Formed in 2007, Enemies, an experimental/indie-rock four-piece from Kilcoole have spent almost a decade writing, recording and producing their own records. Having travelled the world with tours in Asia, North America and Europe, the band has continuously developed their sound, remaining incredibly distinct within Ireland’s experimental music scene. Enemies surprise their listeners with every release by constantly tweaking and perfecting their own brand of intelligent, pop-infused rock. Not content to fit neatly into any particular category or sub-genre, Enemies have continued to evolve their sound into something that goes beyond the labels of math or post-rock. Ahead of their farewell gig in Vicar Street on Sunday 18th December, we spoke with Eoin Whitfield (who played guitar and drums) about how and why the band is bringing its time to a close.
What is behind the decision to finish Enemies at this point? And did the decision seem obvious when you made it?
Well, that is a difficult question to answer simply as there was a whole load of complexities that resulted in our decision to disband, but to offer some perspective: Musically we had grown apart, the search for common ground on which to move forward on had become so scarce that the writing process for valuables was actually quite painful for us all. We also found ourselves in a place where our differing ideals could no longer be ignored, so much so that we weren’t really left with any other option but to call it a day.
In the lead up to our decision to end it we all suffered our own versions of disillusionment, it was difficult to recognise the solution from within such a perturbed situation. But once time had its way with us we all arrived at the same conclusion, and it was a relief to find out that each one of us had concluded the same thing.
Was it difficult to actually push the album project to its conclusion knowing that you would finish up pretty soon afterwards?
It wasn’t too difficult actually. There was a little bit of uncertainty at first on whether or not it was a feasible goal, but once we were all on board and ready to get back to it we were pleasantly surprised. The push to finish this album without “a future” in mind was a taste of what Enemies could have been if our emotional attachments had been taken out of the equation. Previous stigmas were no longer crushing us and compromises were far more easily met. Moving forward and finishing the album in that light was a beautiful way to heal the damage we had done to our friendships.
Did you feel a need to create one last piece of work that was identifiably “Enemies-music” rather than do something that is completely different and unrepresentative of what had gone beforehand? Or would you characterise Valuables as a big shift in your music?
I wouldn’t really consider Valuables to be that big a shift in our music, I mean, if I was to compare it to our first album We’ve Been Talking, then, yeah, that’s a big shift. But that was a long time ago. I can only hear Valuables as what was naturally following Embark Embrace [Enemies’ second album in 2013]. For a very long time there was a pressure within Enemies to escape the post-rock/math-rock walls we had built around ourselves in our formative years, while at the same time holding onto our roots and parts of our early identity. That fine line didn’t leave us a lot of room to move about, but I think we’ve always recognised the positive in that limitation and valued the fact that it pushed us to create something fresh.
I assume you are all continuing to perform and write as musicians – what are your particular plans?
Well Micheál [Quinn] will continue to drum with his main band Meltybrains? and various other bands he drums with – that boy has no off switch! Lewis [Jackson] and Mark [O’Brien] both plan on creating new projects but first they’re both going to do some clichéd post break-up soul-searching in far away lands with their partners! I’m very excited to hear their future creations though. They’re both exceptional musicians and I can’t wait to hear them producing music outside the boundaries of enemies. I myself have been slowly entering the electronic music genre over the past few years and I will be launching a new project in 2017. I’m really looking forward to hitting the stage and experiencing making live music in a completely new way.
Considering that you’ve toured the States and Europe a bunch and even been to Asia – how much support have you had from external sources or are you pretty much completely self-reliant?
In many ways we have been an extremely self-reliant band yes. We were extremely lucky in that as we progressed as a band we also progressed personally in other areas that allowed us freedoms that not many other bands could attain. We basically handled everything ourselves but had external parties running things in different territories, such as Topshelf Records in the US, Stiffslack and Machu Picchu in Japan, White Noise Records in Hong Kong. We will be forever grateful to our friends and the kind people who have helped us on our journey.
In terms of that self-reliance – how hard has that been?
It was a case of both but in terms of the latter it has been quite difficult, difficult but worth it I would say. There’s so much to handle within a band and I can understand why it might be a better idea to have external parties taking care of all these elements. It’s a lot to take on on top of creating music and performing live, but there was definitely a beauty in it and a lot to be proud of. I can also see how our self-sufficiency played a part in our decent, in that our emotional investments didn’t end at creativity. So much time and energy being injected in by each member leads to a lot of attachments and a lot of different expectations. It’s hard not to feel entitled to certain decisions, etc., when you’ve invested so much of your time into a particular area. There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple.
I think there has been a big shift in terms of the Dublin music scene – as much as one can be classified – away from guitar-led and rock-band format groups in the last five years – would you agree? Or is that just my biases?
Yeah I would agree with that alright, I guess there’s been a lot of change in Ireland and globally when it comes to accessibility within music and music scenes. It’s all expanding, and without demeaning the guitar-led rock band format, you could say it was partially down to limitations, there’s just a whole lot more that can be done and explored now. Having said that, I do think that traditional format will always have its place and potency.
Tell me two of your favourite moments from the time doing Enemies.
Ouch that’s a difficult one… there’s a whole load to choose from. I guess our first time in Japan, supporting Toe at O-West in Tokyo is a stand-out memory for sure. It was just so overwhelming to us as a new band, we had never experienced such an incredible sense of appreciation. Signing autographs and getting photos taken with people from such a far away land who were genuinely gushing with gratitude towards us just for doing what we love, making music. We received hand-written letters and sentiments from people who felt our music had helped them through hard times in their lives, they were extremely moving and unexpected tokens of appreciation to receive, they made me realise how important it was to keep doing what we were doing.
And Arc Tangent festival in Bristol earlier this year, that was a very very special experience for us. We played to a huge crowd of fans and the set went incredibly for us. But it was the fact that we were over our hardships and that we knew this was our last festival together, we had serious love for each other that weekend and it meant so much to us considering the year we’d had. I do think that our final show in Vicar Street on the 18th might top the list, all going well. I am incredibly excited for it, hopefully it will be the perfect ending the four of us are hoping for.
Enemies’ third and final album, Valuables, is out now on Topshelf Records and from Bandcamp. Valuables documents a turbulent time for the band — intensive writing, recording and touring, coupled with a lack of shared vision, led to a decision that harmony in ending is ultimately more valuable than discord in continuing. Listen to their latest single Leaves here https://soundcloud.com/t
You can buy tickets for their final show in Vicar Street on Sunday 18th December from here.