In K-pop, duos are hard to extremely hard to come by, but on the rare occasion that two compatible talents intersect, it’s impossible to go unnoticed. In the case of the distinguished ASTRO sub-unit MOONBIN&SANHA, a uniquely complimentary partnership was organically forged in the midst of tremendous group success – cementing themselves as irreplaceable components to a beloved K-pop sextet.
After earning prominent global praise under the established ASTRO name, both MOONBIN and SANHA would eventually become the group’s first sub-unit concoction in 2020, curating three worthwhile EPs to date, and pioneering a comprehensive lineup of intrepid pop music. With a handful of hit tracks ranging from the synth-enveloped sultry demeanor of “WHO,” to the distinctive falsetto allure of “All I Wanna Do,” behind them, MOONBIN&SANHA are now embarking on their third collaboration (labeled INCENSE) without any apprehension for the challenges required to shape an idealistic R&B/Pop domain.
Throughout the new era of engrossing MOONBIN&SANHA hits, the first duo of ASTRO effectively satisfies their long-term transparent affection for R&B traditions, yet still excels at sharing genuine, well-tailored stories with a nuance for structural pacing. For example, as a rather self-explanatory title track, “Madness” brings mainstream listeners a bass-heavy nostalgic texture, unexpectedly fusing with a chaotic buildup of electronic-pop synergy – and leaving quite an impression as the first 2023 hit for the ASTRO brand. However, in the broader context of INCENSE, both artists are able to look beyond the scope of one song’s impact, making their joint and solo visions a possibility with its thoughtful b-side offerings from “Chup Chup” to “Your Day” all exceeding listeners’ meticulous expectations.
As our new Vanity Teen Magazine K-pop cover stars, ASTRO’s pop force MOONBIN&SANHA reflect on their impactful career and deconstruct the potency of their intertwined musicality.
You’ve been collaborating as a duo for more than two years and maintain a consistency that establishes you as quite the iconic pair! How has this creative partnership enhanced or refined your collaborative skills after going from a group to a comfortable two-person setting?
MOONBIN: One of our charms as a unit is that we have a whole new musical color from that of ASTRO. We’re trying to express a more mature concept in the unique color of MOONBIN&SANHA.
SANHA: I agree that MOONBIN&SANHA’s charm is a darker and more powerful atmosphere than from ASTRO. Especially, we always work hard to focus on more details in our performance.
Even before debuting, you’ve spent several years training in music and dance – but what’s one thing you’ve experienced in your careers so far that even extensive training couldn’t prepare you for?
MOONBIN: My main source of energy was always meeting and communicating with AROHA, and performing in front of them after we debuted. However, for the last couple of years, it was difficult to receive such energy because we performed online, without the audience and fans in front of us. Looking back, it was a new experience, but I still wish to perform and meet AROHA more in person!
You’ve also been in the industry long enough as ASTRO to make a huge impact on industry trends, aspiring talent, and more. With that being said, what’s something that you’d still like to impart to the industry, whether it’s for next-gen artists or prospective listeners?
SANHA: I hope they remember our scent, or music, for a long time. I think it’ll be fulfilling for us if they think of our unique musical color every time they see our performance or listen to our music.
Together, you’ve both proven to be capable of creating some real duo-centric perfection, but your new EP INCENSE meets, and potentially even surpasses already high expectations from fans. What would you say was a pre-determined inspiration or goal for this body of work and its story?
MOONBIN: We thought it would be interesting to create an album based on one of the five senses of humans. Out of those senses, we agreed that the sense of smell is the most memorable sense, so we chose ‘scent’ as this album’s concept. Also, since we opened the new year with a new unit album, we worked hard to make this album the beginning point of showing various charms not only as a unit but also as individuals in 2023.
SANHA: I had many goals for this album’s activities. First of all, I wanted to make this year full of new challenges. In addition, I wanted to present many new sides and challenges of MOONBIN&SANHA.
For being an intro track, “Perfumer” has the makings of a slow-jam R&B hit, but more than anything, charms listeners into the intimate world of INCENSE and sets the tone for what’s to come. How would you say this brief but impactful song best previews your current potential as a sub-unit?
SANHA: “Perfumer” tells the story of us being the guide and the refuge through incense when you lose your way in the dark. It’s our second English-only track, following “Ghost Town” from REFUGE, and I believe it is a good way to show the new charm of MOONBIN&SANHA.
By following up “Perfumer” with “Madness” it immediately becomes apparent that the overall structure was important to this album. Looking back, would you say that other songs on INCENSE were intentionally built around the solid title track, or did these complimentary sounds coincidentally lead to a more cohesive album experience?
MOONBIN: INCENSE was completed by the cohesive sounds of B-side tracks and the title track “Madness”. All tracks including my and SAN-HA’s solo tracks carry our wide spectrum of musical color, so it would add more fun if you listen to the album following the track order!
As far as solo moments go, MOONBIN received his individual track “Desire” which evokes a dreamy-pop backing with your undoubtedly impeccable range. How would you describe the scope of emotions that come with finding out you’re actually getting a solo, recording it, and then the actual release itself?
MOONBIN: I participated in composing and writing lyrics for “Desire”, an R&B track with a dreamy pop melody, and this track is about being strongly attracted to someone opposite from myself. I’m a fan of pop and R&B genres, so I created the melody for “Desire” with another composer based on those genres. It was very entertaining to work on a song in my favorite genre, and I want to try composing and writing lyrics even more now.
Then of course, SANHA also completely stuns with his first solo track in the form of the heartfelt song “Wish,” and gives fans everything they’ve been waiting for, too! Did you immediately know what kind of song you wanted to create, or was there a process to figure out what felt like the best avenue for your solo launch?
SANHA: “Wish” is a modern rock track with a comforting guitar sound and melody, and I wrote this song hoping to deliver my gratitude to AROHAs who support us all the time! I think my preference for ballads and calm music in general impacted me while I was working on my solo track. I had a lot of fun working on it because it’s a genre I enjoy a lot. BIN once told me that he wishes to include my work in an album in the future, so I feel encouraged to try composing and writing lyrics again!
“Chup Chup” is without a doubt just the most carefree and charismatic song on INCENSE, but it’s also on par with some of the best refreshing, straightforward pop productions in quite some time! If you had to choose one skill or attribute about each other that’s perfect for the dynamic pop music industry space, what would you choose?
MOONBIN: “Chup Chup” is a following track of “Boo” from our previous album REFUGE, and it describes the feeling of falling into someone in a witty way. It’s a pop R&B track with groovy bass and an addictive synth sound, which differentiates MOONBIN&SANHA’s image from “Madness”. I think such difference is why our fans love this song, and I’m happy to share our various sides through our music.
Closing out with “Your Day” we get to see your take on an uptempo retro theme that leaves us seriously needing more MOONBIN&SANHA in the very near future! Are there any styles or concepts that didn’t make the cut this time around that you’d like to revisit or attempt together for a future comeback?
MOONBIN: I haven’t thought of it too much, but I think it would be interesting to try the Cowboy concept from the Old West. After completing this album’s activities, I hope we can try it with more maturity.