"It's stories and emotion that we want to show people," says Zabdiel De Jesús. "We hope that people love it so much because we did it with the heart"

By Tomás Mier
October 07, 2019 04:25 PM
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Don’t underestimate this boy band’s power!

Featured as one of PEOPLE’s Ones to Watch this year, Latino group CNCO opened up exclusively about their rapid rise to fame and their newest project Que Quienes Somos.

“It’s stories and emotion that we want to show people,” says Zabdiel De Jesús about their album. “We hope that the people love it so much because we did it with the heart.”

“The EP opens the doors on our creative side, so people can see our real selves,” adds Richard Camacho. “We actually wrote 95 percent of this EP.”

| Credit: Sara Jaye Weiss

The group — comprising De Jesús, 21, Camacho, 22, Erick Brian Colón, 18, Joel Pimentel, 20 and Christopher Vélez, 23 — got their start on La Banda, a show created by Ricky Martin and Simon Cowell to make the next biggest boy band.

With CNCO, they succeeded.

“We still haven’t even woke up from it,” says Camacho of their skyrocketing career. “We can’t really step back and think about it so much and that’s why we’re super grounded because we keep that in our essence. We try to believe it but not believe it and not let it get to our heads.”

Since they came together in 2016, CNCO’s reach has extended to every corner of the world. They boast nearly 10 million monthly listeners on Spotify and over 480 million plays on their track with Little Mix, “Reggaetón Lento (Bailemos).”

They’ve also collaborated with artists such as Meghan Trainor, Enrique Iglesias and Becky G.

While boy bands seem to be taking off in the K-Pop world with groups like BTS and NCT 127, the boys of CNCO have done so on this side of the globe — even if most of their music is mostly in Spanish.

“It’s so fire to represent Latinos,” says Camacho. “The essence of CNCO is so different because of the culture that we come from. We have five different cultures in just one band so it gives the band options. It feels great to be able to represent our countries in the right way and in the best way possible.”

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Traveling the world as a group has opened the members’ eyes to how far their songs really go. While diehard fans are expected in South America, Vélez says “it’s crazy” how their “CNCOwners” in the Philippines, Italy and Japan embrace the group.

“We never expected to have fans there,” says Vélez. “It’s crazy how they receive us, it’s crazy how they wait for us. We’re really blessed for sure.”

“It makes us excited to go to countries that don’t speak our language and they can sing our songs on the top of their lungs,” adds Vélez. “It’s something that makes us emotional.”

| Credit: Steven Taylor

Their craziest experience with fans came in Mexico City though, after they spotted two fans in an air vent while the group was changing.

“It was crazy because we were hearing voices. Zabdiel was hearing his name and we looked up and saw the fans in the air vent,” says Camacho. “It was super creepy, but we love that our fans take the risk to get a simple picture or a simple ‘hi.’”

While the experience made the group realize “how crazy things are getting” for them, they still stopped to take a picture with the two fans.

As the group prepares for Que Quienes Somos’ release, Pimentel says there’s one big goal with the project.

“Just that people can hear our stories,” says Pimentel. “We want them to connect a lot more with us. We want our fans to not be afraid to share their stories with other people as well.”

Catch CNCO in Ones To Watch in this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands today. Que Quienes Somos drops Oct. 11.