The Enemy Lovers (the indie-rock vehicle of brothers Tim and Steven Scroggs) is a rare act that can claim to have had financial backing, a producer, a manager and a lawyer in place before picking out a band name.
But, as much as the Scroggses — with their made-for-Paste-magazine haircuts and radio-ready pop hooks — seem destined for a life of sound checks and tour busses, they could've just as easily taken a miss when it came to rock stardom.
The Scroggses were born into a musical family. Their father is the pastor of Mountain Vintage Fellowship in Arden, and the brothers still perform original music at the church each week. "Just a little picture into our family and upbringing: Our Dad grew up traveling around singing with his family of seven kids," Tim says. "That's actually where he met our mother — on tour with his family." Tim and Steven "grew up matching melodic notes from the back seat while dad would sing from the driver’s seat."
Almost like the Partridge Family, only the Scroggs' Christian background meant that Tim and Steven were sheltered (their word) from much pop and rock music during their formative years. (Both brothers recently discovered Springsteen; the revelatory influence of The Boss now makes itself known in the Enemy Lovers' sound.)
And during junior high — when reputations are staked on the query, "What bands are you into?" — the Scroggs were being home schooled.
Steven suspects skipping that judgmental phase allowed him, as an adult, "to fall in love with certain bands because there's some connection that happens in the music,” as opposed to liking a band because it's the group of the moment.
Tim asserts, "Now I'm eating up so much music it's ridiculous."
If the Scroggs were outsiders 15 years ago, they've made up for lost time — so much so, in fact, that they have a tendency to (albeit, successfully) put the proverbial horse before the cart. The band itself formed by accident. Singer/songwriter Tim had booked a studio session in Atlanta, planning to record some of his lyrical, acoustic numbers.
Fate had other plans.
Because Tim was sharing a car with his wife, he asked his brother for a ride and some moral support. When the duo arrived at Vintage Song Studios, producer Dan Hannon (Manchester Orchestra, Elevation) took a listen to Tim's mid-tempo songs and issued a challenge: Break out of the Ray LaMontagne/Jason Mraz/John Mayer time signature and write five rock tunes.
"I was like, 'alright, I think I'm going to walk out,'" Tim remembers. "If Steven hadn't been there, I would have gone back to my day job."
But electric guitarist Steven (who counts heavier bands among his influences) was there, and together the brothers penned a number of songs that would make their way to the Enemy Lovers' high-octane self-titled EP.
At first, the change was hard-wrought. "I usually write at 80 to 100 beats per minute," Tim explains. The duo's track "Coming Down" is a galloping 160.
"You never see a singer/songwriter go through 160 beats per minute," Tim says. "But I know when I get in front of an audience, my energy level is pretty high." It had been an ongoing internal battle — the adrenaline-fueled performer strumming mellow ballads.
The Hannon-produced EP manifested a new musical style, an amalgamation of two brothers who had never written together before. The six-song disc runs a scant 25 minutes but packs a punch, from the kick-start of "Coming Down" with it's heavy, scratchy guitars and driving percussion to the slowed down but emotionally pumped-up "Enemies." Throughout, the Scroggs take their cues from the best of classic rock. Hand claps, carefully-placed cowbell, choice harmonies and guitars that turn on a dime from the aggression of U2 to the three-quarter lilt of The Eagles.
As much as Tim's lyrics and voice set the tone for the Enemy Lovers, Steven's instrumentals set the pace. If this was Tim's project at the start, it's now a true collaboration.
So, that's how Steven joined the band, though "band" is a loose definition. A year after that fateful recording session, the Scroggs point out they still don't have a touring lineup. Hired players flesh out the stage shows (a favorite arrangement is the combination of the Scroggs' cousin Kent Rector on drums and Kevin Stipe on bass). Upcoming plans include a regional tour hitting Charlotte, Charleston, Birmingham and more emphasis on Asheville venues and the homegrown fan base (much of it from the church community) that has come out to support the Enemy Lovers.
"Our spectrum ranges from very young people to people in their 70s," Steven says. (That means this is a band likely to play all-ages shows.)
"We're bringing new people into the market who don't usually go to hear music," says Tim. "And we'd also like to make fans of the regular music lovers."
The odds are in their favor.
Alli Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.
who: The Enemy Lovers
what: indie rock
where: The Rocket Club, supporting Wilsin (Thursday, May 28, 9 p.m., www.therocketclub.net); The Grey Eagle with William F. Gibbs (Friday, May 29, 8 p.m. $6. www.thegreyeagle.com)
when: Two shows, Thursday and Friday May 28 and 29 (see above for details)