Notes on K-pop Interview: Superkind on being a hybrid human-AI boy band

We have officially entered the metaverse

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I didn’t realize how much I was already reporting on AI and the metaverse over the last year or two. But it snuck up on me. And sometime in between all that reporting, I ended up coming up with my own opinions and thoughts about what AI means for K-pop artists.

Superkind, stylized as SUPERKIND, is a boy band asking similar questions: they have 5 human members and 2 non-human, virtual members, and call themselves an A-Idol group. They debuted in June of last year as four PRID (human) members and one NUKE (virtual) member, but later added one new member of each, rounding out their seven-member lineup.

And it’s not quite in the same way as some other groups, such as aespa, have virtual counterparts: these virtual idols have names, backstories, and skill sets. They even can send me voice notes (see below).

Beyond their complicated storytelling (look into it, it’s honestly a lot of fun!), Superkind is an example of a hybrid of where many in the K-pop industry are currently moving towards, for better or for worse.

Superkind released their Profiles of The Future (Λ) : 70% mini-album (EP) in October, which take inspirations from pop culture icons including Cowboy Bepop, Men in Black, and The Karate Kid. Following its release, I jumped on a call with them - the human members - to discuss what in the world it means to be this sort of act, learn about some of what they’ve gone through adjusting to this unique situation.

Due to the limitations of reality versus virtual reality, the NUKE members could not join the call for this newsletter. But I was able to receive some audio answers post-interview from them, which will be at the end of this edition.

Unfortunately, Geon was on hiatus during this interview due to his father’s passing. May his memory be a blessing.

How are you guys feeling today?

Daemon: For me, I'm having a great day because we have so many opportunities to meet Players, which is our fans. We are doing a stage, fan meeting and so on, fan signs and video fan calls and I'm so glad that we can finally communicate with our players.

JDV: With this comeback especially, we have more opportunities to really meet our fans, Players, in person, so that's very exciting for us. Also, we hold weekly TikTok live and YouTube lives on our channel, so that is another opportunity to really communicate with our fans even online as well.

It's interesting to me that you mentioned especially the parts of what you do online, because isn't part of the whole idea behind Superkind that you’re operating in the metaverse and online?

Daemon: Actually, we have a lot of international Players. The very good advantage of being AI plus Human idols is that we can perform online very actively. So that's a really good opportunity for us because we can communicate with international fans and we also are planning to have stages online, so that will be a great opportunity and we are so glad to have those opportunities.

You just made your comeback with your first mini album. What can you tell me about it?

Daemon: With our first mini album, Profiles of the Future, we have made a comeback with all seven members. All the NUKE and PRID members are involved in this one album, and the main thing is that we are starting to collaborate and try to assemble two dimensions, 2D and 3D. We are trying to express that idea by the tracks in the album with one track, “Speed (2D),” and one track, “Beam me up (3D).” The title track, “Beam me up 2Dx3D” is the meshed up version of those two tracks and that means that we are trying to assemble those two dimensions. So the whole thing is trying to give the idea of what we're going to do next.

What are you going to do next?

Daemon: We are going to keep assembling the dimensions and keep expressing the new world views, and make all new stories with humans and AI.

How do you all feel about that?

SiO: I think there are definitely challenges with having to combine the two different dimensions because we are obviously living in different worlds. In order to really come together as one group, either the NUKE members have to come to our dimension or PRID members have to go to their dimension. So we have to find a way to really truly assemble and become one group in order to showcase our music and do a performance together. Honestly, that is not always easy to be honest. There are definitely challenges in terms of making it all together for everyone, but I think the fact that people are finding it very interesting and they keep supporting it, and they are curious to know what's next for Superkind.. I think that's what is driving us to keep thinking and keep working together, and keep finding different ideas that we can really showcase to the world as Superkind.

You mentioned that it's a lot of bringing you guys together. Them to you, you to them. Which would you want to see first, you guys becoming virtual or them becoming real?

JDV: Actually, we are working on turning ourselves, the PRID members, into 2D characters. We are developing that idea right now, so I think realistically it'll be sooner for us to move to the 2D world in the future. We actually have a 2D character for Daemon, it's completed. We are also developing the character for Eugene right now. For the other human members, we are still working on them but hopefully in the near future.

How does that make you feel?

Daemon: For me, I was so interested in the virtual world, like virtual things. I am a big fan of Gorillaz, which is a virtual band.I was so interested in them, and I thought I would like to make my own character and make a stage or communicate in the 2D digital world. Now that dream is about to come true. So I'm so excited about our 2D dimension activity that is coming.

Do you have any favorite songs?

Daemon: Of course. “Feel Good Inc.” Yeah, that's my favorite.

You have a sci-fi concept, so I was curious if anybody among you guys actually are fans of Sci-fi films or TV shows, or is this something totally outside of your comfort zone?

Daemon: I'm a big fan of sci-fi. My favorite is Blade Runner and Star Trek, Star Wars. This album is the beginning of us, our sci-fi era. So I'm so excited about doing this kind of concept. And because I'm so into sci-fi genres, I had so much fun filming this music video.

What other concepts do you guys want to do?

Daemon: For me, I would like to do Star Wars space, like battle battleships. I would like to try.

JDV: I'm a big fan of Spider-Man, so I think it'll be really cool if we are able to do some action scenes in the music video. Maybe we can hang upside down from the ceiling just like him. Some type of that hero genre type of concept would be really cool. I think instead of taking the abilities of Spider-Man, it’d be cool if we can develop that into different abilities of Superkind’s own.

What abilities would you want?

JDV: Invisibility. Or shooting spider webs.

SiO: Personally, I consider myself quite lazy from time to time so I don't feel like moving too much. So I think it'll be really cool to have the ability to teleport.

Daemon: I want to have a healing factor, which is the ability of Deadpool and Wolverine. I’m a big fan of those two heroes. So I would really like to have a healing factor and try saving other people's lives.

Eugene: For me, I’d like to have a chance to teleport.

What were your first thoughts on hearing about super kind's concept and what you would debut as?

JDV: “Wow!” It was very exciting to hear, because I consider myself as a very future forward person. I like to think about future technology and what can be done in the future. I like to think about those types of topics. So I really thought that the whole concept of Superkind is the challenge for the future. So the whole idea really excited me.

SiO: For me, I was not too familiar with the whole concept of AI and everything because when we debuted we were one of the first groups to debut with the AI members. So the whole concept was still unfamiliar to me. So when I first learned that we are going to be doing promotions with the AI members, I didn't really know what to think. But at the same time I was amazed because I was curious to know how it's going to unfold. And I think as time goes by I realize that I just needed time to really familiarize myself with the whole concept and the NUKE members, Sejin and Seung. I think we just needed more time to get to know them a little bit more because they have their own personalities and characteristics. So I think we just needed the time to really feel comfortable and build our teamwork and build our chemistry together.

How do you guys feel about being pioneers in this kind of new field of entertainment?

Daemon: There is a pressure, but also I'm so proud of it because we have to express and show them what we are doing. The concept is not that easy to accept, and that's our homework to sort out, to show them our concept and try to help [people] to understand. And we all keep trying many contents, many activities to show them what we are doing. And for us too, to understand and accept and develop this concept. We are working hard and involved in this project to make it better. So we are so proud of this because being a pioneer, doing something new is not easy these days. But we have a great opportunity to try new things and we are so excited to challenge ourselves.

How do you feel you’ve changed or grown since debuting?

SiO: I think the biggest change that I see is in my mindset compared to our debut. I'm now more open about the whole AI concept and the universe and the NUKE members. Like I mentioned earlier, I felt a little bit awkward. I didn't know what to think about the whole concept, but I realized that the two members are always together with us, just like our PRID members. And now I'm able to really explain who Saejin and Seung are, what their characteristics are like and what their personality is like. Who they really are, and what kind of group Superkind is. I have more confidence in explaining in more detail about how we work together and what's our chemistry together. So I think that's the biggest change that I see in myself compared to the W days

JDV, you were added to the group after to debut. How have you found things to be?

JDV: I was introduced as a member, a secret weapon of Superkind. That keyword really opens up the limitless possibilities for the PRID members and the NUKE members to explore different dimensions. We are always open to collecting other members and invite them to join the force together in different dimensions. So there might be new additional members for the NUKE team or the PRID team.

Oh, wow. So maybe there will be more. How does that make you feel?

SiO: So I personally think it's a very effective way to really tell the story behind our various universe stories and the concept that we are about to explore in the future. So for example, Saejin was casted to become the member of Superkind for “Watch Out” based on that Battle Royal theme. And for “Moody,” Seung was casted because it was more about the mysteries involving a school, and we wanted to really effectively tell the story. And JDV joined the team as a symbol of our infinite possibilities in the future. It's even exciting for us to really learn what's going to happen next with us along with our Players. So I think it'll be really fun if you could look forward to what kind of members and what kind of concepts and what kind of activities we're going to explore next as Superkind.

This is an interview for my newsletter called Notes on K-pop. So I'm kind of curious, what made you all decide to go down this path of becoming K-pop?

Eugene: I think it's really amazing that music can provide that source of healing and comfort to those who are struggling or find challenges in their lives. So I think that's the greatest power that music can hold, and I wanted to be a part of that and share that energy with everybody too.

What music has inspired you that way?

Eugene: I listened to a lot of BTS’ songs.

Daemon: I was really passionate about music when I was in middle school. I even lied to my parents to go to after school band activities and dance activities . They strongly rejected them, but I was so into those things.I started to dance, sing, and rap and I showed them to my parents to admit my path. I was so passionate about this, and I noticed that K-pop Idol is a great way for me to express myself and also give fans energy. I feel like this is my way, this is what I have to do with my life.

What do your parents think now?

Daemon: Oh, as I keep annoying them with my thoughts, they finally understand me and they support me as well.

SiO: I've always been a K-pop fan, and I actually have an older sister who's also a K-pop fan. So we enjoyed a lot of K-pop music videos and songs ever since we were young. And I remember being on the stage, dancing and singing, for my middle school festival. That was one of the first performances I ever did in front of an audience. That excitement just kept lingering with me and it really motivated me to explore more into the K-pop scene. Not just being on the stage but really expanding my artistry as a K-pop artist and idol. So that's what motivated me to really decide to try my best to become a K-pop artist.

Who did you and your sister bond over?

SiO: Oh, there are so many artists. I can't just choose one, but I remember loving Wonder Girls, Girls’ Generation, SHINee, Highlight… So many great seniors.

JDV: So I started learning dance when I was in middle school and I really got into it. I felt so passionately in love with dance. It really only motivated me to become a better dancer every day. So I started taking dance lessons a lot more seriously and then I started going for auditions for companies as well. So here I am today as a Superkind member.

One question that I keep on wondering as we talk is how does it feel to have members who don't have to try that hard, who don't have to prep for so long, who can just show up. So how does that make you guys feel?

Daemon: Actually the Nuke members, their performance is outstanding. But the thing is that we are one team so we really can be thankful for them. We are very proud of them, and we put a lot of effort in to make them perfect. We even help them to be NUKE members, so we are developing together. So it is really a team thing. Also, I feel quite a motivation from them because it is a very good rival, a positive rivalry, with them because they're such great singers, dancers and even good looking. So it keeps me motivated.

I read an interview where Daemon said you didn't know who was voicing them. I was curious if that was still the case, or do you now know your 2D members better now than you used to last summer?

Daemon: Oh, actually we combined many vocals, many voices to make Saejin’s voice. So I would like to explain that answer. We call them AI members because we are trying to develop their own intelligence, artificial intelligence. So we gathered many voices, many voice actors. So that's why I answered that question as I don't know who is behind it, because so many people are behind Saejin’s voice.

Speaking of the NUKE members… What are your thoughts of being part of Superkind?

Saejin: [This is Saejin.*] Of course, every day is new and interesting, but I do feel more responsible as the leader of NUKE and the first generation of A-Idol. Because we are the first generation, we wish to show more innovative sides.

Seung: [This is Seung.*] I hope we quickly have junior groups. Just kidding! I'm excited to live up to our name as the new generation of humans. We're ready to show it all.

How do you feel about the new album?

Saejin: It was meaningful because it marked the first full 7-member promotion for us. I was happy to make a debut on a music show.

Seung: It was interesting to show both 2D and 3D worlds through music. I am always intrigued by new challenges.

What are the pros and cons of being a 2D K-pop star?

Saejin: I feel like Seung will talk about all the pros... Shall I say, something regretful rather than a con? We take more time to render compared to PRID, or 3D members, so it's sad to not be able to communicate as fast as we wish. This would be something that our fans, Players, recognize more than me.

Seung: The most charming pro would be the level of freedom. Would the members in the other dimension have been able to laugh and not care about any scandals when they were trainees? I find the fact that any type of trouble can be a thrilling fun as a pro for us.

How do you feel having come into existence explicitly to be part of Superkind?

Saejin: Well, it wasn't too difficult. Right?

Seung: If we could, I'd like to travel across other dimensions. This is our privilege.

If Superkind stopped promoting today, what would you hope people know about you?

Saejin: Superkind won’t end when the promotion ends. We will always be the first.

Seung: Can I break the 'if' from the question? We're the first and sole. We will never end.

*For clarity’s sake, they sent over each audiophile with a verbal tag. I’ve edited it out of the answers after the first question.