When Max Collins and Kenny Carkeet met at a New York music festival in 2012, they didn’t realize that the encounter would go on to become a friendship or musical duo. Carkeet — the keyboardist for Awolnation at the time — happened to be wearing the same Ol’ Dirty Bastard shirt the Eve 6 frontman owned, and they later both watched Public Enemy perform from the side of the stage.
That memorable evening turned into a bit of a partnership. When Collins isn’t performing “Inside Out” for thousands of nostalgic fans, he’s writing songs for some of today’s pop artists. But after Carkeet began sending him some of the beats and instrumentals he’d been working on, Collins realized there could be something between the two of them that wouldn’t necessarily work for Top 40 radio, but still had a lot of potential.
“[Carkeet] started sending me some tracks that weren’t really for pop consumption, but they were fucking awesome,” Collins says. “I started writing to those and sending the tracks back with lyrics and melodies on them. At first it was just an ambitionless fun thing. We both needed a creative outlet that was unhindered by other considerations.”
Now, the duo’s adopted the name Fitness and is rapidly building a catalogue of electronic tracks while tearing it up at live shows whenever they have time. But as with many great bands, Collins never really saw his latest project as his main gig — until he and Carkeet ended up spending so much time working on new tracks together that they couldn’t help but call Fitness a real band.
“When we first started writing, we were just seeing Fitness as an opportunity to say audacious weird things and be out there,” Collins says. “In more recent months, we’ve started to songwrite a little bit more, but the arrangements are still a little bit weird. We still do things that musically break the rules. There’s an attitude we call ‘arrogant positivity’ where we just do what we want and not use the analytical side of our brains too much. We just know it’s right when it feels good.”
Collins isn’t exactly in a situation where he can give Fitness his full devotion — after all, people will still pay good money to watch him perform with Eve 6 — but the duo has provided the jolt of freshness he’d been looking for in recent years. Rather than playing a stale festival circuit or living in and out of studios while writing for others, he and Carkeet still have the energy of a new band that loves what they do. At this point, that’s more valuable to the singer than trying to turn Fitness into a cash cow.
“There’s a feeling of vitality and fun and joy with this project, and we’ve gotten this reaction of other people digging it too,” Collins says. “We’re just having a blast. It sounds cliche to say, but we’re just doing it for the joy and thrill of making the shit we really love. In this day and age, in order to make a living doing music, I have to wear a lot of different hats and sometimes be more of a professional than an artist. Fitness is an opportunity to just do shit that moves us. Results be damned.”
For now, Collins is still happy to perform with his old band and will continue his side hustle working with other artists, but his focus is going to be on Fitness. Although there’s no set date for a full-length record, fans of the duo should be prepared for a whole lot of tunes coming at them in a relatively short amount of time.
“We plan to be releasing tons of music,” Collins says. “We probably won’t exactly hit a song a month, but we’ve got a lot of stuff in the pipeline. We want to earn people’s loyalty by releasing cool shit consistently and going out to play really really loud shows.”