The Taiwanese group opens us the doors to their musical scene and tells us about their feelings before touring in Europe.
¡Hi! First of all, all the team of Rock Culture want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to have this interview. Could you introduce Elephant Gym and yourselves to the Spanish audience? How did the group start? Do you have some music studies?
Bassist, KT, and guitar player, Tell, are siblings. Our mother is a music teacher and we used to study piano and flute. Drummer, Chia-Chin and Tell met in high school music club. Chia-Chin used to study classical percussion. We all had a big crush on math-rock when we were in high school and we made a deal that we would form a band when we went to university.
You play a very elegant kind of Math-Rock, that is a very complex genre, how do you compose music? Does it flow in a natural way or you need a lot of planning to make it?
Haha it is a good question. At first, we had a big crush on Japanese math-rock bands such as Toe. Therefore, we decided to write math-rock songs and do it deliberately. Somehow we got used to the complexity very soon. It might be related to traditional music in Asia. The rhythm of Asian traditional music keeps changing just like math rock. In addition, in spite of the changing rhythm, Asian traditional music always have smooth melodies. I think that’s why you feel the “elegant” in Elephant Gym. We like both exciting and unexpected rhythm and beautiful melodies.
And how do you achieve this balance between intricate melodies in the different instruments and a harmony that gives the listener the feeling of not getting lost?
Three of us studied classical music. Tell and KT used to practice Baroque Music on recorder and flute. In Baroque Music, there are multiple melodies all played together at the same time. However, through the dainty design from the composer, it feels like the instruments talking to each other. We didn’t notice we were influenced by that because we are not big fans of classical. After creating our own songs, we realize that we like the interaction between instruments rather than just making accompaniment. However, it makes writing music more complicated. We are not good at music theory so what we have done is plaything together and filling in the notes that is not usual but not too weird. As for making listeners easy to keep up, I think it’s because we listen to pop music since we were kids. We find making hooks and memorable licks is always a good way to express the theme of a song.
Which song for non-listeners do you recommend to get into your music?
We think Finger would be the good one. Gorgeous bass-line, emotional guitar riff, melodious drumming. And it’s our early song as well.
Could you give us some good tips to rehearse in an optimal way?
We need to rehearse together often for keeping the playing feel and strengthening the time feel between members. The key point is patience and concentration. Some of our songs have been played over 1000 times by ourselves. Sometimes we can play it without thinking right now. It distracts us a lot and makes our playing weak. So practicing staying focus is really really important.
So, this summer you will be doing a Tour in Europe. Is it your first tour in the continent? What do you think you are going to find there?
Yes, it’s our first time. Everything is fresh. We are excited about meeting audience from each city. Playing our music unreservedly and accepting the feedbacks from audience. This energy exchanging makes us satisfied.
Also you will be performing in the Arctangent Festival, on the UK. Which are your expectations of playing there?
We know Arctangent for a long time since our favourite bands once played there. We are excited to be immersed in the math-rock/instrumental nerdy vibe! And we have seen photos from England festivals that people playing in mud and get dirty. We usual don’t like rain but we are ready to experience the muddy British festival!
Will you stay longer as audience in the festival? Which shows of the festival do you recommend not to lose?
Yes, we can’t wait to see other bands. We really like Covet from the U.S. They never come to Taiwan so we hope to see them. We are also looking forward to see BATTLES, TTNG. Of course, don’t miss Elephant Gym!
As you probably know, here in Europe we have very active audiences, and when I say active I mean they are crazy. Are you used to them? Could you explain how people live music in Taiwan?
We know European audience is very passionate. We saw the video that toe played in Arctangent and people were singing the melody of their guitar. It was very surprising! This is our first time playing in EU. Hope everyone can play with us! Audience in Taiwan is a little too polite always standing still so we always encourage them to groove with us.
Here in Spain is very difficult to getting known when you have a band that isn’t classified in the most popular genres like Pop or Indie. Is it the same in Taiwan? How is the underground scene there? Where do you started to play? Where do you play now?
The situation is similar. Pop and indie-pop are always the most popular genre. However, Taiwan is not big and the music scene is not big either. Therefore, there is no specific boundaries between pop and alternative. Musicians often collaborate with each other and festivals will invite both kind of artists. For example, we used to feature a mainstream pop star called Yoga Lin and play together in arenas. We think young generation in Taiwan is embracing both radio-friendly pop music and inspiring alternative music.
The music scene in Taiwan is like Japan. We have “live houses” that have all equipment and basic instruments such as amps, drum kit. Asian people don’t drink that much so bar area only occupied a little space in live houses. We started playing in small live house. The capacity is around 50. Now we play in bigger live house and festivals.
How can the bands grow in that environment?
Making good music is essential. If artist can find their own sound rather than mimicking and don’t afraid to express themselves, people will notice eventually. As for band music, we think people tend to see live shows of a band. If the band practice enough and have good interaction between all members, people will be touched.
Could you give us some advice of growing as a band? What are the difficulties?
Understanding and tolerating between members are really important. People always have different opinions, especially for artists. We divided our works other than music clearly, finance and strategy are under the guitarist Tell, content of shows and promotion are managed by bassist KT, our drummer Tu is the director of merchandise design, selling and oversea affairs. Every member needs to respect each one’s authority. It’s lucky that each member of us has different interest but we believe that there are many ways to find the balance for modes of operation.
Do you remember a special moment as a band? Could you describe it?
When we toured in Japan of our first world tour for the new album Underwater. After the show in Osaka, a lady showed us a paper with hand written mandarin to us during the autograph session. The article was talking about a man called Amano Kentaro. He is a famous translator of Taiwanese literature who promoted so many Taiwanese writers to Japan. He loved our music a lot but unfortunately, he passed away when he was only 47 in the same month before our Japan tour. The lady said she came to our show for him as well. She believed that Amano Kentaro was enjoying our music in paradise, too.
After that tour in Europe, which are the band’s future ideas? What are you going to do in the future?
After we release the 2nd album Underwater in the end of 2018, we have been tour for almost one year to bring our music all over the world. Europe tour is our last stop of this World tour. After this tour, we are going to make some new stuff!
Finally, could you give European and Spanish fans a salute?
See you in Arctangent festival! It’s our first time to play in Europe, really hope to enjoy the show with you guys!