The Ion Pack

Originally published in Issue 21
Interview by Asher Penn
Photos by Daniel Arnold

It’s 2018. You’ve just come home from seeing Eighth Grade. Eugene said it was good. You hated it. Too much about dad. You check your email. Only thing in your inbox is a Final Draft competition with a $25 entry fee. You wonder whether it’s too early to send that follow up to Blumhouse. You read a tweet by Nick Pinkerton and consider retweeting it. You go to Vimeo to watch that short film your friend uploaded. All you see are Staff Picks covered in laurels. You check FilmFreeway to see what deadlines are coming up. The site is hard to navigate. You open Instagram. And that’s when you see it: A24 IS JUST DISNEY CHANNEL ORIGINAL MOVIES FOR BARD MAJORS WHO STUDIED ADVERTISING. You do a double take. Is this real? It’s real. You look at the account. It says @theionpack. You’ve never heard of this. You immediately message them. LOL. They like your message, You message them again: I hated Eighth Grade. They like the message. You message them again: Do you want to see this deck I’m working on?

[ Ion Pack revealed their identities to New York Times following this interview ] 

Asher Penn: So, for those that don’t know: Origin Story. You were both bit by a radioactive meme about Jonah Hill… and the rest is history.

Ion1: The Ion Pack Instagram account was started as a burner account. A place to dump random memes we were making.

Ion2: It was an outlet for our frustration and a means of procrastination.

Ion1: We weren’t trying to make it a thing. The whole thing has been an accident. It’s the first thing in our lives that we did with no goal in mind. And it’s the only thing that’s been successful.

AP: So where were you at when you started?

Ion2: I had just shot my first movie, which is still unfinished. I was living in the middle of the woods. Mid90s had just come out. Eighth Grade was one of Obama’s favourite movies of the year. I was going to blow the world up. I felt threatened as a young person who hadn’t proven himself. You know. “My thing would be better. This thing sucks.”

AP: And it turned out you weren’t the only ones feeling that way.

Ion1: We wanted film people to lighten up, you know what I mean? It was an injection of relief into something that was extremely self-serious.

AP: And a way of putting something, anything, into the world.

Ion2: The general dynamic we’ve been working through with Ion Pack since the beginning has been making something and releasing it as soon as possible.

AP: Which is the opposite of working on a movie that never gets finished.

Ion1: You get blue balls working on your own. Toiling away over your bullshit that you have all this stock in. You want people to receive it and you’re trying so hard to get there. You’re trying to get it well-received. So it felt really nice releasing something.

Ion2: Ironically, we’ve just continued to procrastinate and not drop our own stuff.

AP: Why did you choose Bach as your avatar?

Ion1: It was the last thing that I had saved on my camera roll when we made the account.

Ion2: But the truth is it’s because he’s the goat.

Ion1: Bach is goated. He never missed.

Ion2: Bach appeared in the circle and that’s what it is. Beyond that, the image is metaphysically perfect. That expression… And you know what that face is saying to me?

Ion1: What?

Ion2: Make music instead.

[laughing all around]

AP: The biggest precedent for Ion Pack seems to be Hipster Runoff.

Ion2: Totally. HRO was about people’s place in culture. And it was also roasting everything.

Ion1: It made culture feel like a fun bombastic thing we wanted to take part in.

AP: Carles seemed to invent a kind of joke that hadn’t existed before. Internet anti-humor.

Ion1: The joke might not even be that funny, but the fact that you keep saying it and keep saying different iterations of it makes it funny. That’s the joke actually. The thing about repeating a joke a million times is that if you follow along, you’re being welcomed into the fold. You’re a part of it. You’re not just an audience member. you’re actually interacting on a social media website.

AP: Which has been taken now to a totally different level with Ioncellectuals, group chat anonymity.

Ion2: Exactly. You don’t know where anything’s coming from. It just feels like such chaos.

Ion1: There’s absolutely no grand design.

Ion2: It’s a stream of consciousness that is very cinematic in 2021. It feels more engaging than most movies.

Ion1: Ioncellectuals shitposting… it’s the modern iteration of Jack Kerouac Free Association Writing. It’s a new way to engage in expression. A new art form for sure.

Ion2: And to be fair—we are sauced out as fuck on Instagram. Bubbled out, lost in the sauce.

AP: What are some of the pros and cons of operating anonymously?

Ion2: To me, it’s all pluses. But the main release I think is just freedom on the internet. The cage of the internet is the way you translate your identity. I’ve always just been attracted to people who saw their identity as a concept for putting things out into the world. I find it more intimate, interesting and engaging somehow. It’s also kept us out of trouble.

Ion1: I can be more of myself when I put on the mask. The only reason I’ve been able to be as bold and as outspoken as I have been is because I’m not thinking about my identity.

Ion2: I’m a pretty reserved person. It actually helped me be more of myself in a weird way. Because I’m more engaged in not caring. Nobody cares about anybody but themselves anyways. Caring about what other people think becomes a huge personal spiritual block.

AP: Do you feel like the Ion Pack is having an effect on the standards of what is considered good? Moving the goalposts?

Ion2: I don’t want to be self-aggrandizing but we could maybe be creating a small ripple effect. The value system is changing, which I’ve sensed over the past six to eight months. And that’s very exciting. It’s also just a focus away from traditional film festivals, traditional institutions, because people really don’t care anymore. The values have changed and that’s really cool. It just feels like punk again.

AP: You’re also really stirring the pot in general as far as the media landscape goes.

Ion2: Having been to a number of film and music and arts related festivals throughout my life and being engaged with the media from a young age, seeing the types of things that are showcased has always been very homogenous. People who followed a particular track to get to a place of visibility. We get a kick out of shining a light on people like Josh Harris. It’s nice to have things happen outside of a press cycle. Like something that we’ve become kind of allergic to is all the Sundance people. Like there’s people in that world that we want to have on as guests, but those festivals shouldn’t be what guides interest. That’s something Carles did extremely well. Like he would have blog posts that were a tangent about a band that wasn’t in the news. Like, the bands not even being talked about, but for some reason, he would go off. It just felt more interesting.

AP: Do you feel like celebrities today are boring? Or is it more that they don’t have a place where they can actually be interesting?

Ion2: They might not be boring, but they’ve just been trained to be boring in a visible way.

Ion1: Especially today where people have such curated personas online. When someone feels totally candid, it’s a refreshing, sexy thing. You see the spark in someone that you don’t get when they’re like doing their media-trained persona.

Ion2: We have a knack of knowing if people will be down to be open on the pod. Like we could get this very famous actor or actress, but only if they’re open to being themselves and having a talk with us—not some Fallon shit. Like Annie Hamilton said on the pod, everyone’s so presidential. And the truth is that not everyone is actually presidential, the culture is teaching people to be presidential, which is ironic given the last president…

AP: Does the Ion Pack have haters?

Ion1: Big time. but it’s getting to a point where they don’t even really know what to hate on anymore.

Ion2: We felt resistance in the early days like, “Oh my God, this person’s gonna ruin our career because we made a joke on the internet.” I couldn’t care less about that now.

Ion1: But I think people that hated on us…there’s nothing left for them to hate on. It’s like it’s morphed into something bigger.

AP: Anyways, you guys were always the first jealous haters.

Ion1: We don’t try and deny that we were just jealous of the people we were roasting. Like, we already told you we were jealous.

Ion2: I’ve been jealous.

Ion1: You can’t use those types of things as insults. Cause we already said them about ourselves.

Ion2: In this process, we’ve met more people in these worlds than we ever had before. And the truth of the matter is that I was wrong. A lot of the people are just really nice and just like trying to do their thing. I actually don’t hate anybody. I think at worst, the people who are humorless are humorless and the good people in that world recognize themselves as humorless.

AP: OK. Guys. Last Question. Ion Pack is __________ for ___________ that __________.

Ion1:The Ion Pack is Hipster Runoff … for…

Ion2: For Advertising Majors from Bard.

Ion1: Oh my god. So true.

See this story in print here.
Read more from Asher Penn here.