Interview: Getting to Know CHEMICAL X

 

With the Hallyu Wave growing bigger, not only do we love hearing about and seeing our favorite artists coming to shore, but we also enjoy hearing from the people who help spread the wave to others.

Being from the Midwest and the Chicago-area, I’ve noticed that we have a thriving and increasingly more vocal K-Pop fan base than experienced in years past, and it’s a beautiful thing since it’s finally starting to feel like a huge extended family in the region. Over the years, Korean and K-Pop festivals and conventions have become more readily available, and K-Pop artists and companies finally know we exist and will come to concerts to support our groups. And with both, comes dance and music cover groups that help spread the joy and fun of the K-Pop scene.

One group in particular, CHEMICAL X, is becoming increasingly more well-known among Chicago-area K-Pop fans for their charismatic and diverse performances. Kcrush was lucky enough to have a chance to talk to them about their work, lives, and future plans as well as goals for the group.

 

 

Kcrush Magazine (KC): To begin, do you mind introducing yourselves?

Anna: Hi there, I’m Anna, and I am the leader of CHEMICAL X. I’m a business major and a bit of an author, and I live in the suburbs north of Chicago. Dancing is obviously one of my biggest hobbies, but outside of that, I love writing, singing, or anything else in the realm of performing. I also enjoy working out.

Lauren: Hi! I am Lauren, currently studying business at Oakton Community College. I live in Niles (10 minutes away from Chicago). When I am not dancing, you’ll either see me binge watch on a show or playing League of Legends.

Collin: I’m Collin aka “Tye”, nice to meet you all. I’m a Business Marketing major born and raised in Chicago, and I love writing songs/dancing.

Vince: Hi! My name is Vince. I’m from Orland Park, and I’m currently a student looking to study dance.

Jen: My name is Jen, and I’m one of the newest members in CHEMICAL X. I’m from Naperville, Illinois and I graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BS degree in Chemistry. I love hip hop, dancing, graphics design, drawing, and animation.

Bekah: Hi I am the youngest member, Bekah. My friends call me Bean. I live all the way in Wisconsin, and I love ice cream!

Sammy: My name is Samantha Hernandez, but in the group I’m known as Sammy or Manager Sammy. I recently got accepted in to Columbia College Chicago and I’ll be starting as a freshman in the fall. I’m still deciding my major, actually- between Writing and Dance, but we’ll see in the future. I’m from the suburbs of Chicago: North Riverside, a pretty quiet town. My interests include dancing, which is probably an easy giveaway; singing, which I know for one not entirely good at, but I enjoy to do that; also drawing when I have the time, I’m still learning new ways and techniques of drawing, but I mostly draw on my iPad.

 

KC: Do you mind talking about how and where you all met and what that meeting was like?

Anna: Speaking as one of the original members, those of us who are a part of the first generation met because we were a part of a different dance crew- iNfuzion, which was a K-Pop dance crew based in Chicago. Meeting the original members for the first time was interesting because we met through K-Pop dance. We were teammates before we were friends, but today I’m proud to call us a family.

Vince: Since CHEMICAL X is made up of multiple generations who are added to the group at different times, many of us found our way into the group by an audition. I am among the first batch of members to join via audition, and that’s also when I met the original members for the first time. I auditioned in January 2014 and was officially added to the lineup about a month later along with two other girls. Today, I stand alone as the only second generation member left in the group. I will do my best to represent the second gen well!

Bekah: Actually, I was a huge fan of CHEMICAL X for years before I joined. I always watched in awe until I finally decided to audition when I heard they were looking for new members.

 

KC: When did you discover you had an interest in K-Pop? Did you discover it together randomly, individually, or collectively as a group? How did this shared-interest come about?

Anna: I, personally, discovered K-Pop over the summer of 2011 after I graduated high school with Super Junior’s “Bonamana.” All of our dance crew members discovered K-Pop individually, and that was what brought us together in the first place. Being a K-Pop-focused dance group was a great way to meet fellow dancers who shared that love of K-Pop. This goal of making K-Pop more prevalent in the Chicago dance scene is what unites and motivates us.

Lauren: I got into K-Pop in the summer of 2010.

Collin: I was six years old when I heard my first K-Pop song. It was Shinhwa’s “T.O.P.” AMAZING! I met the now-CHEMICAL X members by chance and the majority of us have similar groups that we like.

Vince: I stumbled across a Girls’ Generation video in 2010.

Jen: I had an interest early on when I was in high school. My cousin introduced me to “Hug” by DBSK, and from there I started watching other groups like Big Bang, 2pm, and later SNSD.

Bekah: Back in 2011, I found K-Pop through watching a YouTube video where somebody mentioned K-Pop, I googled it in curiosity and found Beast and 2PM… there was no turning back.

Sammy: I remember I was in 7th grade at the time. I was already really in to Japanese music, so I came across Super Junior’s song, “Bonamana,” and at first I wasn’t into it, but I was really in to the men dancing. After a couple of times listening to it, I was already hooked.

 

KC: Whose idea was it to start a dance crew, and how did you get others interested in joining?

Anna: As I mentioned earlier, the original CHEMICAL X members- being Collin, Lauren, Tran, Annie, and myself–were a part of a different K-Pop dance group called iNfuzion. We were selected to be the members that would represent iNfuzion at K-Fest 2013. As we worked together, we formed a bond with each other, which led to us breaking off from iNfuzion and forming the CHEMICAL X we are today.

 

KC: What made you want to join CHEMICAL X?

Vince: Ever since discovering my love for K-Pop and dance around the same time, I’d always thought it would be neat to dance on stage to the music I loved. I had my eye out for some kind of cover group for a really long time, but never really knew how to find one. In December 2013, I saw Lauren’s post about CHEMICAL X’s first member auditions in a Facebook group. It had been what I was looking for all along. I watched their performances on YouTube and immediately became a fan, and that was just another driving force that pushed me to put myself on their radar.

Jen: I had a place in college where I was able to let loose with my passion for dance and my creative hobbies and was able to showcase that. After I graduated, I no longer had that place, but I still had my passion for dancing and creativity. When I found a Facebook group called Koreo Party in Chicago that taught K-Pop dance classes, it sparked my interest for both K-Pop and dance. From the Koreo Party Facebook page, I found CHEMICAL X hosting auditions and this looked like a wonderful opportunity for me to find my new place, in CHEMICAL X.

Bekah: Every time I had watched CHEMICAL X perform, they would always do their own take on K-pop dances. That really shakes it up and makes a really interesting show and I thought to myself, “I want to be up on that stage with them one day!” from the very first time I saw them perform.

 

KC: What made you decide on CHEMICAL X for a name, and how do you live up to that name in your performances?

Collin: Names are an important thing to me. The name ‘CHEMICAL X’ is originally from the 1990’s cartoon, The Powerpuff Girls. The name, to me, signifies an added ingredient that creates an indescribable phenomenon. We all come from different lives and separate dance backgrounds, so coming together and creating such a positive atmosphere is what we strive for. We live up to the name by showing that there should be no boundaries.

 

KC: You’ve done dance performances set to GI (Global Icon), BtoB, Super Junior, Troublemaker, and VIXX among others. How do you go about deciding what songs you want to dance to, and what ultimately makes you think “This is the perfect song for us to do”?

Anna: I like to think that we, as a group, have a very diverse set of skills, and so for that reason, we don’t stick to one particular concept or theme. As a group, we gauge the event or project that we’re working on and try to come up with the most surefire way to captivate our audience while showcasing our diverse skillset. It always starts with a concept or a theme or a storyline, and from there, the songs tend to fall into place.

Collin: We tend to compile a list of songs that we believe would describe the concept we are going for. We narrow it down from there and that’s pretty much how we do it. It is hard though. There are so many good songs out there. * Snickers while frowning *

 

KC: I understand you’re all busy with school and I assume work and family obligations too. When do you have time to get together to practice? Better yet, how do you make the time?

Lauren: Luckily, most of our members are in college and we usually focus more of our time in the summer. So we ask who’s available during the week, and we base off our practices on everyone’s schedule. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t work in our favor. But, we do make the best out of it.

 

KC: You’ve performed at the Chicago Korean Festival, UIC KASA events, and scheduled for the Chicago Main Events: Midwest K-Pop Dance Competition. Besides these events, where else have you performed? Do you decide what events you dance at or do people contact you? What is it like to prepare for these shows?

Anna: Due to some last minute scheduling issues, we were unable to perform at the Midwest K-Pop Dance Competition. Outside of that though, generally speaking, if it is a competitive event, we decide whether or not we want to dance; and if it is a noncompetitive performance event, other people contact us and invite us to perform. Preparing for these shows are, without exception, utterly stressful. Between working around busy schedules and coming up with content that suits our large number of members, it is always a challenge. But come performance time, looking back, the struggles always pay off.

Lauren: So far, those are the only events we have performed at. We decide where we perform, but there are occasions where people have contacted us (like UIC KASA). And then whichever members are free for practices perform at that said event. Our main focus is usually the Chicago Korean Festival, so we would like to have all our members perform. Preparing for these events is challenging, but worth it. We definitely put a lot of thought into every performance to give our very best and to represent CHEMICAL X’s name well.

 

KC: You were invited to perform at SMTown Week, and a little bird said you were invited by SM Entertainment themselves. That’s something! What was it like getting that invite, and how was the experience?

Lauren: I was informed on Twitter about the SMTOWN week contest, where certain cover groups are invited by SMTOWN to perform at one of their fan parties. I decided to do it for CHEMICAL X for the heck of it. Honestly, I did not think anything would come out of it.

I got the email very late at night and had to double check where I sent the video. I sent it to a @smtown.com address and the person validated himself as an SMTOWN employee. He told me to call him as soon as possible. I had a few hours left, so I had to call him on my grandma’s Skype since it was an international call. We talked, and he was really impressed by our performance. Our only problem was that we had to find our own way to get to Korea and a place to stay. If we had had the money, we would have performed at SMTOWN week. But it’s an honor for them to ask us.

 

KC: Besides dance, what else do you do involving K-Pop or any Asian entertainment?

Anna: I’ve dabbled in various dance and entertainment groups, and had various opportunities to work with different K-Pop events. The most notable and memorable being when I was lucky enough to be Boyfriend’s MC for their Chicago showcase.

Lauren: Currently, I am part of an organization called HallyuCon Chicago. Hopefully we bring a festival to Chicago soon!

Collin: I make K-Pop covers on YouTube under the channel “tyewantspie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QJSUcBI3xM

Vince: I’m a very big fan of Hello! Project, which is a company that produces several J-Pop girl groups!

Bekah: I love to cook Korean food and I watch K-dramas, reality shows, and anime.

Sammy: As of now, I’m in another K-Pop cover group called All Kill. We’re still fairly new, but we already have some big plans, so please look for us in the future! And I’m trying to involve myself in any way I possibly can for dance, but also volunteering at K-Pop concerts, etc.

 

KC: Lauren, on your YouTube vlog, I noticed you had an opportunity to audition for K-Pop Star 3. What was that experience like for you? Did you learn anything from auditions that you brought back with you that helped you with your CHEMICAL X experiences?

Lauren: K-Pop Star 3 was an experience I won’t forget. I think the one thing I experienced that will help CHEMICAL X is just be confident on the stage.

 

KC: There’s also a sub-unit of CHEMICAL X called Chemical-J. Who’s involved with Chemical-J and where can we see that group perform?

Lauren: I am involved with Chemical-J. We hope to release more J-Pop videos and perform at anime conventions and other J-pop related events.

Vince: The members are just Lauren & I. We had one performance at a club called X Factor. We’re brainstorming some video covers for the future, so please stay tuned! J

 

KC: On your YouTube channel, there’s a call for auditions. What are you looking for out of potential new members?

Anna: CHEMICAL X looks for people with presence, personality, and passion, more than anything else. We would rather take on an average dancer, who knows how to have fun in front of a crowd and works hard to learn new things, than an amazing dancer who only dances from the neck down. Dancing is obviously a key ingredient to a dance crew, but so is passion. You can teach someone how to dance. But you can’t teach passion.

 

KC: I’m from the Illinois/Indiana region myself, and I’ve noticed a growing interest in K-Pop along with fans being less closeted than they were in previous years. How do you feel about the growing interest in K-Pop over the years not only globally but regionally?

Vince: I think it’s a really great thing. I think it gives K-Pop fans more of a chance to come out of the closet that they’re in. Nowadays, they can say “Hey, there’s other people that like this too….I’m not weird for liking this!” and they can make friends through the genre and have people to just…freak out with. I think we all need friends who have the same obsessions as us. Ever since being in CHEMICAL X, I’ve had a chance to meet many people who are into k-pop that I can freely express myself around. It’s something really tremendous and we’re like a big family.

Jen: For individuals who are fans of something overseas such as K-Pop, it is difficult to express that certain interest with others because many do not know what K-Pop is, and it is hard to harbor these exciting feelings by yourself without wanting to express it to others that also know it. So I think that’s wonderful that K-Pop is getting more known across America and here in the Midwest. It brings all the people in the Midwest region together for something they all share and individuals don’t have to be as timid or scared to show something that they love and it certainly sparks vitality within the community.

 

KC: With summer upon us, what activities do you have planned for CHEMICAL X and Chemical-J? What about the rest of the year?

Anna: K-Fest is looming the distance, and that is always CHEMICAL X’s favorite time to shine. The K-Fest is stage is special to all of us, so that’s probably our most anticipated event of the year. However, we also have some other performances lined up towards the end of the year. Stay posted on our Facebook and Twitter updates.

Lauren: Chemical-J’s plans I have said earlier. As for CHEMICAL X, we plan on doing competitions for the summer. And we will have to see about future plans after the summer is over. Hopefully bigger and better plans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIKse1QWB3Q

 

KC: As a group, what is your biggest dream for CHEMICAL X?

Anna: All I can ask for with this group is for us to keep on progressing, to keep moving up and up. More events, more performances, more competitions. Because with each new event that we take part in, we’re spreading the K-Pop love further and further. For CHEMICAL X’s name to be recognized as a prominent K-Pop dance crew- That’s the dream.

Lauren: Just to get CHEMICAL X’s name out there. That is my main goal right now. Biggest dream personally: Open up for a K-Pop act.

Collin: To grow and become a group that people can relate to on a personal level. It’s important for others to have something like that.

Vince: I’d like us to be not only well known in Chicago, but also in other places. Promoting ourselves on YouTube and entering bigger competitions can help our name become familiar among K-Pop fans everywhere.

Jen: For CHEMICAL X, to be the most fantastic crowd pleaser at kpop dance events and become known on YouTube.

Bekah: I would love if we could have a lot of opportunities in the future to perform and get more well known to the K-pop community in Chicago and maybe the United States OR maybe even the world!

Sammy: What would be the biggest dream is to get asked to go to Korea to perform and to actually be able to make it there, but our goal right now is to be able to perform at KCON 2015 in New York.

 

KC: Individually, what are your future goals?

Anna: I have lots of goals. I want to travel, see the world, publish a novel, meet all the people and idols that I admire, and keep dancing and entertaining for as long as I can. I want to live my life to the absolute fullest. No regrets. Simple as that.

Lauren: After college is over and I have a fund set up, open up a dance studio. I currently teach K-Pop classes, and I would like to branch off from renting a studio to having a studio of our own.

Collin: Eventually, I would like to form a boy group who performs not only dance covers, but vocal covers. A real group. It would be an experimental group of course, but I would like to be a member as well. I love performing, so I don’t want to give that up.

Vince: Personally, I’d like to take the world! I want anyone and everyone to know who I am! The bigger the crowd, the happier I’ll be.

Jen: To become a better dancer and be more known since I am new member, haha.

Bekah: Personally, I would love to become a backup dancer for some entertainers; that has been my dream for years now.

Sammy: My future goals would to help make CHEMICAL X very well-known so we are asked to come for different events to perform at and have fans scream and chant the group name because the fans are what helps CHEMICAL X be who we are today; and that we can grow more together as one, as a family.

 

KC: Finally, what do you want your audience to know about you that you would like them to know?

Anna: I want our audience to know that everything we do, we do for them. Whenever CHEMICAL X competes or performs, our primary goal is to hype our audience. The judges are great, and we want to keep them happy, but our first priority will always be our audience. We also want to thank everyone for all the support that they’ve given us over the years. It’s been a great road, but it’s nowhere near over yet. Please keep an eye out for us because we’ve got plenty more coming your way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pri46v6TD8s

 

Kcrush America thanks CHEMICAL X for their time to take part in this interview. We wish them all the best and lots of success!

 

—-Joelle Halon

 

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