In an exclusive interview for the first time in a Latin American media outlet, we talked with the Taiwanese band Elephant Gym, who displayed their magic tunes on the last SXSW 2022 as a giant step forward to captivate the Western and demanding audience earning a feedback admiration. In this interview for Bunka Wave, they shared their experience playing in this online stage plus more details about their latest release of «Dreams», their newest album. (English version).
EN SINTONÍA CON TAIWAN BEATS SHOWCASE:
TUNED TO TAIWAN BEATS SHOWCASE
As a yearly tradition, we kept track of the Asian bands that are showcased at the SXSW festival; for this online edition, we were looking forward to the bands and groups offered by Taiwan Beats Showcase (sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of Taiwan), an artistic session presented and organized by the creative team of Young Team Productions.
The presentation featured six guest artists: music trio Sorry Youth, experimental psychedelic duo Mong Tong, Taiwanese singer-songwriter Olivia Tsao, electronic/alternative rock group Sleeping Brain, multifaceted music producer DJ QuestionMark, and math rock group Elephant Gym.
Each one stood out for its style and, between the scenery and the sound, demonstrated their personality in six impressive cultural venues. A whole performance that received excellent comments from the international critics visualizing the enriched diversity of sounds that this beautiful island has to offer. An online journey to explore the past and future of Taiwan’s music scene.
Enjoy the music that beats to the world with the Taiwan Beats Showcase available here
THE GREAT STEPS OF A MUSICAL ELEPHANT
Duvan Prada / @duvanprada_
Special acknowledges: Young Team Production for journalist purposes.
From the magical port of Kaohsiung, located in southern Taiwan, we talked to the band Elephant Gym, composed of brothers KT Chang (Bass) and Tell Chang (Guitarist), who learned classical music from their mother before meeting Chia-Chin (Drums). Since high school, as part of the music club, this trio discovered that they shared some tastes and affinities such as math rock and post-rock, which led them to form a band in 2012, reaching a sound full of nuances, techniques, and interpretation.
The steps of this musical elephant have taken the band on tour in the main cities of different Asian countries and on the most demanding stages. As a result, they always leave their own seal. Several examples demonstrate this statement when they toured with the Japanese LITE in Canada or their showcase in person at SXSW.
A wide trajectory and the release of their new album continue to open doors internationally, a band that for their style and originality comes to Bunka Wave to share with our Latin American audience this special interview in Spanish.
Bunka Wave. Thank you very much for accepting this interview. Briefly
How did you choose the name of the band “Elephant Gym”?
E.G. The name of “Elephant Gym” is related to the instruments and our music style. The word «elephant» symbolizes our bass-driven melodies, like a walking elephant (although KT usually plays on the higher frets it’s still mid and low frequency), and «gym» refers to the agile and irregular rhythms. Elephant Gym says that our music can be very light and soulful even though it is full of low frequency.
B.W. What inspires you to compose and play music?
E.G. Our (KT and Tell) mom is a musical teacher, so we have listened to a lot of classical music since we were kids, especially music from the Baroque period. When we were little, we resisted learning classical instruments, such as flute, piano, etc. But as teenagers, we encountered rock and folk music and became interested in composing. In the process of composing, we realized that the melodies we wrote could sound like Baroque music, and we felt comfortable writing such melodies. We are grateful to our mother for forcing us to learn this music when we were kids so that we could have that blending.
B.W. How is the creative process to make instrumental music with other artists?
E.G. This question can actually have different answers in different songs. For the new album Dreams, we did an interesting experiment: even if we wanted to add a vocal to the song, we did it by humming it during the production process and didn’t decide what lyrics we wanted to add until the last minute.
In the song «Witch» in Dreams, we weren’t quite sure what lyrics we wanted to write until the last minute, so we came up with the idea of «nihility,» and the meaning of the lyrics might represent «nihility» in some way in the music of Elephant Gym (although this might seem to deny other lyrics we’ve written, but we tend to make the instrumental arrangement first and then bother with the lyrics last.) How can we express this matter of nihility? We thought of the soliloquies of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. The story of Macbeth shows in a way the emptiness of the pursuit of desire. We put the famous lines of Macbeth- «Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow» into this song to express the endless feeling of emptiness. It was a godsend to put such lines into this song to us.
B.W. Your showcase for SXSW 2022 Online was held in the coastal city of Kaohsiung. What are your feelings about this musical session?
E.G. Recently, the showcase video was also online on YouTube. After seeing it again, we felt it was really well shot! (laughs). One of the things we were glad to do was playing a real piano. It was very exciting to be able to shoot this video in our hometown. We physically participated in the SXSW festival in 2019, bringing our music to the faraway United States, and this time, through the digital way, we were able to fuse the scenery of our hometown with our music and present it to the world. We are very proud to be able to do such a combination. We also recommend you to watch the sunset by the Kaohsiung harbor with our song «Go Through the Night.»
最近showcase的影片也在youtube上線了，自己重新看到之後覺得拍得真好！哈哈哈。其中一件事情是很高興調到真鋼琴來做演奏，雖然後來發現音高好像有點偏低。能夠在自己的故鄉拍攝SXSW影片也很令人興奮， 2019我們實體參與了SXSW音樂節，將我們的音樂帶到十分遙遠的美國，而這次透過線上的方式，則是將自己故鄉的景色與音樂融合，呈現給全世界的人看，能夠做這樣的結合令我們十分驕傲，也很推薦大家觀看高雄港邊景色的落日，搭配我們演奏的歌曲「穿過夜晚 Go Through the Night」。
B.W. Would you like more math-rock musicians from abroad to visit your country or hometown?
E.G. Sure! Welcome to Taiwan and try all the delicious dishes in the night market. Even though it might scare you a little (like the pig’s blood cake or the stinky tofu), it’s really good. Please perform with us when you have the chance to tour Taiwan!
B.W Do you know any Latin American bands or musicians? If not, what would you like to learn about music in Latin America?
E.G. We played with DJ Perro in the U.S. They were from Mexico, and they were so powerful and energetic, it was great, we miss them! Maybe the vitality and natural rhythm of Latin American music is what we want to learn the most.
我們在美國曾與DJ Perro共演，他們來自墨西哥，他們樂器實力既強大、演出又充滿活力，真的是棒透了，好想念他們！或許拉丁美洲音樂的生命力 與自然的律動是我們最希望能夠學習的。
B.W. Can you share with us any experience playing outside your country?
E.G. One of our deepest insights is that we are more nervous when we perform in Asia because everyone listens to us very carefully and attentively (with their hands behind their backs). But in the U.S. and Europe, people are already drunk before the show, both on and off stage. So it’s always after the show that we realize that the show is over, and the audience is already high on their own, and we don’t even know that our music can make people dance like that.
B.W. Your new album «Dreams» is now available. Tell us what was the biggest challenge to make this album? What are your expectations?
This album Dreams is really, really recommended for everyone to listen to! Each song is a completely different world to us, a multiverse of Elephant Gym, we can say. The challenge of this album is to break through but still keep the original style. It’s a bit clichéd, but to a greater extent it’s saying, «Music shouldn’t be created to imitate our past selves, so what should we do? We believe that music creators have to face this question from time to time and that each new release is an answer to this question in its current stage. So our expectation for this album is that fans of Elephant Gym will be able to hear what they love about Elephant Gym but discover new Elephant Gym!
B.W. What is your vision of the Taiwanese Indie music scene around the world in the present day?
Thanks to the Internet generation, the borders of artistic creation have been broken down to a certain extent, and Taiwanese music makers now see the world «outside Taiwan» as a challenge at the initial stage and are eager to take the plunge. The global music scene is, in fact very diverse, and as long as one finds the right label and the right occasion to perform, one can actually find their fans around the world. The musical strength of Taiwanese bands cannot be overlooked, so they can often be seen if they find the right opportunity.
B.W. Could you please leave a message for all our audience?
E.G. Please listen to our new album Dreams! The music video for our new song «Witches» should be up on YouTube by the time we get out of the interview, and it’s a breakthrough new challenge in both music and visual style! We hope we can tour the world again and see you all physically.
B.W. Finally, you send us a greeting to Bunka Wave in Colombia and Latin America.
E.G. Thank you, Bunka Wave, for these great questions! We hope this interview has helped you get to know us better, and please look forward to our new album «Dreams.»