"Magnetic — that's kind of the key word," Lily says of the group's new EP, Fe304: BREAK
There’s something about NMIXX’s music and presence that has a force of its own.
Like a magnetic field, one can’t help but be drawn in and taken with the six-member girl group’s irresistible pull. That’s the kind of energy that the girls promise to bring listeners on to “break the walls” with the release of their second EP, Fe304: BREAK, Lily says.
“Magnetic — that’s kind of the key word,” the 21-year-old Australian native tells PEOPLE as her fellow members — Haewon, 20, Sullyoon, 19, Bae, 19, Jiwoo, 18, and Kyujin, 17 — nod their heads up and down in agreement.
Dressed in warm hoodies amidst a winter evening in Seoul, the girls still maintain a sunny composure while talking about their new, seven-track mini-album. In fact, even well into nighttime, the girls still yell a bright “Good morning!” the moment they appear on the Zoom screen, sitting in two rows of three. The warm energy they exude can make anyone forget about the cold, frigid temperatures outside.
Their music arguably does the same, with every track full of the fresh, bubbly and sparkly goodness that their in-person presence brings. Just take a walk down the street with the first track, “DASH,” playing in your ears, and its champagne-like instrumental will feel like a breath of summer air.
But as soon as “Soñar (Breaker)” starts blasting in your ears, you might start having a different pep in your step. Against a backdrop of a Latin-style hip-hop and UK Garage beat, a chaotic swirl of vocals and rap transform the atmosphere into a roller coaster ride of unpredictability.
It’s that delicious clash of contrasting genres that define the group’s trademark, or what is known to their fans as “Mixxpop.” In the K-pop landscape, the girls wipe the table with the standard formula and own mid-song change-ups as their superpower — and just like a magnet, they prove that opposites do indeed, attract.
For some, the cacophony of turbulent sounds and genres might be an acquired taste, stretching as far back as NMIXX’s debut in early 2022 with “O.O.” But once the catchy beats and lyrics wormhole their way into your ears, the taste becomes a full-on addiction. Feast on the dissonance that people love between sweet and sour, or the savory numbing of spicy food, and you’ll have a better idea of the unique flavor that NMIXX cooks up.
The “Soñar (Breaker)” music video serves as the complementary side dish, contrasting in colors and sets to the sudden shout of “Change up!” Amid all the moving parts, there’s one new element that viewers might not immediately catch.
Without hesitation, Jiwoo shoots her hand up in the air and shouts aloud: “Tooth gems!” with unbridled enthusiasm.
"It was the first time in my life that I had jewels in my teeth,” she explains of the gems that both she and Kyujin wore. “It was so amazing, and it felt like I was putting on braces."
Trying new things appears to gel right with their group name, where the “N” in NMIXX stands for “now,” “new,” “next” and the unknown “n.” Blend that all together and you’ll arrive at the group’s “best combination for a new era."
Yet, while laser-focused on the future, the girls also give themselves time to slow down and reflect nostalgically on their past eras together.
For Jiwoo, it’s their song “Home” that evokes sweet memories as she recalls singing along with fans, dubbed the NSWERs, at a recent fan concert. When the eldest, Lily, wants a feel-good mood, she turns to the group’s Christmas carol, “Funky Little Christmas.”
"Every Christmas, I feel like it’s going to be a song that I come back to and remember all the fun times,” she says. “And I just really like Christmas carols, so I’m glad that we did one."
Of course, it’s no coincidence that Christmas happens to be Bae’s favorite holiday. With a spark in her eyes, she details her love for the chill in the air, walking the streets alongside department store decorations and seeing “people with excitement on their faces."
Perhaps it’s the winding down of a full year that makes the holiday season even more special, and NMIXX certainly isn’t an exception to that feeling. 2023 marked a plethora of new milestones for the girls, like the completion of their first ever showcase tour, “Nice to MIXX You” across North America and Asia.
Sullyoon thinks of Seattle with a special fondness, as it was the first city that kicked off the tour's US leg and paved the way for numerous fan-centered memories. As Bae summarizes, “it was touching, touching, and it made me happy."
The small moments in between proved to be just as unforgettable for the girls. Rather than staying within the confines of their hotels, the members battled jet-lag to take advantage of their off-days and explore as much as they could.
"I remember, one of our off-days, I got to see a musical in LA during the time and it was a lot of fun,” Lily recalls. “I saw Hairspray and unfortunately, I had to go by myself because the members thought it would be hard to understand the English."
"I really love musicals, so it was a lot of fun for me to go see a musical during tour,” she continues. “It really invigorated me and it really made me want to perform even more."
Interactions with fans also weren’t limited to the stages, Haewon and Lily both explain.
"Lily and I went to this market in Seattle and someone who recognized us, [says] ‘Are you guys NMIXX?’” Haewon tells PEOPLE. “We were very surprised at the time because I never expected that someone [would] recognize me in Seattle."
However, that wouldn’t be the only time the girls were recognized on the streets, Lily adds.
"It was really funny, because there was another person that recognized us,” she says. “They actually ended up buying the ticket on that day and coming to see us the very next day as soon as they saw us. They didn’t know that we were having a tour and they saw us and then decided to come — so that was really good."
To perform at their very best, the girls spend ample time warming up, stretching and drinking water for their 90 minute set. After a demonstration request from Lily during the interview, Jiwoo instantly launches into a set of trills, her lips buzzing with an audible sound. To stretch the back, Kyujin stands up and performs a squat torso twist, bending her upper body as far as it will go.
Practicing English for their fan interactions has also been a part of their training routine, and they each have favorite English words of their own.
For Haewon, the first day of the week is the word that jumps out.
"I love the word 'Monday,'” she says with distinct clarity, before lifting up her pointer finger. “That is the first word I learned in my whole life."
A collective “ooh” resounds from her fellow members before Kyujin utters her favorite: “Goosebumps.” At its mere mention, Jiwoo humorously starts to shiver.
"When I learned this word during my English lesson, I thought it was very cute,” the youngest member of the group pleasantly recalls.
"Symbol" is what first comes to Bae’s mind from her vocabulary arsenal, and part of the reason is thanks to Lily, she says. With a smile, Lily assumes her role as the de facto interpreter for Bae’s explanation.
"One time, I was trying to translate Korean into English and I couldn’t think of the word ‘symbol,’” Lily says of Bae, sitting to her left. "She was right next to me and she said, ‘It’s symbol.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s right. How did you know that?’ And she said that she remembers that moment very proudly and can’t forget the word anymore, because of that moment.”
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And, fittingly so, symbols are a natural part of their music and concepts, like the magnetic powers they embody with the EP. Defining what they mean is a different story, but the girls prove that metaphorizing is an introspective process they take seriously.
For instance, when the girls are asked what title they would give the year 2023 if it was a chapter in their book, they don’t give an answer right away. Instead, they take some time to meditate on the question.
"Give us a second, we will think it through,” Lily prefaces as the members contemplate around her. “Gotta think this one through, it’ll be creative. There’s just so much that happens in a year, it’s hard to pin it down to one phrase."
After some brainstorming, Haewon breaks the silence with her title: “확신” (pronounced hak-sheen).
"It’s a Korean word, and it means you are completely sure of where you are in the world,” Lily interprets on Haewon’s behalf. “The reason why she chose that word is because she thinks that this year she is absolutely sure in her commitment to NMIXX — it’s going to be NMIXX or nothing."
"Before then, she was maybe unsure and a little anxious about things, but this year she has totally come into her own about NMIXX and completely sure about it,” she continues.
Haewon’s explanation elicits an affectionate reaction from Jiwoo, who then turns around to playfully swipe at her.
It’s their sisterly bond that carries them strong into 2024, with February marking their second anniversary as a group. And although they’re now more seasoned as idols, seeing younger groups still reminds them of the era when they first shocked the K-pop world with their first single album, Ad Mare.
"It really reminds me of when we first debuted and didn’t know anything,” Lily muses. “There’s a lot of ‘learn as you go’ aspects of the K-pop life, and I feel like we’ve grown a ton since then and I’m super proud of us and I know we’ll learn even more as time passes by."
For those who may be struggling with self-doubt, as all the girls have faced along the way, Lily offers some words of advice on gaining confidence.
"Confidence does not come from just yourself,” she begins. “You need to have a good support system around you. If you guys have such good friends in your life, like my members, I think confidence will come much easier because there will be people lifting you up all around."
"Confidence also comes from self-love, so I think one of the most important things with confidence is just to love everything about yourself,” she says.
The girls’ New Year's resolutions also simply align with their spirit of teamwork and self-love, rather than larger-than-life external goals. The overall theme? Health and happiness for themselves and their fans.
"Yes, it’s the most important thing,” Haewon says, with yet another raised pointer finger.
Lily also wants to read more fantasy books this year and not “slack” on the genre like she did before. The resolution that she calls “random” only further serves to underscore why NMIXX will continue to be a force to reckon with for years to come.
"We are a lot of different colors and personalities and skill sets in one group and it resembles Mixxpop in that way, in that we can all be different and have our own strengths but then when we come into one song, we can show people something beautiful,” Lily says. “[It’s] just like Mixxpop, where you can have different genres but in the end it comes together beautifully in one song. I think that’s just like us.”
Fe304: BREAK is now available to stream.
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