Taiwan’s Elephant Gym are a perplexing mix of false labels and mischaracterizations. Going by their name and band photo alone, one might conjure up an ephemeral “twee” band playing light harmonies with vocal duets. In reality, just a few notes into their latest Youtube single instantly reveals the band as jazz-rock trio with just a little math rock influence from Japan.
The band is launching overseas with government support, a concerted effort to fund and book nascent indie bands which began in 2016 with “Taiwanese Waves” festival which included showcases at NYC’s Summerstage and SXSW. Elephant Gym is perfect for such exposure, likable music that requires no prior understanding of the band. And their jazz inclinations are also a nice break from traditional bombastic rock fodder which wears out eardrums and dumbs down the brain.
The “Elephant” in the name refers to front woman KT Chang’s heavy bass fingering and tapping which firmly roots each song, allowing brother Tell Chang to noodle around in the stratosphere. The band is paced by very solid drum work from Chia-Chin Tu.
Based in southern Kaohsiung, the band have been looking forward to Fuji Rock for 2 years, first scheduled in 2020, and finally making their way to Naeba with a few other holdovers previously scheduled such as Bonobo and hard grooving Black Pumas. Here’s their new welcome message to Fuji Rock audiences, in pretty good Japanese.
The band will be eagerly debuting their third full-length studio album “Dreams” which includes a collaboration with another local indie act 9M88 and local folk music hero Lin Sheng-Xiang. Unfortunately there won’t be many Taiwanese fans at their performance as current COVID restrictions still prevent overseas tourism. Judging by other performances from this renegade province, it’s a good bet they will grace the White Stage in early afternoon on Sunday. The spacious stage and open air will definitely suit the band which play refreshing, upbeat music.
Elephant Gym are definitely a good representative of Taiwan’s indie music scene, building upon decades of post-rock influences from US colleges, and eschewing big label Mando-pop sensibilities. The band have also survived the Bossa nova samplings of previous Fuji compatriots, Sunset Rollercoaster, and the metal vampire screeching of Chthonic. What ties all these bands together is a commitment to musicality and originality.
Here’s an audiotree session which showcases the band’s amazing rhythms. Make it a point to mark this band on your Sunday schedule, you won’t be disappointed.
Photo credit: Elephant Gym’s latest album “Dreams”