NCT 127 Dives Into The Production Of ‘Ay-Yo’ As They Ring In Their 7th Anniversary This Year

NCT 127 sure has come a long way, whether you’re talking about their achievements over the years or the distance of where they’re taking their concerts around the globe. Considered to be NCT‘s most popular subgroup, the nine-member boy group are still at their peak as they approach their seven-year anniversary this summer.

In the midst of spreading the connection around the globe for their NEO CITY – THE LINK tour, NCT 127 has made their way to Latin America for the first time ever with back-to-back sold-out shows.

“It’s our first time here in Brazil,” one of NCT’s resident English speakers, MARK, told UPROXX. “And it’s just – I think our fans did a really good job on giving us a really good first impression of Brazil, their energy is amazing, the show – the atmosphere is just off the roof. It’s something that will forever be remembered.”

The group began the extension of their tour in the Americas earlier this month with stops in Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta before heading south. From there, the SM Entertainment act held a three-night show in São Paulo, Brazil, followed by stops in Santiago, Chile and Bogota, Colombia before concluding in Mexico City, Mexico this past weekend (January 28).

In a time where the concept of repackaged albums don’t come as often as they used to, NCT 127 (or SM Entertainment acts, rather) are one of the few artists keeping the tradition alive. Successfully releasing their Billboard-charting fourth studio album last year, 2 Baddies, the group’s long-awaited reissued album arrives with three new songs. Titled Ay-Yo, the repackaged collection includes the lead single of the same name, and two songs “DJ” and “Skyscraper.”

Just an hour before the group began their last night in Brazil, members TAEIL, JOHNNY, TAEYONG, YUTA, DOYOUNG, JAEHYUN, JUNGWOO, and MARK chatted with UPROXX to talk about their tour, their upcoming seven year anniversary and Ay-Yo.

You guys pretty much kicked off the year doing a tour, doing multiple activities and then you have this repackaged album. How do you guys manage to take care of your energy, especially your health?

JOHNNY: We take a lot of vitamins. And I feel like we just try to get as much sleep as we can. And we rest on the plane, and we rest on the ride here.

TAEYONG: And we always give energy [to] each other, you know?

Favorite way to relieve stress?

YUTA: Exercise and drink alcohol! Cheers! (hand gestures to Cheers!)


MARK: Listen to Spotify. When we’re off, we try to be as off as we can ‘cause our own moments are very, very strong. So we have to balance that out. So, for me I tend to just stay in the hotel room and watch Netflix and have a lot of sleep to recharge.

We’ve seen your first impressions of “Sticker.” But what were your first impressions when you received “Ay-Yo?”

JOHNNY: I feel like there was a strong seduction, so like right after the track starts the first line that comes out really I felt would catch the audience’s attention. And so I thought the intro was the best that there could be, in my opinion.

MARK: And for me, and I think this way even now, even after listening to it after for more than like – just like listening to it a lot. I think the bridge is what stood out the most to me, when I first heard it and it still stands out the most to me even now. So, I think the bridge is the “killing part” of the whole song. That was my first impression.

TAEYONG: When we were listening to the song, I thought “Ay-Yo” was a really strong word of expression. My favorite is the intro with its really strong sounds and the incoming instruments and beats. The signature sound is really strong so personally I like that part.

Then what was the process like recording these three extra songs? Were they done during “2 Baddies” or after?

JOHNNY: It’s different a lot of the time. This time around ,I think we started recording after “2 Baddies” so after it came out while we were doing promotions. We started recording for the next repackaged, getting ready for it right away.

MARK: I remember now. We recorded “Skyscraper” and “DJ” way earlier than “Ay-Yo” itself because we had to take a lot of our time choosing our title track which ended up being “2 Baddies.” It was the reason why our repackage did come out a little later than our fans expected it to come out. So we were careful and more–extra prudent with the choosing of the title track. And that turned out to be “Ay-Yo”.

Any behind-the-scenes stories that you guys would like to share when it came to filming the music video or just the whole process?

JUNGWOO: So the choreographer came directly from the company to the offices and worked with us in person. Shoutout to Rie Hata.

TAEYONG: It’s been a while since we’ve worked with Rie Hata and this time around she did say that each of the members’ own special individuality was carefully taken into consideration while preparing this choreography and I really noticed that it was really evident while we were working together.

We see that a bit with the concept teasers so far. It’s been so casual and relaxed whereas your past releases tend to be grandiose with props and outfits so how was it like to be more laid back and chill with this concept?

MARK: I think that’s one of the strong points we wanted to deliver for this project. Like you said, our fans are more familiar with us being very strong and very aggressive and we still have that strength in it, but also having that laid back, nonchalant vibe in front of all that energy, you know what I mean? And so that also links with the choreography. Rie Hata wanted to enunciate like she wanted to emphasize on that part as well. So the choreography itself is not just going full-out strong, we have that calmness.

How would you actually describe these two additional tracks “DJ” and “Skyscraper”?

MARK: “Skyscraper”’s a good one. But they’re very much opposites in a way. Having two contradicting sounds, like that duality almost – it’s like a charm that our fans – I feel that our fans really like. And on top of that “Ay-Yo” is one that you know is the title track. So I feel that it’s a good trio.

JUNGWOO: My favorite is “Ay-Yo”.

DOYOUNG: I love “DJ”. I hope to show another vibe with this song.

JOHNNY: I’m really excited to perform “DJ.” I can say it is very funky and fun so I can’t wait to show our fans that.

You know how some artists would spoil the song whether it’s on stage or on social media? Have you guys done it on this tour?

MARK: We did. We did a lot actually.

JAEHYUN: Especially TAEYONG’s spoiler!

TAEYONG: I’m spoilerman!

JAEHYUN: He’s good at spoiling on stage the choreography for DJ. We kinda do that dance for “Paradise.” There’s a moment where we can freestyle and that’s where our spoiler comes out a lot.

NCT 127 is turning 7 this year. What are your wishes? What more do you guys want to do? Has it even hit you guys?

MARK: I feel like it’s been longer! I mean, like, 7 years? It feels like it’s been a while or it’s been kind of short, it changes every single day — (for me, depending on my mood). But like the fact that I’ve been with these guys for 7+ years and being able to know our fans and have communication and be connected with our fans for 7 plus years, that’s like you know it’s a blessing as well. So in all aspects, you know I’m very grateful that we got to do it the way we did it for 7 years. And now we’re just looking forward to what we have left to have our fans enjoy for the remaining time that we have with them. So, it’s an ongoing journey and we’re ready to take whatever we can.

JAEHYUN: I don’t realize it much. But once we see the videos that we’ve done way before, like if I see those moments now, I realize that it’s been so long. For instance, I saw a video of us dancing from the first tour, from the first American tour recently. And that made me feel like it’s been a long time.

JUNGWOO: It’s been a long time…

JOHNNY: It doesn’t feel like seven. It feels shorter, like it’s only been like a few years since we’ve been together.

One of your first US performances was at KCON 2017 in NY. You guys went from performing at Newark’s Prudential Center as part of KCON to now selling out shows at that same arena years later.

MARK: I mean, the way you just put it, it really felt — it just made it feel more grand. But I just want to really celebrate that achievement, and want to dedicate it to our fans because going on tour after coming out with an album that we do like — it’s all for them. And the strength that they give us, that’s what makes all that happen, you know? I’m just really grateful for our fans and for really making our dreams come true.

Because it has been seven years, I’m really curious, was there a favorite concept or era you’ve had so far?

JOHNNY: For me it would be “Highway to Heaven”. Like when we went – when we were in LA filming that music video in the blazing sun. We talk about that experience even now, that’s how memorable it was and how much we enjoyed just wearing white t-shirts, in the desert, and having the wind. I mean the music video looked amazing and that’s one of the reasons “Highway to Heaven” was my favorite concept and music video.

Then what would you say is the secret to NCT 127?

JOHNNY: Well, we do say this a lot, but NCT 127 has a lot of variety in what we do, like you said how we have so many concepts, we can really do any kind of concept in my opinion that’s because our members are so diverse and how everybody comes from different backgrounds, different cultures and that all adds up to making NCT 127 so colorful.

JAEHYUN: And also, including me, we all never stop being limitless and concept wise or hardworking.

JOHNNY: The secret is in the songs! It’s all in there!

MARK: I wanted to say that too! I feel like from the start of our debut, we did a concept that was way different than what SM has ever done before. And I feel like that starts off from our music and our members individually as well and as a group. The members and the music is what really makes us who we are.

TAEYONG: And then the fans! NCTzens! They make us!