EXP, the first New York based Kpop idol group, was formed in the Spring of 2015 and caused waves within the industry by being the first Kpop style band that didn’t feature any Korean members. Referencing the transcendent power of music and its constantly evolving elements, EXP‘s five members (Hunter, Koki, Frankie, Sime and Tarion) teamed up to create a unique interpretation of the Kpop genre, featuring tracks sung primarily in Korean. EXP started as an experimental project of IMMABB, a hybrid platform that focuses on art and music as a social commentary for the fluidity and merging of pop culture around the world. EXP’s first album, set for release in early 2016, will feature their two original tracks, Luv/Wrong and Nolja Let’s Party (both available on iTunes and Spotify) as well as previously unreleased new tracks!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. EXP: We are Hunter, Koki, Frankie, Sime and Tarion, and together we are called EXP. We are the first and only New York based Kpop boy band. The name of EXP came from experiment, to emphasize the importance of innovation, risk taking and challenges; we are the first non-Korean Kpop idol group to sing in Korean.
How long have you lived in New York City and what brought you there? Sime: I have lived in New York City for about four years now. I moved to New York right after I graduated from college. Since New York City is a center of the theatre world and performing arts in general, it only made sense to try out my luck in the Big Apple. Although I was thinking Broadway, it looks like the universe had something else planned out for me
Hunter: Well, I’m from New York (Long Island), and I’ve been traveling to NYC since I was in high school for auditions and different castings. I officially moved to the city a few years ago after having an intense dream where I was singing in a different language next to an angel with black hair. That angel was Koki.
What kinds of things are influencing your music right now? Tarion: I think our music is about making people feel good. We love to see our supporters get up and dance with us when we perform or let us know that they played one of our songs at their party, so we are heavily influenced by our supporters and what they want to hear. We also love people like Lady Gaga, CL, Michael Jackson, and Big Bang because they’re some of the best to have ever done it.
Where do you plan to travel next? Frankie: EXP is traveling to Miami to perform during Art Basel which is our first out of state performance, we’re really excited for that. And we just collaborated with Mette Woller for our last performance, who mentioned wanting to bring EXP to Denmark. I haven’t been to any Scandinavian countries yet, so I’m very excited about this! Hopefully this trip to Denmark is happening soon!
Favorite dessert? Tarion: It is some simple but good ICE CREAM!!! OMG, but some vanilla ice cream on top of a chocolate walnut brownie with caramel sauce… Not very many people know that though, so let’s keep that between us 😉
Hunter: Although I’m a big snacking person, I actually don’t like desserts. Unless it’s 3 am and I’m sleep eating. Then I like about ten chocolate chip cookies dipped in peanut butter, with about a half gallon of milk. Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest.
How did your interest in music begin? Koki: I had an odd taste in music growing up. I mostly listened to the oldies on the radio instead of pop music, then branched into classical music later on. Eventually, I fell in love with jazz and hip hop, and that’s sort of where my love for music solidified. I was the only one in my family who did anything music related, I couldn’t help but keep going, and I’m grateful that my family is supportive of my decision. I’ve had waves of loving almost every genre of music, but jazz is my all time favorite.
What other musicians are you interested in right now? Sime: I’ve been listening Big Bang a lot lately. Especially after seeing them live in New Jersey on their MADE tour. They were so so amazing and I had so much fun. The whole atmosphere was electrifying! Besides them, I continuously find myself inspired by Lady Gaga, 2Cellos, Michael Buble, Amy Winehouse, and of course some good old Queen.
Koki: Keeping up with KPOP boybands is fun and fulfilling at the moment. There have been a couple new bands making their debuts from the larger companies, and I’m always waiting for a group that has a completely different sound/aesthetic. When a group incorporates jazz/blues progressions in their pop music is when I get excited (i.e. Romance by SHINee).
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? Tarion: We would love to collaborate with music artists like BTS and Rihanna and designers like Libertine and Yohji Yamamoto and even some amazing music video directors like Dave Meyers and Heajin Min.
Koki: There are too many to list. The Korean hiphop scene has some amazing artists that I’d die to work with, like Zion.T, GD, and Dok2. As far as American artists, John Mayer has always been at the top of my list. He’s a very diverse and talented artist.
Frankie: I would love the opportunity to collaborate with Big Bang, specifically GDragon or TaeYang. GDragon is a “one of the kind” artist and producer, and TaeYang’s singing and dancing performance are just out of the world. Also The Weekend, CL, Kygo, and of course the amazing Mr. & Mrs.Carter!
Do you have any guilty pleasures? Tell us about one. Hunter: My guilty pleasure would have to be a family size bag of dill pickle-flavored potato chips, along with ANY type of dip. Condiments are my weakness. My one year old nephew is also a chronic dipper because of the horror he has seen.
Frankie: Bingewatching TV shows! One of my favorite shows now is Empire, I just can’t get enough of Cookie! (Though I don’t actually feel guilty about this…)
What’s your absolute favorite place in the world to be? Hunter: I haven’t seen as much of the world as I’d like to yet, but so far, nothing compares to NYC. I’m happiest just hanging out with my friends around the city. There’s a great place in the lower east side with plastic-covered couches that always hits the spot.
Sime: There are a couple… But a first one that comes to mind is the balcony of my home in Croatia where I grew up. It is so close to the Adriatic Sea shore that you could almost dive off of it and it looks onto a beautiful small island right in the middle of the bay. It is so peaceful and beautiful.
Most embarrassing moment on stage? Frankie: One of our shows we were transitioning into the next formation and I was so confident, I had swag on and was giving face and then I crashed right into Šime! Haha I was mortified for a minute but of course tried to play it off like nothing happened.
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your music? Hunter: Some would say this is the worst, but I think it’s great. Someone said we look and sound like a gay Portuguese Dance Troupe. It’s also been awesome to hear that people across the world are now inspired to chase their dreams of being an artist in a genre of music that wouldn’t normally accept their race or “type.” Knowing we are making some sort of a difference in someone’s life is a great feeling.
Tarion: One of the best reactions is when a buddy of mine texted me at five in the morning, while getting on a plane, to tell me that he was going to be listening to “Nolja Let’s Party” on repeat during his flight. As soon as he sent it to me I took a screenshot and put it in our EXP group chat!
Background image: Photography by New Visual Collective, Courtesy of IMMABB