The 12 members of Treasure are heralded as gems set to color the world with their music, and the new K-pop group represents the future of South Korean company YG Entertainment.

One of South Korea’s historic “Big 3” K-pop companies, YG is home to K-pop royalty BLACKPINK and a roster of boy bands and solo artists, but Treasure (often stylized in all capitals as TREASURE) represents the first time its ever expanded to a double-digit team, with more of a dance pop slant than the company’s typical hip-hop leanings for most of the other boy bands. After arriving in Summer 2020, Treasure represents the potential of the company to keep shining bright into the future, producing new acts that resonate with listeners. With a dedicated fandom known as Treasure Maker and well over 100 million views across their performances on their YouTube channel and a dedicated fandom known as Treasure Maker, interest in the act is high, but they have their work cut out for them as the latest addition to YG Family, the collective name for the company’s musical roster.

It’s been a long time coming for Treasure: the group was formed through the 2018-2019 competition television show YG Treasure Box, and was originally set to be two separate groups under the united “Treasure” umbrella, with a total of 13 members. But a series of issues, including one member’s departure and the founder of YG Entertainment leaving the company amid a cloud of legal troubles, resulted in not only their re-formation into a singular act but also the delay of their formal start in the K-pop world being pushed off until the release of this August, when they dropped a two-track single album, The First Step: Chapter One. A second, fittingly dubbed The First Step: Chapter Two, followed in September, and a third one is currently on its way. 

Treasure recently spoke to Forbes to discuss their career’s beginning and their aspirations. Though all members were present for a video call, several took the lead in the conversation, speaking on behalf of the whole group as the rest cheered them on enthusiastically and occasionally added an interjection or two.

Tamar Herman: How are you feeling now that you’ve released your second single “I Love You” so swiftly after your first single “BOY”?

Hyunsuk: We’re so happy that we can show you more various sides of Treasure through our quick comeback. I hope our new charming points will be delivered to you guys. It’s a bit different from Chapter 1, so I hope you guys have seen how we’ve grown and developed through it, and I think the song will show and prove our potential as Treasure. 

Tamar Herman: How did it feel to have these releases back-to-back on top of each other in association with your long-awaited debut? 

Jihoon: We actually put in a lot of effort to prepare for Chapter 2. Even though it’s a little nerve wracking for us to take a step into a new world, I hope everyone likes it. 

Tamar Herman: What’s the impression you want listeners to take away from “I Love You”?

Ye Dam: We tried to give an impression, “this is boyishness” and also that it represents a brighter mode we can express.

Hyunsuk: We want to showcase our charming points that you can probably see between the two different releases. 

Tamar Herman: How does this second chapter of The First Step relate to your prior one? Does it feel like “I Love You” and B-side “B.L.T (Bling Like This)” are opposites or partners with “Boy” and B-side “Come To Me”?

Hyunsuk: For “BOY” and “I Love You,” both are talking about young boys who fall in love and it’s the same, but for “I Love You” I wanted to talk about more of a brighter mood, with a deeper and stronger passion. 

Tamar Herman: What does The First Step series mean to you? 

Ye Dam: The First Step tells the story of 12 different gems that come together to form TREASURE and their entrance into the world, and it represents the many first steps that we’ve taken as a group. Our debut Chapter 1 represents a boy in love and his emotions, shown through “BOY” and “Come To Me,” so that contains our love and passion for music that we hope to bring joy through.  

Tamar Herman: You are said to represent gems, and gems are very colorful so I’m curious, what colors would you describe each part of The First Step

Jaehyuk: It’s all a rainbow. Since we just debuted and only have two albums, we’re still drawing our pictures brightly and more colorfully. 

Tamar Herman: How does it feel starting your career with these four songs? 

Jihoon, looking towards Jeongwoo: Let’s get it, J-woo! 

Jeongwoo: Firstly, we’re so honored that we have so many fans around the world. Whenever we see messages online and on social media, we feel so honored. Even before our debut, our fans have shown great love and support and we’re very grateful that everyone’s with us. We hope that everyone keeps in mind that we will not stop, but we will keep moving forward and make great music and performances for you all.  

Various members: Yes! 

Tamar Herman: I’m curious if members have any favorite lyrics from any of the four songs you’ve released so far?

Jaehyuk: Everything! 

Ye Dam: In “I Love You,” that lyric specifically, it’s our favorite part of the song. 

Tamar Herman: It was a long haul to get from the competition show YG Treasure Box to Treasure’s debut, and now you are releasing singles one after another. How do you feel to have gotten to this point?

Ye Dam: Even though it began a long time ago, it has been really great being a group of 12 members together. We have really great teamwork. We have been together for so long that we’re like a family right now. We know each other so well and get along so well. 

[Other members heckle him playfully.] 

Hyunsuk: It’s an honor to be able to have a lot of fans from across the world. 

[Jaehyuk and Yoshi hype him up with cheers.] 

Tamar Herman: It’s your debut year but also the year when the coronavirus has changed a lot of how the music world works. How have you faced any hardships that you’ve encountered this year, and how have you been working around them? 

Hyunsuk: The hardest part is that we can’t meet our fans in person but we try to look at and engage on social media. While our offline activities are limited, we really want to meet our fans and our company knows about our desire so we’re working with them to come up with ways to interact with fans online and on television, like with [weekly South Korean] music shows and maybe [television] entertainment programs. Also, it’s become a good time to strengthen our relationship together. 

Tamar Herman: What have been some memorable bonding moments in your career so far?

Hyunsuk, with Jaehyuk throwing up a thumbs up in confirmation: The fact that we’re able to eat meals together. Before our debut, our schedules were more fluid and didn’t match with each other, so it was hard to meet up and eat altogether as 12 members in one place. But we get to eat as one now. Also, the time flies when we’re performing and practicing together because we have so much fun among ourselves. We’re always so shocked by how enjoyable it is to spend time with each other.   

Tamar Herman: Did anything surprise you about your life post debut? How have you found The First Step of your post-trainee career? 

Jihoon: Right now, speaking to Forbes. 

Tamar Herman: What’s one thing you’ve learned throughout your debut process that was unexpected?

Ye Dam: It broadened our views about the music industry. It was actually more competitive than we all expected. Our time that we’ve gotten together to practice and perform on music shows, we’re all trying our best to just be doing what TREASURE is doing right now and we feel really honored that we get to do this. 

Tamar Herman: You said that the competitiveness of the industry post-debut surprised you. How so?

Ye Dam: Because there are so many, so many popular teams out there, it’s motivating us to work harder and go further and further. 

Tamar Herman: Ye Dam released a solo prior to Treasure’s debut, “Wayo.” Do other members also have the hopes to release solos as well? 

Hyunsuk: Our second single album has just been released so right for now we’re trying to show us, the entirety of 12 members, but we hope in the future you’ll be able to see our solo or unit acts.

Tamar Herman: You’re the first new team from YG since the company had several high-profile shake ups last year due to many high-profile legal issues. How do you feel about representing the company’s future?  

Hyunsuk: We always try our best to show the best music we can make and we’re thankful to our fans, the Treasure Makers across the world, and YG Family that always supports us. We’re going to try our best as always.

Tamar Herman: You’re YG Entertainment first’s male group that’s rather large. How does it feel to be representing a new generation of this company?

Jihoon: We would like to take this opportunity to thank you all, our fans, and all of the YG Family for its help and support always. We aim to be an artist that goes well with YG. We are sure that you will see 12 different charming points from us as we release more albums and our career progresses together.  

Tamar Herman: You’re only just starting out, but what’s something you want people to think when they hear the name “Treasure” five, ten years from now? 

Hyunsuk: “One and Only.” [Laughs] That’s my goal. 

Ye Dam: We hope to become a group that is known for being fun and energetic. During that time we hope to experience many different types of music to grow as bigger artists. The process is as important as the outcome so we’ll do our best to communicate with our fans and to show the best of us. So always be on the lookout [for Treasure.] 

Tamar Herman: What kind of musical styles or genres, or musical collaborators, you’d like to work with in the future? 

Hyunsuk: There are so many great artists around the world, and even though we just debuted we do have dreams. Post Malone. Travis Scott. The Weeknd. Justin Bieber. Kendrick Lamar. Everyone! It’d be an honor to work with all of them. 

Tamar Herman: What’s your goal for 2020?

Ye Dam: The goal is to complete The First Step series because we have one more to come out soon. Since Chapter 2 is out, we want to prepare well for the next album. We’re planning to do not only music shows but also entertainment [television] programs. We’re kind of nervous but I think we can show our other charming points. We want to also meet more fans, and we’re trying to communicate with fans in various ways. Our goal is to share our music and our own color with everyone, and with our music give a lot of people joy and support. 

Tamar Herman: Since you mentioned it, what can people look forward to from the third part of The First Step series?

Hyunsuk: Our goal is just to complete The First Step well.

This interview was conducted in Korean and English with the aid of translators, and edited for clarity.

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