As the first Asian-American group to reach the No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with Like A G6 and producers of strings of worldwide hits, Far East Movement has more reasons to be a bit pompous than we can count.
But Kev Nish (Kevin Nishimura), Prohgress (James Roh), J-Splif (Jae Choung), and DJ Virman (Virman Coquia) are nothing like your stereotypical cooler-than-thou "I'm an American _ don't ask me where I'm from" American-born Asians.
In fact, Far East Movement, who came to town last weekend for their second performance in Bangkok, would rather be known as the hardest-partying crew more than anything else.
"We love to party. We get the majority of [our] inspiration and dance beats from partying... I hate to say that it's research! But we grew up with the deejay battle background. It's really about learning what the audiences are into. Some days, people see us at the club looking serious because we're analysing the audience," said Kev Nish.
"We consider it research _ very professional," added J-Splif.
Their reputation and notoriety also stem from the fact that they're close associates of another party group, LMFAO.
"We grew up together. There are so many similarities between us and LMFAO," said Kev Nish. "Before we were both signed, we were always in the clubs together, partying and doing shows together. The big reason why we got signed was because they brought us on a tour. Usually, Prohgress and [LMFAO's] Redfoo would have a funnel-drinking match where people put everything in the funnels _ spit and all. Then there's the crowd-surfing contest. It's fun, it's wild. We had to take a break from LMFAO because we would have been in the hospital."
Such hearty spirits probably transfer onto their energetic live show, but there's more to the usually pumped-up gigs.
"It's the people. When they give you what they've got, then you have to give it back. Plus, we make high-energy music, so the second deejay Virman drops the beat, it's about to be good. Other than that, we don't drink before the show. Save that for after. No energy drinks _ just natural energy," Kev Nish added.
Far East Movement formed in 2003 in downtown LA where the boys were born and raised. In 2006, they released Folk Music, which produced Round Round, the first single that brought them moderate recognition, as it was featured in The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, as well as on TV shows. The initial breakthrough was strong enough for them to pursue music full-time.
Animal followed in 2009, but it wasn't until Free Wired, their first major label debut released in 2010, that brought Far East Movement global fame and the No.1 spot on the Billboard chart courtesy of the ubiquitous Like A G6. Dirty Bass came out earlier this year featuring collaborations with Justin Bieber, Pitbull and Flo Rida among other big names.
"The first [major label debut] album was an experiment for us. We didn't know where to take it, so we just mashed up all the music that influences us. With the second one, we took another approach, recording while we were on tour, in the hotels or on the bus. We wanted to have one solid sound, which is dirty bass, taking that old-school influence, and mash it up with dance and pop. It's more of a dance-centric album," said Kev Nish.
It must have been a hard journey to become the first Asian-American group to achieve this level of success, but Far East Movement brushes off such notions.
These boys refuse to be stuck in racial melodramas, and take great pride in their heritage.
''Do we struggle more as Asian-Americans? We get asked that a lot. We personally didn't see it, or we didn't feel it. Maybe it was because we were born and raised in LA, and we always felt like our community and our crew are very diverse _ African-American, Asian, Hispanic and more. Every culture is within a few blocks in downtown LA,'' said Kev Nish.
''We always help each other. We almost feel like being Asian-Americans might have helped us in a lot of ways in the sense that people are very interested in hearing new perspectives, new stories, seeing different faces [make] music. There were a lot of different opportunities like TV or movies _ things that helped us survive along the road. But you might come across certain incidents or some hiccups. We feel like every other race has been through it as well. So it's not extra hard for us.''
Still, being of Asian ethnicity can sometimes lead to roadblocks in the entertainment industry. Racial typecasting is abundant. Asian-Americans are cast in certain roles, or are expected to deliver specific types of music. But Far East Movement don't seem to have any issues.
''If anything, we get pigeonholed as party animals! That's why we put out slower, more soulful songs like Rocketeer and Little Bird, just to show that as much as we love to party, it's all about the music. We've started engulfing ourselves in a lot of different genres. We want to show that as our career progresses,'' Kev Nish said.
Asked for his take on the unstoppable success of South Korean rapper Psy and his Gangnam Style, which has become the thorn in naysayers' sides, Kev Nish remains positive.
''We're so proud of what he's been able to do. We love how fun and lighthearted he is. That's the spirit of the way people like to party. The way he dances, the confidence, showing you that this is fun. The humour side of it is what we really appreciate. It's good to see another Asian face making an impact in mainstream music.''
Far East Movement reveal they're always on the lookout for new Asian artists besides J- and K-poppers, and encourage Asian musicians to try to break into the international markets. The group have also namechecked the likes of Thailand's Bangkok Invaders and others from the Thaitanium clan.
Currently touring Dirty Bass, Far East Movement has got a few projects cooking. Rumour of a clothing line might come to fruition in the future.
''We have been talking about it. We've also been talking a lot about collaborations with clothing lines. But for us, first and foremost is music,'' said Kev Nish.
Far East Movement's smartphone app will also be unleashed in a few months. Aptly tilted ''Dirty Bass'', it boosts the basslines of any music you have on your phone.
''We want to bring the bassline lifestyle and culture to everyday listening,'' Kev Nish added.
But if the bass isn't loud enough, Far East Movement can always go back to partying _ something they never tire of.
''Never!'' said Prohgress. ''It's always fun. There are always new people to hang out with. New cities. We just love to party.''
About the author
- Writer: Onsiri Pravattiyagul
Position: Entertainment Editor