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Aespa Have Flourished Online, But They Miss the Real World

Karina, Winter, Giselle, and Ningning reveal their softer side as they navigate their first year as K-pop idols

SM Entertainment*

In the 11 months since Aespa debuted in November 2020, the quartet of Karina, Winter, Giselle, and Ningning have made quick work of establishing themselves as one of South Korea’s most exciting new pop acts. Their label, SM Entertainment, has built out an ambitious virtual universe of avatars and villains to accompany real-life releases like their recent debut EP, Savage. Ask the group, though, and they credit the human element for their success. “I’d say we have no secrets and share almost everything with each other,” Karina tells Rolling Stone. “We’re like a small tight-knit family, so our teamwork has been great.”

Having debuted during the coronavirus pandemic, the girls have become experts in connecting with fans online. Like many of their peers, they have an active TikTok account where they lean into trends and promote their music. “On a daily basis, we share some of our favorite [TikTok trends] with each other, so that when we have some spare time, we can practice and film together,” Ningning says. Giselle recalls watching fan content on PinkBlood, SM Entertainment’s fan-content social profile: “I remember watching them with the members and we were all surprised by [the fans’] talent!”

Even so, Ningning adds that they all “miss small things, like going to restaurants and cafes” in real life. “We used to go out to eat good food and check out various cafes where we’ll talk for hours, so it’d be nice to be able to do that again freely,” she says. “Most importantly, I’m looking forward to performing for our fans in-person!”

Savage was released on October 5th and features a title track of the same name. The record showcases futuristic elements in its visuals and sound, and further expands on the virtual world of Aespa.

Winter calls out “Yeppi Yeppi,” the fourth track on the EP, as her personal favorite. “The mood is very different from the songs that we’ve showcased so far. It shows a different side of Aespa, but most of all, it’s a great song to perform live in front of the fans with its bright and happy energy. I can’t wait to feel the excitement of this song live.”

“It was especially fun to record ‘Yeppi Yeppi,’” Giselle adds. “The song is full of energy, so naturally we all got very excited when we were recording the song. It was so much fun to record the ad-libs in particular, because we were all in the booth together and sang our hearts out.”

Aespa’s concepts and styling thus far have had a dark, futuristic feel to match the theme of their digital world and universe, so the girls are excited to show another side to their personalities. Behind the scenes, Karina shares that she’s been watching K-dramas these days — as well as Friends, to help her study English. She also calls out Kehlani and Ella Mai as artists she’s currently into.

Winter recalls a long walk with her fellow members as her most cherished memory from the past 11 months. “It was during our ‘Black Mamba’ promotion period, when we were all in awe and overwhelmed by the immediate love and support following our debut,” she says. “We went for a long walk together to refresh and had a heart-to-heart about how each one of us was feeling. It meant a lot to be able to share my personal feelings with the members. They understand me better than anyone else and I was reminded of that in that moment, so it was truly special.”

Aespa’s members have been enjoying the love they’ve received in their first year, and they are hungry for the opportunities that the future holds. The girls still have a lot of firsts to experience in their careers, and Karina points out the shows she’s appeared on as a highlight. “To promote ‘Savage,’ we made an appearance on a popular Korean TV show called Amazing Saturday as well as a YouTube series, MMTG,” she says. “These are some of my favorite shows personally, so I was excited to be invited as a guest. Being able to meet some of the amazing artists who I’ve looked up to since I was young was really special. I hope there will be more opportunities where all four of us will be invited to appear on these shows together!”

From Rolling Stone US