Futuristic K-pop group aespa speaks to Glass about their rapid rise to fame, becoming Givenchy ambassadors and what’s next in store for their fans
THE concept of being an overnight sensation was something I thought was a myth, something that happened in the movies. But South Korean pop group aespa proved me wrong when they made history on last November 17 last year after releasing their debut single and video, Black Mamba.
aespa – made up of GISELLE, KARINA, NINGNING and WINTER – garnered 21.4 million views, breaking the record for the most watched video within the first 24 hours by a group. Fifty one days later, they cemented their position as one of the biggest groups in the world when Black Mamba reached 100 million views on YouTube. It was quite the entrance into the music scene.
Taking it to a whole new level is something they are clearly not afraid to do. Presenting themselves in a virtual-reality hybrid format, each member of aespa has an avatar counterpart that exists in a dimension referred to as the FLAT, which they are connected to through SYNK. Far from being your typical girl group but closer to being the future of music, aespa are truly leading the way. Not even a year into their career, they have broken several boundaries to enter uncharted realms.
Looking back at your childhood, what was the moment you realised you wanted to pursue a career in music?
KARINA: I loved watching TV when I was young and every time I watched artists perform on stage, I felt great admiration for them. My dream of becoming a singer grew after seeing the high-kick choreography of Into The New World by Girls’ Generation. I loved SM artists’ songs since I was young.
WINTER: Ever since I was very young, I loved to sing and dance, so pursuing a career in music has always been a dream of mine as far back as I can remember.
GISELLE: Deep down, I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue music but I didn’t have the courage to put it into action. Then there was a point in my life where I got to fully experience and understand the power of music, which made me realise that music is the one and only thing that I truly wanted.
NINGNING: I was watching cover videos with my mum and there was one where a young girl was singing a pop song. I remember she was extremely talented with a very pretty voice, and it made me admire people who could sing. Coincidentally, the following day, there was an event for kids to sing on stage and I told my mum that I wanted to take part. Since then, I developed a dream of becoming a singer.
Where did the name aespa come from and what does it mean?
KARINA: The name aespa is a combination of “ae”, which stands for Avatar X Experience, and “aspect” meaning two-sidedness. We have our own unique worldview of “meeting another self, avatar, and experiencing a new world”, and based on this story-telling concept we plan on showcasing a variety of music, performances and content through our activities.
Having been catapulted into fame with Black Mamba, how has your life drastically changed and what has stayed the same?
WINTER: Since becoming known to the public since our debut, one thing that has changed is that we try to take extra responsibility for our own actions, no matter how small. On the other hand, what hasn’t changed is our attitude and the amount of effort we put into learning and improving our skills as artists.
Through this process, what have you discovered about yourself, whether that be a quality or new talent?
NINGNING: I discovered that I could expand the range of my vocals to fit various genres of music. I didn’t only practise singing, but rapping as well during my training days. I also fell in love with hip hop, which I listen to every day. Later, when there is an opportunity, I’d like to perform different genres of song, including rap.
What was the process behind creating your new single and music video, Next Level?
KARINA: Next Level is about going on an adventure to KWANGYA to find Black Mamba who is disturbing the SYNK between aespa and “ae” members, driving the world into chaos. It is a story that takes place in our own unique world. The song is groovy and energetic, so we tried to bring out more power through our voices. Also, there are a lot of amazing CGI elements and effects in the music video, which we weren’t able to see when filming it, so I remember we were all very curious and excited to see the final result.
Can your fans expect an album soon and, if so, can you tell me anything about it?
NINGNING: We’re currently working very hard on it to try to meet everyone’s expectations. This year, we plan on showcasing different sides of aespa through various activities, so please look forward to it.
aespa was named the first ambassadors of Givenchy. Is fashion an important aspect of how you project yourself?
KARINA: Fashion is a big part of how I express myself because it’s all personal choice and I can make my unique style my own. I’m naturally a pretty introverted and cautious person, but when it comes to wearing clothes, I love being bold and trying out different styles.
WINTER: In a way, when you look at a person’s appearance, fashion is one of the first things that you see. It’s the best and the most natural way to express yourself, however you desire.
GISELLE: When I first heard that we were named as ambassadors for Givenchy, I felt incredibly honoured. In terms of personal style, I love black clothes. It’s simple but can be portrayed in endless ways. So for a person like me who has a lot of empathy and a deep level of emotions, it sets a good balance.
NINGNING: Fashion is one of the most important things in my life. I express my emotions through fashion. For example, when I’m in good mood, I tend to wear bright colours, and when I have lots going on in my mind, I gravitate towards comfortable, boxy clothes— all black. Fashion is a big part of how I express myself, so I can’t imagine my life without it.
What is a new challenge that you faced this past year?
WINTER: A big challenge for all of us as individuals was most definitely starting a new chapter in our life as aespa.
aespa is predicted to be the biggest girl group of the year. How does that make you feel and, more importantly, what is your goal as a band?
GISELLE: The biggest girl group of the year … just hearing that motivates us to work harder and gives us the strength to overcome all obstacles and challenges along the way, allowing us to focus on what truly matters. Since we’re still relatively new to the market, our primary focus for this year is to build our fanbase. We want to release a lot of new music and grow our fanbase with time. MYs are no different from family. Words can’t describe how much they mean to us.
Finally, the theme of the issue is ‘balance’ – what does balance mean to each of you?
KARINA: I think that is my homework—and homework for many people. I know that, for me, I always want to maintain a healthy balance of thoughts and emotions. I still have so much to learn in order to get there, so I always try to learn from others.
WINTER: I believe you can become more balanced by centring yourself, always allowing your words and actions to come from that central point.
GISELLE: Balance is about finding equality in achieving results. What you put in is what you get.
NINGNING: Balance to me is all about love. I think that love balances out every scenario.
By Imogen Clark
All clothing Givenchy Pre-Fall 2021
Photographer: Yoon Ji Yong
Styling: Jang Migeun
Make Up: Sunyoung Kown, Heekyoung Kim and Bokyoung Kim
Hair: Chunil Cho, Woo Ri and Jinsol Yu
Visual Director: Seajun Kim
Visual Planning: Yerin Kim
Creative Director: Katie Felstead
Production: Lily Rimmer