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ENEMIES – “Bind Me A Wreath” – new album premiere & interview

Readying for the release of their new LP, Tampere’s ENEMIES have teamed up with me to bring you an exclusive album premiere and aN insightful interview full of interesting opinions, some observations and a bunch of information about the band. Formed in 2009 and drawing influence from basically every subgenre in aggressive music, these guys managed to work their way deep into the subgenre of metallic hardcore and create a very atmospheric trip spiced up with some monumental ascending and complex dynamics. I am stoked to give you this album and my interview with the band’s vocalist Vesa Tammisto! Enjoy!

Pre-orders for “Bind Me A Wreath” on vinyl, cassette and digital are now up on bandcamp, as well as a batch of super cool new t-shirts. Go here to grab your items. “Bind Me A Wreath” will be out on October 10th.

Top photo: Vesa Tammisto., by Toni Viiman.

Hi guys! What’s up! How’s Tampere?

Hi Karol. It’s been busy. We’re shuffling band stuff with work and school, trying to get our shit in order for the album release. Booking shows, doing merch, practicing, etc. Trying to get someone to pay attention. All in all, doing relatively good. How are you?

I’m fine, thanks. Quite buys though. The summer is over, but I’m back at work after a couple of days off and I’m swamped! How old are you guys? Is ENEMIES your first band?

We’re 23-26, me being the youngest. ENEMIES is the first band for me and our drummer, Hermanni and the other guys have played in other bands before, but this is their first so-called serious project. So I’d say we’re late bloomers when it comes to forming hardcore/punk bands.

What are some of the strongest insporations of young Finnish hardcore kids nowadays?

To be honest, I don’t really know what everyone else is into, as I think we’re pretty much outsiders to the scene, but for the most part I’d say Finnish hardcore and punk kids are pretty conservative when it comes to their music and punk politics. Old school sounds and old school ideals tend to thrive around here, so there’s not much mixing it up going on. Dis-bands never seem to go out of style and the depression and the politicians keep everyone down and angry so there’s no shortage of crusty and metallic, politically charged hardcore. No re-inventing the wheel though.

I’m super glad to hear that! So what were YOUR main inspirations when forming this pack?

We actually planned forming a band for almost three years before it finally came together, and the concept of what we wanted to be about changed a lot during that time. I think we were originally supposed to be some sort of super-chaotic math/grind band, and at some point we were playing around with crust influences so by the time the band finally did come together we didn’t really have a plan, other than to learn to play together and maybe do a demo or something. We all approached hardcore from a metalhead’s point of view, so that influence was kind of a given.

Our first album, Framing Choices, was literally the first eight songs we wrote, and we hadn’t originally envisioned it as an LP. We recorded the songs with no plan in mind, other than to hear ourselves on a recording, but they just sort of seemed to click, so we figured we’d run with it. So I’d say the big idea behind the band became to just write whatever, regardless of sub genre or trends, and not to repeat ourselves.

Do you recall your first exposure to hardcore punk, or simply heavier musical genres?

Oh yes I do! I got turned on to metal in my early teens and it’s kind of ironic because it connects directly with religion. The Finnish church has these confirmation camps that most kids get put through the year they turn fifteen, which is basically a week long Bible camp sort of thing, and the dudes I hung out with the most at the camp were metal heads and they turned me onto metal. Nineties era Gothenburg mostly, and other teeny junk like DIMMU BORGIR and all that corny stuff. Then I went through all the entry level acts in death metal and thrash, etc. until I eventually stumbled into CONVERGE. And that just blew my mind. Seeing them live just made me a diehard hardcore kid overnight. No Heroes does not get the cred it deserves.

CONVERGE is a perfect band to resolve a “metal vs hardcore” issue. Do you feel the difference between both genres matters anymore?

Not really. From my perspective it’s all just aggressive music. Sure, there are differences in how bands operate, like it goes without saying that on average, hardcore bands tend to be more DIY-oriented and metal lyrics are often more esoteric, but there are so many different sub genres and bands with different work methods that any metal vs hardcore comparisons become moot. Or based on inaccurate generalisations at best. I mean, who can tell me that bands as dissimilar as DOOM and SNAPCASE have something in common that can’t be extended to, I don’t know, any thrash band ever.

ENEMIES band sinking

Ok, so please shed some light on your new second album, you’re about to unleash. What’s new in your approach this time and why do you think it can please fans of the genre?

Around the time we recorded Framing Choices, me and our guitarist Risto, who writes our songs, shared a negative experience that I won’t get into, and it changed our approach to the band. We’d formed to primarily have fun but suddenly the band became this necessary vent, a way to deal with all the negative things around us. And so our approach to songwriting became intensely personal, focusing on atmosphere and emotional honesty instead of just pummelling our way through a song. There’s a sense of desperation that runs through the album. It’s not about fighting for a thing, but about having lost and finding ways to cope with that loss.

Also, from a music nerd perspective, the record has an interesting structure. Risto is a very song-oriented songwriter. He treats each song as a single that needs to stand on it’s own, whereas I’m all about how the album works as a whole, and we straddle that line. We put a lot of thought into how to arrange these songs in a way that makes dramatic sense and tells a story. And the mood really does change through the course of the LP. I’ve always really liked those kinds of records, that are coherent, but also go from A to B, like that last PULLING TEETH LP. It starts with the familiar, mean PULLING TEETH sound that you already know and love, then goes to this noisy sound collage thing with the title track and ends with this almost solemn, emotional version of the band you never knew existed. That’s just so cool, and for me, put the band from being good to great. Something I look up to, and want to replicate in a way.

I’m interested, what bands do you think we sound like, or seem influenced by?

Oh man, I hear a lot of dirty, metallic plays in the vein of INTEGRITY, yet with very solid death metal influence in riffing along the lines of early DARKEST HOUR. Though it’s chaotic and a bit mathy, I gues you can still compare your tunes to such metalcore and havy hardcore acts like DISEMBODIED, THE LOVE BELOW, and more experimental bands like TODAY IS THE DAY. The funny thing is that I truly believe that one’s inspiration can come from a whole variety of things and can result is forms that are distinctly different from the original inspirations. That’s the real beauty of inspiration. It neither fails nor discourages, cause the final form seldom matters.

Ok guys. Can you shed some more light on the title of album?

Interesting picks, and I can definitely sign off on TODAY IS THE DAY being an influence. I’ve heard comparisons to DARKEST HOUR before, which is kind of weird because I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the band who has ever heard a single song from them and I don’t really see a connection. Anyways, I fully agree with what you’re saying about inspiration, 100 percent. I think our writing is informed heavily by melodic hardcore and REFUSED-esque post-hardcore, and what comes across to you is something wholly different, and that’s a good thing, because we don’t want to be a pastiche.

We chose to call the album Bind Me A Wreath because we didn’t want it to be too literal, but to suggest a certain mood and setting. Lyrically the album advances from anger externalised to internalised, and as it goes forward, the lyrics get more and more literal, ultimately boiling down to themes of romantic failure. To use a cliche, that feels like dying inside. We wanted the title to reflect that, but we didn’t want to be too obvious about it by directly referencing stuff like heartbreak or using big words like love or death, etc. So the title is supposed to key you in about the point of view and to vaguely suggest a sense of loss through word association; the wreath is very much a funerary.

You already mentioned the political background for most of Finnish bands, but I guess that as musicians and writers, and bearing in mind the heartbreak / loss focus you mentioned, you don’t feel that punk lyrics should mainly engage with political and social issues, right? How’s that?

I’m glad you asked, this is one my favourite topics. What punk means to me, more than anything, is freedom of expression. For me, that’s what punk is. So punk lyrics should be about anything you feel strongly enough about to write, and no one can tell you otherwise. And I did mostly write about socio-political topics on our first record, because those were the things that pissed me off the most during that time. But I do feel like a lot of bands are just going through the motions, singing about politics just because, or they just repeat what everyone already thinks. And who needs that? Granted, the world doesn’t need another record about breaking up either, but I know I needed to write one.

Obviously atrocities like misogyny, homo/transphobia and racism are horrible things that need to stop, and that should be talked about. But if your only message is that discrimination is wrong, and you don’t have anything new to say on the subject matter, and you take a self-righteous stance that you need to preach to your audience and make a difference, you’re wasting everyone’s time. I doubt anyone in underground punk/hardcore is oblivious to equality and human rights, or the dangers of capitalism or religious fanaticism. Now, if you’re truly inspired by it, or feel it’s something you need to get off your chest, or you have a unique perspective that people can connect with, shout your message as loud as you can. Don’t take no for an answer.

What I’m trying to say, is that you should write about whatever you like; it’s your art, for you and you get to be selfish about it. Just don’t think reinforcing a consensus makes a difference. It’s an outlet, and it feels good, and maybe there’s a sense of community that comes from having everybody in the room agree with you, but it doesn’t make a difference, because the portion of the population who needs to be informed thinks we’re weirdos and they’re not gonna listen.

ENEMIES cover

How do you structure your compositions? Do you have a process when writing music and lyrics?

The way we work is, Risto does the majority of the songwriting on his own at our practice space in the woods. The way it usually goes, is he’s going through some shit that turns into a riff or two that he starts running with that form the basis of a song. Then he’ll make a few drafts of the structure, which will either take anything between a day and a few weeks, and at some point he presents the song to the rest of the band, and we get really excited and think it’s the best he’s done so far and we jam on it. Then at the next practice he’ll decide the song’s no good and we work on it together and come to the conclusion it’s our best work. We repeat that a couple of times until we settle on a structure and the guys write their own parts.

When a song comes together, I’ll start working on the lyrics, trying to figure out what the song is about. That’ll get increasingly difficult as we work towards building a release, because as I said before, Risto is very focused on singles and I’m trying to build a narrative around them. So I’ll need to figure out where on an album a track should be as early as possible, so I don’t paint myself into a corner. And that can be hellish when you have 2/3 of a record written and you don’t know what the last third will be like and where it’ll fit. Like if I’ve written lyrics for a song with the idea that it’ll be an album opener, and then a better opening song comes up, I’ll have to work around it or do major rewrites. Because as much as I like talking about lyrics, we always approach the music as primary. The mood, the riff, the songwriting always come first.

So how did the recording come together? Who did you work with? How different was the experience of recording it this (new?) way and did it impact the way your material came together in the end?

The recording process was (supposed to be) pretty quick. We recorded everything at our practice space. We had Marko Harinen, who operates a “mobile studio” service come over for a weekend to record the drum tracks. Shout out to him by the way, a good dude with a professional approach. And then we borrowed a couple of mics from J-P Harttunen, a friend who did the mixing on both our records, and spent another weekend tracking everything else ourselves with Risto at the helm. It was fun, and pretty much the same approach we had on the first recording, except that one was done at a friend’s cabin half-drunk. During mixing though, we noticed that due to a gear malfunction, the guitar tracks hadn’t come out right, so Risto and Kalle had to go back and re-do all of their parts. The mastering work was done by Jaakko Viitalähde, who is also great, and did our last record as well.

We’re all pretty happy with how this one turned out. I think the upside of recording fast is when you don’t have time to tinker with every little detail, you get more energy, more immediacy in the finished product, than you would if had too much time on your hands. Sure, the songs need to be really well thought out and you need to be able to play them right, but it’s better to have a few mistakes here and there than to lose that punch. And I’m proud we can be pretty self-reliant as a band. The album sounds real nice for what is essentially a home recording.

Wow, now that’s a surprise! Who will help you guys in the distribution process?

As of yet, no one. I haven’t gotten around to shopping the record to any distros yet, so for the time being we can only get the record straight from the band. Doing everything the hard way, we are, not expecting to sell out any time soon. If anyone reading this is interested, email us.

Your upcoming November tour should be a perfect way to spread it around. How do you book this trek? Are there already some details to share?

Well, it would, except that unfortunately it’s being cut short. We were going to do something like nine to ten days, but we just lost some key dates and there’s not enough time to find new ones, so we’ll just do a mini-tour of the Baltics. I figure I’ll try to set up an another tour next spring or something, if we can make our schedules work. I’m pretty proud I almost pulled it off though. As I said before, we’re outsiders. We’ve previously been too busy to play shows and we’ve kept to ourselves so I started with one name, this guy Arturs who I’d become friends with when we did an interview for his webzine, Archiv Hate, a couple of years back. He’s a really sweet guy and he connected me to a few guys he knew from around Europe, who helped me contact other people, and it kind of sprawled from there. Didn’t work out quite as planned but it taught me a lot. And we’re of course stoked to go check out the Baltics. We’ll announce the dates real soon.

Nice. So.. what’s next for the band as far as spreading the word, promoting this new material, etc.?

Well, having to cut the tour short obviously hurts our promotional efforts quite a bit in the immediate future, but we’ve got a music video coming up as well as a new track stream before the record comes out. After that, it’s just doing the leg work; playing domestic shows, building momentum, hoping for good word of mouth, making arrangements for next year. Writing new material. I think we’ll focus on putting out smaller releases through different labels for a while, instead of taking another two years with an LP and self releasing it. Oh, and we’ve got two tracks recorded that we love, but were too heavy for this album, we’d like to release in some format. I’ll try to do something with those as well.

ENEMIES band!

What are your hopes for the band?

This is where high aspirations meet low expectations. Would I seem delusional if I said the dream is to one day write a classic record, build a huge fan base and become respected grand old men of hardcore? Most definitely, but that’s why dudes form bands. But realistically, I don’t see that happening, so for now let’s just set a goal to not implode in the next few years, to keep growing as musicians, to write material we find personally gratifying and hopefully find an audience that can connect with it. That’s all you can hope for, I think.

Ok, so one more. Since we’re almost at the end of 2014 and we’re approaching the time of various summaries, are there any favourite releases you’d like to name for us?

Sure. I’ve mostly been listening to stuff from last year and the last decade, but a few new releases that I’ve been really into are YOUNG WIDOWS’ Easy Pain, A PREGNANT LIGHT’s compilation album Before I Came, the CULT LEADER EP, basically everything SELF DEFENSE FAMILY’s been up to this year, Savage by TORN SHORE and Soul Eater by RAVAGE RITUAL, who I think you interviewed a few weeks ago and who I’m actually going to go see live tonight.

I’m certainly look forward to hearing more from you guys in the future. Thanks so much! Feel free to add anything else you want here.

Thank you, Karol, so much for the interview. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about our music, and I really appreciate the thoughtful questions. As for anyone reading this, check out our band, buy the record, get really into it, tell everyone you know about it (and go really nuts with that) and like us on Facebook to make us look popular so we can book a tour, and when we do come play your home town in 2019, come lose your shit and afterwards let us sleep on your floor.

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