“Everyone has their own odd inside of them,” says Bang Chan, the leader of Korean boy group Stray Kids. He calls this the inspiration behind their latest EP, Oddinary, a portmanteau of the contradictory words ‘odd’ and ‘ordinary.’ “We wanted to express that being odd is completely normal.”
That self-described oddness is Stray Kids’ charm. Since their debut in 2018 with the blistering, nonconformist anthem “District 9,” the eight members of Stray Kids have consistently followed their own path, traversing across genres and big, bold sounds to tell a story that is uniquely their own. (Much of their discography has been written and produced by their in-house production team 3RACHA, formed by members Bang Chan, Changbin, and HAN.) It has finally led them here: to a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Stray Kids are only the third Korean act to reach the milestone, following global superstars BTS and SuperM.
Stray Kids call the triumph “a memory that [they] will never forget,” citing their fans as the source of their monumental achievement. “We can proudly say that this was all accomplishable because of STAYs,” the group tells NYLON in a statement. “And to be able to receive such a grand gift, we promise that we will always try our best to bring only happiness to them. Thank you to everyone out there for giving our music a listen!”
But to those who’ve been paying attention, Oddinary’s success feels like the culmination of four years of self-discovery rather than a total surprise. Energy and empathy have always been the pillars of the group’s distinct ethos, and these seven tracks convey a group that is at the height of their powers with playful, potent lyricism; strange, hypnotic melodies; abrasive, bristling trills; and a readiness to explore new sonic territory and more refined styles.
Below, members Bang Chan, Lee Know, Changbin, Hyunjin, HAN, Felix, Seungmin, and I.N take NYLON through every song on Oddinary, detailing the songwriting and album-making process while reflecting on the teamwork and ingenuity that’s brought them this far.
Why did you choose this song to begin the album, and what tone do you hope it sets?
Bang Chan: For most of our albums the very first song is decided by how much it expresses Stray Kids’ uniqueness. And because “Venom” is a very unique song, we thought that it would be a good idea to put it as track number one to really catch the listeners’ attention.
Changbin: We wanted to have a maniac tone. I think the unique and interesting sounds from “Venom” really set the mood for the entire album.
The song is about a fatal attraction. It sets a dark atmosphere. What’s so compelling about that?
Changbin: Using the keyword “spiderweb,” we wanted to express a person’s fatal charms that are difficult to escape from, which led to the song giving off a dark atmosphere that equally is fatal. The sticky beats and top lines do their job in describing a ‘spiderweb’.
Felix: It’s a style that we’ve never tried, and it’s a shade that we’ve never used until now. We wanted to express our deeper emotion through performances and music.
I love the sound of plucking strings in the instrumental and how it evokes the image of plucking threads on a spiderweb. Who’s idea was that?
I.N: It came from 3RACHA.
Bang Chan: We actually decided to work on this track because we were so mesmerized by the plucking instruments. We’ve worked with [American DJ] DallasK before, but he really got our attention with [this] instrumental.
HAN: When we first had the track, it was Bang Chan and Changbin who suggested the idea of a “spiderweb.” After listening to the idea, my passion for it grew, and now it has become a track that I love.
How did you decide on “Maniac” as the lead single? Was it always the top choice, or were there other songs being discussed?
Bang Chan: Most of the time, we write a couple songs then we decide with the company on which song we should use as the lead single. But with “Maniac,” while we were making the song we already felt that it had the potential to be the lead single, so we put more effort into making the song.
Changbin: We set “Maniac” as our number one priority, but we also did work on “Charmer” as our title track.
When did you write “Maniac” and what was the process like?
Bang Chan: If there’s one iconic episode that I remember it was at the dorms. Changbin, HAN, and I, we were talking about ideas, but then on the spot we finished making the hook for the song — and with that, we finished off the rest of the song bit by bit.
HAN: “Maniac” was created during last fall and winter. We wanted to give off a different vibe from [previous single] “Thunderous.” We worked on creating something that’s different from what we’ve done so far, yet still contains Stray Kids’ unique colors.
The definition of “Maniac” is “a person characterized by an inordinate or ungovernable enthusiasm for something.” Is that a badge you are comfortable wearing?
Hyunjin: I feel comfortable. Because the track contains the message of how it is only us who know how passionate we are, and that we shouldn’t think about what others think, I feel comfortable.
Felix: We’re comfortable up to the extent that we admit ourselves that we are somewhat unique and extra. We relate to our fans with our crazy and oddinary sides of ourselves. It makes us feel comfortable.
I.N: I think it’s quite fitting because each of us are extremely passionate about our work.
Where did the inspiration for this song come from?
Bang Chan: When we first heard the track, the flute made us think about the Pied Piper. So with that in mind we expressed, “We are going to charm you” in our lyrics.
Changbin: I remember listening to the hook and thinking about wanting the song to be about an extremely charming person who everyone falls over for.
The flute sound on the hook is really addictive. Who came up with that idea?
HAN: I think this was something Bang Chan thought of. Because he’s someone who has an ear for music, he’s always able to catch details and provide ideas.
Changbin: When we first heard the track, we found the flute sound to be mesmerizing, which is why we used this to emphasize the theme.
What are your most charming qualities?
Lee Know: I think the fact that the eight of us all mix well together and the way we enjoy the stage is charming.
Felix: [Our fans] STAY have been really supportive about my freckles, especially. It gives me confidence, and I’m proud to say that my freckles are one of my charming qualities!
Seungmin: Hmm… I have to say my voice when I sing displays my charms best.
I.N: I think the difference between when we’re on and off stage is our most charming quality. We may look scary on stage, but off stage we’re just like your average friend in the classroom who goofs around with his friends.
The EDM influences are heavy here. Can you tell me about its origins?
Bang Chan: Yeah, this song goes off.
Changbin: We’ve been wanting to work with the dubstep genre again ever since “Double Knot,” and this track is actually something we’ve been working on for quite a while. We began our process by thinking about the concise yet multifaceted meaning of the [Korean] word “ddang.”
HAN: When I heard the track, it screamed “Stray Kids” to me. The sounds were so tempting, making it impossible not to work on the track. We tried to differentiate from our past projects by creating an interesting composition, and ended up making this song because we wanted to create something that makes people want to listen to it over and over again.
Is it a sound you want to be synonymous with Stray Kids?
Bang Chan: Why not? If people can dance and have fun while listening to our music we enjoy it a lot too. The flashier the better!
HAN: While we also love energy blasting, extravagant sounds, I hope that these don’t become our defining sound. We have been and will be continuously creating many differently colored tracks of many various genres. If we settle on our own defining sound, I feel like it won’t feel right when we make tracks using other genres.
Which song on the album came to you the quickest? And which track took the longest to complete?
Bang Chan: I think “Maniac” took the longest because the whole production was very detailed, but “Muddy Water” finished pretty quickly compared to the others.
HAN: I think “Freeze” took the shortest. The lyrics and top line were finished quickly because it was easy to mentally mind map the track’s energy and themes. “Muddy Water” took the longest. It took longer to create because as this is a unit track, we had to work with everyone having different working paces. It also took a bit longer because everyone really worked hard to create the best result.
This song is particularly vulnerable. What’s the story behind it?
Changbin: This song makes me think about how even though the road I’m on may be a lonely and tiring one, because I’m the one who chose this road, I’m also the one who has to encourage myself to keep pushing forward. It reminds me once again of the reason why I chose this road and what meaning it has to me.
There are a lot of Auto-Tuned flourishes on your voices in this song. What do you like about that effect, especially on a song like this?
Bang Chan: Oh, I had a talk with Changbin about this. I asked him if we were going to use Auto-Tune or not, but Changbin liked the idea of contrasting our effect-driven vocals with the organic instruments of the track. And aesthetics-wise, I also agreed with the idea so that’s how we decided to use Auto-Tune.
Where were you emotionally when you were writing this song?
Bang Chan: There have been a lot of moments where I’ve felt lonely, and I’m pretty sure there are people out there who have felt the same. So while making the song I tried putting those emotions into the lyrics as much as I can.
Changbin: I focused on thinking about the road Stray Kids have been on while I was singing.
Seungmin: While recording, I think I was in the mindset thinking I have nothing to lose, and that I should just sing powerfully. I think my voice fits into the song’s gloomy atmosphere well.
I.N: I often find myself deep in thought when I’m taking walks in the park at night. I think I was thinking of these times while I was recording.
“피어난다 (Waiting For Us)”
This is the first time Bang Chan, Lee Know, Seungmin, and I.N have released a unit song together. How would you describe your teamwork?
Lee Know: I guess because we’ve been together for many years, we didn’t have any obstacles when discussing, and were able to work together well.
Seungmin: It was an interesting combination! I think the song turned out to be extremely melodic because our vocal members came together to work on this track. While we were all extremely busy, everyone worked on their own designated part, came together to organize and put everything together quickly, and once we finished we recorded right away.
I.N: Interestingly, everyone finished their own parts extremely quickly, and we were able to put everything together swiftly. Deciding on the parts also didn’t take that long. Overall, our teamwork was great.
Stray Kids are known for their powerful performances and energetic tracks, but it’s nice to hear you slow things down with a ballad like this and really focus on vocals. What was that experience like?
Seungmin: While we did stray a bit from showing our powerful sides, I think the rock ballad genre was able to convey a bit of Stray Kids’ color. I think listeners will have a lot of fun with this track because there are parts where our vocals are extremely powerful.
For the members who contributed to the song’s music and lyrics, what were you trying to convey in this song?
Seungmin: We filled this song with our sincere emotions of missing our fans, who we haven’t been able to see for a long time, and the happiness we feel after being able to meet fans during this season called spring, as well as our sincere promise to cherish our fans for a long, long time.
I.N: This song is about meeting someone we haven’t seen in a long time during the warm weather. We wrote the song with our fans in mind, and wanted to give our STAY a warm message through this song.
This is a hip-hop unit track from rappers Changbin, HAN, Hyunjin, and Felix. What kind of atmosphere did you want to set with the song “Muddy Water?”
Hyunjin: We wanted to show off Stray Kids’ unique, heavy, and deep charisma. I think the song highlighted each of our rap styles well.
HAN: Previously, when writing our rap lines, among all hip-hop genres we usually used trap. This time, we wanted to try a genre we haven’t had many opportunities to work with: boom bap. Rather than creating an exciting song that brings up the tension, we wanted to make a song that many people can nod along to and feel the groove. This is how “Muddy Water” was born.
Felix: I definitely wanted to make my rap flows just as impactful as my lyrics, which express feelings people these days can relate to.
How did you come together for this track?
Changbin: I wanted to create a song with the four of us, the rap unit. Obviously, it was much easier to create a hip-hop track because we’re all rappers, and I’m glad that we were able to create various styles of rap.
Hyunjin: We discussed a lot about what style of hip-hop we wanted to do, and since this was our first boom bap track in a while there were a lot of lyric edits that had to be made, but the process was fun.
I’m personally obsessed with the Demon Slayer reference in Felix’s verse. Where do you each often draw inspiration from and what inspired these lyrics?
Hyunjin: I frequently organize my everyday thoughts by writing or drawing, and I reflect these [ideas] into my music-making.
Felix: As I was writing the lyrics for “Muddy Water,” I received inspiration from dramas, and have been doing so since I was younger and before I debuted.
What’s the meaning behind “Muddy Water?”
Changbin: We wanted to show our ambition of us being the rainwater that falls over stale water!
HAN: We worked on the lyrics in Stray Kids fashion: talking about actions that reject and are against the ways of the current days.
Stray Kids’ Oddinary is out now via JYP Entertainment.
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