The Far East Movement go platinum, discuss alternative pop and G6's
They might not be able to purchase their own Gulfstream yet, but the Downtown Los Angeles-based Far East Movement (FM) are certainly able to buy their fair share of bottles at the club.
After all, “Like a G6,” their platinum paean to the jet-set existence, was the No. 1 digital single last week, racking up sales of 216,000 units to complement its 10,000,000-plus plays on YouTube. The greatest Airplay Gainer on the charts, the song currently sits at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on urban radio powerhouse 105.9-FM.
Since their Times feature last winter, the Koreatown-raised rappers have seen their profile skyrocket, inking a deal with Cherrytree/Interscope and touring with Lady Gaga, Robyn, LMFAO, La Roux, and Mike Posner. In the process, they shattered any lingering doubts about whether an Asian American group could see massive national pop success.
The secret is an innate affability. Whereas most contemporary pop-rap tracks ooze with obscene euphemisms, FM have mastered the art of being infectious and inoffensive, balancing hooks sweet as Cherry Vodka sours with chrome-spinning electro-inflected production from the Stereotypes. It’s the rare pop-rap album that could get your grandmother and your girlfriend to dance (hopefully not together).
The group’s major label debut, “Free Wired,” derives its inspiration from local nightlife and their 21st-century dedication to social networking and online existence. Released on Tuesday, the record features guest spots from Snoop Dogg, Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic) and Keri Hilson, and features three singles in rotation on local radio. They’ve earned co-signs from Southern legend Bun B and even 50 Cent did a “Like a G6” remix.
In the midst of yet another national tour, Kev Nish (Kevin Nishimura) spoke to Pop & Hiss about Gaga and how to be fly like a G6.
You guys recently finished a tour of Asia with Lady Gaga. What was that like?
It was a learning experience -- just getting to be backstage and see what sort of professionalism it takes to get to that level.
Were the crowds particularly raucous because you guys were Asian American?
I don’t think so. In Japan, they’re especially used to Asian faces being marketed that way. We’re just another American band, L.A. boys. There was love, but I don’t think any more than otherwise. We did a lot of radio and performances and people would come up afterward and tell us that they liked us, but there would be no screaming.
But the reception was amazing. We’d tell them to put their hands in the air and they’d immediately comply and go crazy.
How did you end up opening for her?
[Cherrytree President] Martin Kierszenbaum referred us, but her management had to approve us. They weren’t about to let just anyone open for her, so it was quite an honor.
Did you guys hang out at all and did she wear a Kermit the frog outfit?
Yeah, she invited us into her recording studio. In every venue that she performs in, she has one built backstage. It was a very tranquil and chill environment, and we talked about music. She was very cool and very welcoming to us.
What was the writing process like on “Like on a G6,” and what was the genesis for the song?
Our goal was to try to do something different, but within the parameters of the sound that we’d been working on. It was really awkward in the studio for the first hour that day, so we made it into a party. We cracked open some bottles and pulled the shades down. Keep in mind, it was 1 p.m., but we made the studio into a club atmosphere. We started playing videos and going on YouTube, and then three hours later, we had “Like a G6.”
At first, it was just a mixtape track that we put on YouTube and it just started to take off. Four months later, it had received a million views and our label head said something is going on, this is homemade and reflective of the culture, we’re going to put this out officially. We were shy about it initially, but the whole Interscope building loved it and got behind it.
And it was the song that basically broke you guys nationally, correct?
Yep, it's been crazy. This tour has shown us how far it's taken us. We’ve been getting a lot of airplay in new markets like Dallas. It’s No. 1 in Houston and Tampa, and Z-100, the biggest pop station in New York. When we perform it, I’ve never seen people react like that -- they just freak out. It’s really hard for us to believe.
We purposely write simple songs, but we dream big. We want to make it so that people in the bars and clubs can sing along word for word.
You guys have been eliciting a lot of comparisons to the Black-Eyed Peas. How influential were they to you?
Oh man, we first started interning at Interscope when they were about to release “Elephunk.” And I remember that we were serving their press kit and music to different writers and websites, just working the PR game. We were getting invited to their shows at the House of Blues at Downtown Disney and we got to see how big they were. Everyone in L.A. knows those guys. They stay true to their community and they’re really good guys who are humble and focused. But we’re also hugely influenced by The Beastie Boys, Outkast, Pharcyde and others.
We wanted to be on Cherrytree because they see themselves as an alternative pop label and we embraced that -- it’s where we always wanted to be. It’s like a dream come true. We got to make an alternative pop album that was true to our fusion roots. We like hip-hop, dance music, indie rock, and even the harder stuff. It’s not genres that define us, it’s our playlist.
We worked really hard with songwriters. We worked with Bruno Mars on three or four of the songs. We wanted to write songs that represented our “Free Wired” lifestyle in downtown L.A., but also to think internationally.
How does the Los Angeles lifestyle affect your sound?
Well, we lived in Koreatown for most of our lives and have been living in downtown since 2005 or 2006. The central inspiration for us being in L.A. is the diversity. We live above the best carniceria and torta spot in the city. If you go down a few blocks, you can get the best Korean BBQ or Mediterranean food. It gives you an open mind and adds to our perspective both as people and musicians.
-- Jeff Weiss
Photo: Far East Movement. Credit: www.FarEastMovement.com