact that you guys want to have on your fans? 

Keeho: So Intak said ever since he started, he’s always felt it was so important to leave a positive impact in fans’ lives and mindset. And if they feel that way after hearing us or seeing us perform, he hopes that more and more people feel that way, and he will continue to work hard so that people can feel that way and receive that positive energy from us and implement that into their own minds.


A big part of your guys’ artistry is your performance. So what is it about performance that you love so much?

Keeho: For Jiung, he says that of course, performing on stage in itself is very fun. But also having that back and forth with the audience, is also what makes it so much more fun. Because he’s able to control the crowd in terms of how he wants them to have fun. If he wants them to jump and scream and sing along, he can do that. If he wants people to quiet down, and everyone have an intimate moment, he can do that, and just be able to have fun with the crowd. Because at the end of the day, the people that come to see our shows, they’re here to have fun, right? And the fact that he’s able to have authority and be able to control the energy of the crowd is just so much fun.


This is a question from a fan (@blue_vacation on Reddit): What was the most exciting and challenging parts of creating your first full length album?

Jongseob: When we started to write the lyrics, on tour, we always had a deadline. So the schedule was very hectic, like I wrote the lyrics in an airplane, in our hotel, everywhere. That’s the hard part for me. 

Keeho: I think for me personally, K-pop is such a huge world where it isn’t just about releasing a song. So I feel like with this full-length album, and with this specific song “Killin’ It,” the hardest thing for me was thinking about what we wanted to portray, and how we wanted the general public and our fans to perceive us on this album. Our previous video elements, we played it safe in terms of music, concepts, and visuals. So I felt, because Kpop is so surrounded by everything, including choreography, outfits, designs, and stories, everything is such a big world, a musical world, that we have to create

The hardest thing was to think, what do we want to show the world? What do we want people to get out of this? And I feel like when we created this album, when we finished it, I learned that P1Harmony is really a team and we’re trying so many different concepts and ideas and stories. We won’t let anything or anyone contain us into anything other than that. So I really, really look forward to this album and our upcoming albums. And I’m really excited to show our fans that we’re so limitless and there’s so much more to explore. I’m really excited to be a little more experimental.


There are so many different pressures in K-pop, from cultural and social pressures to financial pressures. How do you feel like you manage all that while maintaining your artistic integrity?

Keeho: That’s a very good question. Because, you know, everything applies. And I feel like that was exactly the reason why we were playing it on the safe side for the past three years, because there were so many things to consider. But I feel like I’ve learned that the more genuine you are, and the more intimate the song, the concept, and the story are to us personally, the more real it comes across to the people who are watching. And I feel like there’s so many different reasons, all the stuff that you said, whether it’s cultural, or for profit, or whatever it may be, there’s so many things that block us from trying to be creatively free. But moving forward, something that I learned in 2023 is that that doesn’t matter at the end of the day. And if we really want to show the world who we are, then there’s nothing to pay attention to other than the fact that it’s so important to be true to yourself. And that’s how you’re able to show yourself artistically. I think we’re finding ourselves so much more this year. And we hope to show that side of us more in our upcoming albums.

P1Harmony is about to go on tour in North America! Catch them in LA on 6/16, or find your city below for the UTOP1A tour:

Tuesday, May 14, 2024 @ Houston, TX

Friday, May 17, 2024 @ Dallas, TX 

Monday, May 20, 2024 @ Chicago, IL 

Friday, May 24, 2024 @ Toronto, ONT 

Sunday, May 26, 2024 @ Boston, MA 

Monday & Tuesday, May 27-28 @ Seoul, South Korea 

Thursday, May 30, 2024 @ Washington, DC 

Saturday, June 1, 2024 @ Atlanta, GA 

Monday, June 3, 2024 @ Nashville, TN 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024 @ Miami, FL 

Saturday, June 8, 2024 @ New York, NY – GOVERNOR’S BALL

Friday, June 14, 2024 @ Oakland, CA 

Sunday, June 16, 2024 @ Los Angeles, CA 



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