British indie band The Enemy are best known for anthems like Away From Here and Had Enough. Their upbeat and energetic sound scored them a string of hit singles, as well as three top 10 albums in the UK.
However, three years since their last album, Streets in the Sky, Tom Clarke, Liam Watts and Andy Hopkins have come back with a fourth record, which is a far departure from their previous work. It’s Automatic was released last month, and features a much larger sound than the band’s previous records. Heavily influenced by film soundtracks, the production is much slicker, as is the instrumentation.
The band’s chief songwriter and singer Clarke explains his fear that this new sound he wanted to pursue was going to tear The Enemy apart: “We were looking at playing a festival towards the back end of touring the last album. I wanted to do something different, and I was thinking ‘I know Liam and Andy aren’t going to want to do this, and I’m going to have to do a solo album’, which terrified me. I said to them I wanted to do something really different, I’m really into soundtracks and really high-end production, and I don’t really see how it’s going to fit with The Enemy.
“Liam and Andy both said they were up for doing that, so I thought ‘OK, maybe we could do this as an Enemy album’. Then you start to think ‘will the fans get it?’, ‘will the music media get it?’ We just decided it’s what we want to do, and we’re going to do it and spend a long time doing it well, and see how the reaction is.”
Despite having a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve musically, Clarke says that the recording of It’s Automatic was an arduous process: “It took years!” he laughs. “It was the hardest record we’ve ever made, and we’ve made records where we’re doing live tracks to tape. It was just so many techniques that, even if we didn’t have to master them, we had to find out how to apply it to our songs.
“Just getting to grips with that and stripping the songs down to change the feel, it was a massive, massive learning curve for us. It took a long time to find the right producer, and, once we’d done that, in terms of budget, it was a very difficult record to make and, to be honest with you, I’m amazed that we got there in the end.”
Clarke adds that the freedom to be able to experiment with a completely different sound has also given him the courage to write lyrics which are much more intimate than songs that appear on The Enemy’s previous albums. “We were being so brave with the sound, I kind of decided to be brave with the lyrics, and most of the lyrics on this album are really personal. There are some songs that, lyrically, have been written years ago, but weren’t released on old records because they were too personal. I was always scared of doing that; you put a song out there that’s really personal to you and really intimate, and then the press tear it apart and you feel almost violated. I’ve always steered clear of doing that, but on this album we were taking a risk with sound, I can take a risk with the lyrics.”
Does The Enemy worry about chart performances and critical reception? “It’s a mixture, because I worry about everything,” laughs Clarke. “There was a lot of anxiety around this record. Initially, the midweek chart (position) was Number 5, so we were all a bit taken aback by that. Obviously, it charted just outside the Top 20 – there was a time I would have been really disappointed with that, but it’s not been my goal on this record at any point. The goal of this record has been to make something different and to change the course of the band. It’s effectively a re-branding exercise, I guess, but more than that, it’s quite a passionate mission statement from the band: this is where we want to go, because this is what we’re into now.”
November 25, Leeds University Union, https://www.leedstickets.com/eventinfo/4736/The-Enemy