If you’re an Orbit or know anything about LOONA, you can probably guess that doing an hour-long interview with all 12 members of the Korean girl group can only mean chaos in the greatest way possible — but the “chaos” extends far beyond LOONA’s quirky and unique personalities off stage.
LOONA’s epic narrative dates back to 2016, when Korean company BlockBerry Creative launched a campaign to reveal a member of the group — comprised of HeeJin, HyunJin, HaSeul, YeoJin, ViVi, Kim Lip, JinSoul, Choerry, Yves, Chuu, GoWon and Olivia Hye — each month for a year. With each new member’s reveal came an introductory solo single and an ever-unfurling lore to the group (the “LOONAverse”), and the members were also divided into three sub-units: LOONA ⅓, Odd Eye Circle and LOONA yyxy.
Ever since LOONA made their official debut with “Hi High” in August 2018, the intricate details and hidden messages included in the group’s teasers, music videos, choreography and on-stage façade — all part of the ongoing LOONAverse narrative — have created a deep fascination for fans, with Orbits poring over each move LOONA make in an effort to unveil more about the relationships between each member and how all their worlds collide.
Now, with the release of their fourth EP, [&], as well as lead single “Paint the Town,” LOONA are back with another sonic epic that expands the LOONAverse. (Also returning? Member HaSeul, who was previously on hiatus while taking a mental health break in 2020.)
And while LOONA look to the future on their new EP, the music video for “Paint the Town” also honors their past: The visual carries heavy references to sub-unit Odd Eye Circle (JinSoul, Kim Lip, Choerry), with an emphasis on the return of Kim Lip’s “Eclipse” persona, as well as Haseul’s return. Overall, LOONA’s new offering is a celebration of the group’s grand return to its 12-member format.
Below, LOONA open up to PopCrush about their exciting new EP, welcoming HaSeul back, the records they hope to break and why they’re worth stanning.
First off, congratulations on your new album and all the achievements thus far — and a special welcome back to you, Haseul! It’s exciting to see all 12 of you complete again. How does it feel?
HaSeul: We’ve been nervous! We’re very pleased to be back. It was quite a nervous process, but after we practiced a lot for a long time we can have our fans expect a lot more from us.
What can you tell us about the new EP and lead single “Paint the Town”?
HeeJin: On the new album, especially “Paint the Town,” we’re trying to speak to the fans to overcome the standardized rules of the world. We want to show up and tell the world about LOONA’s voices.
Yves: For us, until right now, [the theme of] “Why Not?” is about waiting for someone, while “Paint the Town” symbolizes the period, as in the end of a sentence, of not needing to wait for [this person] anymore. Overall, it’s a continuation [of “So What” and “Why Not?”]!
If you could “Paint the Town” in LOONA’s colors, what colors would you choose and where would you paint?
YeoJin: Personally, in my opinion, I would choose black. You can see all of the colors of the rainbow in black, right? So I want to succinctly cover Orbits’ hearts in black.
Chuu: If we’re touring, it doesn’t matter where. Wherever we go, I really want to meet a lot a lot of Orbits. If Orbit calls, we will go wherever they are.
Any favorite songs on the EP?
HyunJin: We would recommend “Dance On My Own.”
Yves: In “Dance On My Own,” the lyrics are all in English — all in a foreign language just like “Star” — and it would be very comfortable to listen to especially for [English-speaking] fans.
Is there any genre that you guys explored for the first time on this new EP?
LOONA: We went a bit deep into the ballad genre this time.
Because you mentioned this is a continuation of your past releases within the LOONAverse lore, are there any key hints or Easter eggs in the new music video?
Choerry: To be honest, there are so many hints in the music video, so you shouldn’t miss a second of it when watching.
Yves: Especially because of Haseul’s comeback, I recommend paying attention to that part. Her wings!
Are we going to find out where Hyunjin’s missing shoe went in the “Why Not?” video?
LOONA: We can’t say!
Do you guys get lost in the LOONAverse yourselves?
Chuu: Hyunjin is a real cat.
HyunJin: [creates claws with her hands] Meow!
LOONA: She’s really into her role! [All laugh]
Are there any pressures facing this new release?
Kim Lip: We do feel pressure [with this new release] since we’re labeled as a performance group; we have some kind of pressure to be better and stronger during each new performance or promotional cycle. And with the amount of practice we put in, you can expect a great album.
Your fan meeting and your concert is happening back-to-back. What has preparation for that been like?
Yves: We continuously go according to our schedules, like, go to the shop [hair and makeup salon], practice, shop, practice and then we sleep at the shop. So it’s been very déjà vu for us lately!
Do you have any specific routines that help you keep up your energy levels during hectic schedules?
JinSoul: When we find some members are tired or exhausted, we shout out “FIGHTING!” during practice so we can keep up.
Are there any specific performances that you want fans to look out for at the new concert?
Yves: You guys can expect the chemistry and energy of all 12 members coming back.
HaSeul: Except for one song, we’re going to perform all the tracks from this album.
You broke into the Billboard 200 last year with [12:00] and “Star” got Top 40 radio play. What are your goals this time around?
Yves: We’re so happy to communicate with [our fans] Orbit and be healthy and perform all over the world, but specifically we’d like to break records again. For example, we want to challenge the Billboard 200 again and break past No. 150.
JinSoul: Yes! And we personally want to hear our song come out on the radio. These are the two specific things we’d like to achieve in the future.
So, for those who want to stan LOONA, how would you differentiate between your EP releases?
Olivia Hye: First, with [+ +], we’d say it has very cute charms while [x x] showcased a lot of dreamlike imagery. And I think with [#] we wanted to make something a little more new and exciting, so it’s kind of rebellious.
YeoJin: With [12:00], you can see our passion on that first album as we enjoyed party-inspired concepts. And finally, with [&], we really wanted it to have a passionate, but cooler and intense impression.
For fans who are intimidated by the LOONAverse, what is the best piece of advice you can share on how to get into LOONA?
HeeJin: My debut “ViViD” is definitely the best place to start for fans who are intimidated by the LOONAverse. Start from the beginning!
What more would you like to do as a group or as individuals?
GoWon: As a group, we most definitely want to try and go on a world tour since we couldn’t before because of the global pandemic.
ViVi: I haven’t gone back home for a long time, so I would like to introduce all the members to everyone back home and enjoy some time there.
Yves: We all have specific individual activities we’d want [to do], but we also want to showcase and concentrate on telling more about the LOONAverse. So as a group, maybe we’d like to try a reality show more than we’d like to do our own individual activities.
HaSeul, because you have a knack for opera, would you ever be open to join a show like [Korean TV drama series] Penthouse?
HaSeul: If I could be on the show, it would be an honor.
What is one thing you want the world to know about LOONA?
HeeJin: Because we are more known as a performance group, we’d specifically like the world to know the whole story of the album, and our music. We’d like the fans to also concentrate on the story since it’s not only the performance. The album has a whole story. We’d like the fans and the world to know more about LOONA through the story of the album.
How important is communication with Orbit?
Yves: We put a lot of effort in “Star,” which was all in English; we wanted to say thank you to our foreign fans. Through this we could give our thankful feelings and be comfortable. English is difficult, but it’s somewhat similar too … Because there are a lot of us, we can study a lot for all of our fans. We want to be sympathetic.
Do you have a message you want to share with Orbits around the world?
HyunJin: For Orbits all around the world, we will visit the places you are at, so wait and we will show you more and you can expect a lot from us!
This is going to be vague, but fill in the blank: LOONA & …?
JinSoul: I would say LOONA & Orbit because Orbit are the reason why we perform. They’re the main reason we work, and we can’t separate ourselves from Orbit so that’s what first comes to mind.
Yves: LOONA & “-ing” because we don’t know how far our potential goes, so we want to be in the present to try more and more things. I think “-ing” is the best way to express our unlimited goals and what we want to achieve.
Chuu: LOONA & paint, related to our album — because if you mix up all the paint you’re not sure what kind of color will come out!
HaSeul: LOONA & world star.
How about LOONA & world domination?
LOONA: Oh yeah! [All clap]
Yves: [Gives standing ovation]
HaSeul: Good idea!
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Yves: Do you know the Korean actor Yeo Jin Goo? You look like him!
[&] was released on June 28.