[EXCLUSIVE] Interview: 20 More Questions with Lionesses

When we last spoke with them three months ago, K-pop group Lionesses told us they were planning for an April comeback. Now, April is almost here, and their newest song - "Will You Be My Groom?" - is set to come out midday tomorrow.

For those who might not know, this is our second interview with Lionesses following an intriguing and eye-opening interview with them in December last year.

Lionesses is the very first openly LGBTQIA+ K-pop group, and have two songs out so far - "Show Me Your Pride" and "Christmas Miracle".

Today, we talk with Lionesses, the four-member boy group made up of Damjun, Foxman, Kanghan, and Lee Malrang.

To start off with, as I do with everyone, I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time to go through a second interview with us! We previously interviewed you back in December of last year, shortly after your debut and the release of your Christmas single, but for those readers who still may not have heard of yourselves or your work before, would you like to start by introducing yourself and discussing a little about yourself and your music?

Damjun: Hello everyone ~ I'm Damjun, the leader of the first and only LGBTQ+ boy band in K-pop history, LIONESSES.

After our debut, many K-pop fans in the LGBTQ+ community told us:

"Thank you for finally letting us hear our story in K-pop music"

We are more grateful for this support and interest, but we will continue to share various stories with you in various styles of music. I look forward to your kind cooperation!

Foxman: Hello, I'm FOXMAN, the spiritual support of LGBTQ+ boy band LIONESSES.

I'm in charge of vocals and rap, and I'll sing you a lot of "A little bit shy to say, but couldn't said it" story. So please look forward to it. ^^

Kanghan: Hi guys, I'm Kanghan, the countertenor. It's an honour to see you again.

Lee Malrang: Hello ~ Nice to meet you again. I'm Malrang, the maknae of LIONESSES.

We debuted on November 2nd, 2021 with "Show Me Your Pride", and thanks to your love and support, we were able to release our third single album. I'm promoting with gratitude, thinking that I'm a blessed singer in many ways.

As always, to begin with, I thought we might cover a few quick-fire questions to get to know you a little better. They'll be different than last time, though. If you had to describe your style of music, and in particular your upcoming song "Will You Be My Groom?", in three words, what would they be?

Damjun: Reality, a wall named 'institutional discrimination', hope?

Foxman: Dream, Tomorrow, Belief.

Kanghan: "Gift", "Miracle", "Love", these three words.

The first thing I said was a gift until now. The "gift" we received from our beloved fans, who allowed us to run without stopping our activities as LIONESSES, is the first thing that comes to mind, and I also always hope that miracles will happen to us.

I hope "Miracle" will happen in this song, too. We're always hoping for a "miracle" because the ideal we want is rejected in reality.

And lastly, "Love". I'm still thinking about love. How can you explain what you think love? What do you think "love" is? (Laughs)

Lee Malrang: Bossa nova, palpitations, and marriage? Haha.

As South Korea re-opens to international visitors, where is somewhere in the country you would recommend for your fanbase, Den, to visit?

Damjun: Busan is always a romantic city for me. It is a city that is smaller than Seoul, but feels much more dynamic than Seoul, where feels like "love will come true" if I leave alone for no reason.

If you go to 'Songdo' in Busan, you can ride a cable car crossing the sea. If you're in this cable car with a loved one, you'll feel like time has stopped. even I rode it alone, but . . .(Laughs)

Foxman: I recommend Gyeongju. There are many cultural properties and attractions, so if you're curious about Korean cultural properties or Asian culture, come and enjoy delicious food and culture! Lol. There is an observatory in Gyeongju that is more than 1,000 years old!

Kanghan: Wouldn't "Itaewon" in Seoul be great to meet DENs? (Additional information: Itaewon is one of the most famous gay places in Korea and the place where the first live performance of LIONESSES was held).

Lee Malrang: I recommend "Hongdae" in Seoul. Hongdae is a place with a variety of indie cultures, food, and attractions. I think it would be great if you watch a good live performance in small thearter, eat delicious food, drink coffee, and enjoy the passionate busking of buskers.

If you could perform on any stage in the world, where would you hold your dream concert?

Damjun: The stage I want to perform at least once in my life is the Grammy Awards stage. "Singing at the Grammy Awards, celebrating BTS winning the award in the same year at the awards ceremony, and winning the award the following year" is just my daily delusion. (Laughs)

Isn't this a dream that any ARMY who has a job in singer can do? (Laughs)

Foxman: I would like to perform in a place with a long tradition called Wiener Musikverein, Austria, and I would like to perform in a modern concert hall!

Kanghan: I have a small wish that I haven't told the Lionesses members, but I want to travel around the world and perform. I want to rent a small cafe to busk, sing freely on the street, rent a really large stadium to have a concert for two or three hours, and especially appear in the Korean TV program named "Yoo Hee-yeol's Sketch book". I have a lot of dreams, right? I think I'm happiest when I can dream.

Lee Malrang: I want to sing at great award ceremonies such as opera houses, Grammy Awards, and other great performances around the world!

If you could collaborate with any other artist you wanted, who would it be and why?

Damjun: I'd like to work with Philippine's singer Jake Zyrus. I was a big fan of him even before he revealed that he was transgender and had sex physical transitions (since he appeared as a genius girl singing Whitney Houston's song on a Korean show). I've looked up to everything his act in "Glee" and I know everything about his album.

After that, I was really surprised when he revealed his identity as a man and started his new career as a singer named "Jake Zyrus". I also had a hard time adapting to a new voice because my voice tone changed a lot after experiencing several vocal cord nodules.

However, he managed to pull off a completely changed baritone voice like Michael Buble. When I saw Jake completely controlling his voice, I thought, "Genius really exists". He and I were both Asian singers born in 1992, and I was an old fan of him. If we can sing together, I think it will be a really fun work.

Foxman: As I told you in the last interview, I really want to work with Jessi.

Kanghan: If I could work on an album with many artists . . . I think it'll be a great honour. I want to work with so many artists.

Lee Malrang: I'd like to work with Mariah Carey. I've been a big fan since childhood . . . I dreamed of becoming a singer while listening to her songs. I'd like to collaborate with The Greatest Diva of all time, who has been loved for a long time, to work on something really cool . . . And I think it'll be a time to learn a lot. ^^

And one last quick-fire question - the same as last time for this one, though: what song are you currently playing on repeat, and why?

Damjun: Recently, I've been into the Korean indie band "Gumjung-Chima" (means Black Skirt in Korean)'s song called "If you're not with me".

The music video of this song, "Real Lovers", features two actors, and the lyrics talk about a very old lover's tiresome, familiar love.

However, whenever I see the lyrics, it sounds like a story of a person who has had a crush for a long time, not a "real old lover", crying inside, "Please be this kind of lover with me". I was also the one who was mainly in love with this latter. Did Sam Smith say they were like this before their debut? (Laughs).

Oh, interestingly, each singer mentioned today is all the same age as me . . . Sam Smith was born in 1992 like me.

Foxman: I recently fell in love with a song called "All for you" sung by Seo In-guk and Jung Eun-ji. Originally released in the 1990's by 'Cool', it is a remake of a drama set in the 1990's. In fact, in an interview with a podcast broadcast when we debuted, Damjun said that his ideal type was Seo In-guk, so I looked for Seo In-guk's songs and listened to it because I wondered why Damjun's face always looked like a high-school girl in first love every time we mention a name 'Seo In-guk', and I'm addicted to the song and I can't wait to sing this song in some stage. (Haha).

Kanghan: I've been listening to soprano Park Hye-sang's "Like the Wind Going to meet Lotus" in a row. It's a song I want to sing at my solo concert someday (I don't know when it will be, but I'm practicing it slowly).

Lee Malrang: I'm into (G)I-DLE's "Tomboy". The music video is so cool and the lyrics are so cool. We want to meet you with a rock song like "Tomboy" someday. ^^

Thank you for going through those rapid-fire questions with me. Now, it's time to get a little more in-depth. So, since our last interview with you, what have the four of you been up to, and how have you been doing?

Damjun: After going through a month's schedule after my debut, I thought, "Oh, I can't stand these schedules with this stamina." First of all, I lost weight to find my health, and I was constantly composing songs that will be released this year. I also made an update YouTube content for my beloved DEN.

There were a lot of other interesting events that would have been a disaster if they were disclosed . . . (Laughs) I'll leave it to your imagination.

Foxman: After our debut, I thought a lot of people would still treat us with disgust and discrimination, but on the contrary, I was surprised and really grateful to have so many people from all over the world cheering us on.  We will continue to tell you a lot of love stories through songs, so I think it'll be a great help if you send us support! Thank you and I love you always. DEN, everyone!

Kanghan: I personally had a peaceful time, and I was busy working on my new album. It's been 4 months that I've been really busy!

Lee Malrang: First of all, there were two great live performances, and I started working on my third and fourth single albums at the same time. Personally, I had time to get closer to the members... It was a time when I could get closer to members like a family. And three out of four members went through the COVID-19 virus. (Only Damjun survives like the last survivor of mankind . . .)

I pray that you will always be healthy and safe.

It's now been roughly six months since you released your first single "Show Me Your Pride". How do you fell that you have grown as a group since then.

Damjun: When we first released "Show me your pride" and received unexpected attention, we had a lot of different tendencies, so we couldn't get together and had conflicts. By the way, since we've been together more often than our families for half a year, I think we've become a little stronger as a "team" or "family."

It's important to grow both externally and musically, but this is the best part for me. I have three more brothers now.

Foxman: Unlike the first time, I think it was a time when we got closer and got to know each other a lot. I've grown up both musically and mentally. We will continue to work hard to become a growing LIONESSES. Thank you.

Kanghan: Every time we release an album, I feel that we're growing. Especially for me, when I record, I feel that the recording studio, which was not familiar to opera singers, is becoming more familiar and comfortable.

Lee Malrang: After the release of Show me your Pride, I've been living as a team and I've been busy. I did, but . . . After six months of experience . . . I think I'm thinking, "Now we're a real team." I don't think there's anything that the four of us can't do now. It's an invincible team.

What has been the most exciting thing about promoting "Will You Be My Groom?" in comparison to your two previous releases?

Damjun: Now, when we hear the news of the release of the new song, we get interview requests first, or we have a medium that uploads our news to the page. That's the most amazing thing. Lol (KpopWise and Ford, thank you so much! And please take good care of me in the future too.)

At first, my friends around me said, "Hey, K-pop star is here." they joked me saying, "Hey! 30-year-old idol!" But these days, I've been saying with my own mouth, "Hey, I'm an idol, but how can I eat late at night at 10 p.m.?" LOL

I have become a completely K-pop idol even with my attitude.

Foxman: I've been working on it a lot, but I think I worked a little harder this time. I hope that many people will recognize it and listen to it. Also, I made this song including everything about same-sex marriage that I personally dreamed of. I feel like I'm showing you my romance fantasy, so I'm embarrassed . . . (Haha) but looking forward to it.

Kanghan: I understood why when I hum all the time in the practice room or at home, Damjun always took notes of how high the pitch that Damjun just came out of next to me was. I'm getting used to it now because Damjun is composing in the highest pitch possible.

Lee Malrang: The first two singles started without knowing what's going on . . . Maybe it's because it's our third work, but we also have some kind of system. I think we're starting to get along better than when we worked on "Show me your pride" and "Christmas Miracle".

And what's interesting about this song is . . . We put all our passion and passion into it for a long time. It's interesting that there will be more great encounters. ^^

In the past, LGBTQIA+ Australian singer-songwriter Alfie Arcuri spoke about the importance of using gender specific pronouns in his songwriting, stating that it is important to be visible as a role model to younger people. As a group, your songs, lyrics, and music videos appear to follow this ideology. How important do you think it is that your music doesn't shy away from same-sex attraction and embraces the differences from traditional romantic norms?

Damjun: In fact, rather than any political intentions, "a specific situation in which a male speaker speaks love to a male partner" is the love I have experienced all my life, and it naturally creates music. Fortunately, I think people who have been in love similar to me sympathize with me.

Korean gay people really like sad songs by female ballad singers. I think this because the speaker of this song is probably a "love song that speaks to men" even if it's a woman.

That's why I tried to talk about my personal stories as much as possible. However, as a gay and composer, I agree with Alife's argument. In fact, I think it's probably the role model Alfie is talking about.

The purpose of LIONESSES' early debut was, "It's time for us to have our own songs."

Foxman: It is still not easy to express same-sex love through music, and compared to the past, social perspectives have changed a lot, but I think there are still perspectives that have not changed. I believe that if we step up and reveal more, whether it's a same-sex romance or a story of people who think they don't match their bodies and genders, all will be naturally accepted as "the story of people somewhere in the world." If that happens, I think it will be more natural for us to express our love in a private place. I'm waiting for that day!

Kanghan: I don't think it really matters how much we understand and acknowledge each other's different sides. Of course, my thoughts change from day to day, but the part I've been thinking about lately is respect. I am singing in the hope that a society that respects each other will be created.

Lee Malrang: I think love is a positive thing. Really bad people are people who give bad names to love and hate it. Please always remember that you are a person who deserves to be loved as yourself.

Preparing for this comeback must have been a lot of work. In fact, you teased the comeback in our previous interview all the way back in December. Would you be able to give me a rundown of all of the work you individually had to do in preparation for "Will You Be My Groom?"

Damjun: With director Cho Han-hee, who directed the music video of "Show me your pride", we found what would be the best way to produce it on a limited budget. In the meantime, I was working on the arrangement of this song and the next song to be released in June. It's already been four months since "Christmas Miracle"!

P.S. I started taking dance lessons from teachers who were backup dancers for BTS and Sunmi in preparation for the upcoming dance song!

Foxman: I had a little more time to study rap. I think it took more time than I thought, but I had a little more time to focus on rapping and singing. I'm a little shy about the narration in this song, but . . . Haha. (Composer Damjun's opinion: It was the best narration I ever heard.)

Kanghan: In this music video, Kang Han's new appearance is "short hair."(Laughs) The reason I kept my long hair even before I filmed the music video for "Show me your pride" was to donate hair for children with cancer to make wigs. So I cut my long, long hair for the first time in a long time. We'll continue to show you new sides of us, so please show us a lot of interest!

Lee Malrang: This is the first time we've matched our team uniforms. I had a hard time dieting to match the size of the clothes because I'm big enough to fit the team's outfits together. But when I think about Damjun's diet, I become humble.

I now have some questions for you each individually. The first one is for Damjun. As the leader of Lionesses, it appears that you take a great deal of pride and responsibility in the success of the group. The way in which you spoke during our last interview was very clear for this. What are some ways you would like Lionesses to grow as a group in the future? Have you considered appearing on music shows or holding an in-person concert at all?

Damjun:  I will continue to make efforts to appear on music shows. I'm also preparing for a short 30-minute performance, and maybe in May and June, Ida. We have a fixed schedule to perform in a very meaningful place for the IDAHOT day and Pride Month, so you should keep watching and looking forward to our activities! (It's a secret now! Haha)

I try to do my best as much as we can. I will try to make a song that will be considered a "story of my life" by some people and sing it hard. We are planning to release new songs continuously.

A question now for Foxman. As the member of the group who had formerly trained as an idol trainee for a K-pop management company, I wondered if you might be able to give our readers an insight into the struggles of being a K-pop trainee, and what the experience was like for you?

Foxman: It's definitely not easy to practice with people with different ideas for a long time. And I think there are people who feel that it is difficult because unity is more important than individual abilities in the community of "team". However, when you love yourself, others give you love accordingly. We must learn to stand on our own feet. Everyone, we love each other. Including myself.

My next question is for Kanghan. Alongside being a K-pop singer and an opera singer, you are also the drag queen ROOYA. In our last interview, you spoke a bit about the energy you received while performing at the Seoul Drag Cabaret. I'd like it if you could tell myself and your fans a little more about your story as ROOYA, and what led to your introduction to the drag community.

Kanghan: I first learned about Drag Queen after I learned about musicals such as Headwig and Kinky Boots in high school. Since then, I've been studying "Drag Queen", and I've become more interested when I heard that there is a performance of drag artists dancing in Korea.

The process and time of making "ROOYA" are not long. The first time I did drag, I remember dancing during a 19-year-old college freshman talent show, and since then, I sometimes wore drag makeup for personal enjoyment. ROOYA is a certain energy that expresses, enjoys, and empowers me in me. This joy is a different kind of joy than the energy I get from working as Kanghan. (Laughs).

And, of course, I also have a question for Lee Malrang. You are the only member of the group that does not have a background in music, whether that be through musical school, as an idol trainee, or through further education. What do you consider to be the greatest difference between your life prior to joining Lionesses to now?

Lee Malrang: I think he added the name "musician" to my job. Of course, I just started a career as a professional vocalist, always take lessons from Han and Damjun and Foxman teaches me how to dance... I am so happy to be able to become a singer to my beloved fans on stage by becoming a member of LIONESSES, and to meet my fans and receive a lot of dazzling love. That's how much I appreciate it.

Would you mind telling us a little about what you wanted to achieve with "Will You Be My Groom?", including what story you wanted to tell and the message you wanted to impart on listeners?

Damjun: There is an interesting story in this song about the institutional discrimination experienced by same-sex couples in countries where same-sex marriage is not legalized.

In Korea, there is a low-interest housing loan (government-backed) that only newlyweds can receive, and government-run rental apartments are also provided with very small studio apartments for single-person households, and newlyweds are provided with more than two large apartments. In addition, driver insurance premiums are legally 30% cheaper than other people when the passenger is a family member, and not long ago, the Korean government eventually dismissed the same-sex couple's application for a spouse as a health insurance dependent through a lawsuit.

I don't want to claim these stories as political propaganda for this song, but I have to translate them into other languages, but when I asked my hyungs who have already married their friends overseas if there is such a difference in housing benefits or insurance premiums.

Everyone was like, "Are you finally moving to America to get married?" LOL

How can I go to get married left my beloved fans? (Laughs) I'm an idol . . .

Foxman: I also felt that we had to deal with legal issues first. Whether or not same-sex marriage is legalized by the state has a wide range of effects on the lives of LGBTQ parties. Subsidies and economic benefits also vary widely in the size of heterosexual couples and homosexual couples. Now that I'm in my 30s, when my friends are getting married, I felt like I was really talking about marriage.

Kanghan: Nevertheless, the eyes that look at the person you love are always beautiful regardless of the other person and my gender.

Lee Malrang: This is a beautiful Bossa nova song. And since it's a good song to listen to for a long time, I think it would be good to play it over and over again. (This is what I really mean. Lol) I would appreciate it if you could send a lot of our songs to people around you and show a lot of love.

Your music has been inspiring to so many people, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Many people must have commented on your music videos or Twitter about what your group and your music means to them. What had personally been your favourite message or comment that you've received?

Damjun: In "Christmas Miracle"s music video, there's a comment:

"The part about hugging on the subway makes me cry - It's really that simple things that are so normal for straight people that they don't think about it so much."

It was so amazing that the lyrics I wrote in Korean were accepted as "our story" by someone somewhere. And I want to make music until these lyrics that I wrote are not special words, but ordinary daily life for everyone.

Foxman: When I was a kid, I wanted someone to sing a good song about LGBTQ+ . . . But now that we think that we gave strength to those people, I'm glad that we did this job.

I want to play songs that will help many people live in the future. Everyone, cheer up!

Kanghan: I think you'll find out what kind of message we have this time by watching our upcoming music video. Everyone! It's April 1st, 12:00 p.m. Korea time!

Lee Malrang: The stories of those who said they were wandering youth, but they were greatl encouraged by our songs.

Your fandom, Den, has very clearly grown in the last three months since our last interview, which is great news! If you could take this opportunity, what is something you would like to say to both your pre-existing and new fans?

Damjun: Oh, you still haven't got a chance to be our fan, have you? Get on this train, I'll let you listen to a lot of good music.

Foxman: Thanks to existing DEN, we were able to make it this far, and for those who will be our fans, let's be happy together.^^

Kanghan: Honored to be your happiness. I love you.

Lee Malrang: Thank you so much for existing fans... and I would like to send my love in advance to all of you who will be fans in the future.

If you could recommend one artist or song for your fandom, Den, to check out, who would it be and why?

Damjun: I recommend Morissette Amon, the best diva of our generation in the Philippines. I have loved Filipino divas like Regine Velasquez and Lani Misalucha since I was a child. Among the singers of the recent generation, there are a lot of favorite singers in the Philippines, such as Jake Zyrus, Jonalyn Viray, and Darren Esfanto.

The singer I've been listening to the most these days is Morissette Amon. I feel like she's a singer who shared same role models with me, such as Falsetto, Whistle Register, and popping sounds from strong Belting that she uses in her songs. It's probably Whitney and Mariah, right? She's such a great vocalist. Even when I saw her singing in Korean at the Asian Song Festival in 2018, I was impressed by her accurate Korean pronunciation.

Foxman: I recommend Lee Sun-hee, a legendary Korean singer. She is a legendary vocalist who broke down the discriminatory customs of Korean broadcasters in the 1980s, "Women singers must wear skirts and appear on broadcasts," and "Women wearing glasses cannot appear on broadcasts." Listening to her powerful voice when you feel stuffy makes you feel as relieved as if you were drinking soda.

Kanghan: Sohyang's "Song of the Wind" always calms me down.

Lee Malrang: I recommend for "another season is gone" by Jeong Gyeonghwa. The seasons are changing in Korea now. And I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to introduce a wonderful singer to everyone who loves K-pop. It's a singer I've loved for a long time. Please listen to it. It's the best diva.

Thank you so much for taking the time to go through this interview with us! For one final question, do you have any news, sneak preview information about upcoming videos, or anything else at all you would like to share with your fans?

Damjun: I gave you a little bit of information in the above question, but . . . We have another new song coming to you in June, and maybe in August . . . ? Even in October . . . ? First, it's a secret. ^^

Foxman: When I went to the sea with my family when I was a child, the little beach became a pirate as if it were the Pacific Ocean, and it would be nice to have a song that adventures the little sea, a song that would make me excited at a club.

Kanghan: For me as an opera singer, LIONESSES' music is always a new and exciting challenge. I feel reassured by the members who helped me achieve it every time.

Lee Malrang: First of all, please look forward to the various promotions of the LIONESSES single album in April. And I hope we can go out on music shows in 2022. ^^

Also Read: [EXCLUSIVE] Interview: 20 Questions with K-Pop Group Lionesses

If you haven't already, you should absolutely check out Lionesses' music.

Also Read: LIONESSES Releases Latest Single "Will You Be My Groom?"

You can also check out Lionesses' Twitter @lionesses.official and Instagram @lionesses.official.

Once again, we here at KpopWise would like to thank Damjun, Foxman, Kanghan, and Lee Malrang from Lionesses for taking the time out of their busy schedule to interview with us.

Ford Carter

Ford Carter is an online blogger studying journalism who's hundreds of articles across half a dozen fansites from the music and television industries have now been read more than 300,000 times. From his home in regional Australia, you'll often find him binging kdramas or rewatching old editions of the Eurovision Song Contest.

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