Pete Simonelli / Kevin Thompson

  • Enablers
  • 2006-05-04

Neurot’s Enablers purvey a sonic relationship between alternatingly melodic/abrasive instrumental moodscapes and poetic verbal noticings and emotions, which has offered a couple of gorgeous and moving albums thus far, including Output Negative Space from earlier this year. With news of the group returning to the UK within a couple of months, Zap! BANG! recalled our conversations with the band just after they had returned to the US after the tour supporting said record. The band are not just awesome songsmiths but real nice people. And good conversationists. Check:

Phil: Firstly, how was the tour? Where did it take you and how long were you on the road? What were the highlights and the lowlights?

Pete: It was fantastic… long and always rigorous but in
the end very much worth it. The crowds were great. Highlights were Bar Marche’ in Montreuil, outside Paris and Club Siroco in Madrid. Felt like we were on the exact same page as the crowd.

Kevin: On this tour we wanted to get the music to as many people as we possibly could and in that respect i think we succeeded. We did 36 or 37 shows in 42 days. IT was a bit of a slog but well worth it considering the positive response we recieved wherever we went… provided there were people which brings me to the lows… that would’ve been an un-named town in France where we played to 4 or 5 people. Nonetheless the one contact we made there was overwhelmingly positive and bodes well for the future. One of the highs was sharing a bill with Todd, Thye really play theri asses off and inspired us I like to think we inspired each other to play even harder and better as well. By better i mean to take chances with the music.

Phil: You’ve all played in other bands, how did this band get together and how does it compare to previous projects?

Kevin: This band came together when Pete Simonelli approached me about backing some of his poems with music. We messed around for quite some time with songs I had in my ‘back-burner catalogue’. I had always admired Byrnes’ drumming and coveted him as a drummer so when we asked him we were happy as heck he was willing to join. Goldring was a natural choice as he and I had been conspiring since 1991 with Morning Champ then with Touched by a Janitor. Comparing Enablers to these projects is different. Suffice to say Morning Champ was very heavy and totally psychotic personnel-wise. A typical show was anywhere from ten to thirty minutes and ended with injury, nudity, destruction of gear, etc. Janitor was very carefully thought out and executed with short song lengths in mind as it was instrumental. The track “Output Negative Space” started life as one of the longer Janitor songs. I feel like we;ve gone a bit more in that direction again, albeit with more space for Pete.

Pete: I was a big fan of Touched by a Janitor, and I asked Kevin if he might be interested in helping me with a “project” I’d had in mind for years. I’d always hung around with musicians but felt like Janitor would be the best choice to pull off something good and interesting. Kevin and I arranged “Glimpses…” and soon got Goldring and Byrnes into the fold. The only other band I personally played in was Shotwell. I was the (very bad) drummer for about a year and a half. It’s still around, fronted by a good friend of ours: Jim Broustis, who’s a skinny Greek force in the international punk community. There is no comparison.

Phil: The music has been described as post-rock and comparisons made to Slint among others ­ would you agree with this or do you draw other connections?

Pete: Sure, Slint’s a sort of influence but in no way are they the very certain influence that reviewers like to write about. We draw on a multitude of influences, and they’re not just rock or “post-rock” influences at all. Each of us brings a unique quality to the music we play, and much, if not all, of that individuality is rooted in a love for music and what it is possible of doing. It’s a high art and we respect that.

Kevin: Post rock is or isn’t, depending on who you talk to. The Slint comparison is an easy way out that doesn’t do justice to either band.

Phil: You’re signed to Neurot Records; do you feel an affinity with any of the other artists such as label bosses Neurosis?

Pete: Yeah, we do. Neurosis is that rare band that accomplished their reputation and stature on their own terms. Because of this Neurot allows their bands to follow in that same creatively free path. It’s a standard that they believe in, and it’s a tremendous one to work with.

Kevin: Affinity defined as a “sympathy marked by communioty of interest”? Yes. The common interest being the creation of unique and interesting music. For me it is an honor to be part of their roster. When Neurosis first blew me away in a SF parking lot I had no idea i’d be enjoying such an association with them as I have now.

Phil: There’s a distinct jazz feel to your music, maybe in a smoke-filled bar room, is this something you recognise?

Pete: Yep, but it doesn’t begin or end there at all.

Kevin: Jazz only in the sense of freedom from convention or even the song itself. We reognise it and use it.

Phil: Other feelings that your music conveys are film-noir voice-overs and beat poetry; are these influences at all?

Pete: Yes and no. I still enjoy the beats and recognize their influence on me at a young age, but I’ve gone far beyond that context in my writing. I mean, I don’t think about the beats or film noir while I write the poems AT ALL. That’s not the basis for anything I write.

Phil: Are they poems or songs or do you not even classify them in either term?

Kevin: They are songs and they are poems as well. I think either can stand on their own. When combined they become stronger.

Phil: Explain what inspires the lyrics to the songs. (I’m not expecting extreme detail on all of them!)

Pete: What inspires your questions? Interest, curiosity, perculiarities that grab your attention; sounds, smells, certainly sights. I don’t have a definable inspiration so much.
Phil: How do the tracks get composed? Is the music written to the lyrics or does the music ever get composed first and the words fitted alongside? Or does it even happen at the same time with riffs or phrases almost jammed out?

Pete: We all bring something to the table. I’ll have a poem, Kevin and Joe’ll have a riff, and byrnes creates a lot of what he does as the song develops. We work by collaboration and suggestion.

Phil: Do you feel a different mood to the new album? It’s perhaps lighter overall?
Kevin: I prefer to think the modd is a bit lighter but I have heard the opposite as well. Musically, Output does seem prettier to me.

Pete: I also think the band is better on this new one.

Phil: But how come the artwork for Output Negative Space is so dark? What is behind this minimal darkness?

Kevin: You know, negative space is a place where anything can happen. It could’ve been white, gray, green, whatever. We thought black was the best representation.

Pete: It’s an offering. Listen to the record and fill in your own ideas and concepts. We write from the imagination and would hope that this influences the listeners as well. Negative space is meant to convey participation. You fill in the gaps.

Phil: You played several new tracks at the show I saw, are you just constantly writing new stuff? You’ve only just released an album!

Kevin: We are always working on new material… either for ourselves or for Enablers.

Phil: Is that material going to find its way on to a new album?

Kevin: There will be another full length but first a 7” and a couple of splits too.

Phil: And also how did the second album material and the new stuff seem to go down on the tour?

Kevin: The newest songs have been really well recieved.

Phil: Do you feel that the band presents itself better on record or in a live show? Because obviously a live show can create much more atmosphere and mood but the words can get lost in the sound, what are your thoughts on this?

Kevin: I feel that we are getting closer and closer in the studio but live is still the definitive way to experience our band. The words hopefully do not get lost as much as they struggle with the music when it is in the most intense moments.

Pete: I’ll sacrifice the words for a live show any day. We thoroughly love to perform.

Phil: Lastly then, I always ask bands if they did a covers record what would be on it and I am very much looking forward to hearing what you have to say for this one being that you offer a different format to the average band, so what would you do, and why?

Pete: …jesus, this is an invitation to something smarmy! I’d begin with Cove.

Kevin: Id dont know what the other guys would do but I would out “Ceremony” by Joy Division on because it is so beautiful it still makes me cry. I’d do “Friend Catcher” by The Birthday Party cause it is sooooo heavy and the guitar at the front changed my life. “War Dog” by Leather Nun for its relentlessness. I’d also do “Mexican Blackbird” ir “Jesus Left Chicago” by ZZ Top. Pick any Wire song, and Wire song from 154. I’d also do a cover of Tina Age 13 doing a cover of “Cortez the Killer” by Neil Young, “No Bulbs” by The Fall because it makes me wanna shake, “Signpost” by Lungfish for its hopefulness, anything by Fred McDowell, “Somestack Lightning” by Howlin Wolf for that oh so beautifully mournful guitar line… Man, I aint even touched the 70’s NYC rock canon yet… This could go on and on so let’s stop at ten. Thanks for the interview. I had a good ol time.

Phil: Cheers!

Catch Enablers later this year:

Sun Nov 5 BARFLY, LONDON (with Todd)

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