Perhaps without even knowing it, Enon drummer Matt Schulz reveals how frequently his band’s name is mispronounced.
What prompted Schulz’s relocation from his native Dayton, Ohio, to Brooklyn, New York? I ask.
“Enon,” Schulz says with a laugh, pronouncing the band’s namesake — a small town near Dayton — as E-nuhn.
Still, if it weren’t for Dayton and surrounds, Schulz never would have met band founder John Schmersal at the age of 12.
Both Schulz and Schmersal have ties to celebrated sonic experimentalists Brainiac, who were also based out of Dayton, and who pre-dated Enon’s multi-faceted approach to genre-bending. Schulz’s cousin, Tyler Trent, played drums in that band, while Schmersal was Brainiac’s guitar player.
Brainiac came to an abrupt, tragic end during the making of their fourth album, when front man Tim Taylor was fatally wounded in a car wreck on the way home from the studio. Shortly thereafter, Schmersal moved to New York and started Enon with “junk” percussionist Rick Lee and drummer Steve Calhoun, who were the rollicking percussion section for Skeleton Key when Schmersal met them on a Brainiac/Skeleton Key road trip.
After putting out their debut album, Believo! (See Thru Broadcasting, 2000), the trio decided to expand to a four-piece. Schmersal approached bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Toko Yasuda in a bar a week after she’d quit playing with The Lapse. Yasuda, also a Brooklyn resident, had earlier fronted the band Blonde Redhead.
That incarnation recorded High Society (Touch and Go/Southern, 2002), though the album’s release was delayed about a year. During that time, Schulz was asked to replace Calhoun. Then, following some touring to support the record, Lee departed to pursue other projects.
Released Sept. 9, Hocus Pocus (Touch and Go/Southern) is the first full-length offering from the current lineup (though Enon has also released a slew of singles, 7-inches and EPs separate from their albums). The group expects to put out a second, all-instrumental recording sometime soon.
Unsurprisingly, Hocus Pocus approaches — but doesn’t attack — the listener from many angles; the band, in fact, boasts that no two songs sound the same. Schmersal feels this diversity is only remarkable in the context of today’s commercial climate.
“Across the board, it’s sort of a silent time, don’t you think?” he asks. “There’s not a lot of challenging, risk-taking music going on out there.
“There’s differences,” he clarifies, “between making an artistic risk and making, per se, a commercial, monetary risk. For certain, no monetary risks are being taken. Usually, that coincides with not making and taking artistic risks.”
Schmersal’s cynicism wasn’t molded by the music scene alone; he also does work scoring cartoons.
“I can tell you, you’ve never heard of any of them,” he says. “They’re ideas that perhaps may get developed into cartoons.” Or else, he adds, large entertainment conglomerates such as Nickelodeon and Disney “may just take the root of [an] idea and make their own cartoon and not give us any credit.
“Basically, I give up all the rights to the songs and [the company I work for gives] up all their rights,” he elaborates. “It sounds about as exciting and dirty as the music industry is.” At this, he laughs.
In an era rife with rigid formatting, Hocus Pocus is likely to either invigorate listeners or utterly confound them. Which may not be a bad thing: If a work of art doesn’t immediately register, patience might yet reveal deeper riches.
As with the work of Frank Zappa or Alice Cooper’s original band, the songs are underscored by an intangible but unmistakable artistic presence. Hocus Pocus doesn’t sound like the work of ADD sufferers, nor does it try to give you whiplash with its dips, valleys, twists and turns.
Schmersal feels that Enon blends new wave, no wave, prog, avant noise and psychedelic rock quite naturally. The abused term “eclectic,” he charges, implies something more contrived.
“I don’t think the different types of songs on [our record] are that unusual when you compare ’em to records of the past that had more variety,” he insists. “I think that, after we put a couple more records out, it’ll just seem like that’s what our sound is.
“It’ll have its own identity.”
Enon plays Vincent’s Ear (68 N. Lexington Ave.) on Monday, Sept. 15, along with DrugMoney. Showtime is 9:30 p.m.; tickets cost $7. For more information, call 259-9119.