Far East Movemen features Prohgress (clockwise from top left), J-Splif, DJ Virman and Kev Nish. | AP
WITH: Far East
Movement; Quest Crew; Sidney Samson; Eva Simons; Natalia Kills
♦ 7 p.m. May 26
♦ Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim, Rosemont
♦ Tickets, $29-$69.50
♦ (800) 745-3000;
Updated: May 23, 2012 4:38PM
LOS ANGELES — Far East Movement has provided a thumping soundtrack to clubs around the world, so it seems appropriate that the group prepared for their latest album by doing essential research — a week of clubbing in Las Vegas.
“We said: ‘We’ve been touring so much, we need to get back and just wild out; remember what it’s like to be like party animals for a little bit and just not care,’” said frontman Kev Nish (real name: Kevin Nishimura). “So we literally spent a week in Vegas — partied every night and went to the studio that night and just wrote songs.”
In the morning, the question became: “What did I write?” Nish joked, before turning serious: “That’s how some of our favorite work was written and it really helped us to get back in the zone.”
The result is “Dirty Bass,” a collection designed to advance the four-man group’s poppy mash-up of whooshing electro club beats, melodic hooks and exuberant hip-hop. Set for release June 5, it features Justin Bieber on their first single, “Live My Life,” plus rappers Flo Rida, Pitbull and Tyga among others.
When the group was first signed, label executives said their songs — including the Billboard chart-topper “Like A G6” — weren’t like anything else on the radio. Two years later, dance music is everywhere, and they’ve toured with some of the biggest names in pop — Rihanna, LMFAO, Lil Wayne and Lady Gaga.
For their new album, Nish said the goal was to get “a familiar sound” with “unfamiliar variables.” The result is catchy, agreeable and seemingly simple, fitting the group’s veneer of good-time raps, anything-goes attitude and party-ready style.
The group got its beginnings in high school: Nish and lunch-table friends Prohgress (James Roh) and J-Splif (Jae Choung) — now in their late 20s — called themselves MCs Anonymous and patterned themselves after both the Beastie Boys and Linkin Park, posting songs on online discussion boards.
Nish installed car stereos and interned for Interscope Records, working for the same publicist who now promotes the group. With their eyes on bigger things, in 2006 the trio zeroed in on DJ Virman of the popular Los Angeles-area radio station Power 106, inviting him to a rehearsal.
“Even if you guys aren’t that great, in your faces you feel like you are,” Virman (Virman Coquia) told them, according to Nish. He joined as the fourth group member, and his connections, conveniently, helped them get their first radio airplay on Power.
“L.A. is such a melting pot of ethnicity. That pop electronica and the culture they represent, it set them apart from everyone else out there making pop,” said Jimmy Steal, vice president of programming for Emmis Communications, which runs Power 106.
What culture is that exactly? They’re among the few successful Asian-American artists in pop and hip-hop and have hosted annual music workshops for youngsters in their community.
But Nish says that while group members have experienced some stereotyping based on how they look, they identify primarily “with being L.A. kids. We go to Asia and we’re definitely not Asian.”
“My grandparents grew up here, my great-grandparents live out here,” he said. “My mom cooks tacos every Friday, spaghetti every Thursday.”
Like that blend of cultures, Far East Movement will dabble in anything that can produce a hit song: They’ll pluck a hook from elsewhere, toss a few borrowed Outkast lyrics in their rhymes, play keyboards, enlist top beatmakers like RedOne — and in the end make it all their own, particularly in vigorous live performances.
Prohgress says he’ll chat up stagehands and lighting managers at the end of shows to find ways to tweak the group’s own stage production.
“What kind of lights with the type of haze works in different arenas? I’m really geeking on that stuff right now,” he said. “What really captures your eye?”
During some downtime in a recording studio where the group was playing through songs from “Dirty Bass,” Nish proudly whipped out his iPhone to play a video.
It’s an overhead view of the Las Vegas Marquee nightclub’s crowded dance floor. Far East Movement is on stage performing the “Live My Life” remix featuring LMFAO’s RedFoo.
“The dope thing is making it and then that night going into the club and testing it,” he said. Eyes on the video, he teased, “Wait for the drop.”
A bold bassline thumps in and the crowd jumps in unison. Nish smiled at the moment, missing the club already.