Asian Outlook magazine’s interview with Far East Movement. May 7, 2011.
AO: How have your West Coast roots influenced your music?
KEV NISH: Growing up in LA, I mean, it really, really influenced us musically. LA is so diverse. I mean, in our neighborhood and downtown, it was like, you not only had your Asian-Americans, but you had like Latino-Americans, African-Americans, Caucasians—everyone, you know, growing up in this within a city block and with all that culture comes all these different music scenes, all these different ways to party. And that kind of influences, you know, your outlook on music. So when we go in the studio—we grew up going to rock concerts, raves and hip hop shows—and bringing all that culture in, we would always try to do the unexpected, like match up things that shouldn’t be matched up, different things like that. So LA has a lot to do with our music being the way it is now.
AO: How does being Asian-American affect your music career?
KEV NISH: One thing we concentrate on, we’re very proud of our heritage and what we are individually, because we all have a different background, but I mean, at the same time, when it comes to music it’s never been a race thing. You know everybody goes, “Oh, Far East Movement, you guys chose the name because of the race.” It was actually a name that [J-Splif]shouted out because it was off of a song. We made the song about what we felt was kind of a new lifestyle, a new culture, you know, kids kickin’ it with no color lines, no boundaries and whatnot. And so people always think that maybe your race would play something into the music, but really it’s more about just growing up in LA, if anything. We always took pride in letting the music speak for itself and not letting a race or a specific thing define it, because all of our favorite artists, race never really was the main reason why they’re putting out the music… They just make music because it’s more of the scene, it’s the genre, and that’s what we pride ourselves as artists.
AO: So do you guys have any crazy stories from your recent college tour?
KEV NISH: [Prohgress] got it, he’s a party animal.
PROHGRESS: Man, well, we’ve actually been shooting this video, it’s a remix video for our “If I Was You (OMG).” So after every show, we can kind of figure out where people are partying at, like whether it’s at a frat house or something, and we’ll go over there and we’ll play beer pong and, just like, have a crazy time… what other…?
KEV NISH: We learned a new game. It’s the cap game when they take this cap from a keg. And if you have this full cup and you walk around and if someone pops it in your cup, you have to down the whole thing. Yeah, kind of dangerous.
PROHGRESS: I got hit with five of them in one night. I tried to get [J-Splif], and he caught me twice.
KEV NISH: Not that we condone drinking or anything, but we are at a college—those kids out there are party animals.
PROHGRESS: Everyone’s got party shoes right now.
KEV NISH: Anyone that has clean feet was not rockin’ out with us.
AO: What’s your favorite cocktail or alcoholic drink?
PROHGRESS: Well, well, well, college drinks are, you know, you want to go on with it, you know what I’m saying? So, like, you have to drink the PBRs, your Keystone Lights (laughter). And they always have the bootleg versions, so instead of like Captain Morgan, it’s like Lieutenant…
AO: Admiral something…
PROHGRESS: Yeah, exactly, so instead of Smirnoffs it’s Popovs, like all that kind of stuff. It all tastes the same. You wake up a little bit hurtin’ a little more. It’s all good.
KEV NISH: I like whiskey on the rocks, yeah, or usually in like a coke or something… Or pineapple juice.
J-SPLIF: Ciroc pineapple.
PROHGRESS: Jimmie Runner instead of Johnnie Walker?
J-SPLIF: Jimmie Runner? (lots of laughter)
KEV NISH: He changed Johnnie Walker to Jimmie Runner. That was funny. As you can see, we’re pretty corny, too.
AO: We read in an interview that one of you guys think inside a carton when writing songs?
KEV NISH: That director is a really funny guy, and right when The Office came out, he’s like, “Yo, we gotta do this, like, bit about you guys making music.” And he’s like a really accomplished music video director, so it was a good time. And it was J-Splif though that thinks inside the box.
AO: You guys are the first Asian-American group to crack the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. When you hit number one with “Like A G6” and heard the news, how did that feel?
KEV NISH: Man, you know, we were very honored that people recognized that. You know, because for us, we grew up as LA kids so it doesn’t seem like, “Oh my gosh, we’re this, we’re that.” We’re just like, if anything we’re kind of like, “Hey, we’re the first kids on Figueroa and Hills streets to actually get signed.” You know what I mean? It was never like a race thing, but it’s kind of crazy when, you know, you have cultures that acknowledged that and for us that’s like, wow, you know, we’re proud of that and we appreciate that. At the end of the day, it’s… we try not to get excited. Our biggest thing is the music industry is one of the hardest games in the world. We are a very do-it-yourself type of crew, you know, we were interning at the label then we would go out on the streets, J-Splif would learn how to print CDs and t-shirts, we would sell them outside out of our trunk, popped the trunk, he would be setting up shelves on the phone, putting up speakers and lights ourselves. We would just do whatever it took, I’ll be online spamming people back when MySpace first started, like, every day, listen to our music. And so that’s always been our mentality, so we never try to get excited wherever people are like, “You did this, you did that.” It’s more just like, “Work harder, stay focused and keep on building yourself.” We really appreciate everyone that came out to support us today. You know, we’ve never been here before. We were shocked—to hear people singing along and jumping around, so that inspires us to just work harder.
AO: How do you guys cope with the difficulties of the music industry?
PROHGRESS: There’s always ups and downs to everything, but I think we ought to give a lot of credit to the people that are around us. We were working for a few years now and all the people with us are management or the label or publishing companies or even friends like in TV. They’re the ones who got us our songs on Entourage, and things like that so, you know, the community’s what keeps us going, like, every day we’ll be on Facebook or MySpace will send us a message, you know, saying they got this going on or can we help you out with that. That’s always cool. We actually try to give back because we work with a non-profit called Forcing the Power who will actually take a lot of our friends that are dancers, directors, photographers, and teach high schoolers about the artist for like two hours, three hours. It’s not a lot of time, but at least it’s something to get you started and afterwards, they get to perform, you know, what they learned with us or with the other guys and have a little bit of fun with it. And sometimes we’ll actually get e-mails from principals talking about the fact it inspired the kids in the grade to get to better stuff like that. So, our whole thing is hopefully, you know, two years, five years from now, we’ll be in the front row geeking out at the show and one of those kids, and they’re rockin’ the crowd.
AO: After “Free Wired,” any upcoming projects you guys have in mind?
KEV NISH: Well, we do have, uh… I guess we can talk about… can we talk about the collaboration?
PROHGRESS: Do it.
KEV NISH: All right, well, we have a new song coming out with Pitbull and a rough version was leaked. But we’re officially going to be putting it out soon and our biggest thing really is this remix to “If I Was You (OMG)” where we already shot the music video with Snoop [Dogg] in downtown LA. But after visiting all these colleges and wilding out—yo, we got to do more. We can’t just go to these schools and leave, like, these people brought us here and showed us mad love. So, we’ve decided to shoot a remix of this video at all these schools. And actually, this school, we shot a ripped scene here with a lot of the students already. We down to the carnival and shot a lot of our verses. So definitely look out for it for a lot of the students here. And that’s for our song “If I Was You” featuring Snoop. We also decided—the next level thing for the universities is we wanted to throw a cool contest. Something that no other people can get—no high schools, no other countries. Just universities and colleges here. So it’s called the “If I Was You on Campus” contest where people can put up a video of them dancing or whatever to our song. And the winner—it’s going to be like the top five with the most views—we’ll pick one out of a hat, we’re going to invade their dorm room. In their room for them and 10 of their friends, and we’re going to bring pizza with the toppings that they want. That’s something that we can’t give anyone else. You know, it’s just for college students cause this tour has been off the hook. So it’s our kind of way of saying thanks.