By John Benson
Here’s a word to the wise for any local band: Take any gig you can. You never know who’s watching.
In a nutshell, this is what happened to Far East Movement when the electro-hop act appeared on a popular holiday show. A few months later, the Los Angeles-based band was asked to be an opener on Lil Wayne’s “I Am Still Music” tour, which comes through Northeast Ohio for a Friday show at Blossom Music Center and Pittsburgh on Saturday at First Niagara Pavilion.
“It’s weird, Lil Wayne actually saw our performance on ‘Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve’ show,” said Kev Nish (born Kevin Nishimura), calling from Southern California. “We were the first act after the countdown, and did this glow-in-the-dark thing performing our song ‘Like a G6.’ We heard after that he was a fan, and then he invited us on the tour. We’re really grateful. It’s quite an eclectic tour and matches our taste to music for sure. This year has been like a dream.”
The dream has lasted more than a year considering in spring 2010 the band opened for Lady Gaga overseas. At the same time, Far East Movement, which had an underground hit the year before with “Girls On The Dance Floor,” released “Like a G6.” The lead single off its latest album, “Free Wired,” proved to be a slow brew, eventually landing at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 last fall.
The band’s rise and the power of the Internet easily could be quantified by the fact the track had more than a million hits on YouTube before it even had one play on the radio. The group’s success made sure that wouldn’t be the case anymore.
“After ‘Like a G6,’ we were in a lot of new markets, and it really opened up radio to be open to our second single, ‘Rockateer,’” Nish said. “It was cool they automatically gave it a chance, especially because it was so much different from the first. We really ventured out there. The reason it was completely different from the first one was to show how we grew up. That was important to us. A lot of times, when someone puts out a dance song, everyone expects another dance song, but us, we grew up on hip-hop and alternative rock. And ‘Rockateer’ was another hybrid song that kind of blended everything we’re about.”
An amalgamative sound that mixes elements of hip-hop, pop, electro and dance is what so far has attracted a wide audience to Far East Movement. For example, with “Rockateer,” which was co-written by contemporary songwriter marvel Bruno Mars, the band went for more of an alt-rock sound over a classic R&B vibe. So they brought in OneRepublic singer Ryan Tedder for vocals. Then there’s new track “Don’t Look Now,” which features R&B vocals by Keri Hilson, or “If I Was You [OMG]” with a guest appearance by Snoop Dogg.
Early on, Far East Movement was a hip-hop act, but lately it’s found its voice, if you will, as producers and rappers overseeing a revolving door of singers and vibes that continues to reach new audiences. This is why Nish is excited about his act’s return to the area.
There’s also something else. He’s hoping the upcoming Northeast Ohio show ends with a different bang than last fall when Far East Movement opened for Mike Posner at the House of Blues.
“Our singer, Prohgress, tried to stage dive, but we were so new nobody gave a damn,” Nish said, laughing. “He realized after that it was a bunch of girls in front that couldn’t hold him. I think he injured them. He wasn’t a really accomplished stage diver. He didn’t realize you have to make sure there are dudes who can carry you. It wasn’t a good move.”