Far East Movement is the definition of the phrase “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” After forming in 2003, the musical group set out on a seven year journey to getting their music recognized in the mainstream market. During the humble beginnings of their careers, they were booed off stage, faced scrutiny because of their Asian American backgrounds, and suffered the general setbacks that struggling artists typically experience.
2010, however, was a huge stepping stone for the group: They were signed by Interscope Records and had their hit single “Like a G6” hit #1 on both the Billboard and iTunes charts, making the group double-platinum selling artists. Through these achievements, Far East Movement are arguably the most successful Asian American musicians in the mainstream market of all time.
NMR recently had the chance to catch up with Far East Movement after one of their studio recording sessions. In this exclusive interview, we cover how big of an impact the internet has had on their careers, their thoughts on the YouTube community and the networks that are forming, and what it takes to go mainstream as a musician.
Congrats on recently being chosen to perform at two inauguration events in Washington D.C. What was it like performing in front of President Obama and his family?
Growin’ up in L.A., we always felt so far away from politics so we never imagined in our wildest dreams we would ever get near the president of the United States. Was hard to believe that music brought us to meet the first family. Almost felt like all the news we watch on TV came to life [laughs]. Was a true honor to perform for them and must thank all the people supporting us over the years for creating this type of opportunity.
You guys have a massive following on YouTube and other new media channels. You’re constantly working with some of the biggest YouTube talents like Ryan Higa, Kev Jumba and Wong Fu Productions. But even before you guys had your hits, it seems like you’ve always believed in building your brand online. Since the early 2000s your guys’ work has passed around through file sharing sites and community forums. How much of an impact has the internet had in building your brand to the way it is now?
The internet had the most extreme impact and influence on our career from the beginning till even now. Back before we were signed right when Myspace launched we always said we were one of the first artists to create music spam on the site, and Myspace even acknowledges it. After getting signed we found that we still needed to push and market our music ourselves, so we owe the platforms like YouTube for breaking “Like A G6” six months before the label started pushing. All our music now is pushed and premiered online first before MTV or any radio station. Allowing the fans and blogs to hear the music first is so important to keep our relationship real with our supporters. Keeps it “a to b.”
Tell us a little bit about what ISA is all about and what you guys are planning in the near future.
ISA stands for International Secret Agents, a live concert and online media brand we created with Wong Fu Productions. The idea came from wanting to showcase rising talent online and from the community on the same stage as mainstream talent from around the world. The other mission of ISA was helping to define an identity of the new generation of online users whose everyday lifestyle is inspired by internet culture. We’re now going 5 years strong of concerts and festivals around the U.S. and have been able to work with some amazing talent from Kevjumba, David Choi, Ryan Higa, Jay Park, B.O.B, The Quest crew and many more. We also work with 4C The Power in bringing youth workshops to schools taught by ISA talent. This year the ISA team has been concentrating on ISA TV with some incredible original programming, and we will be throwing the ISA Festival 2013 later this year in Los Angeles.
The YouTube industry is obviously growing, and networks like Maker Studios are signing mainstream talents like Snoop Lion. What’s your assessment of the current YouTube industry, and does FEM have any plans or see value in joining a YouTube network?
It’s great to see that the average user’s viewing patterns are beginning to trend towards more solid programming and consistency over viral gimmicks. Its amazing to see the consistency and creativity uncle Snoop puts into his show. YouTube and the networks have done a great job catering to this, and with the ISA team’s collective numbers we are definitely considering creating our own network.
As mainstream artists in an era where people no longer like to purchase music online, what are some things that Far East Movement is doing to stay afloat?
Touring is a huge part of our business along with endorsement deals. It used to be frowned upon to do an endorsement because people were so quick to label the artist as a “sellout,” but now even the grimiest artist is endorsing something to even allow them to keep doing what they love to do.
A lot of new media artists today have managed to build huge followings online, but when it comes to really breaking in to the mainstream, there really haven’t been many big successes. What advice do you have to those artists who strive to make that big breakthrough?
Hard to give people with large online followings advice because they essentially have what all the major labels are looking for: a loyal and consistent fan base without spending crazy marketing dollars. The radio and chart game is definitely a different world, and to break into that world the only thing we’ve done was never be afraid to be us and try as much weird shit as possible. Bringing new sounds and style to radio and mainstream is the best way to get that industry’s attention.
Tell me about this live stream you guys did last Thursday. I heard you guys partnered up with Biobeats and that viewers had to download a free app in order to participate?
We have a song called “Turn Up The Love” that has charted top 10 in around 10 countries and just started pushing the song in the U.S., so we wanted to do an online event that was outside the box. The “Turn Up The Love Experiment” collected heartbeats through the Turn Up the Love app from all around the world to make one unified heartbeat around the world and collect a million heartbeats to turn the love up. The online event ended up picking up 1.2 million heartbeats and unlocked a special performance at the end.
What are some new things that we will see from FEM in 2013? Do you guys have any secret projects you can release to us at this time?
We’re working on an electro trap project called “GRZZLY” with some hard remixes and a few original songs coming out in late February, and it will also have “Turn Up the Love.” We just premiered a music video to one of the first remixes from the project with Rell The Soundbender, Matthew Koma and Sidney Samson called “Ain’t Coming Down.” We’ll also be heading on the Cherrytree Turn Up The Love Club Tour with Matthew Koma and Colette Carr coming in February.
Finally, will Kev change his haircut again this year?
Yes, I might move the part to the opposite side.
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