PETALING JAYA, Malaysia—With the unexpected success of Far East Movement’s 2010 single, the thumping dance anthem “Like a G6,” the electro hip-hop band found itself doing more live and TV performances, after spending much of its career playing gigs local clubs in Los Angeles.
This transition had the four-man Asian-American group—Kev Nish (Japanese-Chinese Kevin Nishimura), Prohgress (Korean James Roh), J-Splif (Korean Jae Choung) and DJ Virman (Filipino Virman Coquia)—feeling like newbies testing the waters in mainstream music.
“Learning about the mainstream industry was one of the biggest challenges,” Kev told Southeast Asian reporters at the Sunway Resort Hotel and Spa. “Adjusting to the mainstream platform was the hardest, whether it’s doing live TV or big-budget music videos.”
But Far East Movement treated the whole experience as an opportunity for growth. It eventually fronted or toured with pop stars like Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
Kev said that being part of such elaborate and highly-structured productions was fascinating: “We’re just back there like students, watching the stage crew set up everything!”
On the other hand, Prohgress related that working with stars taught them how to efficiently put up an attention-grabbing set list.
“There are a lot of factors to consider like the transition of songs. There should be ebbs and flows; you should know when to accelerate and when to slam the brakes to give the fans a little time to breathe,” he explained.
Aside from “Like a G6,” Far East Movement’s previous releases include pulsating techno-pop tracks like “Live My Life” and “Turn Up the Love.” The group recently turned the Sunway Lagoon amusement park into a massive dance floor during the recent “MTV World Stage: Live in Malaysia.”
With four albums under its belt, the band aims to keep its music fresh through constant reinvention. Collaborating with various artists will always be crucial to the group’s creative process.
The quartet has worked with Bruno Mars and Wiz Khalifa, but if the members were to choose their favorite, they all agreed that it would have to be Snoop Dogg (now known as Snoop Lion).
“We grew up listening to him, and he just represents the whole LA lifestyle. And when you meet him in real life, he fulfills every expectation,” said Kev, adding that they would also love to do a collaboration with Korean rock band YB. “It would be really amazing to create something completely out of the box with them.”
Asked if they’re already putting together a new album, Kev reported that the group has been “working nonstop.” But the members are in no rush; they want to experiment with new sounds and are coming out with free mixtapes such as “Grizzly.”
“It’s just us going to the studio with producers like mad scientists,” Kev said. “We have two songs from that project that we felt were something we wanted to put in our next album.”
He continued: “Through these projects, we manage to collect a few keepers… there are so many new techniques and sounds to explore.”
But one thing’s for sure. “We want to take things in the dance world either harder or soulful,” Kev said.
Producing something cohesive can be a tad tricky for four eclectic artists with different musical tastes. But in its 10 years in the scene, the group learned to compromise.
“We’re a team with four different opinions, so there are compromises to be made every day. And that’s what helps us to have one vision,” Kev said.
Kev added that achieving fame was something that never really crossed their minds, even after “Like a G6” reached No. 1 at the US Billboard Hot 100.
“It sure crept out of nowhere,” Prohgress said, “so there were mistakes here and there. But you just roll with the punches.”
(“MTV World Stage: Live in Malaysia” airs Sept. 21 on MTV Asia.)