An Interview With Ex-Awolnation’s KENNY CARKEET About His New Band FITNESS With Eve 6’s Max Collins!
Posted On 28 Apr 2017
FITNESS is comprised of Max Collins (EVE 6) and Kenny Carkeet (AWOLNATION). This project is a middle-finger to convention and expectations and is an incredible musical ‘ride.’ Electro-Pop-Rock at its most tongue-in-cheek… The duo are readying their debut album for release June 9th.
Max Collins and Kenny Carkeet, won’t do anything that doesn’t feel right… because they don’t have to! Collins, vocalist and principal songwriter of Eve 6 has written his share of hit songs for his and other bands and Kenny Carkeet, prolific songwriter, ex-keyboardist, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist of Awolnation has traveled the world and worked on many exciting projects. FITNESS is their proverbial middle finger to expectations and convention.
“We are doing things that excite us,” Collins explains. “FITNESS material keeps us sane in a world full of homogenized, patron-friendly music.” Carkeet adds “If I hear one more indie electronic band I will shoot myself in the face.” FITNESS is a collective of people who are expressing their pent-up creativity in exactly the way they want to. From the artist that designed the cover of the record, to the video director, to Collins and Carkeet making the music. “We are all inspiring each other,” concludes Carkeet.
The rebellion of FITNESS includes the name – perhaps the most difficult name to search for online… FITNESS = exercise, FITNESS band = FitBit type things, FITNESS music = club mixes for aerobic classes. The name came to Carkeet in his teens, practicing in his parents’ basement with his friends “It started out as Wicked Fitness,” he explains “We were high and 16 years old then… but when I told people about the name FITNESS more recently, everyone thought it was a great name.” Rather than give in to the challenge of the name’s ubiquity, FitnessWasTaken became the url of choice. “I loved it because there was something Meta about it,” says Collins. “Adapt to survive.”
FITNESS is indebted to Old Dirty Bastard for the Collins/Carkeet initial introduction. “We were at some radio festival in upstate NY in 2012 that both our bands were playing and I saw Kenny was wearing an ODB shirt that I also owned,” explained Collins. “He introduced himself and we were both on our way to the stage to watch Public Enemy, so we checked them out together,” added Carkeet. They kept in touch, started working together on production projects and eventually came to the conclusion that they were both looking for a similar creative outlet.
When he was writing songs for Eve 6, Collins used a guitar “with infinite progressions at my disposal. Writing this way, with Kenny sending me tracks from the road, was new and weird and inspiring. It was really fun not to be beholden to those old rules,” he explained. Carkeet co-produced Awolnation’s monster hit, “Sail,” setting standards for future combinations of rock and electronic music. The band’s evolution took him away from his intended path and he left after a great run – with world tours and elaborate live setups. The importance of the live show is something Carkeet brings to FITNESS “If the show doesn’t KILL,” he says “there is no point in doing it.”
“Get Dead” and “Supafeeler,” the duo’s first two missives captured the joy of their creative process. Collins underlines the group’s commitment to furthering the project saying “We are going to be relentless writing and putting out music.” The lack of boundaries took Collins and Carkeet a long way. “It was when we came up with ‘Feel The Weight’ that we realized who we are and what we naturally sound like,” says Carkeet. That natural sound is so fresh and unique, that the duo is destined for acclaim – critical and otherwise. They aren’t surprised…
Learn more about Fitness in the following All Access interview:
What are some words you would use to describe 2016 for you and your music? What were some of the highlights? What are you most excited about for this year?
-2016 was an interesting year. I saw then end of an important chapter in my life (AWOLNATION) and started the next big chapter immediately after (FITNESS). With AWOLNATION we got to tour with Fall Out Boy and Prophets of Rage on their 2 month Arena tours, played Austin City Limits, and many other great festivals. 2016 also brought the first release for FITNESS called “Get Dead.” In my production life, I co-wrote a few songs that made it to the radio (Night Riots “ Nothing Personal” and “ Breaking Free”, Cilver “I’m America”, Bear Hands “Boss”).
So how did you and Max get to know each other and then start this band? How did you know that you two could be creative together and make music together? How did you come up with your name?
Max and I met at a festival in Syracuse, NY. Eve6 was playing and so was AWOLNATION. Max and I bonded while watching Public Enemy together side stage. We became fast buds, and when we got back to LA we linked up to start writing songs together. It was pretty incredible. Max is the Ying to my Yang. Ive never been great with lyrics or trying to creatively word what I want to say and Max is one of my favorite songwriters and lyricists. We continued to write together for a few years before FITNESS become a reality.
How is the sound of Fitness different then your two respective bands, Eve 6 and Awolnation? What has it been like approaching making music with just one other person instead of a whole band?
Honestly, I haven’t thought about that much. Max and I both played in our respective bands for such a long time I’m sure there are echoes and moments that sound like those bands. But we’ve just been creating what we think sounds cool and haven’t thought much past that. Making music with just one other person is a nice change of pace. I handle most of the musical side of FITNESS, Max handles most of the Lyrical side of FITNESS. It was that combination that we thought made it sound cool. Max and I feed off each other. We know when the other guy stands up and freaks on a part, that we made something cool.
I’ve read that this new music is keeping you sane. Can you elaborate on that?
Max and I both co-write and produce other bands pretty much every day of the week. After awhile, I kind of started getting this musical claustrophobia where I’d often find myself frustrated at being told what a song ‘should be.’ This long, that short, this fast, “make it a banger.” About two years ago I decided to hole up in my studio and just make something with no one else around. It was just a therapeutic exercise to find more inspiration within even myself. Somewhere within that, FITNESS was born.
Can you talk about the inspiration for your debut singles, “Supafeeler” and “Get Dead”? How did they go from being an idea in your heads to completed songs?
Get Dead was the first song we wrote for our ‘therapeutic’ exercise. I think at that point in our lives we were pretty frustrated with writing songs for labels or managers to love. So we wrote this arrogantly positive song bc it made us happy. We never thought it would even be released. Supafeeler was the first song we wrote after people started loving Get Dead. We thought, oh man maybe this is actually cool. Lets see what else we can make. I actually wrote the music in a green room somewhere on tour and sent it to Max. After he recorded it back home, he sent it to me, I dropped them in, and now we have Supafeeler.
This summer you are planning on release your debut album. How will the other songs on it compare to what you have already released? What other tracks are you excited for people to hear?
Get Dead and Supafeeler were literally the very first songs we wrote. Since then we feel we’ve grown so much and kind of figured out who and what we are as a duo. Its been really fun exploring and really just doing whatever we want. The other songs on the EP vary so much but all still have some identifying element that is FITNESS. Sometimes we get mellow, slow, or dark. Other times we just want to make what we think is the heaviest beat we can make. Some of my favorite tracks from the EP are “Feel The Weight” and “I Don’t Feel Anything.”
How was your recent LA show? Have you gotten to perform a lot together yet? What are some upcoming tour dates you guys have planned?
The last LA show was great! We played at this place downtown called The Resident with Beginners, and Battletapes who are one of my new favorite bands. So many friends and family came out. It was great. We’re really starting to understand who we are live as well as on record. We just played Las Vegas last night at the Brooklyn Bowl. That was also awesome. We are heading to New York April 11th for some promo stuff. We will be playing at show at Pianos on April 12th. We are also trying to line up another show or even a stripped down performance while were there. Lastly we have a show May 31st in San Fransisco at the Brick and Mortar.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who would you both love to work with as part of FITNESS?
Its funny you ask that. I just got off the phone with one of my favorite producers Colin Brittain (Papa Roach, OneOKRock, etc). We just put some days down to write soon. Currently some of my favorite artists are Childish Gambino, Run The Jewels, Cage the Elephant, Young the Giant, etc. My heart will always live in punk rock though : ) Bands like Strung Out, No Use For a Name, NoFX, Vandals, Lagwagon, etc will always be some of my favorites.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs?
Honestly, I don’t know if we’re even trying to spread any ‘message.’ We just hope that people enjoy what we think is cool, and to maybe inspire other musicians to make the music THEY want..