- Fri, 2012-05-11 13:49
The Enemy’s debut album We’ll Live And Die In These Towns stormed straight to the top of the UK Albums Chart in 2006. Six years later guitar music has all but disappeared from the charts, and the band return from an extended hiatus to find themselves confronted by a different musical landscape altogether. But armed with their third album, Streets In The Sky, and a new sense of excitement and confidence, The Enemy are ready to make their mark on the British music scene once again.
I Like Music sat down with frontman Tom Clarke to chat about creating the new album, avoiding rock star clichés, rebuilding a scene for guitar music, and fleeing from the cops in New Mexico.
“I Like Music because... it makes me feel wicked. It vibes me up and makes me happy.” Andy, The Enemy
“I Like Music because... it’s a form of escapism.” Tom, The Enemy
ILM: Hello Tom. How are you? How are things?
Tom: Pretty excited! Things are ramping up. It’s exhausting, cos we’re not used to it, but we’re all just glad to be doing stuff again.
ILM: You're playing a small, intimate show at the Borderline in London tonight. Looking forward to it?
Tom: Yeah, we were meant to play the Borderline on our first album, but we never did, so it’s been about six years in the waiting! We’ve got a really cool support band from Coventry called The Kontours. I saw them soundchecking at a pub about a year ago. I think they’ve only done about ten gigs. They’re just so good and so young; the youngest member is 15! The singer sounds like Jim Morrison out of The Doors. They’ve got loads of attitude.
ILM: So you invited them to support you? How cool!
Tom: Well, there were a few ideas going around about who could support us, and I thought of them. When we first started we got a call from The Fratellis asking us to play Electric Ballroom with them. We were just like “fuck, that’s amazing!”
ILM: It’s cool for your fans too. A great way to discover new music...
Tom: Yeah. When we were doing really well last time around there was so much guitar music that the market was kind of saturated. When that happens you get really competitive, and you’ve got bands starting on each other rather than helping each other. On Twitter every day I get so many unsigned bands making contact; I don’t care if it pisses people off, I retweet every single one of them. Everyone starts there, you just need a break. We’re all in it for the same reasons, so it’s nice to help each other out.
ILM: There’s nothing wrong with creating a healthy scene!
Tom: That’s exactly it. Guitar music is pretty much the only genre that bickers amongst itself, and that’s why other genres do better. When you get guitar bands that pull together... Look at the shows we did with Oasis. Us, Reverend & The Makers, Kasabian and Oasis on the same tour. That was a bunch of guitar bands saying “let’s stop competing and put on the best show in the world,” and people loved it.
ILM: After touring Music For The People, you took some time off before working on your new album. Did you find the break refreshing?
Tom: Yeah. We took a year off because we had toured for so long that we hated each other! Haha. We wanted to go home and not see each other for a bit, get a bit of space. We knew that if we didn’t the band would just collapse. We all need each other, but that doesn’t mean that we go well together in a domestic environment. So we had a year of nothing – not even really speaking or socialising – then after a year we went for a pub lunch and decided to get back in the rehearsal room and start writing.
ILM: And things flowed back in the rehearsal room?
Tom: We got in there and wrote so many songs! We’d written thirty songs over six months, and we threw away twenty. We took the ten best ones, the strong ones with a common theme and went and worked with a couple of producers. Nothing really happened, until we brought John Dawkins back on board. He’s always had a vision for the band. He’s the guy who found us.
ILM: That must have been a nice feeling to have him come back on board.
Tom: Definitely. I think that without him this record probably wouldn’t have happened. The first thing he said was “you need to make a record with Joby J Ford from The Bronx.” He was right!
ILM: Right. Joby produced the album. You've written a lot about him on your blog, how he uses a lot of recording techniques that are quite uncommon in the UK?
Tom: Yeah, there were loads of things. British producers tend to have their own set way of mic-ing up the kit. They keep it pretty secret and don’t tell other producers. On the first day with Joby, when we were mic-ing stuff up, there were about seven people who came down from other studios just to offer advice. There’s a sharing culture over there. There’s no competitive spirit. Everyone’s really good-natured and wants to see everyone do well. If you drive a Ferrari around in England you’re an arsehole, but in America people will just say “well done.” It’s the same thing. People want you to make a great record.
ILM: You've spoken before about 'the classic The Enemy sound'... Is there a formula to The Enemy tracks? I don't mean that in a negative way, just...
Tom: No, no, sometimes we do use a formula. We do sit down and work out what we need to do. And I’m sure if a music expert looked at it they’d find a formula that we do subconsciously follow. If you look at the first album there are no middle eights. We didn’t write them. On this album we’ve really enjoyed writing middle eights. So I guess we kind of acknowledged our formula and then changed it. But ultimately, I think the mix for a classic Enemy song is a really well-written pop song played by a rock band. That’s what our sound is. Catchy songs like Away From Here, but played on loud guitars with a drummer that just smashes the kit!
ILM: You’ve written descriptions about each of the new tracks on your blog. The track 1234 is referred to as a “poke at coke fuelled consumer youth culture.” What inspired that?
Tom: We kind of feel quite left out at times by rock and roll. We all like a drink, but none of us take drugs and never have. It was only when the band formed and we were taken into a world of media and rock and roll that we were really exposed to how commonplace it is. It’s seen as totally acceptable, but it’s not. I have absolutely no problem with people taking drugs, but it’s not something that I would ever indulge in. But I do like looking at snapshots of society and writing songs about them. Whichever little club you go to in the UK there are probably four lads in the toilets doing coke. It’s as commonplace as having a drink. That’s a part of society that no-one really comments on, but I think it’s worth pointing out that kids nowadays consider taking coke to be normal...
ILM: A lot of your fans might consider you rock stars, but you're still writing songs about everyday people, normal life. Why?
Tom: It’s what we’re surrounded by. I don’t think we are that rock and roll. We’ve had rock and roll moments – I’ve been chased across America by the police – but when we go home, we go down the pub with our mates who are tradesmen, or builders. When we hang out with other bands we never really latch on to anyone. Reverend and The Makers are a band that I get on with and will socialise with, but they’re probably the only band. We don’t have much in common with other bands, because we don’t do a fuckload of drugs, we’re not in self-destruct mode. What I want is to be in a band writing music that I love, and if I can make a job out of that: fucking amazing. Then maybe one day I can have a house, a family and a normal life. I don’t really want to be a rock and roll star. I just want to make music.
ILM: You’re on your third record, but you’ve commented that you’re still young and finding out what you can do; what’s your vision for the future?
Tom: The first record was just all about songs. It didn’t sound that great, but it was obvious that here was a band who could write a catchy song. People saw us live and got what the band was about. The second record we spent a lot of time trying to capture a sound. We wanted it to sound better. But we didn’t have the time to focus on the songs after we’d found the sounds. Both the albums were lacking in one area or another, so I feel this is our first proper album. The first three albums are a really good document of a band starting. The first record was written in less than three months, the second was made in a month. Now we're here.
The rest of the band arrive in the interview room...
Tom: So...the question is where do we want to go on album number four.
Andy: I dunno. We’ve kind of just found what we want to be.
Tom: That’s exactly what I’ve just said. We’re all so excited that we’ve just found out how to capture The Enemy on CD.
ILM: Do you think you’ll work with Joby again?
Tom: We’ve all said we’d love to make another album with him, and he’s keen to do it. We started writing album four last week. Just the first few chords. But I just don’t want it to be ages again. It had to be ages last time because of the way things were, but it doesn’t now. The dynamic is really good. We’re all happy and really excited. While we’re making good music let’s keep making good music, and while there’s someone there that knows how to record it, work with him.
ILM: So is the plan now just to tour loads?
Tom: Yeah, we’re doing some warm-up shows, starting off really small. We want to do personal, intimate gigs. We want people to feel like they’re discovering the band as we’re on the cusp of opening a few more doors. Then we’ll do festivals, then after festivals we go and do our own tour. That’ll take us up to about Christmas, at which point we’re going to start writing for album four. Also, this week we started recording a load of acoustic stuff. I’m really aware that at some point we’re going to have to go away and record another album, that we’re going to disappear from our fans lives at that point, so I think it would just be amazing if at that point we can really cheaply – if the record label let us – release an album of us playing the singles off the first three albums, and maybe some new stuff, acoustically....
Andy: But, we need to concentrate on releasing album number three first!
Tom: That’s it! There’s a plan, but right now it’s about album three.
The Enemy release their third album Streets In The Sky on 21st May 2012. Find out more about the album and stay up to date with the band at http://www.theenemy.com