A Conversation with John Schmersal of Enon | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A Conversation with John Schmersal of Enon

Since the late 1990s, John Schmersal and the New York-based band Enon have dealt out double-fistfuls of pulsating post-punk squall, layered electronics and clever lyrics, over a series of albums and singles on prominent indie label Touch and Go and via the group's noisily rapturous live shows. But for the past several years, from an album standpoint, the band -- which includes drummer Matt Schulz and Toko Yasuda on bass, vocals and keys -- has been strangely quiet. Now located in Philadelphia, Enon is breaking the silence with the corrugated clatter and dark grooves of Grass Geysers ... Carbon Clouds, just out on Touch and Go. Schmersal talked with City Paper via phone from his home studio, where he's been recording groups like The Thunderbirds Are Now, and enjoying the rockstar life -- you know, gardening and whatnot.

With Grass Geysers, you've adopted a different attitude toward recording?

There hadn't been a ton in the past that Toko sang, so we wanted to write a record that was a bit more stripped-down, that we both sang a lot on together. We always [thought] about records being something that you want to sit down and listen to all the way through, and we want it to be kind of a crazy ride. Sitting down and listening to a record has absolutely nothing to do with being practical, in my mind. Whereas this time we decided to be very practical, and think, "What is it going to be like when we play these songs live?" And we hadn't really ever done that before.

Do people even listen to records all the way through anymore?

Well, that's part of the problem -- I know that people are starting to do that less. A lot of times when you listen to our records, the songs are pretty tightly wound together; there's not a lot of space between them, sometimes they actually segue together. So yeah, that's our goal and our intention -- we want people to listen to things as the record, as a whole -- but obviously it's not in our control.

I'm just surprised, in the climate of putting out a record, how much has changed [since the last album]. Being paranoid about watermarked CDs and the record leaking early -- that being a big deal. Just the fact that people are so hungry for whatever is the next new thing that they are really intent on absorbing it before it's actually released. I mean, those things are not on my radar at all.

Could some of the new songs -- like "Pigeneration" -- be considered political?

Political? Well, all songs are political when it comes down to it. Even if people are writing love songs, I think that they may be very political. But I think that song, I don't know if it's political so much as it's just sort of about that thing we were talking about, I guess -- people who are so hungry for the next thing, and they think everything should be free. Or they don't realize that everything isn't free. [Toko] sorta states the lyrics in this sort of joyless way, but she's talking about things that are supposed to be joyful. She's talking about "joy to collect, and connect." It could be file-sharing, or it could just be whatever.

Do you mean things that should be free, or that things just aren't free -- and shouldn't be?

I think this generation that's sort of younger than the one I'm from, that has grown up with computers as a primary source, they perceive that music and, with YouTube and stuff like that, movies are free. But it's not necessarily a song that's like "Fuck you guys," or anything like that. That's just the way that it is, really. And how much joy is left in something, when you don't have to do anything to get it? How much do you really care for it if you eat it, if you just wolf it down?

How do you keep that older way of enjoying music?

If it's music, for instance, like I was explaining, I'm not addicted. I'm also not a teenager anymore. [Laughs.] I don't overdo it on myself. You think of the opposite thing being like, before music was even really recorded, the only way you could see something was if you went and saw the first time, I dunno, a Mozart piece was performed or something like that. And imagine how amazing it would be to not listen to any music ever on a daily basis, 'cause it wasn't available to you, and then all of the sudden you get to see this concert. You kind of have to starve yourself in little ways.

Enon with The Octopus Project, Girl in a Coma and Discuss. 8 p.m. Wed., Oct. 24. Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $8 ($10 at the door). All ages. 412-391-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com

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