Stray Kids on ‘Lose My Breath’: "We want to show that we can do something different" (2024)

Stray Kids and water don’t often mix. As pioneers of what some have dubbed the “mala taste” sound, derived from the spicy dish malatang, they see themselves more like fire, searing with intensity, passion and heat. Their music is mostly explosive, a fusion of raw energy and blazing soundscapes – a vigorous thrum that pulses through the air and ignites the senses. On stage, they’ve wielded fiery swords and flickering blue flames. But on their latest single, ‘Lose My Breath’, the boyband venture into uncharted waters.

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With ‘Lose My Breath’, Stray Kids eschew their typical hard-hitting beats and punchy delivery for something much more fluid and melodically driven. The track’s R&B-infused pop challenges the group to adapt vocally, pushing every member out of their comfort zone. The smooth harmonies and easy flow of ‘Lose My Breath’, which features some crooning from co-writer Charlie Puth, showcase Stray Kids’ versatility and artistic growth, something deeply important to the members of 3RACHA (Bang Chan, Changbin and Han), the group’s production team who are known for their signature spice.

“Music is so diverse,” Bang Chan tells NME. “As artists, there’s so many ways that we can express emotions and messages through our music. I guess ‘Lose My Breath’ is just one of those songs where we could show a different side of Stray Kids.” Though, he’s also keenly aware that this sonic switch-up is a divisive move. “We don’t know how the audience is going to take it in because it’s so different. Hopefully, they enjoy it.”

It’s the eve before the song’s release, and Stray Kids are at the end of a long press day in New York. The members are huddled together inside a Chelsea studio, where, just next door, 3RACHA wrote and composed ‘Lose My Breath’ with Puth last September. At that time, the trio were in the US to perform at the Global Citizen Festival, but had also logged in hours at the Republic Records studio with Puth for a songwriting camp. For 3RACHA, who are so intrinsically tied to Stray Kids’ sound that their involvement is a popular meme among fans, collaboration is not only essential among themselves, but also when it comes to working with outside creatives.

“We started the song off from scratch,” Bang Chan says of ‘Lose My Breath’, recalling how it began life as just a blueprint at the song camp. “It was the track first, and then [3RACHA] did our part of the arrangement, how the song was going to go, and then decided what we wanted to talk about [in the song].” While working on the song, the ever-methodical songwriter Changbin – he says he “think[s] a lot” as someone who often agonises over small details – learned to loosen up and let his instincts take over, bringing a feeling of spontaneity and improvisation to the process.

Bang Chan also humbly notes that he “just helped out from the side” when Changbin and Han were “trying their best to write English lyrics”, though the Stray Kids leader was instrumental in the direction of the song. 3RACHA then took the track back to Seoul to “finish it off there”. The files were sent back and forth between the US and South Korea with minor adjustments until the track was finalised. “There were a lot of overseas connections,” Bang Chan smiles. “It wasn’t the only song that we made,” he adds hesitantly. “We had a lot of fun.”

Stray Kids on ‘Lose My Breath’: "We want to show that we can do something different" (1)

The R&B influence on ‘Lose My Breath’ isn’t Stray Kids’ first foray into the genre – it’s usually Han’s domain, and can be found on tracks like ‘19’, ’CHILL’, and ’Collision’, as well as in his rich catalogue of solo work. Hyunjin, too, finds that elusive creative spark in writing R&B-tinged songs about complicated love, from the light, airy ’ice.cream’ to the emotionally demanding ‘DLMU’. Yet, ‘Lose My Breath’ finds Stray Kids expanding their repertoire, proving they’re not afraid to explore new musical territories, with Seungmin teasingly calling this evolution “homework for Stays”.

“We did try something very different with our vocal techniques,” Bang Chan says, illustrating the breathlessness and restraint they tried to bring to their recording sessions. There’s a softness and underlying desperation to their vocal performances. “We all [sung] in a way we’ve never before.” That meant that Changbin, a bold, assertive rapper with a rapid-fire flow, had to be more like water – shape-shifting his tone to complement the song’s weightlessness.

“Changbin really surprised me,” I.N says as Changbin puffs out his chest in return, never too shy to accept praise. “Lee Know and Seungmin were also very surprising [in the studio],” I.N adds, patting them on their knees. “To be able to show that we can do something different, something unique and something that we’ve never done before,” I.N says, “that is something that we really want to emphasise.”

“Music is so diverse. As artists, there’s so many ways that we can express emotions and messages through our music.” – Bang Chan

That desire to play and experiment also comes through in the performance, as Stray Kids slow down the pace to align with the emotional expression of the song. “We wanted to express these emotions not only through the lyrics but also with our bodies,” says Felix. His wispy, platinum-blond locks lightly graze his shoulders, and he has a cheeky habit of flipping it dramatically. Lee Know says this performance relies on being “very subtle”, something Stray Kids aren’t often known for. “Most of our performances are very explosive,” the dance leader says. “This time, our emotions and expressions are very contained.”


Stray Kids often tell a story through their choreography, and this, too, is a collaborative effort. “When we get the demo, we listen to the demo and look at the lyrics,” explains Hyunjin, part of the group’s dance team DANCERACHA, who rarely discuss how they develop moves that complement a song’s message. “According to what we feel, we select choreographers who we feel match the song’s vibe.”

He reveals that after every choreographer submits their version of the performance, he and fellow DANCERACHA members Felix and Lee Know “sit down and decide which parts we like from each” and proceed to, in a very Stray Kids way, “splice it together and mix it up” to form a base to work off. “Then, while we’re learning [the choreography] we’ve put together, we make adjustments based on how it feels, like adding certain gestures,” he adds.

In the ‘Lose My Breath’ music video, the group performed in several inches of water – a classic boyband rite of passage that comes with its own challenges. (Just ask Lee Know, who fell while filming but recalls the incident fondly.) Felix and Hyunjin also filmed a dancing sequence in the pouring (fake) rain, which drenched them and added a few soggy pounds to their bodies. “You just got to put in more strength to move around,” Felix laughs. “Because we did it at night, it was really cold. We had hot packs everywhere.”

There is hope among the members that ‘Lose My Breath’ and the new era that succeeds it will reach an even wider audience. The days prior to this interview have been a whirlwind for Stray Kids, who attended their very first Met Gala on behalf of Tommy Hilfiger. (When asked to describe the experience, they turn to Changbin. “Chris [Hemsworth] lifted him like it was nothing. It was crazy,” Bang Chan says of the group’s Met Gala interaction with Thor himself, before Felix chimes in” “He lifted every single one of us.”) This summer, they’ll headline a few major festival stops, including London’s BST Hyde Park and Lollapalooza in Chicago.

“During the times when we couldn’t see our fans up close, I think that’s one of the reasons why our Stays became so close to us and bonded with us,” Felix says. “It’s been so long since we’ve seen our Stays, so just taking this opportunity, them just being able to see us, is really meaningful.” As their fandom grows internationally, they see that bond only growing stronger. “It’s also thanks to them that we’re able to spread not only our identity but also our music,” he adds. “And our Stray Kids energy.”

There’s a palpable sense in conversation that Stray Kids are standing on the precipice of change. The members themselves still possess the same kind of friendliness and humour, but their ambitions are just a bit larger now. Seungmin says he has one goal for this next chapter: “Stray Kids will break the pop genre.” Next to him, Han laughs, “That’s a very big goal.” Seungmin is unfazed. “That is my wish,” he says. It’s an ambitious thing to say, but no one’s ever moved forward by staying in stagnant waters.

Stray Kids’ new single ‘Lose My Breath’ is out now on Spotify, Apple Music and more

Stray Kids on ‘Lose My Breath’: "We want to show that we can do something different" (2024)
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