We talked to James Brooks and Josh Clancy from Elite Gymnastics, a local group that isn’t boring/ doesn’t suck. Download their new EP set before it’s combined and released by Acephale Records here. (And all their other work, which is free.)
Part One – Music talk with James Brooks
How did you choose the name Elite Gymnastics?
The name Elite Gymnastics comes from the song “Ruthless Babysitting” by the British noise group Whitehouse. The song is basically about child abuse. Picking names for stuff is a weird, spiritual, squishy process that’s kind of hard to explain, i mean like you know when you hit “Save As…” on something for the first time and you have to make a snap judgement on what to call it? Stuff just comes out of you and you figure it out later. But i mean the name “Elite Gymnastics” is about child abuse.
What do the Korean characters mean and why did you choose Korean?
Oh well it’s a Korean pun. I’m sorta proud of it because Asian cultures are really into puns and not so much into western humor. In Japan, “American joke” is slang for pretty much any joke that is not funny. The Korean word on the cover, which is pronounced “yeonglag” sort of means ruined or abject or degradation but it is pronounced the same as the word for american rock music, sort of an analogue to how we would call Japanese pop music j-pop or whatever. So both of them together is like, the name, the subject matter, the type of music, a general idea of where it is from, it is like everything you could want to know about it if you know what you are looking for.
How has your sound evolved since the last EP was released?
Honestly I just think this one is a lot better than the other ones.
Where did you draw influence from for R u i n 1 and R u i n 2? What are the differences between the two EPs?
I think it would be really hard to answer the first question without going on and on for a really long time because I have obsessive compulsive disorder and I read a lot of stuff and listen to a lot of stuff and the things I do creatively are sort of like the outlet for all the things that don’t really have anything to do with real life that I am constantly thinking about on top of all the things about real life that i am constantly thinking about also.
I guess like the short version is that I was influenced by getting older and also by anime and UK breakbeat hardcore from 1990-1992.
The differences between the two EPs are a lot like the differences between Babe and Babe 2: Pig in the City.
Which artists have been most influential on your sound?
Mostly just a bunch of noise and Korean pop music that nobody else I know cares about.
Who is the ideal Elite Gymnastics listener?
I don’t really have an ideal listener pictured in my head honestly this question kind of bothers me because I can imagine reading it in an interview with someone else where they would be like MY IDEAL LISTENER IS A HOT CHICK or MY IDEAL LISTENER IS A HIP YOUNG PERSON WHO KNOWS WHAT’S UP and that would be so lame.
I am surprised when anyone really likes listening to Elite Gymnastics because I am making it more just for myself and my little group of friends and people I talk to on the internet than for anyone else, so it is always pretty cool, i feel like surprise is superior to the rote fulfillment of an expectation.
Do you have plans for a full-length album?
I’m pretty bad at plans, whenever me and my girlfriend hang out she is always like “so what do you wanna do?” and I’m all like “I dunno what do you want to do?” and we go back and forth like that for awhile before we eventually remember that Star Trek: The Next Generation is on Netflix now.
Part Two – Design talk with Josh Clancy
Tell us a bit about who you are and the work you do:
Josh Clancy – one half of Elite Gymnastics and for now I make a living as a freelance web developer / designer. I guess that’s probably why I have such a wary world view. Like anything, I think advertising can be used for evil (marketing bottled water for example) as well as good. As I’m getting older I’m trying to be more aware of my role and responsibility in the work that I do. At the moment I’m mainly involved with helping brands in youth culture markets create identities and products that interact with all types of people in (hopefully) a unique and memorable way. Collaboration is really important to me especially if I can collaborate on something self-initiated like Elite Gymnastics. I recently developed the website/helped curate an art exhibition for BYOB Minneapolis. This was a collaborative effort between Travis Stearns and myself and more
information about that project can be found here.
Tell us about the design concept for the R u i n album art.
The inside artwork sort of deals with growth … and responsibility … death… Its a progression. The contrast between a state of control vs. non-control. When negative things are introduced its not long before they consume where they inhabit. Negativity as infestation. Then the cover is intended to be read like a symbol … Its the pun mentioned above.
What is your go-to font or font combination as of late? Can you provide a screenshot?
I used Zurich Bold Xtra Condensed with Hiragino Kaku Gothic Pro for the RUIN artwork.
Why do you like that combination?
I felt it carried the information effectively. The combination executed the right set of ideas for R U I N specifically.
What font do you think is overused and about to go out of style?
I’m not sure really.
What do you wish you could tell new designers to quit doing?
Quit drinking bottled water. Man, fuuuuck bottled water.
What’s the next trend? Which trend is about to be over?
I spent the last year or so being really addicted to social media – Twitter, Tumblr, etc. I think it was really unhealthy. It was sort of like watching porn all day really. There’s a dark side to it all…
Something really changed when I realized the value of good content. I sat down and read this Feminism & Bioethics book by Susan Wolf… Who is actually a professor at the U of M. What I got out of the book wasn’t even so much about feminism or bioethics but rather it supplied me with really nutritious, compelling, and well articulated content. Being on the internet all day, there’s certainly a lack of well-articulated content. I feel this is hurting the human race as a whole. The more we make ourselves a commodity on the internet, the more dependent we become to it. Millions of websites commodify people every minute and every day. They ask people to volunteer themselves in exchange for being part of something bigger than them. What do you really get out of it though? Its a facade. You get nothing.
So I feel we’ve lost a sense of value in society for this reason. Value needs to be reinstated. I think through responsibility, education, and sharing this can be achieved.
Meredith Patterson presented a biopunk manifesto at UCLA that really spoke to me.
If you have time check it out here.
It proposes a really interesting set of ideas promoting self-empowerment over commodification.
What designer do you want to turn our readers on to?
Harata Heiquiti is a Japanese designer who was recently featured in issue 346 of IDEA Magazine.
About these columns:
1. End Bad Design began when Becky realized she had learned a lot more about design from sitting next to a designer at work than from reading any book explaining what ascenders and descenders are. END BAD DESIGN is her attempt to give everyone that access to designer opinions.
2. DJ BAIT is Sarah Heuer’s recurring attempt to gain the adoration of Diplo. Just kidding, it’s her attempt to expose the prominence of DJ culture while lifting the veil of just what they do.