[INTERVIEW] Newly debuted K-pop group TRI.BE aims to empower younger generations
By Park Ji-won Video by Lee Min-young, Kim Kang-min, Yun Da-been TRI.BE, a seven-member K-pop girl group debuting in February, first came under the media spotlight due to the fact that the group was put together by high-profile composer and director Sinsadong Tiger and Universal Music in Korea. It is the first idol group formed by the international label. Consisting of seven members, Songsun, Kelly, Jinha, Hyunbin, Jia, Soeun and MiRe, the group rapidly attracted international fans with its debut track "DOOM DOOM TA," a song with an addictive afrobeat, baile funk and dancehall elements, catchy lyrics and powerful and skilled dance performances. Its debut song has already clocked more than 5.7 million views on YouTube. In addition to addictive songs and performances, what makes them stand out from other K-pop groups is cultural diversity. The group consists of members from Korea, Japan and Taiwan and they range in age from 15 to 24. TRI.BE shared their thoughts about their music, debut and cultural diversity during a recent interview with The Korea Times. The following are excerpts from the interview that have been edited for clarity. Q What makes TRI.BE stand out as a girl band? A Songsun: Although we try to show our charismatic side on stage, we are actually goofy and playful in real life, which makes us a group full of unexpected charm. And we have members who are fluent in English, Chinese and Japanese! Q What is TRI.BE's music style? A Jinha: I think it's a style that expresses the ambition to do your own thing confidently without being swayed by other people's views. So the unique point of our music is that we try not to limit our music by having to fit into a certain category. Q How was your life as a trainee? A Kelly: It was difficult. I couldn't speak Korean well so I had a difficult time communicating with the other trainees. I was also a bad dancer. I was usually the last one to memorize the choreography. But I got over all that and improved thanks to all of our group members. Songsun: I was a trainee for a very long time. My debut chances were always pushed back and it just never happened. I had were more than 10 chances to debut which were pushed back. Going through all that, there were times I really wanted to give up and regretted my decision to even choose this path in the first place. And then I got to take a break from that life for about a month, which was when I came to realize that I can't do anything but 'this.' I just had to go back and dance again. I think those years as a trainee were a great opportunity that gave me strength and wisdom. Q Do you see any difference among trainees in Korea and other countries? A Kelly: I think trainees in my country sing more than dance. So this kind of trainee thing was rare. There were a lot of singers but no Korean-style idol groups. But things changed after K-pop became popular in my country and now more and more idol groups can be seen. Q What are some examples of culture shock different members encountered? A Jia: What are some examples of culture shock different members encountered? I was surprised the most by how Koreans bow and greet each other politely all the time. Back in my country we don't speak in honorifics and just say hello. MiRe: I think this is not exactly an example of cultural shock... but egg rolls here in Korea.. Japanese egg rolls are very sweet. They put in a lot of sugar. But Korean egg rolls do not taste sweet at all. I find that so interesting. "Why is it not sweet..?" I was shocked. Jinha: I don't think we feel that much of a cultural difference when we are together. At first I was worried about how cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings and arguments among members. But none of that happened and we now all speak each other's languages for fun. Jia: Yes, we talk to each other in all four languages. The way we talk is so funny. We mix all four languages in a sentence. Right before we talked about Blackpink, and we were like, "Do you want to become like Blackpink?" Mixing words up like this. Q Were there any cultural aspects of foreign members that took Korean members by surprise? A Jinha: We once had tteokbokki together, and MiRe said it was too spicy and started dipping it in raw egg. So we were like, "MiRe, what are you doing? That's going to make you sick," But she said Japanese people dip their food in raw egg all the time. That was so bizarre… Q Do you think you have adjusted well to your life in Korea? MiRe: which means that she adjusted to life in Korea really quickly. I once went out shopping alone before the pandemic, and the store owner thought I was Korean and kept talking to me. Now more people think I'm Korean at first glance which makes me really happy. Q What made you dream of becoming a K-pop star? Kelly: There was this graduation performance when I was in the 6th grade. I danced a routine from Girls' Generation's "I Got A Boy." By dancing to K-pop songs, I was naturally drawn to K-pop boy/girl groups. I started taking dance lessons as I went up to middle school and I also went to auditions. Songsun: Yuri of Girls' Generation's is my cousin so I was able to watch stage performances from a very young age. I had many chances to go to concerts, music programs and live tours to other countries. Watching performances on TV and being in front of the actual stage was a completely different experience for me. I thought to myself, "I want to be under those glamorous lights, too." I wanted to be great, too. So I endured all those years of endless practicing and here I am. Yes she supported me all along.Because I was a trainee for so many years… She would often tell me to always stay humble and never give up. Those who stay until the end will always be the winner. Q Is there anything you would like to say to your fans? Jinha: Whenever we video call our fans for fan meeting events, they tell us that they receive so much positive energy from us and our music but it's actually the other way around. The positive energy we gave our fans eventually comes back to us and we are so grateful that our interaction creates this virtuous cycle. We want to send out more positive energy to you all! Q Is there something you would like to do after the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end? A Kelly: We want to hear fan chants. That's our dream! Hyunbin: At the end of our performances on music programs, we can hear shouts and cheers coming through our in-ear monitors. But after Covid, we really want to hear it directly. We want to feel the sound of applause directly.