Meet xikers: K-pop super-rookies on the rise
The rookie groups in K-pop today are among some of the most exciting the scene has witnessed in recent years, but allow us to introduce you to the latest. Hailing from KQ Entertainment – only the second the agency has debuted since K-pop heavyweights ATEEZ – xikers have been quietly putting in the work to become the next great K-pop stars.
Before their official debut in March, KQ Entertainment had teased the group last summer under the placeholder moniker of ‘KQ Fellaz 2’. Immediately, glimpses of the to-be group’s members – MINJAE, JUNMIN, SUMIN, JINSIK, HYUNWOO, JUNGHOON, SEEUN, HUNTER, YUJUN and YECHAN – during pre-debut made their way online and left anticipation for their official debut sky-high.
And now, it’s easy to see why: Their debut single ‘TRICKY HOUSE’ is a dynamic track that packs an electrifying punch, seamlessly blending experimental EDM with a global, futuristic sound. Meanwhile, their other title track ‘ROCKSTAR’ has a sound reminiscent of early-2000s pop-punk, before somehow descending into an all-out, high-octane belter.
Both tracks lead xikers’ first-ever mini-album, ‘HOUSE OF TRICKY : Doorbell Ringing’ – a genre-bending, vibrant, commanding first body of work that’s has already helped the group debut at Number 75 on the Billboard 200, just weeks into their career. It’s an impressive start for the K-pop boyband, who join the likes of ENHYPEN, TXT and more.
In their first global interview, xikers speak with NME about their goals for their first year, connecting with their new fanbase and the invaluable advice they received from label-mates ATEEZ.
You finally debuted after a while together as a group. How does it feel to release your first mini-album and officially became xikers?
MINJAE: “We did have some pre-debut activities under the name ‘KQ Fellaz 2’. Nevertheless, after making an official debut under the new name of xikers, everything feels new. I still can’t believe that our dreams of debuting have come true. Every day is fun and exciting, but most of all, I’m so happy that we’re able to meet our fans often!”
SUMIN: “I can’t express just how happy I am that the ten of us were able to debut together. The fact that I’m able to listen to songs that I participated in for lyric-writing on music platforms is absolutely fascinating and makes me so proud.”
The teaser for your debut generated a lot of buzz and anticipation among fans. How did it feel to start to see such a positive response, plus your very own fan base emerging?
HUNTER: “I never would have imagined that we would receive this much love and support, but I’m incredibly grateful for it. At first, I was worried and burdened by thoughts of how the fans would think of us. At the same time, this gave us the drive and push to work even harder. I’m very proud of the amazing outcome that came of it.”
Who inspired you and what were your biggest motivations for becoming an idol?
YUJUN: “I was inspired by ATEEZ and BTS’ dance practice videos. Whenever I had the chance to stand on stage when I was younger, I’d always feel a rush of pride and confidence from hearing the cheers of the audience. This naturally led to my dreams of ‘becoming an idol and standing on an even bigger stage.’”
‘HOUSE OF TRICKY : Doorbell Ringing’ blends so many different genres together, from, EDM to pop rock, and even Bollywood-style Moombahton on the title track, ‘TRICKY HOUSE’. How did each of the members make an impact with their own style on the record?
MINJAE: “The rappers of xikers, SUMIN, YECHAN and I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the album creation process. And actually, as a fun little tip, if you listen to all the songs on our album, you’ll find that each track has a different member that stands out. In particular, I tried to put a lot of that energy only rookies can show in the song ‘XIKEY’.”
What are your favourite lyrics from “HOUSE OF TRICKY : Doorbell Ringing” and why?
JINSIK: “My favourite lyrics are actually from the song ‘ROCKSTAR,’ the double title track alongside ‘TRICKY HOUSE’. It goes like ‘your worries and everything else will go away.’ There’s advice that I hold close to my heart, and it’s from ATEEZ’s SEONGHWA who saw me when I was so nervous that I was lost in thought. He told me, ‘You have to genuinely enjoy it when you’re performing on stage to really create a better-quality performance. Don’t be scared or worry too much.’ The lyrics are like a perfect match with this advice, and it’s helped me to really be able to sing with utmost sincerity when I perform.”
On the topic of advice, what’s the best piece of advice that you were given ahead of your debut?
HUNTER: “ATEEZ give us a lot of great advice and encouragement. And as simple as it seems, one of the most memorable phrases was ‘Take care of your health’. Now that we’ve debuted and started our promotions, I can fully understand the weight of these words and their meaning. In order to always give 100 per cent on stage, I’m really taking care of myself and putting health as a priority.”
JUNGHOON: “ATEEZ’s SAN told me, ‘Be sure to carefully check the parts you feel like you’re lacking in when you’re monitoring your performances so that you can fix those parts and do better next time’. I took this advice to heart and have been trying to practise it every day.”
You’ve mentioned that you want to bring a new energy and style to the K-pop scene. How do xikers hope to stand out?
JUNMIN: “Before our debut, the company gave us the opportunity to take lessons and practice in the US. The time we spent together, contemplating, encouraging and cheering each other on brought the ten of us even closer together. We were put in an environment where we could focus solely on lessons, so our team’s skills further improved.”
Even the group’s name, xikers, has an interesting origin story. Can you tell us more about where it came from and how you came up with the concept?
MINJAE: “xikers is a combination of the unknown variable ‘x’ coordinate and the term ‘hikers’ reflecting the image of travellers. In short, it means boys travelling through infinite time and space. This ties in with our concept, but regarding any further details on our concept, well that’s something you’ll be able to find out from all the upcoming projects we’ve been preparing that can really show the storytelling behind the xikers universe.”
Each member of xikers brings their own unique skills and talents to the group. Can you share some examples of how you all complement each other and work together?
YECHAN: “All of the members’ dance skills are amazing. I can honestly say that I’ve learned so much while watching the members during practice. The atmosphere that is set when we’re all working hard together has become a natural source of motivation for me. It makes me work harder. In another scenario, when we’re working on a song, it’s this pleasant environment we’ve created that allows us to exchange feedback and share ideas comfortably that gives us such great results.”
HYUNWOO: “I find that I’m also growing and improving through the members. Members like JUNMIN and HUNTER have stood by me and helped me out with dancing. When it comes down to singing, SEEUN and JUNGHOON capture the vibe of the song, and JINSIK and I work on balancing the track or taking charge of the high-pitched parts. We’re able to harmonise our vocals with each other like this.”
What qualities do you each admire most in each other?
HYUNWOO: “Everyone is usually very playful and mischievous, but when we’re getting ready for a performance, they’re all extremely charismatic and cool. Not to mention, the most admirable part is when we come together on stage and really become one.”
SEEUN: “I think it’s the synergy that’s created when the 10 of us come together. We’re very open about communication, sharing opinions and thoughts about every little thing, so there are plenty of moments when I feel like we’re really connected. This is emphasised even more when we’re on stage all sharing the same mood and enjoying the vibes.”
What do you hope to achieve both in terms of your music, your relationship with your fanbase, and your impact as artists?
JUNMIN: “I really do think that none of this would be meaningful if our fans didn’t exist, so I’d like for us to continue developing a healthy relationship with each other. In order to do so though, it’s important that we, as a group, continue to make an effort to spread positive influence.”
JINSIK: “I don’t want us to be typecast. I’d like for us to be able to give the fans and the general public a variety of music that they can listen to. Music is such a large presence in our lives as artists, and the fans hold just as much weight in presence and meaning to us. It’s only right that we work hard on everything because of this, from singing, rapping, dancing, to every aspect of our performances so that we can make a new mark in the K-pop genre.”
Where do you hope xikers will be and what do you hope you’ll have achieved this time next year?
MINJAE: “It makes me nervous thinking ahead one year. I’m sure we’ll have experienced a lot of different things for the first time, but I’d be most happy if one of those new experiences could be a xikers solo concert. We want to spend time together with our fans, showing performances and creating precious memories with them.”
JUNMIN: “If I were to add one more thing, I hope we can receive the once in a lifetime Rookie of the Year Award!”
xiker’s debut mini-album ‘HOUSE OF TRICKY : Doorbell Ringing’ is out now.