Tokyo takeover for Wicklow rockers Enemies
Is it really easy when you’re big in Japan? Lewis Jackson of Wicklow alt-rockers Enemies, who play Knockanstockan in Co Wicklow this weekend, talks about the making of the quartet’s new album and being famous in the Far East
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. Of course, Lewis Jackson and his friends weren’t really thinking about that when they were playing their local scout den as teenagers; they certainly weren’t imagining that they would one day be playing sold-out gigs in Japan, where screaming fans followed them around on tour. “We got to know them, and every night, they still couldn’t speak to us; they were crying, screaming and it was just so weird,” the guitarist laughs. “It was quite awkward, actually, because you’re like, ‘You do realise that we’re absolutely no one, right?’”
Far from the mean streets of Tokyo, the Enemies story began in the mid-noughties in the sleepy Co Wicklow village of Rathcoole, where Jackson, bassist Mark O’Brien, guitarist Eoin Whitfield and drummer Oisin Trench came together in the midst of a hardcore scene that had unexpectedly sprung up in the area.
“At the time, Kilcoole had quite a big DIY scene,” explains Jackson when we meet on a sunny day in Dublin city centre. “The three of us played in bands and played all the same shows, so we knew each other from that small circle. At the time, Eoin had a side project from his other band called New Man Eoin, or NME – so that’s where the band name Enemies came from. We basically just bullied Eoin into starting it as a full project.”
Enemies: Indian Summer
After forming in 2007, Enemies wasted no time in gigging extensively. Their brand of strident instrumental rock struck a chord with Japanese record label Machu Picchu Industries, who released their debut EP, Alpha Waves, and later their full-length debut, We’ve Been Talking in Japan. Since then, they have toured the country several times and will return for a full Asian tour, including gigs in Taipei and Hong Kong, later this year.
Jackson claims that the whole process of networking has been surprisingly organic.
“It’s a weird one, because it’s a really friendship-based thing,” he explains. “Most of the time, it’s not just down to business. It’s super DIY – we’re not making thousands on the tours, but we can scrape by and have fun doing it. Because the music we play is quite niche, you end up meeting a lot of people that are involved in it quite easily, and it’s incredible how that works, right across the world; you end up meeting so many people and they’re all into the same bands, and stuff. It’s really cool to have that network of people.”
Enemies have enjoyed success closer to home, too. Both We’ve Been Talking and their new album, Embark, Embrace, scored a hit with fans of creative melodies and powerhouse chords. Still, their taste of international success doesn’t mean the band have become industry-driven.
“We just want to have more fun with it than make it into a job,” he says. “I don’t think this will ever be anything that we want to make a living from – simply because we don’t really have the time to put into it. We set aside our jobs this year and thought ‘OK, let’s take the opportunities we’ve always been offered, but could never accept’. It’s definitely more of a passion project than a career. I think that makes it more fun to do, too – because you don’t have the element of ‘Right, we need to make money from this because we’re broke’.”