Like any musically-inclined siblings before them, Bryan and Doug Enas (21 and 22, respectively) have been rocking out with one another for years. It started when they were teens, covering Weezer tunes at their home in Bloomington, IN. Then, in 2009, after playing in various local bands with friends, the brothers Enas decided to make a more serious go of it with their art-rock project Stagnant Pools. With Bryan handling guitar and vocals and Doug on the drums, the pair dropped a couple DIY releases before signing to Polyvinyl Records last month, just days after Bryan graduated from Indiana University with a double major in English and film studies. Not bad for a band who has yet to tour outside their home state so as to not miss any class time.
On August 7th, the life-long Hoosiers release their thesis in the form of their debut LP, Temporary Room; leading up to that date, the 12-track effort is streaming below. The record’s sound is defined by a desire to find balance between two opposing sets of aesthetics. Musically, the band has clearly found inspiration from the likes of Joy Division, Disappears, and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with an emphasis on heavy waves of drone and lots of visceral fuzz to create a slate-gray soundscape that’s as frightening as it is aggressive. Yet the brothers’ Midwestern upbringing is undeniable, with their hard-working ethos and soft-spoken tendencies lending an accessibility to the tracks (their most gush-worthy conversation topic of late? Their dog recently had puppies). The end result is a fresh take on noise-rock, alive with a newfound intensity and depth that only family members could muster.
To accompany the album stream, CoS recently spoke with the brotherly band via email. During the exchange, they discussed the album’s creation, their hometown’s reputation, being perceived as just another rock and roll duo, the origins behind several album tracks, and much more.
The album definitely has its stand-out tracks. Can you talk a little more in-depth about the creation and meanings behind “Solitude”, “Consistency”, and “Waveland”?
Bryan: I don’t really remember anything much about writing “Solitude”, other than that it was when I was living in Bloomington and Doug was living in Indianapolis. I recorded a demo of it using the microphone on my laptop and sent it in an email to Doug for him to listen to.
“Consistency” was the last song written before the record, and we actually wrote it two days before we went in to the recording studio. We were practicing all the songs to make sure we had them down and when we went through them all, we had 12 to record, and I thought to myself that I wanted to write a really good song to have one more song to record, in case we decided to get rid of one or something. We just started playing around, and “Consistency” came about that way.
“Waveland” happened when Doug’s roommate’s guitar was lying out and I picked it up to just play around. It was in a really weird tuning, however, but it sounded cool, and I just figured out some chords to play and went from there. We didn’t have a name for it for the longest time, but one time on our way to Lafayette, IN to play a show, we got lost on some back road and found out we were in a town called Waveland. We were going to play that song that night and just decided to call it “Waveland” because it sounded like it fit.
We don’t really have any thoughts about these songs since we have recorded them, other than that we are glad that we are going to be able to share it with others. It is the first time either of has have ever had something we created pressed onto vinyl and that has been something we have always wanted to do. We are really pleased with how it sounds.
The album packs a slew of influences, including Joy Division, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Mark Lanegan. Are there any bands/acts that shaped the sound of the record/the band as a whole?
Doug: No records in particular. The band started when Bryan was just learning how to play guitar, and the sound that came out sounded good to both of us. We both really like a lot of the bands on Factory and Creation Records, so I guess it does make sense that those influences come through in our music. But we didn’t go into the studio with specific production qualities or styles in mind.
Let’s talk a little more about the album’s recording process: what was it like, who did you work with as producer/collaborator, where was it recorded, etc. How does Stagnant Pools make an album, basically, and is this an unnerving or peaceful process? I had read the LP was recorded in a day; was that a purposeful rush?
Doug: We did an album by ourselves in the beginning of 2010 that was recorded in one day at our parents’ cabin. We had everything written and we knew that we wanted to be able to reproduce the sound live, so that what was recorded was what would be similar to the sound live, just with a different energy. Before we went in to make Temporary Room, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we could only afford one day at the studio. We practiced a lot beforehand to make sure we had everything down.
We didn’t want to waste time and hang out in the studio; it was just time to get the songs recorded. Looking back, I think it adds coherency to the sound and focus of the record as a whole. We prefer to work that way, and we don’t see it as a rush; it is actually quite comfortable. Our friend Mike Dixon recorded it at a place called Russian Recording here in Bloomington, and we mixed it in his bedroom.
Even non-concept albums have a story to tell; what do you think the tale or arc of Temporary Room is? Are there favorite songs on the LP, or ones you think speak the best of your intentions?
Doug: There aren’t really any favorite songs on the record. I think we like them all. We don’t know if there is any presence of an arc to the album, but if anything, it seems to be about notions of getting used to things and then having them change for unknown reasons.
As far as the album arc goes, to us it just seems that way, about things changing. We know that we are both young and that changes are inevitable, but you still have to experience them and go through with it. For both of us, relationships with others have changed over the years with friends and family, perspectives change on certain issues, your influences change. The songs were just written over this span of time where a lot of things were changing.
For all of the songs, there really isn’t any aim or message to them, in the sense that people can think whatever they want to about the songs. There isn’t anything within any of the songs that I feel like aims to do something comes off as a message because the words will mean different things to different people.
How does being brothers/being related impact the dynamic of a band? Do you fight more or less? Does having that connection make the tracks better, or is chemistry still chemistry regardless?
Doug: I think the connection really does help with chemistry. It almost seems inevitable in a way, as in we listen to a lot of the same bands and enjoy a lot of the same activities, so it makes sense. We both like sports a lot; we both come from the same home and have the same upbringing. We didn’t really fight growing up; I think we just adapted to some kind of passivity early on. Most importantly, we are best friends and love music, so we just try to focus on those things.
Bloomington isn’t exactly a rock and roll Mecca, unless you count David Lee Roth and John Mellencamp. How do you think being from that community has shaped the sound of the band? Would you still be the same unit if you were from, say, NYC or Chicago? There feels like a disconnection between the band’s shoegaze-y sound and the heartland-influences of Indiana.
Doug: Hmm. Well, we grew up and went to high school in Indianapolis, and at the time there was this kind of cool/eventually pretty lame indie-folk-pop-rock kick that everyone our age was on. After a while, we decided we didn’t want anything to do with that, and this was before the band even started. So I think the “community” of Indianapolis had more of an impact on our sound than Bloomington. Bloomington just provided a space for us to play where we didn’t feel like we had to prove anything. I think it might be easier if living in NYC or Chicago to feel like you have to subscribe to some kind of aesthetic trend in order to stick out in the midst of so many young people trying to make music. Here in Bloomington, you can just do what you want and it usually is pretty rewarding.
How do you approach live shows? How would you describe yourselves as a live act? In what ways are you trying to engage or disconnect from the audience?
Doug: Live shows are fun and what we like to do most. We like to play loud; it just seems like that’s how it’s supposed to be when music is happening in front of you. We like to be focused when we play, not being rowdy or wasted. It’s really nice to play for new ears. I think it’s really exciting to hear something you’re not expecting.
Who are some of the band’s you’re really into right now? Any acts you’re dying to tour and/or play with?
Doug: I just saw The Strange Boys and that was really cool. We played with Future Islands one time a couple years ago and we still really like that band; they continue to make good records. There are a lot of bands we would be happy to tour with! I hope Stereolab gets back together soon so we can tour with them.
Would you ever consider expanding your lineup? Or could that hurt your overall product? Do you worry about being “just another rock duo”?
Doug: Initially, we were neither for nor against being a rock duo, and it is still the same way with us. We were the only people we knew at the time who were into doing what we wanted to with the music. It was semi nerve-wracking in the beginning because people would come up to us after shows and say “Hey, if you guys ever want someone to play bass, I’ll do it,” as if that was the most common thing to add to guitar and drums or else something missing was in our music. It made us slightly self conscious because we couldn’t tell if we sounded bad or people just wanted to play bass guitar with us.
Right now, the chemistry between us seems good, and it was only us on the record, so we can’t see any addition as of now. To be honest, the rock duo thing seems kind of worn out and just like a label for people to make up. It seems nowadays if you have less than four people in a band, the number gets pointed out prominently, and the same if you have more than 6 or so people in a band, you are a “huge” band. It’s fine if that’s how people want to refer to us; we don’t mind, but we hope that it doesn’t become a point of focus that takes away from the music.
Reading through your bio, it seems you both just graduated (congrats!). I’m wondering how you approach the music biz as individuals fresh out of academia. Essentially, rock and roll seems to be your first post-college job/career (a rare feat).
Doug: Bryan just graduated; I (Doug) am just taking some time off. I hope to finish up someday. It honestly just seems like an incredibly awesome job. Right now, I am a dishwasher at a restaurant, and multiple times each shift I think about playing music as being an occupation and it absolutely blows my mind. I can’t really believe it; I’m just really thankful.