In 2018, the five-member group SB19, made up of Josh, Sejun, Stell, Ken, and Justin, made their debut with 'Tilaluha', a ballad that appealed to Filipinos’ innate sentimentality. The song and the group went under the radar until a year later when their polished pop tune 'Go Up!' was released with its flawlessly executed dance practice video.
They went viral and in no time, the buzz snowballed into a series of magazine features, television guestings, endorsements and countless live performances all over the country. All this while they climbed the Billboard charts; becoming the first Southeast Asian artist to enter the Top 10 of Billboard Social 50 and the first Filipino group to chart on the Billboard Next Big Sound charts. As of writing, the group has been on the social charts for 35 weeks and has peaked at number 2 (August 15, 2020), standing a strong second against worldwide sensation BTS. The quintet also managed to pick up the top awards in the recent Wish Music Awards and MYX Awards.
Amidst the limitations of the current pandemic, the release of their debut album Get In The Zone was much anticipated by both their fans A’TIN and by music fans in general. The 9-track full length, released last July 31 2020, is a mix of new and recognizable songs.
Previously released tracks 'Alab', 'Tilaluha', 'Go Up' open the album, and fan-favorite 'Love Goes' finally gets the studio treatment. There are also new additions to their discography in the form of the ballad 'Hanggang sa Huli' and 'Wag Mong Ikunot Ang Iyong Noo' which combines budots and novelty tropes into a high energy inspirational song. The album, with all its different dips in numerous genres and styles, marks the first chapter for the group as they thread a steady upward path.
SB19 recommends: 'Hakuna Matata,' lo-fi, J-rock, NiziU, and more
When we spoke to SB19 a week before the release of their album, you can feel the excitement of the group cut through despite Zoom’s wonky and grainy condition. In this interview with Bandwagon Philippines, we get to know more about the group’s beginnings, the core of their training, and what they have planned next after Get In The Zone.
Bandwagon: Let’s go back to the beginning. When did you personally realise that you wanted to become a performer?
Sejun: I grew up in church. Music ministry leader po yung tatay ko and dun po na expose ako sa performing, singing worship songs and, doing dance numbers sa church.
That went on until high school. In high school, that’s when I started composing songs. I was 13 when I wrote my first song ko and that’s when I realised na this is what I want to do in my life. I wanted to be an artist. Pero I wasn’t able to train in that field kase po yung family namin, kung baga, parang hindi po practical. So, nag-take ako ng ibang course at tinapos ko po yung college ko.
After I graduated, lumipat na po ako ng ibang work. Dun po sa work ko na yun, I saw this audition for ShowBT. I tried my luck and fortunately, natanggap po ako. So, nag-decide ako that since bata naman po ako at ginive up ko na po ang work ko, tapos nag full-time po ako dito sa training. After four years, fortunately, nakilala po yung grupo namin, nakilala kami as SB19. Ayun po yung storya ko.
Josh: Ako po, Hindi ko na imagine ang sarili ko nung bata ko po na magiging performer talaga ako. Personally, gusto ko maging una doktor tapos astronaut tapos naging pilot; malayong malayo sa mga gusto ko dati. Growing up, na-expose na din po ako to performing - like dancing. Parang medyo nahiligan ko then nakikita ko po po yung dance group nila Stell (SE-EON) in dance contests. Na-inspire po ako na parang “siguro kung kaya nila, kaya ko din maging ganyan.” Tapos nakilala ko po sila at ininvite nila po ko sa grupo nila para mag-train at i-pursue yung passion ko.
Sejun: Ako naman po, nag volunteer po kasi ako sa Korean Cultural Center of the Philippines before. Kung baga, supporter po nila ako (referring to SE-EON) at nag-vovolunteer po ako sa mga events nila. Before ko pa po sila napapanuod. Ako po yung nag-aabot ng tubig nila, ako po yung nag-bibigay ng food nila kase performers sila. Hindi ko inaasahan na magkikita ulit kami at maging ka-grupo ko sila.
Bandwagon: Could you share more about your training process? What are your strongest memories from your training process?
Josh: Tinuro po samin nag teacher namin yung basic or the most important things. Kahit po kase yung iba sa amin mga performers na po dati pa, sinasabi po sa amin na wag po kami mag-skip basta-basta, mag-stick po kami sa basics para po kahit anong dance style ang ipa-try samin, kaya namin.
Justin: I think ang pinaka-importante sa training namin is yung mindset namin. Syempre maraming problems na pinagdadaanan at mga pagsubok o personal challenges. So, dapat i-condition yung mind namin para mag-focus kami sa kung saan namin gustong pumunta.
Bandwagon: What is it like being trained under a Korean company but also at the same time, Filipino kayo and you know how it works in the Filipino industry?
Josh: We had minimal resources during training so we tried na maging malawak with it, think big. Think bigger.
Justin: When it comes to the training process, hindi rin po namin ma-cocompare yung kung paano talaga yung legit training sa Korea at paano talagang mag-training dito sa Philippines because parang collaboration yung process samin. Pero I think something na talagang natutunan namin is related to culture po dahil na-cocompare namin yung nakasanayan sa Philippines at kung ano yung parang ini-expect samin from Korean culture. So, parang improvements sa manners, punctuality. More on culture.
Bandwagon: Since you talked about collaboration, it seems like you’re taking from the best of both sides. How do you see that being to your advantage or how do you see that being a good thing for your group?
Justin: Kunwari po, parang kung ako lang mag isang tao nag-isip sa isang bagay parang mas mahirap siya kasi parang ikaw lang lahat eh. Parang point of view mo lang and kung ano lang ang nasa isip. At least dalawa kami or mas marami kami, mas maraming ideas papasok sa utak mo. So, parang dalawang culture ang pinagkukunan namin ng ideas.
Josh: Maihahantulad ko po ito sa coffee, parang 3-in-1. ‘Pag coffee lang po… pero hindi po kasi ako coffee drinker sa totoo lang pero hindi po ba kailangan mailagay yung lahat ng sangkap o ingredients… Parang ganun po ang nangyayari sa amin. Pinagsama-sama po namin yun culture ng Korea and yung skills namin at kung ano-ano po pwedeng ilagay dun to make a better…
Bandwagon: You’ve garnered so many fans that are anticipating your next move. After the release of your album, what can we look forward to?
Justin: We’re hoping and dreaming na sana in the upcoming years makapagperform kami internationally at mas makilala pa yung Filipino (artist) sa ibang bansa.
Sejun: In the future albums, we definitely want na mas mas magiging involved kami dun sa creation nung mga kanta.
Bandwagon: What kind of songs would you like to create in the future, in terms of sound and message?
Sejun: First of all, since iba-iba po kami ng personalites kung baga dun po sa music namin, masasabi ko naman na ibaiba din po, kung baga magiging spontaneous po yung album namin. May hip-hop, may pop… basta halo-halo ng genre yung gagawin namin. And dun naman po sa mga topics, definitely gusto po talaga namin mag-gather nag iba-ibang important topics sa panahon ngayon katulad ng depression. May naisip rin po kaming kanta para sa frontliners, para sa mga tao na nag-sstay at home. Meron na po kaming mga tapos na kanta. Definitely ‘pag inilabas na po namin yun, I’m sure matutuwa po sila.
SB19 are slated to perform at the 33rd Awit Awards on August 29, 2020. The group is also nominated for Favorite Breakthrough Artist.
Stream Get in the Zone here:
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.