What was considered the “new sound” from the Pacific Northwest bands of the ’90s is new again under Enumclaw. Hailing from Washington state, and much like that part of the world, their 2022 album Save the Baby bottles the storied music history of the region, but also represents an evolution in that sound. Save the Baby ventures beyond rock with textures of pop and hip hop, and influences outside of music, like sports, also find their way on the album.
Aramis Johnson, singer of Enumclaw, spoke with New Noise about the band’s recent past, present, and not-too-distant future. Enumclaw are a band to watch out for in 2023.
How’re things in the Northwest currently?
Very Northwest-y. We were just out on tour, and then I went on vacation. Trying to get readjusted. It’s December in Washington. The sun’s gonna set in probably an hour. It’s overcast-y. All that good stuff.
What are your plans for the New Year and future?
Very deep questions. We’re going on, technically, our first world tour. We leave in March on a North American leg, and then we come home in the middle of April, and then we go out and do Europe the first week of May. We have that coming up. We’re going down to the Bay to record with one of our more famous friends. I think we’re going to do a little three-song EP. Then working on the next record. We still have a couple more music videos and stuff from Save the Baby that are going to come out. A busy year. I don’t want to move on from the record too soon. It’s only been out two months. Hopefully there’s still a lot more things to promote that.
Has your life changed since the release of Save the Baby?
Actually, yeah. We left on tour before the album came out, and it came out on tour. It was cool to be on tour as the record came out, getting to see people’s reaction to records. Kids showing up to shows and knowing all the words to the new songs and things like that and having more people came out to see us, which was cool. Now that I’m thinking about it, definitely getting recognized more in town. I work at a venue bartending and stuff. The last couple shifts I’ve worked, I’ve gotten recognized probably more than I have in total since I started working there. I think there’s a lot more awareness of the band post the album coming out.
What is it like being a working artist?
Dude, it fucking sucks if I’m being honest. I just calculated all my finances, my bills. It’s just, like, a real pain in the ass. It definitely makes the ’90’s band who were anti-selling out seem really corny. We’re going on tour for, like, four and a half months at the top of the year, and I think my bills for those four months are going to be a little under eight grand. I definitely am not going to make that from going on tour. It’s annoying. I need to get a second job. I guess it’s the reality of it. We have friends in bands that are bigger than ours, and they also still have to have jobs. When I was a kid, I would have thought a band on the level my band is at can live off music. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we’re in. It definitely puts bands in the spot of where it’s like, “Is being in this band worth not knowing how I’m going to pay bills for the next couple of months?” It sucks because I can’t get a super cool, good-paying job because I would have to leave all the time. I don’t know if that makes sense.
I think it puts bands in really weird positions where it’s like: Do I pay my bills and have security or go out on this tour and hope that six months from now, my band has some type of break, or the Spotify algorithm picks us up, and we become a big band? I don’t know anyone who’s not in credit card debt.
Streaming music is cool; I just wish people would purchase a record. It might make things more sustainable. There’s pros and cons to both ways of distributing music. This was a while ago, but I was at the gym one day, and Spotify went down. Then it was like, “Damn, I can’t listen to music because Spotify’s not working now.” They take your favorite show off Netflix, and now you might not ever be able to see it. I think it’s still important to own things that are important to you in a tactile way.
You’ve got one song called “Jimmy Neutron.” What’s happening there?
I think I just was thinking about Jimmy Neutron the day I wrote that song. Most of the song titles are honestly that simple. This was the thing I was thinking about either right before the song or after I wrote the song. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Lizzie McGuire and Hilary Duff, and it’s like, if I wrote a song this week, there’s a 95% chance that’s what It’ll be called.
Where are you going in terms of the connection between different styles of genres?
I think that’s actually a good question. I think all of those things overall inspire me or have built the foundation that is my musical knowledge. When I’m writing a song, I’m trying to pull from one of those references in some way. Right now, I’ve been really into some of the more post-punky things in music. I’m also into pop music and still want to have a big song and want to still be a rock band.
My current “inspo” is drawing more from, I wouldn’t say classic, like, ’70’s rock, but more classic, like, indie rock references, and then pop music. There’s this one Maggie Rogers song on the new Maggie Rogers album; I think it’s called, “That’s Where I Am.” I want to make a big pop song, but I want it to sound like a rock song, but I also want it to be cool enough so people who only listen to rap can fuck with it. I think that’s something Turnstile has been able to do that I think is really cool, is they’ve transcended the genre of rock music by just being extremely cool. I think it’s important for music not only to be good but to be cool.
How have sports influenced Enumclaw?
We’re a sports band. Enumclaw is a sports band. Catch us courtside when they bring back the Seattle SuperSonics. I just really like sports. I grew up playing sports. Sports taught me how to be socially (adept). Taught me teamwork, leadership. I just have fun playing sports. I think it’s a cool thing to be into.
I think that’s a big thing. I’ve felt like indie rock or rock has been so one-dimensional in modern times, that it makes it really inaccessible for people who don’t fit into that very niche category. As a music fan, it’s really frustrating that bigger music journalism platforms haven’t yet to step out of those things. You know you don’t have to be a scrawny white guy who acts like he doesn’t care about his music to be a cool rock band. You can be into skating, or you can be into football, and still really fuck with rock music. You can even want to be successful as a rock band, and I don’t think that makes your music any less important or serious.
I think my band is serious, but we don’t have to take ourselves super serious and act so aloof about what we do. I think what I do is cool. I have pride in the songs I wrote, and I want this many people as possible to hear them.
Are there any other nonmusical influences that you’re curious about exploring?
I guess technically, this is still an art form or whatever, but I’m really into pop culture. I would go as far to say obsessed with it. I think pop culture is really important. I’m really into magazines and trying to put together the context of pop culture moments I might not have been around to witness. I think in the way I approach things creatively, I think about the canon of pop culture and where we can sit in that. I think it’s cool when bands are able to have a moment. There’s bands that are big, and then there’s bands that are important to remembering a time and a place.
I think it’s important to still strive to be pushing things forward. Right now we’re in a weird spot where everything is a callback. I’m guilty of that myself. Trying as hard as possible to keep pushing forward to creating new moments and know that is still a possibility.
Anything you’re working on at the moment?
We’ve been working on new music. Writing new music. Trying to use some of this free time to work on other creative endeavors with some of our friends I think has been a big focus, just continuing to try and make stuff. There’s new music videos in the works and a ton of more visual things we’re trying to do. We want to work on short films and stuff like that. Just trying to maximize our creativity and productivity, making as much stuff as possible.
What’s it like being in a band with your brother?
This is my first band, so I don’t know. I think it makes it easier in some regards and more stressful in other.