MUSIC: ELITE GYMNASTICS INTERVIEW (SUPERSUPER! VOL 2 #003)
Signed to Acephale (along with SALEM, Pure X + CFCF), James Brooks and Josh Clancy, aka Elite Gymnastics, are set to be the next big thing in electronic music. 2012 – WATCH OUT.
SS: So where does the name ‘Elite Gymnastics’ come from? Are you into #KEEPINGFIT?
JB: It’s from a song called ‘Ruthless Babysitting’, by the UK power electronics band Whitehouse, which I’ve always interpreted as taking shots at Peter Sotos, a controversial writer – and in the eyes of a lot of people, a child pornographer. The [lyrics] say that his favourite Google search is “Russian orphanage, ruthless babysitting, elite gymnastics” – if you actually Google ‘Elite Gymnastics’, it comes up with loads of girls in spandex… so we called the band that. For all the paedophiles of the world.
JC: It’s better than seeing our ugly asses.
SS: You guys are based in Midwest America – what’s the music scene like there for electronic artists?
JC: There’s not a music scene here. Minneapolis is a weird, disconnected place to live – people have developed this really bizarre monotonous lifestyle, stuck in the past… I want to find stuff that’s the future.
JB: An inordinate amount of what goes into music is dictated by the environment. Music here is dictated by dirty rock clubs… it’s depressing. Elite Gymnastics is more about trying to fill different spaces than the ones that are physically around us – it’s why we’re so into the Internet, because it’s a more vibrant space.
SS: What kind of aesthetic concepts did you have in mind when you started the project?
JB: We were both excited by new music and stuff coming out of the Internet. We started making music to engage with all of this new, cool stuff – the specifics solidified when we started doing that.
JC: A new creative class was emerging – people my age were doing stuff that was actually cool, and that got me motivated. It was our time to do shit.
SS: So what other people were in that emerging creative class?
JB: Swedish stuff like [electronic duo] Air France was inspiring – incorporating hip-hop and rap samples into their music. It was really unique, really idiosyncratic, the possibilities of different ways of doing things. SALEM is a good example, combining rap with how they look – it just worked. There are other examples, like Unicorn Kid – everything he does sounds so honest.
JC: Damen Zucconi is an incredible artist – his stuff is next level, and Jessy Kanda is a new video artist who does really good stuff in 3D. There are so many exciting things going on right now – it’s happening.
SS: You released your first EP Real Friends back in 2010 – how do you feel the Elite Gymnastics sound has evolved since then?
JB: None of our releases sound like previous ones, but there’s a connection between them. The Internet allows people to constantly change. I don’t want to ever just stick with one sound – there’s no way of knowing if the people who like what we do now will like what we’re doing in six months, which I find interesting.
JC: Change is cool.
SS: So do you think that evolution is necessary for your music to stay interesting to people?
JB: Yeah. You can’t ignore the Internet – when we made Real Friends, we thought, “How could we make this look like something people will want to download?” If you want the Internet to pay attention to you, you have to care. I hate [music profile] sites like Bandcamp – presenting your music on a page that looks like hundreds of other musicians’ pages shows a lack of attention.
SS: To listen to, your music is hugely intense and atmospheric – but do you ever find it difficult translating it into a live format? What are your shows like?
JB: We used to do live shows, but it’s hard, living in a place like this. People in Minneapolis have said we’re the worst live band they’ve ever seen… but we’re working on that. When we make music, we’re not thinking about the live music idiom, just about what we want to hear.
SS: Tell us about your next release! Will it be a full-length?
JB: We’re not going to release a full-length unless we have 45 minutes of music we’re really happy with. The next step we’re working on is house music with jazz chords – like a mix between ‘90s gay disco house music and the Final Fantasy soundtrack. We’re working on a short album at the moment.
SS: And when will you be dropping it?
JB: The first half of next year. It’s a group of stuff that should all be heard at once – it’s a stand-alone.
JC: James has been working really hard on the new stuff. I’m excited about the direction and ideas – it’s going to be cool.
SS: And you’re going to be releasing Ruin 3 [third instalment in the Ruin EP series] soon, right?
JB: Yeah, it’s a collection of remixes of our music. There’s one by How To Dress Well, and one by Physical Therapy.
SS: So, we’re getting pretty close to 2012 now… what are your hopes for next year?
JC: Hopefully we’ll advance more as humans…
SS: You’re not buying into the whole ‘end of the world’ vibe then?
JB: One of the appealing things about Doomsday prophecy is that if everything’s ending soon, you don’t have to worry about long-term problems. If things carry on as they are, maybe that’s scarier than if they just end…
Interview: Charlotte McManus
Artwork (top): Elite Gymnastics