Their music may be steeped in metaphor, but when it comes to their message, Belfast’s Enola Gay don’t hide behind subtleties.
Confrontational and explosive, their songwriting faces heavy subject matter head-on in a climate which has seen swaths of the population grow evermore apathetic; submitting to an era of political impotence.
2021 single ‘Through Men’s Eyes’ unflinchingly addresses Ireland’s rugby rape trial of 2018 and the topics of racism, sectarianism and toxic male behaviour are all commonplace in a growing songbook which punches far above their two EP’s worth of material.
“Government that’s full of bigots see a population made up of digits,” frontman Fionn Reilly barks on ‘Leeches’, lifted from their new Casement EP. “It’s all just one big joke to them, swan for Christmas in No.10”.
There is a recent lineage to be drawn with the progressive punk movements of IDLES, but in truth, Enola Gay are pooling all kinds of influences to produce a sound which is as accomplished musically as it is ideologically. Hip-hop deliveries meld with hardcore sensibilities in a fashion that brings to mind Rage Against the Machine‘s Zack de la Rocha and Gilla Band (FKA Girl Band)’s brand of abrasive noise-rock.
Enola Gay are the antidote to the fog of numb passivity that the current political climate has rendered necessary for survival. We spoke with the band about their monster 32-date debut tour and the relationship between violence and music.
How did such an intensive debut touring experience change you as a band?
It’s funny to ask how it changed us when it was all we knew. We had only played about 10 live shows before that, so it was a baptism by fire, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. We were like embryos, birthed as fully formed beings by the end of it: kind of like that orc thing from Aphex Twin’s ‘Come to Daddy’ video.
Our drummer, Luke Beirne, had only joined a month before. It was his first-ever tour and we hadn’t corrupted him yet, so he brought a fresh dynamic. The extensive experience prepared us well for the upcoming festival season with larger stages. It also helped restore some of our faith in humanity, as we mostly crashed at the houses of fans we had never met before. We truly have the best fans.
You’re refreshingly frank about your detachment from the dark forces of social media, this must have made your rise to prominence during the pandemic an even bigger compromise than most artists?
On social media aye but we’ve better songs than the part time influencers haha. Social media is carcinogenic- a vampire for creativity. We’d rather channel our energy into exploring our music. We do love meeting and chatting to people though.
The band is an extension of who we are as people and we’re not very active on our personals. It’s only a tool for updating fans of shows and releases. Keeping it grounded has bolstered our live reputation, giving fans a taste of the chaos that defines our shows.
Enola Gay cite some pretty dark touchstones with track titles like ‘The Birth of a Nation’ as well as the band name itself. What is it that draws you to these reference points?
There’s a lot to be gleaned from them. Violence and music have always served as time capsules, indicators of where things are at. It’s also an Irish cultural thing. Irish folk music was punk in one of its purist forms, singing songs of colonialism, genocide and the ensuing rebellion.
‘The Birth of a Nation’ was named after the D.W Griffith film for many reasons. Some of which would be, to draw parallels of the media’s portrayal of black people, the fact that it had a private screening in the White House just over 100years ago is noteworthy when Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand down and stand by” when asked to denounce them.
Our name originated from my early age exposure to the OMD track; initially naive to the lyrics, only fully grasping them when I was older. The realisation alerted me to the constant and passive consumption of media with ominous undertones. The juxtaposition between this perky pop song and one of mankind’s most harrowing acts was so striking and it is that conflict on an emotional and visceral level that has seeped it’s way into our music, shaping its essence time and again.
Ireland, and Dublin specifically, has seen an unignorable commercial and creative boom in punk and post-punk over the past five years or so; has that been felt and shared north of the border? Are the two scenes interlinked and fluid or is Belfast preoccupied with its own buzz?
So-so. We were moved and motivated hearing acts like Fontaines D.C. and Just Mustard coming from Ireland, there was and still is something in Dublin’s water keeping them ahead. Even strictly in terms of post-punk, the only Belfast band we knew of who were doing it when we started was Robocobra Quartet, they were way ahead of the curve.
I’m glad it’s remained that way. If Belfast tried to do it now it’d be forced, besides that ship sailed and sank when over-saturation called for a mutiny on its own deck. Everyone’s evolved and moved on but that won’t stop any Irish band with a guitar get dubbed post-punk and compared to Fontaines.
There is a link between certain aspects of the North n South scenes however; it’s not bound by genre. It does feel like band-wise Belfast is in bit of it’s own bubble. Electronic music is where it’s at in Belfast.
Mercury-nominated producer Johnny Hostile is on production duties for Casement EP, how did that hookup come about?
LORD HOSTILE. We were in the van when things were popping off with our first UK tour. He shared our post of the previous nights performance on Insta. Ecstatic, we DM’d back thanking him for having a role in those Savages albums that inspired us. Right then he asked if we’d consider working with him. We collectively went balllixxxxxxx and knew it had to be done. The man’s a legend and genuine champion of music. We exchange music from time to time and he really loves the smaller acts we send him, he knows potential when he hears it.
‘Leeches’ pulls no punches in calling out those in power. Was political writing always at the forefront of the Enola Gay manifesto? Or have circumstances taken the reins and inspired the direction?
It’s not that we aimed to be sociopolitical, it inherits us. This subconscious permeates our day-today-day lives. Ireland’s history is entrenched in conflict; we’ve been brought up this way, shaped by our surroundings. Even tracks like ‘Scrappers‘ which may not appear political on the surface, allude to sectarianism.
Keep in mind that when we write about substance abuse or mental health, the generational trauma of Irish people facing subjugation and dominance often underpins these situations.
‘Terra’ throws a huge sonic curveball in Casement’s tracklisting, was it challenge to articulate your ideas through such a different delivery?
We really owe credit to the producer of the 2 parter and EP closer ‘Terra Firma’, Neil Kerr (aka Berghain veteran and modular wizard Mount Palomar). Fionn originally posted ‘Terra’ as an acoustic folk track on his personal Instagram over lockdown, probably without any notion to revisit it. That changed when Neil approached us about doing a collab which would finally unveil Fionn’s previously dormant melodic capabilities.
We immediately thought of ‘Terra’ and asked Neil to sample it and everything was built around that warped sample. It came very organically and is the first time a track’s been written around a melody and not a bass-line with beats and it won’t be the last. Another other string to the bow we’re just tuning. We’re glad it’s a curveball, there’s more to come because we feel ‘Terra Firma’ will grant us the freedom to do anything now while maintaining that Enola feel. Parful.
You’re heading to America for your first trans-Atlantic show this month with Chicago’s Riot Fest. Have you already seen any love from US listeners already and how do you think your commentary will translate?
‘The Birth of a Nation’ was played in LA the day it dropped before anywhere else so our radio debut was in-fact in the US. We’ve been pretty successful landing on American stations and podcasts without any push. They must still have an affinity for the Irish (and rhythm sections); it’s already shown it can resonate.
How could it not? Paradoxically, both of us have experienced once in a life time political disasters, Trump and Brexit. Police brutality has plagued both Ireland and America for centuries. Both countries are facing housing crisis jumping from about 3pc to 7pc. A Canadian interviewer recently informed us of how some of our lyrics for ‘PTS.DUP’ could literally be interpreted as being about Canada’s history with colonialism. We take things like that for granted when writing about Ireland.
Photo Credit: emshootsbands