Off the back of their sophomore album Embark, Embrace, Enemies embarked on a tour of Asia covering the Philippines, China and Japan. State caught up with guitarist Lewis Jackson to talk life on the road in Asia and what’s next for one of Ireland’s most prolific DIY acts.
You’re just home from an incredible trip around Asian that saw Enemies play Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and The Philippines – before we get down to the nitty gritty tell us how do you feel about it all right now?
I feel weird. It was tough coming home from a tour like that. You’re always happy to be back to your own bed but that feeling really only lasts a couple of days. After that wore off, I felt an urge to pack it all up again, and leave. It’s not all doom and gloom though, the tour was an insane trip for all of us; an experience we will still be talking about in our rocking chairs.
What kind of planning went into a tour like that and if you don’t mind us asking, how did Enemies fund a tour like that and how did you build a network of contacts out there?
We spent roughly four to five months working on this tour with our labels and booking agent. It never got tiresome for us though; at no point do you forget the fact that you’re planning a tour of Asia. Funding any tour is always a tricky element in an independent band. We were lucky enough this time around that our shows were successful and our guarantees covered our flights and any other costs from the tour.
When we first toured Japan back in 2009, we got to meet a lot of really cool people who helped us release our records. From that alone we have been able to tour Japan three times and now branched out to more of Asia.
What kind of response did you encounter out there – I saw your Nagoya date with LITE was sold out before you arrived? That’s incredible, what was the energy like on the night and what was it like to play with LITE this time around?
The response for the entire tour was overwhelming to be honest. When we arrived in Tokyo we found out that all four dates on the Japanese leg were sold out. This is something our band is not used to one bit.
To play with Lite was really great; we have been fans of theirs for years and seen them live a bunch of times. They were such nice guys and a force of nature live.
Why did you bypass mainland China, was it a timing issue?
Unfortunately it just wasn’t in our schedule this time but we hope to be able to cover a lot more countries next time around.
Can you give us an insight into the music scene out there, particularly in Manila – it’s a rare thing for an Irish independent act to play out there, who did you play with and what was the venue like?
It was hard to get a sense of what the music scene was like in any of the places we visited, except from Japan where there’s a thriving music scene. We only spent a day in every other country so we only got to see a little piece of each place. Having said that, most of our promoters were independent bookers who seemed to have a real passion for what they were doing and that was really cool to see.
The main support in Manila was this incredibly talented woman called Skymarines. Her set up was very minimal; just a mixer, some effects and a drum machine. The vocals were so tight live and everyone one of us were blown away. Go check her out.
The venue was this bar & grill/venue. It might sound like a strange combo but it was really nice. The stage looked like something from a MTV Unplugged session, there was candles all around us & purple lights everywhere. It was both odd and lovely.
Out of all the dates, which one stood out the most for you?
This is a question we all asked one another on the journey home. I found it really difficult to answer as every show had its major positives. I would probably choose the first date in Tokyo, Japan. It had been three years since we were last in this venue and even before we played I could feel the energy in the room; the crowd was amazing from the first note, so receptive to every song and fully prepared to not move from the venue until we simply had no more songs to play. It was an incredible way to start the tour.
Was it difficult coping with the language barrier or is it something you’ve adapted to having been out there before?
Well, our Japanese and Mandarin is simply awful. Sometimes it can be a little difficult but everyone we met made a huge effort to communicate with us. You end up feeling pretty guilty though, they know some of your language and you can barely say hello in theirs.
What advice would you give to bands attempting to tour Asia for the first time? Particularly from your point of view, as an independent act.
I don’t really know what advice we could give that would be useful. We got very lucky back in 2008. I ended up sending a lot of messages to labels and bands on Myspace and out of probably 200 messages, one label replied looking to release our music. From there we ended up touring Japan and further afield. So basically, give up your social life for a month and send as many messages as your brain and fingers will allow.
As a band, Enemies are quite well resourced. Lewis, you have your own PR company (Heavyweight PR), you’ve Mark on board for graphic design, and you also have access to studio through Eoin Whitfield at the Hive. It makes sense that you released your latest album Embark, Embrace by yourselves can you tell us about the main advantage to releasing it yourselves & the challenges you’ve come up against?
The advantages are endless when it comes to releasing your own record. For starters you own your own recordings, choose the release dates, pick when you want to tour, sell the merchandise for whatever price you like, you can see when money is going out and when it’s coming in, and so on.
The main challenge for us was finding the time to write and record the album whilst trying to put the wheels in motion to release it. We spent most of January and February in the studio, so between takes Mark and I would work on the business end of the band. Booking tours, looking for press agents, designing artwork, finding a distributor, finding a mastering engineer & getting the album manufactured.
It can be tough work but it’s hugely rewarding when it is finally released. The album took two months to record and it was released three months after we got the final master back.
What’s next for Enemies?
We have some New York and Boston dates in less than a week’s time, then we head to the UK in November for a full ten-date tour. We might also throw in some Irish dates before the end of the year.