F.T. Island aims for success outside K-pop comfort zone

From left, Song Seung-hyun, Lee Jae-jin, Choi Min-hwan, Lee Hong-ki and Choi Jong-hoon of F.T. Island pose at FNC Academy in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

By Kwaak Je-yup

At a studio in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, only three out of five members of the F.T.Island are waiting; the missing two are at a doctor’s being checked up for fatigue.

Of those present, bassist Lee Jae-jin looks at the interviewer with a curious grin but becomes a little alert when their eyes meet. Choi Jong-hoon, guitarist and keyboardist, and Lee Hong-ki, vocalist, are enjoying their “time off,” jamming on an acoustic guitar and sitting quietly as the hair and make-up crew put on their final touches.

They are stars, their faces mostly inexpressive — impenetrable. Or maybe they are just tired from their 20-hours-a-day routine that began with the newest EP release earlier this month.

But they are also just young men who are reaching their 20s. When all five reunite at last, with Choi Min-hwan, drummer, and Song Seung-hyun, guitarist and vocalist, they become a playful gang, cracking jokes about each other’s pet peeves or latest love interests.

“You know, I didn’t even know singers needed to go to a throat doctor until (an older singer) told me,” said Lee Hong-ki, 21, underlining both his inexperience and his goal of a long-lasting career. “Our range of music — what we can see and hear — is expanding. As a band, we’ve reached our comfort level. We are used to each other’s habits when we perform together.”

They say they are “Grown Up,” like the title of their latest disc. But they constantly reassess themselves in a strikingly carefree, frank and joyful manner. They have a five-year career, “veterans” by this fast industry’s standards. They have built multinational stardom on a string of No. 1 hits and drama appearances.

But, as all members only just graduated from high school, they say they are still hungry for growth. They attribute this to their curiosity, musical and personal.

“When we are in Japan, we can see how much we are improving because the members write the words and the music. We sing what we really want to sing there,” said Lee. “There are so many bands, so many opportunities, so many rehearsal studios.”

“For Korea, we have to worry about (songs’) addictiveness,” said Lee Jae-jin, 20. “Without that it’s hard to be noticed.”

This particular formula heavy on hooks has been credited as the driver of K-pop’s success overseas, yet the band seemed intent on distancing itself from the phenomenon.

“I want our band to be known (in other countries),” said Choi Min-hwan, 19, “not riding on hallyu but independently.”

And F.T. Island can lay that claim — albeit partially. At the height of their fame in Korea in 2007, which was instant from their debut in the same year, the band moved outside their comfort zone to Japan, playing for 100-strong audiences in small venues there.

Their major success came with the Korean wave, though, as the band’s popularity was propelled by the hit Korean drama “You’re Beautiful” that starred Lee Hong-ki. It led to
a record deal with Warner Music Japan in 2010.

Despite this power of Korean idols, F.T. Island stays modest, reminding themselves of their initial years as unknowns.

“The Japanese audience is so quiet when you perform,” said the vocalist-cum-actor. “You can tell the reception very clearly. We were scared (in the beginning). In Korea, everyone applauds as soon as you’re on stage.”

There have been lingering doubts about their musical depth, with critics and anti-fans calling them “a fake band,” thanks to their boyish looks and attention to style.

“We ignore them (the critics) now,” said Choi Jong-hoon, 21, decisively. They used to question themselves constantly over the definition of a real band at the beginning of their career, he said. No more.

“What is a real band, then?” said Lee Hong-ki, interrupting.

Regardless of the label, they find inspiration in unknown territories. Last September, F.T. Island performed in Toronto at a benefit concert for the victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The members had a chance to interact with other bands participating — and experienced culture shock.

“There was a European band,” said Lee Jae-jin, “where every member had a different nationality. How did they meet?”

To the members of F.T. Island who started playing music from their middle school years — within a system — a concept of garage bands seemed so enviable.

“They seemed to have so many people around them who share the passion for music. I was impressed,” said Lee Hong-ki. “As a normal school (student) band, it would be difficult to go on.”

While they described the scene, about conversing through an interpreter and swatting mosquitoes together, the pace of their speech quickened and their eyes sparkled, even as the 90 minute interview drew to an end.

They were unable to hold their breath, excited to discover the whole world ahead of them — meanwhile gushing about how a fellow singer they met in Canada looked like Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom.

Before the interview was over, they insisted that this reporter dedicate a few lines to the fan club Prima Donna.

“When we put everything together, we learn so much. We want to take more lessons, too,” said Lee Jae-jin.

“We just want to make awesome music. We don’t want to think of it all as complicated,” said Lee Hong-ki, responding to the question of their future direction and adding that his favorite genre at the moment was punk rock. “We want to do the music that fits our age, not sticking to one style or genre. We want to go with our feelings.”

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A glance at F.T. Island

F.T. Island, short for Five Treasure Island, debuted in 2007 with the album “Cheerful Sensibility.” Members are Choi Jong-hoon (guitar and keyboards), Lee Hong-ki (lead vocals), Lee Jae-jin (bass and vocals), Song Seung-hyun (guitar and vocals) and Choi Min-hwan (drums).

They have released two other full-length albums in Korea — “Colorful Sensibility” (2008) and “Cross & Change” (2009) — along with several singles.

They made their Japanese debut with the EP “Prologue of F.T. Island: Soyogi” in 2008 and released the full-length “So Long, Au Revoir” the next year. In 2010, the group’s single “Flower Rock” ranked third on the Oricon daily chart on the day of its release.

Having won five Golden Disk Awards from the Music Industry Association of Korea, the band is regularly on tours here and abroad. It has also amassed a considerable fan base in Taiwan, which led them to hold a concert in 2011 with some 9,000 people in attendance.

Last month, the band held concerts in Stadium Negara, Malaysia and Max Pavilion, Singapore. Their latest single is “Severely” from the recently-released minialbum “Grown-up.”

F.T. Island and CNBlue, another band from its agency FNC Music, will be performing at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on March 9.


Credit: The Korea Times

FT Island’s Lee Hong Ki transforms into a traffic policeFT Island’s Lee Hong Ki recently transformed into a traffic police

FT Island’s Lee Hong Ki recently transformed into a traffic police.

On February 22, Lee tweeted, “We just recorded a show! I couldn’t sing very well because my vocal cords had some problem. We are now singing the traffic safety song for SBS’s Inkigayo!”

Then about 30 minutes later, he tweeted pictures with the comment, “I’m a police officer! This club is for performing the song.”

In the pictures, Lee is wearing a police uniform. He is making a cute face while wearing sunglasses and pouting his lips. He looks like he is saying “Be careful” to people while holding a red club.

People responded: “You are cute.” “Is it okay if a police officer is that handsome?” “They way you act looks like you are a gangster.” “You are a bad cop.” “I can’t wait to listen to the song.” “People will believe if you say you are a police.” “Please don’t be sick.” “Take a good care of your throat.”

FT Island is keeping busy with their new album Severely.

source – latest in kpop tumblr

How can FT Island change their clothes so fast?

[Trans] 120203 Seunghyun’s Twitter

chungxuan “@mnic456: @skullhong @FtDrMH1111 @saico011 @chungxuan @FtGtJH 오빠,왜 라이브 공연에 이렇게 빨리 옷을 바꿀 수 있나요??!” ㅡ신기하죠?! 고건 비밀입니다~~*^^

“@mnic456: @skullhong @FtDrMH1111 @saico011 @chungxuan @FtGtJH Oppa, how are you able to change outfits so quickly during live performances??!”ㅡAmazing right?! That’s a secret~~*^^

chungxuan 난 강심장이아니라 약심장…

Translation: I don’t have a strong heart, I’ve a weak one…

chungxuan 어제노래 ㅋㅋㅋ내가생각해도참.. 자신감찾고 퐈이팅할게요여러부운~^^

Translation: The song yesterday, kekeke! Just by thinking of it, it’s so.. I shall be more confident and fighting, everyone~^^

Credit: chungxuan (1), chungxuan (2), chungxuan (3) + ying1005@withtreasures (translation)

A very good morning from Hongki

@skullhong: 공카RT @FtGtJH: 내가 잠들기전 1시간은 Twitter 멘션 보는시간.. 이제 만약에 Twitter 없으면 당신들과 소통은 어떻게할까?

Translation: Official cafe RT @FtGtJH 1 hour before I sleep is the time I read my mentions on Twitter.. If there’s no Twitter, how am I going to communicate with all of you?

@skullhong: 좋은아취치치이이이이임!!!!

Translation: Good morningggggggg!!!!

@skullhong: RT @Cemula1 드디어 내일…http://www.hottracks.co.kr/ht/record/detail/8809309174090 성격급하신분들은 내일가까운 핫트랙스나 신나라레코드로ㄱㄱ 31일 따끈할때 사서들으세요ㅋㅋ 회사에서 스트리밍해도 쇠고랑안차고 경찰출동안합니다

Translation: RT @Cemula1 At last, tomorrow…http://www.hottracks.co.kr/ht/record/detail/8809309174090 Those who can’t wait, can go to the nearest Hottracks or Synnara tomorrow. Buy and listen to it while it’s hot on the 31st. Keke! Even if you stream in office, you won’t get handcuffed and the police will not track you down.

@skullhong: RT @FNC_MUSIC [FTISLAND] 새 앨범 [GROWN-UP] 의 지독하게 뮤직비디오와 음원이 조금 후인 31일 00:00 에 공개 됩니다! FT의 공식유튜브와 각 음원 사이트에서 FTISLAND의 새로운 모습을 확인하세요!http://www.youtube.com/ftisland

Translation: RT @FNC_MUSIC [FTISLAND] New album [GROWN-UP] Music video for “Severely” will be released later at 00:00 on 31st! Check out FTISLAND’s new image at FT’s Official Youtube and major music sites!http://www.youtube.com/ftisland

@skullhong: 응원법 이번에 없다고 공지떳네…허전하긴하겠지만 발라드니까^^ 너희가 노래들어보고결정해

Translation: Notice on no fan cheer this time is out… Though there might be something lacking, it’s a ballad^^ All of you shall isten to the song first and decide later

Credit: Hongki’s Twitter @skullhong
Translation: ying1005@withtreasures

Simon D feels lonely

Aww poor SimonD…no one wants to go to his concert


Joker891219: @skullhong Sunbaenim

skullhong: @Joker891219 ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋYes okay let’s eat chicken later

Joker891219: @skullhong Buy chicken and bring it to our practice room and cheer for us sunbaenim ㅠㅠ

babospmc: @Joker891219 @skullhong Very good guys who don’t even come to my concert^^


Credit: miinhyuk

M Live presents FT Island & CNBLUE concert at the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE

CJ E&M’s global concert firm M Live has brought many Korean concerts in various parts of the world after being established just a few months ago.

Through M Live, Cube Entertainment made its way to Brazil with a United Cube concert, Star Empire artists Seo Inyoung and Nine Muses held a concert in the Middle East, Jungle Entertainment held their first ever family concert in Los Angeles in December, organized MO.A 2011 featuring Super Junior, f(x), miss A and B1A4 in Malaysia, and among others.

M Live is now prepared to present yet another set of concert to K-Pop lovers in the United States, and will be bringing FNC Music artists FT Island and CNBLUE to the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles this March!

According to Ticketmaster, tickets for the concert will be available for purchase starting Saturday, January 28th at 10:00AM PST and will range between $50 to $200 a ticket. The concert will take place on Friday, March 9th at 8:00PM PST at the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.

Source: Ticketmaster +koreaboo