Giving Us Goosebumps: ONF Is Far From Done Showing New Sides To Them

"I hope that our music will always give our fans energy and hope."

K-pop boy group ONF open up about their latest release Goosebumps, the love they get from their fans, and much more.

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When it comes to the most talked about K-pop, there is a lot to take in. But even its often overwhelming saturation, there is always something to look forward to. And from this ever growing list, the boys of ONF are in it for the long haul, changes and all. Composed of Hyojin, E-tion, J-Us, Wyatt, MK, and U, ONF made their debut in 2017. The group features a unique two team system. The first is the ON team composed of leader Hyojin, E-Tion, and MK who showcase their strong vocals. Meanwhile, the OFF team, composed of leader J-Us, Wyatt and U showcase their strong performances. Together, they combine their strengths to deliver slick, sharp, and memorable performances whenever they hit the stage.

ONF NYLON Manila Headline - Collage by Kenneth Dimaano

Over the years, ONF has amazed their fans, called FUSE, with a diverse discography, crisp look, and strong stage presence. The boys got a much deserved breakthrough when they competed in Road to Kingdom and amazed viewers, both in Korea and internationally, with what they had to offer. While they didn’t win, their second place overall finish accorded them the recognition they worked hard for. Shortly after the show, ONF scored their first placement on the Gaon Digital Chart with the song New World. Since then, they’ve achieved many milestones including dropping their first studio album, ONF : My Name, in February 2021 and getting their first music show win for their song Beautiful Beautiful.

In November 2021, the group announced that every member, expect for U, would be enlisting in mandatory military service the following month. But before that, they gave their fans an early Christmas present of sorts with the release of their sixth mini-album, Goosebumps, a varied body of work mixing elements of R&B, pop, and synth. In an interview with NYLON Manila, ONF discusses their latest release, what keeps them going, their goals for the future, and more.   

You have had quite the past few years so far, especially in the past few months releasing My Name, City Of ONF, and now with Goosebumps. How does it feel to be where you are now, making music, connecting to people all over the world, and of course, living your own dreams?

Hyojin: I’m happy that our music is receiving so much love from more and more people. I hope to continue bringing energy with good music and performances to many people out there and show us that we keep improving. 

E-Tion: I’d like to thank all our fans around the world for listening to our music and supporting us. I feel more responsible and it inspires me to improve. I will work even harder for our music to reach a wider audience.

Tell us more about Goosebumps. What are your favorite tracks from the album and why? What makes this different from the previous releases you did?

Wyatt: This album, Goosebumps, gives a diverse showcase of the musical spectrum with a sensational worldview. It differentiates itself from previous albums by showing a more mature side of us. Goosebumps, which is the title track, is compelling dance music and represents the unique color of ONF with an intense and attractive sound. Its original narrative deviates from the grammar of existing pop music. Show Must Go On is my favorite track from this album. The song is about our determination. It is fun and resonates with overwhelming emotion. 

U: In contrast to previous albums that portrayed freedom, youth, refreshing and positive energy, this album ‘Goosebumps’ is about the fear hidden underneath and coming to face the past as a nightmare. This showcases more of our intense charm. My favorite track is ‘Whistle.’ The unique melody and outpouring rhythm in the chorus are the charming point. The song tells an intriguing story about a man who turned into a cat under a curse and makes you want to listen again.

Like your contemporaries in K-pop, you’ve had to go through so much—ups, downs, and a lot of in-betweens—what keeps you guys going? What motivates every one of you to keep on keeping on?

J-Us: FUSE is my motivation who make us move as they gain strength from our music and support us. I think our interaction with FUSE brings out the best energy in us onstage.

MK: FUSE is my only one biggest motivation. Even in difficult times, thinking about FUSE will give me superhuman strength to solve any problems. They make me quickly forget about all the tough and sad moments and I can keep on going thanks to FUSE.

How do you make sure you not only hold your own but stand out with what you can offer?

E-Tion: It comes from our endless practice and passion. We worked hard to put together a perfect stage by thoroughly assessing every performance of ours. FUSE, of course, has always been our motivation to make it possible.

U: I think it comes from our teamwork. Throughout every moment we’ve been together to promote, we’ve become considerate of one another and understand each other very well. Knowing that we have each other keeps us in good spirits onstage.

Your music is always a journey. While there are bops and bangers, there are also ballads and beats that tug your heartstrings. How do you guys challenge each other to be better than the last time?

Hyojin: We’ve relied on each other and complemented weaknesses in each other along the way. The strong trust and bonding we built over time allowed us to share our problems and help one another to grow to be more complete as ONF.

MK: We fill each other’s weaknesses as we rely on one another. We willingly share any advice or ideas that we think might help other members. We’re making a constant effort to have conversations frequently and encourage and build up one another.

While we are still going through a global pandemic, how has this time challenged or inspired you and your music? What is the experience like connecting with a more attuned audience from all corners of the world?

J-Us: As the whole world is experiencing the pandemic, we try to make more positive and energetic songs to give hope all around. Even though we cannot meet with our loving fans from all around the world in person right now, I feel connected with them at heart. I hope for the situation to get better so that we can go around the world to meet with worldwide FUSE.

Wyatt: The pandemic has inspired me to make songs filled with more hope and energy for our fans. It encouraged me to be determined to beat the situation by writing hopeful lyrics. It allowed us to perform our music online to worldwide fans but I hope to perform in person once the pandemic ends as soon as possible.

What has kept each of you going and pushing and fighting in a time like this?

Hyojin: Having faith in each other and FUSE who generously give us love kept me going. I will keep fighting for my members and FUSE.

Wyatt: For me, it was my members who kept me going. I feel shy to talk about my feelings about them but they were always there for me in difficult times to comfort and encourage me to come all the way together. I’m always grateful to them.

What has been the reaction like? How does it feel whenever you’ve worked hard on new music, perfect it, and finally share it with the world?

E-Tion: I think we introduce a new concept for every release of our new album. Sometimes, it makes me a bit anxious as to how they will be received. But FUSE is always positive about our taking on new challenges and they support us. Then I feel relieved and feel grateful for them.

MK: Having people always on our side who support us is empowering. Our new title ‘Goosebumps’ received lots of love so we could perform with more strength onstage. We think of releasing every album as taking on a new challenge, so we get very nervous but proud and happy at the same time.  

With a whole lot still ahead of you as a band, what is it you want to achieve? How do you want to be defined or remembered for in music?

J-Us: I want to be defined as an icon of hope so that our music can give strength to others and have a positive effect on their lives. My goal is a world tour. I haven’t met FUSE beyond the camera lens, so one day I want to go on a world tour and meet with FUSE face to face.

U: We recently had our first solo concert. Next time, I want to travel on a world tour to see our fans abroad. And I hope that our music will always give them energy and hope. We have yet to meet them in person, but we are always connected through music in which we hope to spread our message all around. 

What else can we expect from you moving forward?

Hyojin: Please look forward to our continuous challenges in music and performances. We have a lot more to show you than what we’ve shown you thus far. Please show us support as we’ll continue to grow step by step.

J-Us: We will be apart for only briefly but our music will continue so please look forward to seeing the best of us when we come back.

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