One day, a mysterious virus appears. It seeps through every crack on Earth, swift and uncontrollable, infecting millions of people. Soon enough, a global pandemic sets in and the worst facets of humanity flourish—wrath, viciousness, extermination. 

To a person living in 2020, this paragraph is nothing extraordinary. We have now become used to a daily, dim diet of updates about the COVID-19 outbreak wreaking havoc in the world. But last year, when everyone was still blissfully unaware, the six members of soon-to-be P1Harmony (P1H) were recording their ambitious full-length movie, centered around this same theme. “People might think that we predicted the future or something, but it was a very weird coincidence for us as well,” says Keeho, the Korean-Canadian leader of the group. “We made a movie about a virus and, sadly, this situation happened.”

P1H: A New World Begins hit Korean cinemas on October 8, and is the first-ever feature film to revolve around a K-pop group’s universe. In it, P1Harmony plays extraordinary versions of themselves that are the world’s only hope against the devastating Alcor virus. With cameos by Yoo Jae-seok, Jung Hae-in, Jung Jin-young, CNBlue’s Yonghwa, AOA’s Seolhyun, and more, the movie is a compelling introduction to FNC Entertainment’s newest boy group.

Twenty days after the movie premiere, P1Harmony finally made their official debut with the brassy, powerful “Siren,” off the EP Disharmony: Stand Out. And now, a few weeks into their busy schedules, they are sitting in a conference room to talk to Seoulbeats over Skype. It’s past 11pm in Seoul and they are still in their Show Champion outfits, but the energy in the room is unrelenting. After training for a whole year together, Keeho says that their debut “feels just like a dream.” The most talkative members—Jiung, Intak, and Keeho—take the front row, while Jongseob, Theo, and Soul sit behind them, following along with observant eyes and keen remarks. 

“The connection between the movie and our album is the virus,” explains the lavender-haired maknae Jongseob. Despite recently turning 15, he speaks with the wisdom of a seasoned idol — in 2017, he won the competition show K-pop Star 6, and in 2018 he endured YG’s survival show Treasure Box. “In the movie, the virus is a metaphor to show that the world is in a disconnected state, so we got together to bring peace to this world. The six of us are here to stand up for what we feel it’s right and speak our truth,” he adds. 

Differently from the SARS-CoV-2, the Alcor virus from A New World Begins is spread by drones who detect human voices. It’s a pandemic of silence — a parallel to feeling impotent against dominant structures — and to survive, you have to keep your mouth shut. That’s why speaking up is so important to P1Harmony. “Because we are teenagers, we tried to portray the things that people our age go through and inspire them to do what they want, regardless of what others are saying or thinking,” explains Keeho, his articulate words complemented by wide hand gestures.

In these moments, it’s easy to see why Keeho was chosen as the leader: he knows when to take the reins, but is also encouraging towards the other members, helping in translations and making sure everyone has the space to talk. At 19, he is part of P1Harmony’s hyung line along Theo and Jiung, but he affirms that age difference is never an issue. “We just talk to each other as friends, we rely on each other a lot, communicate a lot, give feedback. I don’t feel much pressure [being a leader] anymore because I know I can trust my members to do their best,” he says.

Rapper and dancer Soul, who is half-Korean but was born in Japan, is a testament to Keeho’s words. The members call him a “viber” — a word they invented to express Soul’s easygoing nature — but he affirms that adapting to the group as a foreigner was “not difficult at all.” Rather, the five other members of P1Harmony could be described as “vibers” themselves, gliding along the waves of an unprecedented year and trying to enjoy the present moment.

But knowing how to vibe doesn’t mean it’s all roses. Theo, a passionate vocalist who was sure he wanted to be a singer since childhood, reflects that “it’s a bit unfortunate that we couldn’t perform in front of our fans in person yet,” and Intak, Soul, and Jongseob, who still go to school, acknowledge the difficulty of working long hours. “For music programs, we do pre-recordings during early mornings and then go to classes after. It’s hard, but we try to balance as much as we can,” reveals Intak in his characteristic liveliness. “Your thoughts define who you are,” he continues. “Despite the negatives and hardships, I try to be optimistic, control my mind, and bring out good vibes as much as I can.”

This spirit is reflected throughout Disharmony: Stand Out. A collection of powerful hip hop sounds and echoes of old-school K-pop, it also features lyrics written or co-written by the members in all tracks. “We wrote a lot as trainees, but because we were writing for our album this time, me and Jongseob just tried to enjoy the process. We talked a lot about keywords, about what we should write, and the experience was really fun and satisfying,” says Intak.

“We wanted to emphasize our personal traits,” further explains Jiung. A versatile singer, rapper, and dancer, he also revealed a talent for comedy when asked about his hidden skills. “I’m great at cycling. I was so great that I almost entered a professional competition when I was in school. Thanks to that, I have really nice, strong, thick thighs.” Keeho confirms, saying that Jiung’s thighs are, indeed, “very thick.” Needless to say, the room cracks up in laughter, while Jongseob covers his face in disbelief.

It takes a good minute until everyone fully recovers, but this irreverence is part of the group’s solid foundations. By showing their own colors and standing up for their message, whether it’s hilarious anecdotes, breaking stereotypes in “Intro; Breakthrough,” or enjoying what you can’t avoid in “Nemonade,” P1Harmony is set for a bright future.

A New World Begins has an open ending that suggests the possibility of a sequel. “There’s nothing officially set in stone, but maybe there’s some thoughts about it. Maybe!” says Keeho, but he does confirm that a second album is in the works right now—cue in Jiung’s “ta-dahhhhhh!” and a round of applause by the other members. “Hold on! We have never told anyone about this before,” he realizes. “We cannot tell you when it will come out, but we can say that we are working hard on it, and it’s something you guys should keep an eye out for.”

(The Korea Herald. Korea JoongAng Daily. YouTube. Images via FNC Entertainment.)