It’s 11 a.m. on a summery Sunday in Seoul. K-pop group The Boyz are gathered around a conference room table, immersed in a new round of press. In just over 24 hours, their effort and preparation will coalesce in the release of THRILL-ING, their sixth Korean mini-album. But, right now, the 11 members are simply chilling. Sangyeon, Jacob, Younghoon, Hyunjae, Juyeon, Kevin, New, Q, Juhaknyeon, Sunwoo, and Eric have a spread of snacks and sweet drinks set before them, and they’re dressed comfortably for their practice immediately after this call.
Released on August 9, The Boyz’s new six-track EP feels like a journey of ups and downs. That’s intentional. From “Thrill Ride” to “B.O.Y (Bet On You),” the album isolates the rising high of euphoric moments and the inevitable fall when they are all over. The creative process began with the word “thrill,” Gwangju-born, Vancouver-raised main vocalist Kevin tells Teen Vogue. “There are so many emotions related to that word. Whether it be nervousness, the nerves you feel before getting on a ride, the fear that you feel when you’re about to go on a drop, and the joy that you feel at the end of it,” Kevin explains, in English. “With those different elements we made an album that relates to those emotions, so you’ll find that as you listen to the entire album, start to finish, you’ll feel the emotions that you feel as if you were on an actual roller coaster.”
The music video for the title track, “Thrill Ride,” showcases a playful but relaxed side to The Boyz. With its bright and electrifying visuals, it feels like being on summer vacation drinking coconut water straight from the source, just before a night out. “Previously, we focused a lot on trying to decipher a certain message on stage,” says rapper Sunwoo, whose whispering in the track takes you to magical places, via an interpreter. “This time around we’re more into, ‘let’s be chill, let’s relax on stage, let’s really enjoy the vibe of the music.’” He adds that there are a limited number of thrilling experiences you can have during the pandemic, but they wanted to give their fanbase Deobi music and stages that felt truly thrilling and enjoyable.
Part and parcel of that is a sequence included in the video’s teaser, in which The Boyz are blasted with a water cannon. “We all had a blast, that’s for sure,” says main dancer Q, who spends the interview making hilarious gestures. “It started to be like, ‘okay, let’s just take this scene once,’ but we ended up filming it five different times.” Toronto-born lead vocalist Jacob paints the picture of the members all lined up watching Hyunjae, also a lead vocalist, take on the water blaster. “He was the example of what we’re not supposed to do, so we were able to improve on that,” Jacob quippingly adds. “When you get hit, it doesn’t hurt, but it’s hard with expressions if you’re not focused.” Hyunjae clarifies: “It was hard, it was really loud.”
Of course, a new comeback means new styling and beauty. The concept for “Thrill Ride” sees the members sporting various hair colors — from pink and purple to blue and more. “I have this purple hair with pink and blue and sometimes yellow in between,” rapper and Cali boy Eric says in English, revealing the ‘do’s serendipitous genesis. “Originally my hair color wasn’t supposed to be this. It was light green on the front and then light pink on the back.” The staff then asked if he wanted to try another color, so light purple was a go at the eleventh hour. “I wanna try out black hair in the future,” he adds. Others aren’t feeling so adventurous in the hair department. “I don’t wanna change my hair color, because my hair condition is getting bad,” main dancer Juyeon adds in English, laughing endearingly when the word “bald” comes up. “But I want to try [going] bald,” lead dancer Juhaknyeon riffs on his comments, also in English, as the room fills with a collective guffaw.
Hairstyles might be the stealer of this comeback, but the Road to Kingdom champions (and Legendary War runner-ups) are known for their elaborate costuming in music videos and performances, which often translates to sultry on-stage looks. THRILL-ING was teased with three concept photo sets — Splash, Kick, and Bang — and a set of character posters, all of which were incorporated into the music video and the album. Featuring hyper glam sporty pieces from the likes of Balenciaga and Philip Plein as well as slick trendy pieces from Dior and Prada, The Boyz continue the trend of stunning visuals they started with previous albums, but they feel more like themselves here than ever before.