It’s around 7:30 in the evening in Seoul and headquarters of HYBE — the entertainment company that’s home to BTS and many other of South Korea’s biggest stars — is starting to empty out for the day. But the girls of Le Sserafim are plunging ahead. Earlier in the day, they taped TV performances of a B side from their new EP Antifragile; now they’re back at HYBE for dance practice.
We make small talk as we head to the special elevators that will take us down to the artist-only floors — the ones with practice rooms, studios, and closets for HYBE’s growing roster. Television screens play the latest HYBE content — these days, it’s often clips of The World is my Oyster, the girls’ recently released documentary series, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at Le Sserafim’s world and even captures the first time the members met to form the group. The group watches the screen and poke fun at one another as we wait for the elevator.
We arrive at their practice room, the one they’ve spent countless hours working in since before their debut, and the members start stretching. Their dance teacher impressively counts and sings lead single “Antifragile” from beginning to end, as the members practice without music to kick off the practice session. The teacher praises the girls’ synchronization and points out the little improvements they’ve made with each practice. The angle of the girls’ feet, the right amount of bounce in their steps: Each movement is perfected before Le Sserafim tape a performance of “Antifragile” tomorrow.
Le Sserafim are the first girl group to come out of HYBE. Their name is an anagram for the phrase “I’m fearless” — a phrase that members Chaewon, Sakura, Yunjin, Kazuha, and Eunchae live by. Sakura, the oldest member of the group at 24 years old, was a member of J-Pop group HKT48 and also a member of K-Pop project group IZ*ONE, alongside now bandmate Chaewon. Each member of Le Sserafim walked a unique path before joining HYBE and coming together to form the group, and had all eyes on them when they were first unveiled.
For most groups, it can take a couple of releases to build momentum, but Le Sserafim made a splash right away with “Fearless,” the title track of their first EP. With some members having been part of other groups and also having established fanbases, there was a lot of anticipation ahead of the release — and it didn’t disappoint. Its choreography went viral on TikTok and started to take on a life of its own.
Now, just five months later, Le Sserafim are making their first comeback. (In Korea, each time a group returns with new music is called a “comeback.”) Despite the different paths each member has walked, the bond they’ve quickly formed is evident in how close-knit they’ve become as they encourage one another and laugh in unison and nod and talk over each other while speaking to Rolling Stone.
You’ve received a lot of love and attention for Fearless, your first ever EP. How are you feeling as we’re just days away from your first ever comeback?
Chaewon: Since this is our first comeback, I’m a bit nervous and excited. Because Fearless was so loved, we want to show even better performances this time around.
Sakura: We’ve prepared a lot of different things this time, so there’s a lot to show. I’m really looking forward to it.
Since this is your second EP, do you feel more at ease?
Eunchae: When preparing for Fearless, getting in sync with the rhythm and beat took a while. Since we’ve done it once before, I think our synergy has improved [laughs] and we’re a tiny bit more at ease.
Chaewon: The time it takes to record has definitely shortened and I think we improved a lot.
Kazuha: Also, when we first debuted, we didn’t know if people would like us, but now, we have our fans, so it’s a different feeling being able to communicate with them as we prepare.
Tell us about the concept behind Antifragile.
Chaewon: Antifragile is about being confident and proud despite obstacles that come our way.
Sakura: It’s about overcoming hardship, even in a situation where we feel like falling apart or breaking, we can confidently make our own path. The album contains our thoughts in that way.
The title track has a really interesting sound — almost an Afro-Latin style of pop. What were your thoughts when you first heard it?
Yunjin: We actually heard it even before our debut. I really liked it as soon as I heard it, back when we were preparing for our debut. It’s catchy and I remember thinking how I wanted to work on it soon. I really liked it.
Eunchae: It was cool because it has such a different sound compared to “Fearless.” While “Fearless” is more trendy and cool, “Antifragile” is more exciting and instantly makes you want to move.
The EP contains a variety of different genres — from R&B to Latin-pop to pop — do you have a favorite track?
Yunjin: My favorite is “Impurities,” the third track on the album. It’s R&B — which is my personal taste.
Chaewon: My personal favorite is “No Celestial.” It’s pop punk and the band sound is so energetic. From a performance perspective, because it’s such an exciting song, the choreography is a bit free and we practiced it with that energy too. It’s a song I really want to perform in front of our fans.
Are there any lyrics from those songs that stand out to you?
Eunchae: I really like the lyrics from “Good Parts.” I like that the lyrics are about accepting and loving yourself even when you feel like you’re not enough.
Sakura: In “Antifragile,” there are lyrics about pointe shoes [Kazuha is a trained ballerina] and the path I’ve walked [Sakura and Chaewon have previously made debuts as part of other groups]. I like that those are lyrics that only we can have and that they tell our story.
Yunjin, you have a few songs in this EP that you contributed to. Was your approach this time around different from when you participated in “Blue Flame” in your last EP?
Yunjin: I think the only difference was that the track itself is a different track…I wrote really freely with “Blue Flame.” And all the songs in this EP really are about our story — I think I wanted to be more greedy and try to write even more freely and more honestly. Through that, I think we were able to make it more personal.
You worked with the American singer-songwriter Salem Ilese on “Good Parts (When the Quality is Bad but I am).” How was that experience?
Chaewon: She’s an artist that I personally really like. I listened to “Mad at Disney” a lot because I liked the lyrics and liked the song. It was such an honor to have her contribute to our song. As a fan, I loved collaborating with her and meeting her in person. It made me want to work with her again next time.
Yunjin: I used to listen to her music back in New York and she would be all over my TikTok For You page before debuting, but being able to see her in person and work with her and also have the chance to sing with her live was so surreal. And we actually just texted this morning. It was a really cool experience.
With this being your first comeback ever, with more to come in the future, what are some of your best memories from the preparation process?
Yunjin: Our music video.
Sakura: The rain?
Sakura: When we were filming our music video and also doing some concept photo shoots, it was raining. There were some outdoor scenes and we ended up just doing them in the rain. It matches well with the concept of “Antifragile.”
Did it rain heavily?
Chaewon: It was like a typhoon.
Sakura: Despite that, I think the shoot came out well.
Yunjin: It ended up working out for the better.
Sakura: We kept saying amongst ourselves, “this is what Antifragile is.”
Yunjin: Another memory is that our choreography for the hook changed several times. We thought hard about what would be best, and we even ended up each creating our own choreography for that part. That was a really new experience.
Was that your first time choreographing?
Yunjin: We did it once before for our debut trailer…
Sakura: This was our first time for a lead track though.
Eunchae: We each made our own choreography with our personal style, filmed it, and sent them over to [HYBE chairman] Bang Si-hyuk and [Source head] So Sung-jin for confirmation [laughs].
Chaewon: They didn’t end up getting selected… [laughs].
Sakura: They said it was cute though!
Eunchae: It was fun.
Maybe for the next lead single then?
Sakura: We have ambition!
The dance for “Fearless” went viral and was all over TikTok. Is there a specific dance move from “Antifragile” that you want people to focus on?
Yunjin: There are a lot of moves that focus on our abs and arm muscles. Our muscles became more defined as we practiced the dance too. I think that rather than focusing on a specific move, there are a lot of moves to that draw attention this time around.
Eunchae: The dance shows off our arm muscles. Muscle cat.
Yunjin: In the dance, we show our arms, and then do a cat pose. [Laughs]
Chaewon: The choreography has several captivating parts, so I’m really curious to see what people end up picking out.
Now that it’s been about five months from debuting, are there any memories you’re especially fond of looking back? You recently won the Next Leader award at the Fact Music Awards. Congratulations.
Sakura: That was on Yunjin’s birthday too.
Yunjin: That was my first birthday after debuting. It was the most special birthday I’ve had. I felt like I achieved what I wanted to achieve—performing, giving an acceptance speech in front of our fans, spending it with my members and our staff, going to an awards show for the first time in a while. I really cherished it.
Kazuha: We just did a recording for a performance of one of our b-sides earlier in the day, and it was a time for us to be alone with our fans. I was nervous to perform in front of them, but also so happy to see them come to support us.
Are you starting to really feel the love these days?
Chaewon: Now that we have more opportunities to receive love from our fans in person, I do feel like we’re being loved [laughs]. Especially these days.
What challenges are you looking forward to musically?
Yunjin: I want us to become the one and only Le Sserafim as we continue to tell our honest and true stories that only we can tell. “Le Sserafim is making their own path,” and everyone can kind of feel it and knows Le Sserafim’s color. I want us to be a team like that.
Chaewon: I hope in the future we can have an album that all the members produce together. I think it would be fun to do that.