Just because nearly five years have passed since the last album of new material from Enon doesn't mean they haven't been busy. The Noise Pop trio, led by former Dayton resident and Brainiac guitarist/keyboardist John Schmersal, toured relentlessly behind 2003's Hocus Pocus, before taking a break to craft their 2005 archive-dusting CD/DVD collection, Lost Marbles and Exploded Evidence.
"In a lot of ways, (Lost Marbles) took more time, seriously," Schmersal says. "It wasn't just a compilation record, we put a lot of work into it. Most of those songs were given remixing work and besides all that, we took a lot of time to make it a record and not just a compilation. There was at least four times the (amount of) material we put on the record to choose from. Most of the things on our compilation were from 7-inches and things that I can't imagine more than 500 people had heard anyway."
With the release of and tour for Lost Marbles behind them, Schmersal, bassist Toko Yasuda and drummer Matt Schulz turned their attention back to the new material that would ultimately comprise their latest album, Grass Geysers ... Carbon Clouds. But before they could get too far into the process, Schmersal and Yasuda left New York for Philadelphia, complicating Enon's rehearsal and recording schedule.
The move ultimately took its toll on Schulz, who began playing with other bands and departed from Enon after the band's last 2007 European tour; Andy Robillard takes over the kit for the band's current circuit.
"A lot of people have asked, 'Why leave New York?' but that was the longest I've ever lived in one place," Schmersal says. "Everyone seems enamored by New York, but I think it's become a very hard city to be an artist in. Personally, coming from the Midwest, where I had been in bands, practicing in basements, it was something that I missed, that organic-ness, and we wanted to make a record like other bands, not like we'd made before."
Schmersal wanted to approach the new material by working it out in rehearsal prior to recording rather than employing the process they'd used in the past, where they experimentally arrived at the songs in the studio. That concept was complicated with Enon's newly established geographical distance.
"Using that process as a mold worked against us, since we weren't a band able to practice as often as a regular band trying to work it out," Schmersal says.
With all of the consideration being given to the process, Schmersal had devoted little time to weighing the specific sonic profile of the next Enon album. Rather than thinking of it in terms of following up Hocus Pocus, Schmersal concentrated on simplifying the studio-to-stage conversion.
"For us, it was just doing something that seemed a little more streamlined and practical," he says. "When it (comes) time to present things live, sometimes you're on a festival or you're in the middle of a bill or the club is really small and you can't set everything up or something breaks. Then it became a situation of who's singing what songs and the balance between those things. So we wanted to round out the kind of songs we can play in any given situation."
As a result, Grass Geysers might be the most straightforward Enon album to date. Without compromising their artistic-noise Post-Punk Pop vision, Schmersal and company have clearly tapped into their inner Rock child in their own inimitable style. The evolution of Grass Geysers is at least partially due to the fact that Schmersal recently installed a substantial amount of recording gear in his Philadelphia home and has used it to record area bands in preparation for recording Enon. "In essence, it was practice for making our records," Schmersal says. "So now we've made a Rock record that was, outside of the drums and stuff, recorded at home, which I've always felt is the harder thing to record. I really feel like we can do anything now. With the new technology we're integrating, I feel like the sky's the limit." For a guy who is generally looking forward in all of his artistic endeavors, Schmersal made one backward glance in achieving the immediacy of Grass Geysers.
"We definitely wanted to make a very live-sounding Rock record," he says. "I pulled out the old Brainiac (guitar) tuning and I'd thought about that a bit while we had been working on songs, because it had been 10 years since Tim (Taylor, Brainiac frontman) had died. People often compare the two bands, which is fine, but I feel, outside of being who I am and being from where I'm from, I've certainly not ever tried to make a Brainiac No. 4 record. But this time around, it was like, 'This is where I'm from and I'm not going to shirk this. I should be able to honor this.' If there was something that was at the front of my mind and not the back, that would be it."
In that way, the outcome of Grass Geysers goes all the way back to Schmersal's original intention for Enon when he began the project in the aftermath of Brainiac's demise after Taylor's tragic passing in a 1997 car accident.
"At first, I wanted to do things that were way poppier than Brainiac had been able to do or (were) allowed to do, almost," Schmersal says. "Other than being a band that is still technology-oriented, I felt like when Enon started, we still had the same ideas — trying to make Pop music with some edge." ©
ENON plays the Gypsy Hut in Northside Thursday with Singer and Eat Sugar. Advanced tickets are available at Shake It Records. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.