TFN on Looking Back and Moving Forward in More Ways Than One
Growing up in the entertainment industry is tough on any kid. It brings about a complicated set of emotions that we may not easily fathom as “ordinary people.” On the one hand, there’s good in being able to work at your passions early on. But, there’s also an immense pressure on your shoulders that no ordinary kid should be subjected to.
There’s a pressure to be known, a fear to be forgotten, and a nagging feeling at the back of your head that your work must mean something to people. I’m sure every artist has felt this way at one point. And having all those burdens at a young age is not easy for anyone.
Now Available for pre-order. Grab a copy here
For the boys of TFN who debuted in 2021, they grew up in the industry as teenagers. Initially called T1419, they’re a K-Pop boy group who met at the age of fourteen to nineteen years old and meant to stand as a group to represent teenagers—their views, criticisms, and feelings in the current times. As told by one of the members, Gunwoo, in their debut documentary, they’re a group who “sees and criticizes the problems around the world with a view from teenagers. We communicate with teenagers and represent what they think.”
Hearing all that, that’s a lot on anyone’s plate. Teenagers representing a collective generation? That’s burdensome. I would’ve caved and given in to the pressure if that were me, but I think what makes TFN different is even when there is pressure, they don’t hold back. Instead, they push through it together. And it’s because they’re together; they’re able to move forward.
Moving Past The Challenges
To look back at TFN, let’s start from the beginning. TFN is a nine-member group consisting of Noa, Sian, Kevin, Gunwoo, Leo, On, Zero, Kairi, and Kio.
Each member has a different story about becoming an idol, as all idols do. Some have always had an interest. Others grew into loving the job. Some had immediate support from family. Others were met with initial resistance from parents. But, the common ground? They all took the big leap to pursue their dreams, with some even moving to another country by themselves to reach that dream.
This leads us to trainee life.
Commonly in K-Pop groups, you’ll often hear about a few members who may have come elsewhere, other than South Korea. But, for TFN, they have five Koreans and four Japanese members. This meant half the group. While it’s nice to see there’s a mix of cultures, this also meant communication problems. And as you know, to succeed as a group, you need communication to understand each other, listen to each other, and generally become comfortable with each other as these things translate to the stage.
As described by leader Noa in their debut documentary, he described these initial challenges to be tough. “All the Japanese members joined the team at once. Actually, I did not know what to do. Because we couldn’t communicate with each other and have different cultures. All I could think of was, ‘What should I do?’”
This was one of the initial hurdles TFN came across. But, as they’ve always done when faced with a situation, they worked on it together. Slowly and naturally, the Japanese members—Leo, Kairi, Kio, and Zero—grew to learn more about the language from everyday encounters, while the Korean members—Noa, Kevin, Sian, On, and Gunwoo—tried their best to adjust and help out.
Zero says about that time, “Communication was hard for me because I started with not being able to speak Korean at all. During those times, I used to play simple games with the Korean members. I remember having so much fun despite the language barrier. From then on, I started to talk in Korean more without fear.”
The more that language gap got smaller, the closer the members became. Trainee life may have started out with a bump in the road, but as they went on, they found comfort in each other through the hardships, such as tough practices, hectic schedules, and not being able to see family. And together, they laughed, cried, and improved on each other’s shortcomings, which eventually led to their debut in Korea on January 11, 2021, followed by their Japan debut on February 23, 2022.
And even through debuting and performing during the pandemic, TFN worked at it with all they got despite the lack of audiences. So, when the time came that they saw their fan’s faces, it made everything worth it.
Kairi says, “From our debut and for the next year and a half, we were always just in front of the camera, and when we performed, we were always just looking at the camera. But, when we first performed in front of people and heard the voices of our fans, it was very moving and touching for me. And because we were able to experience and overcome that, I was able to realize the importance and preciousness of having fans supporting us right in front of the stage.”
And as humble as they are, they attribute all their strength thanks to the fans. So, when the fan name was announced as EDELWEISS, it accurately represented the members’ feelings. Kio explains, “The flower Edelweiss has a meaning of ‘precious memories.’ We thought of how we wanted TFN and our fans to have precious memories together hence the name.”
Since then, TFN can’t help but show their appreciation to the EDELWEISS every time, including even creating a song to show their genuine and pure feelings. Leo shares, “I believe that our fans are our biggest source of strength. Despite how hard it is as we have schedules day and night, whenever we think of the EDELWEISS, we are able to become stronger, and it makes us believe that we can do anything.”
Climbing The Top Together
When TFN came into the scene, they were known as T1419. But, in October 2022, their agency, MLD Entertainment, announced the name change to TFN. The statement wrote, “In order to make a fresh start, T1419 has added the new meaning ‘Try For New’ to ‘Teenager Fourteen Nineteen,’ the original meaning [of their group name], which is why they have changed their name to TFN.”
The sudden name change was initially confusing for many, especially to their fans, the EDELWEISS, and even the members themselves. But, as the initial shock disappeared, it started to make sense, and it started to represent a new chapter for the group. Noa laments about this, “When we first changed our name to TFN, I was quite worried. However, I think it’s a positive change because we can give a stronger impression to more people, and it feels like a fresh start with a new meaning.”
While it’s officially stated that the name change came about from an attempt to make the group’s name more memorable, I have another theory: TFN represents more than the views of teenagers.
From the start, the group was intended to stand for teens or the youth. But, as the members grew up, and some members even being in their 20s now, the music they wanted to create also grew. They’ve evolved since then. And now, they don’t want to be bound to any limits to their music.
Noa describes TFN’s music this way, “We, TFN, want to make music with unbound feelings. We want to do music with no limits and music that’s not bound to only one thing. We want to share the happiest feeling we get when we’re on stage with many people through our music.”
And, I can see that. Through each song, they try their best to put meaning into it and let their sincerity be known. This is greatly represented through the first song they’ve released, their pre-debut single, “Dracula,” which On explains: “We wanted to send a message to the people who are addicted to media with our single ‘Dracula’ by comparing it with a Dracula. I think with this, we were able to show our determination of wanting to become a group who relays what we want to say to the world.”
And since then, each release has gotten better and better, as seen through their “Before Sunrise” series—the name of their EP series. “I believe that as we prepared for the ‘Before Sunrise’ series and as we had promotional activities for it, we were able to experience and grow a lot. I think we’re really trying to always show an even more improved version of ourselves in different ways we can,” shares Kevin.
Sian, who is currently on hiatus due to health concerns (and was missed greatly through the shoot), also says, “In our journey for our first series, our group grew a lot, and we are working hard as we prepare to open our second chapter.”
TFN today is different from when they started. They may be all grown up now, but they’re also still growing, and there’s much more they want to do as a group to reach people and inspire more. Gunwoo shares, “I think we worked really hard to come to this point, and we’re even working harder now! I also think that we are showing even more different sides of us as compared to our early debut times and with that, I think we could say that we have improved as well.”
And altogether, there is so much more they want to do as a group to reach people, inspire them, and make them feel represented in today’s world. They’re not just a voice of a generation; they’re a voice for an ever-changing future. Even through hardships, they push through. Even through struggle, they aim to triumph. Not because they think they’re the best around nor they’re perfect in any way, but because they accept all their flaws and work through all of them together to be the best they can be every day.
And two years into debut, they’re still trying their hardest. On says, “We met at our most immature and unstable periods of our lives, and we grew together by filling each others’ shortcomings. I believe that this will never change as we work together as a group. No human can be perfect.”
You can pre-order a copy of PARCINQ's FIRST QUARTER 2023 ISSUE: TFN now with exciting freebies until February 28 via www.parcinqmarketplace.com. Limited supply only!
Cover story and Interview by Marielle Filoteo
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Art Direction by Joe Andy
Fashion film by Ian Francisco
Camera Operator Pogs Francisco
Makeup by Kim Doyeon
Hair by Chae Yeona
Styling by New Collective Style: Bea Guerrero, Miguel Quilang, Joaquin Rodrigo, with Kim Woojin
Shot on location at Hello Phono
Special Thanks to MLD Entertainment, Star Magic, and ABS-CBN.