ENHYPEN are reminiscing over their first-ever tour, which ended its six-month run around Asia and North America in February. Heeseung grins, shaking his silver-white hair from his eyes, aware of how much it added to their (already impressive) stage presence and, quite possibly, the plethora of fancam edits racking up millions of TikTok views. “[The] Engenes (their fandom) cheered us on so loudly that it gave us a mindset to work even harder onstage and challenge ourselves,” he says. “I think we improved and levelled up, for sure.”
They’re currently deep into a press day for their sixth Korean release, Dark Blood. Filming necessitates that behind them is an unbroken expanse of white wall. It’s so stark that the band’s leader Jungwon (19), Heeseung (21), Jay (21), Jake (20), Sunghoon (20), Sunoo (19) and Ni-ki (17) look almost cut-out against it. But, thinking about it, the amusing irony of the blindingly white flatness is its utter paradox to the characterising wealth of colour, depth and texture in ENHYPEN’s work. Since debuting in late 2020, their multi-layered, story-lead oeuvre has featured symbolism-heavy set production, sonic experimentations, a dizzying breadth of cultural references from Greek mythology to 90s videography, while even their name and logo, a play on ‘hyphen’, is embedded with a directive – ‘come together to connect, discover and grow’.
It may sound hyperbolic in 2023 but ENHYPEN (formed through I-LAND, a survival talent show that began mid-2020) were born into darkness, unleashed into a bewildered, furious and panicked world gripped by COVID-19. Their debut and subsequent releases created entwined dimensions, one forged in fantasy and the other, in their own reality, both imbued with the same kind of fraught, precarious uncertainty exacted upon the world by the pandemic.
Their debut record, Border : Day One unpicked the shift from trainees to idols, utilising allegory via a vampire narrative, which has waxed and waned throughout their discography, then expanded last year into a webtoon, Dark Moon: The Blood Altar, and Wattpad story of the same name. Two trailers (“Choose-Chosen”, “Dusk-Dawn”) and the debut single “Given-Taken” painted change and foreboding in dream-like greens and blues but also bloody reds and over-exposed frames that lent a queasily unsettling feel.