That stands for “tri” – as in triangle, the most perfect shape (their shape favoritism, not mine!) and “being,” And when you add that all up, it leads to their slogan: “We are perfect as we are.” We love a confident septet of all-singing, all-dancing superstars, don’t we?
The seven member troupe – temporarily down one member, as JinHa recovers from health issues – is quadrilingual, with members SongSun, JinHa, HyunBin and SoEun hailing from Seoul, while Kelly and Jia from Taipei, and MiRe from Tokyo. Together, they speak and sing in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. (Take that, Girls Planet 999!)
With prolific producer Shinsadong Tiger (S.Tiger) at the helm, who’s worked with everyone from HyunA to T-ARA to EXID to Momoland, as well as EXID alum LE, the new girl group’s steadily paved a path for themselves in the notoriously overcrowded Korean market and beyond, progressively charting higher with each new release as they establish their own signature sound and style.
After their formal debut last year with Tri.be Da Loca, followed by Conmigo and debut EP Veni Vidi Vici, the girls are back in action and taking flight with the first taste of new music in 2022 with their third single album, the magic spell-themed LEVIOSA (out August 9), complete with a “high-teen concept” just in time for the back to school season, yellow bus and all.
“Don’t be jealous of the confidence that others hold; make your own magical moment and shine!” the girls declare of their peppy, powerful “KISS” of a comeback, produced by S.Tiger and ELLY, THE HUB team, Frankie Day and Charlotte Wilson.
I spoke to TRI.BE about LEVIOSA, the highs and lows of idol life, girl group inspiration (and relatives!), and pop star-approved TV picks. Check it out…
First of all, how is everybody feeling now? I know there were unfortunately some scheduling cancellations due to COVID among the members.
TRI.BE: Thank you for your concern, we’re all better now! We were very sad because we were really looking forward to attending those events; we did get some rest though!
Fans are also wishing the best to JinHa, who is not participating in this comeback. Can you give an update about her condition, and how she is doing as well?
TRI.BE: JinHa is doing well, thank you. She’s getting a lot of rest and is taking her time but also preparing to meet our fans again soon so we hope everybody can cheer for her to get better too.
Tell us about your comeback track “KISS,” and the recording process for the song. Are there any favorite memories?
SongSun: When we first received the track, the parts weren’t divided yet so we had multiple trials with different distributions to see which part would suit each member the best. I think that’s what helped us to fully link with the track and make it our own.
Kelly: I had a really hard time recording for “KISS,” mainly because the notes are pretty high! Practice was the only way to go so that’s what I did and I think I’m good with my parts now.
HyunBin: “KISS” conveys the message that we should all create our own magical moments of confidence. I remember taking multiple tries for my rap part to get the ‘feeling’ right, which mainly came from the pronunciation and emphasis on certain syllables. It was a very educative process for me!
Jia: I had to give off a feeling that I’ve never done before so S.Tiger really helped me out by giving me specific directions. I managed to finish my part quicker than I had expected.
SoEun: S.Tiger’s directions for my part was to sound “a bit more crazy” and that was a lot harder than I thought. Especially for my “ha ha ha ha” part, I ended up imagining making fun of Kelly to get the feeling right!
MiRe: Our choreography went through a lot of changes and versions, so it was difficult learning the moves for “KISS.” I’m very happy with the results though!
Why was it selected as your next lead single?
TRI.BE: “KISS” was selected as our next lead single because the overall feeling of the track matches well with our current image and identity. TRI.BE holds a mischievous and energetic image and “KISS” is exactly the track that allows us to show that on stage! With a catchy hook, we were able to add in a catchy choreo as well so it was quite the perfect match.
The B-side track “In The Air (777)” is a lot of fun, too. How would you describe making the track, and what do the lyrics mean to you?
TRI.BE: “In The Air (777)” represents all 7 of the TRI.BE members. Not only does it portray a magical experience of flying in the are but it also emphasizes that TRI.BE is a group of 7 and will remain 7 forever. To us, it’s almost like the second fan song after “TRUE” since the lyrics are encouraging and heartwarming. We actually got emotional when recording for the track because of the lyrics and the encouraging vibe; some of the members teared up when we were doing the group chant!
What was the inspiration behind the title of LEVIOSA for the single album?
TRI.BE: The rough idea actually did first come from the famous “Wingardium leviosa’ spell from Harry Potter. We decided to go with LEVIOSA because the concept is casting a magic spell on the audience, where our listeners can feel enchanted and have a magical experience when listening to our music and watching our performance.
How would you describe the visual concept for this comeback?
SongSun: I would say familiar but new. The high-teen concept is familiar in KPOP but the mischievous vibe we added to it should come as new to our fans!
Kelly: “On and off” would be it. We’ve got both the “in-school” looks and “out of school” looks to show contrast, just like how we’re very different on and off stage.
HyunBin: I think it’s very eye catching! We’ve got new looks and this is a concept we’ve never done before so I think it’s quite captivating.
Jia: We’ve not members that have new hair colors and new styles so it’s very refreshing.
SoEun: Different! Even myself, I’ve never tried blonde hair before.
MiRe: This is the first time I’ve tried long hair and I’m happy to see our members rocking new visuals! Overall, it’s quite a refreshing change considering the long break we’ve had.
This is your third single album. What have you learned from your debut and previous comeback that helped you prepare for this one?
SongSun: Our past releases were all about being confident in who we are. I think that really helped in showcasing our message for this release, which is creating your own magical moments of confidence.
Kelly: I used to get very nervous about getting on stage but I’m a lot more comfortable when performing now. I’ve also learnt a lot about how to communicate with our fans better too!
HyunBin: I’ve really practiced and honed my rap and vocal skills throughout our past releases. We’ve also been monitoring the feedback from our fans to see why they like and improve them.
Jia: I had a hard time locating cameras when performing on stage but now I’ve gotten much better at doing so. I also think I’m a bit more professional when the cameras are rolling!
SoEun: Learning how to communicate with our fans better really helped this time because this is our first time meeting our fans in person!
MiRe: I’ve always felt that facial expressions are super important so I put in extra practice into getting the right expressions this time.
I wanted to go back to before the debut. Tell me more about the process of auditioning and getting into the group. What was it like, and what did you learn while training?
SongSun: For me, it was a long period of time that felt like it would never end. I went through numerous tests and had to keep myself motivated to constantly practice and improve myself. Endurance is probably the biggest thing I’ve learnt.
Kelly: I joined the trainee team after taking an audition at my dance academy. It was pretty tough since I had to adapt to a completely new environment but I’ve improved much more as compared to my old self. Especially my vocals!
HyunBin: I’ve been taking auditions since I was in 6th grade! I don’t even remember the amount of auditions I’ve been to but I started to gain insight on what I needed to do in order to pass round by round. It was difficult finding a team that was looking for what I possessed but once I passed, I kept practicing to improve myself. Skills as an artist is one thing but really learned how to keep myself going.
Jia: It was difficult coming to a new country, adapting to new surroundings and training to become an idol at the same time. I was very lost in the beginning but our members really helped me pull through by helping me with my Korean.
SoEun: I remember practicing the same track over and over for days, even weeks. We had multiple recording sessions to test our vocals and live performance lessons too. I even remember how hard it was creating my own signature!
MiRe: I first started dreaming of becoming a KPOP idol after getting to know BLACKPINK. Ever since, I’ve been working hard to become the idol I’ve always wanted to be and I’ve learnt so much about the Korean culture and language.
Shinsadong Tiger is the legendary producer you worked with on your debut. What is something specifically you’ve earned from him, or something special about how he works?
SongSun: He really listens to our opinions. He’s never shut our ideas down before hearing them first and gives us a lot of advice on how to find the right “feeling.” I think that helps us maintain and develop our unique traits.
Kelly: S.Tiger is always the one directing us for our recording sessions and he focuses on details that we usually miss. It’s quite the learning experience for us!
HyunBin: S.Tiger knows how to bring out the unique characteristics of a person without straying far from the track’s concept. I think that’s how I’ve been able to keep myself being “me” and not having to change my style into something I’m not. He’s a very comfortable person to work with but also a person who is super keen on details.
Jia: His guidelines really help to keep us on track when practicing. He pinpoints the specific details we need to work on and that really comes through when we record.
SoEun: He’s very nice in the studio and makes us feel as comfortable as we like. There were times when I asked if we could turn the lights off so I could concentrate better and he didn’t mind at all. It might not be a big favor but it’s these kind of small things that make us feel comfortable working with him.
MiRe: He knows what each member needs to improve on how to improve it. The advice he gives is very crystal clear and his insight on what can add a punch to the track is very deep. I learn a lot every time we have a recording session with him.
You also worked with EXID’s LE on your debut! Did you learn anything interesting from her about the girl group experience, or about recording?
TRI.BE: She always advises us to be more unique and comfortable. LE doesn’t want us to “stick to the norm” and advises us to work on setting each of ourselves apart. She demonstrates the rap and vocals herself and gives us a lot of tips when recording; her guide versions of our tracks are almost like our textbooks when we prepare for new tracks!
SongSun’s cousin is Girls’ Generation’s Yuri! Have you talked to her about their upcoming comeback, and has she given you any advice about being in a girl group?
SongSun: We were very fortunate this time because both of our comebacks overlapped! It was my first time to meet her backstage and we agreed to have everybody come together for a meet and greet if we get the opportunity. She really liked our new track “KISS” and I told her I love “FOREVER 1,” so that made me want to work even harder to show her better performances.
Which other girl groups, past or present, do you look to for inspiration, if any?
SongSun: My role model is Girls’ Generation. They’ve been delivering numerous concepts over a long period of time, and it’s amazing to see how they can maintain their game so well!
Kelly: I’ve always been a big fan of BLACKPINK. They’re both my idols and my role models.
HyunBin: ITZY! They’re well known for their performances and that’s the kind of identity I would love to have too.
Jia: I also look up to BLACKPINK. Their stage presence is really something to learn from.
SoEun: BLACKPINK. The smallest gestures they do fit into their concepts so well, which shows how much they prepare and practice.
MiRe: BLACKPINK as well! I dream of being as charismatic and as cool one day.
What is something that sets TRI.BE apart from other groups and makes you unique?
TRI.BE: Definitely the friendly vibe we give off. We’re not afraid to show what we’re like in our daily lives and we think that is something our fans love to see. Although our strong and synchronized performances are one of our strong traits, the energy we give off when we’re off stage is very different from what we emit on stage; the fact that we’re not afraid to show this contrast is something we think that makes us unique!
One of the very cool things about your group is you’re quadrilingual. Do you share one group chat together? Is everyone learning different languages all the time?
TRI.BE: Of course! We have our own little group chat and we’re ALWAYS chatting. It’s a very noisy space and we like uploading funny photos of our members instead of pretty selfies. We’re always chatting and laughing together, sharing almost every minute of our lives. We mainly communicate in Korean altogether but also teach each other words or phrases in different languages so it’s like a daily language school. Everyone is working to improve their English because we really want to communicate with our international TRUE better too!
What is something fans might not know about pop idol life?
SongSun: KPOP idols can be shy too! There are a lot of times when we’re excited to talk to our fans but too shy to share everything so don’t be disappointed if we seem too quiet! We’re just being shy.
Kelly: To us, fans are everything. I wish our fans would also know that!
HyunBin: KPOP idol life can seem fancy and busy but we do feel a lot of pressure and anxiety too. We’re the same people!
Jia: Maybe that KPOP idols don’t get a lot of sleep?
SoEun: Same as Jia, KPOP idols are always sleep deprived!
MiRe: I agree. We’re always sleep deprived but I wish our fans would know that we love them more than they think we do! You keep us alive.
I would love to know more about your individual music tastes! What is everyone’s favorite artist, and which album is everyone currently listening to?
SongSun: I love listening to R&B artists such as Kwon Jin-ah, Ben and Taeyeon.
Kelly: I’m really into Kehlani nowadays. “Good Thing” by Zedd and Kehlani is on repeat for me!
HyunBin: I’ve been playing Chungha’s “Sparkling” on repeat nowadays but I enjoy listening to calm and soothing music in my free time.
Jia: I’m a big fan of SHINEE! They were and are my role models, probably the biggest reason I wanted to get into KPOP myself.
SoEun: I am always listening to Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me.” I usually enjoy listening to seasonal music that I can relate to.
MiRe: I’m in love with BIBI’s music right now. I’m also a big fan of R&B so I listen to a lot of R&B music!
And does anyone have any good TV show recommendations? I’d love to know what TRI.BE is watching.
SongSun: I recommend Knowing Brothers! It’s fun to see new guests come out every week and it’s a very entertaining show.
Kelly: I’m more into drama nowadays. I highly recommend Extraordinary Attorney Woo!
HyunBin: I’m a big fan of The Story of the Day when the Tail was Bitten! It’s a TV show that handles mysteries and I always watch episodes in my free time.
Jia: I recommend Running Man – I’ve been a fan of the show since I was young.
SoEun: I’m also really into Extraordinary Attorney Woo right now. The storyline is amazing and the main character is so cute!
MiRe: I love watching animations and my current favorite is The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. It’s really funny so check it out!
Where do you hope to see yourselves in five years?
TRI.BE: Honestly speaking, all of us share the same dream. We see ourselves going around the world, meeting and performing for our TRUE all around the world! Hopefully by then we would have picked up some more languages and have an easier time expressing our love to our international fans too. Five years from now, we hope TRI.BE is in the midst of a world tour, discussing where to visit, how to address our fans and what songs to perform! We really can’t wait to meet our fans all around the world in person one day.
LEVIOSA is out now.