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KARD – made up of members Somin, BM, J.Seph, and Jiwoo – is the most influential and popular co-ed group in K-Pop today, with experimental sounds, mature lyricism, and hard-hitting pop melodies that push the musical boundaries set by today’s industry.

Since debuting in 2017 with their 1st mini album, Hola Hola, KARD’s members have had an endless journey of continuous growth and artistic evolution within their craft. While their music has been top notch since the beginning, which one can see from the overwhelming number of fans they’ve amassed over the years, it is also quite clear that their latest project showcases their best work yet.

KARD’s 6th mini album, ICKY, released just a few months ago and has already cemented itself as a fan favorite among the group’s loyal audience. With both the title track and other well-received songs like “Without You” and “CAKE,” the project is an undeniable treat from start to finish. “Fxxk you,” Somin and Jiwoo’s duet on the project, is another standout that keeps the listener dancing in a flurry of dazzling sensations.

Since releasing the ICKY mini album, KARD’s members have been taking North America by storm with the 2023 PLAYGROUND Tour. From New York to San Francisco, the group has soared across the U.S. in a mission to share their positive energy and passion for music with the world. They are soon headed to Budapest, which will kick off the European section of their travels.

KARD spoke with Pop Crave ahead of their show at the Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, AZ, to share more about their 2023 PLAYGROUND Tour, their latest mini album, ICKY, and how they’ve evolved as a group since their debut. Keep reading for the full interview!

Hi KARD, welcome to Phoenix! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Since you guys are playing in Phoenix tonight, how have you been enjoying the city so far? Any fun things you’ve done in Phoenix since landing here?

JIWOO: There’s a cool vintage shop near the hotel, so we arrived and I took a little bit of time off to roam around. I found myself doing a little bit of shopping there.

SOMIN: It was just so hot! Roaming around wasn’t really a thought for me, but when I arrived, I thought Phoenix was very beautiful as we were on our way to the hotel.

JIWOO: I really like the mist that they have in front of stores!

You took over North America with your 2022 WILDKARD Tour, and now you’re back again this year with the PLAYGROUND Tour! How has the energy of this tour felt compared to the energy of last year’s tour?

BM: The fans, they’re crazy every time. The energy that we’re fed every time we tour is the same, and it’s always so high energy. There’s so much love and passion that we receive out here on tours, but I feel like our energy is very different this time around. I personally feel it’s due to the fact that our recent album that we put out is very, very us. A lot of our input was taken into consideration for the album, so I just feel like that comes with a different level of pride and confidence. I feel like for me personally, it’s a huge factor when it comes to the energy change of this tour.

J.SEPH: We’re getting older by the year, so it is getting a little bit more tough. Dancing itself puts a huge strain on your body, but I want to add that I’ve been in the gym almost every day of tour to help my stamina during tours.

JIWOO: It’s our first time in a lot of the cities this time around!

BM: Phoenix is one of them, Costa Rica was also one, and Louisville was also another one. I think adding cities and checking them off the list of places we haven’t played is always very exciting as well.

How does it feel to know that your music resonates with not just a specific group of people, but people of all ages and demographics?

BM: Oh man, I feel like we’re so blessed. We appreciate it so much. You know, I feel like not everyone has an opportunity like this. There’s plenty of idols out there, let alone just artists in general doing music. The demographic for the amount of artists being able to do this as opposed to not being able to do this is significantly different. For us, I feel like we’re given a responsibility to use this influence for good. The reason why we named our tour PLAYGROUND is because what other place are you stress free the most other than a playground? When you’re young as a kid and you’re running through it… That’s kind of the feeling that we wanted to recreate: no stress, just complete fun, and no negativity at all. Being able to create that for someone else is just a huge opportunity for us.

Traveling to so many different places on tour, you get to try so much new food! What’s been your favorite food you’ve tried so far on this tour?

JIWOO: Every time we’ve been on tour, I look for boiling crab.

BM: I don’t know if you guys have it in Arizona. There might be a certain amount of states with [boiling crab], but it’s seafood. It’s marinated shrimp or crab or other stuff on the menu, but primarily seafood. It’s just really, really good.

JIWOO: And pho! When I had it for the first time in a while out here, it hit like crack [laughs]!

SOMIN: It’s a bit tough for me when I come out of the country because I’m so used to my Korean food in Korea. When I come out, it’s hard to find stuff that matches my appetite, but I enjoyed the Argentinian pasta that we had in Costa Rica!

Your 6th mini album, ICKY, is so much fun! How has it been to hear the response from fans about how much they love this new mini album?

J.SEPH: When we encore “ICKY,” I take off both of my ear monitors to see how much of a reaction that the fans give. I was really surprised to see that they were reciting my verse back to me word-for-word. Things like that just really surprise you, because that takes effort and a lot of interest to be able to do that.

BM: I think I’m on the same level. I think this time around, I’ve never heard my verse recited back to me that loud before besides on PLAYGROUND 2023.

JIWOO: I was very happy to see that despite the fact that we didn’t announce it, everyone came with matching green [outfits]! That was the tour color, so that was really fun.

BM: I think with this album, we definitely push the limits a little bit. We were a little bit bold with the lyrics and the vibe. Granted, we wanted to push it more, actually. I think little by little, we’ll be able to, but I think that was something that was fresh to see in the K-Pop industry too.

With this being your 6th mini album, you’ve had a lot of music come out over the years. From the 1st mini album to now, how would you say KARD has evolved and changed musically?

BM: Yes, it’s definitely a big change. Wow.

J.SEPH: Apart from everything, there was a huge upgrade in music. I use the analogy of styling. You have to wear a lot of different clothes to find out what fits you best, and it was very fun to try out all those clothes. That whole process was fun. I think where I’m at now, I feel like it’s been a huge upgrade.

BM: For me to add on to it, we’ve experimented a lot. Our music was experimental to begin with. When you have a group with such a specific sound, everyone’s going to start saying that [the new music] sounds like the last one that you put out, or that it sounds the same. That put us at, “Okay, let’s try something different!” We tried that, but it didn’t work… It was always experimental for us, and it was always risky, but I think right now we found the best direction that we can have as artists and as a group. We’re gonna continue to push it really, really hard.

Between the four of you, who do you think would survive the longest in a zombie apocalypse, and who do you think would die first?

BM: I feel like Somin is going to be the first one to die [laughs].

J.SEPH: I think BM is going to die first because I feel like he’s gonna go out of his way to try to do stuff, and I feel like Somin is going to be the first one to try to hide and not do anything.

Final question! What message would you like to send to your fans who are about to watch you on stage in Phoenix tonight?

SOMIN: Just like the title PLAYGROUND, I wish for everyone to just have no thoughts, just listen to the music, vibe, play, and have fun!

JIWOO: I want to really put on a good show and try my best for all the fans that took time out on such a hot day.

BM: On a Monday too! We have almost 2,000 people here tonight, and I hope everyone goes in and leaves with an experience that was an escape from all the negativity. I hope that the thought and the memory of this tour will bring you back to that place again.

KARD’s 6th mini album, ICKY, is out now.

Answers from J.Seph, Somin, and Jiwoo were translated by BM.