The members of the Tacoma-based band, Enumclaw, consider themselves a working-class group. They have slogged in minimum wage jobs, rehearsed in basements and enjoyed their fair share of “tall boy” cans of beer belly-up at a dive bar. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of this. But the band members also dream bigger. Part of their identity entails a grind, a push for more, to make for higher ground when the time is right.
For inspiration, the group looks to the 90s U.K. chart-toppers, Oasis, which blossomed from its humble blue-collar beginnings. Today, the band is enjoying its own early successes, including the attention from local outlets, KEXP and the Seattle Times, and the national tastemaker music publication, Pitchfork. But Enumclaw’s most significant step forward will come on April 30 with the release of the group’s five-song debut EP, Jimbo Demo, out on Tacoma’s Youth Riot Records.
“We’ve all had our share of hard times,” says Enumclaw’s frontman, Aramis Johnson. “We’re striving to do something bigger than us and to make it out of Tacoma. I see a lot of myself in the way Noel talks about things. I really relate to the journey of it all. Everybody, I would hope, dreams big.”
By “Noel,” Johnson means Noel Gallagher, co-founder of the famous Manchester-family band, Oasis. In fact, Johnson says he’s watched the 2016 documentary, Oasis: Supersonic over a dozen times. He finds energy and push from it, including in one of the culminating scenes in which Oasis plays in front of over 100,000 audience members and then does it again the next night. The indelible image of the sea of people seems almost impossible after a year where everyone had to stay inside. Yet, it’s also a clear ambition for Enumclaw.
“If that doesn’t get you pumped up,” Johnson says, “I don’t know what will.”
Enumclaw, which formed in July 2019, found its groove as a three-piece. Comprised of frontman Johnson, drummer Ladaniel Gipson and guitarist Nathan Cornell, the trio enjoys digging into fuzzy sounds and catchy rhythms. They began to put songs together in earnest in March 2020, but then the COVID-19 shutdown put a stop to all that. In the time between, Johnson says he wrote and reflected. He tapped into vulnerabilities and insecurities. The resulting songs solidified the foundation for the band’s debut EP. Then Enumclaw enlisted Johnson’s brother, Eli Edwards, to play bass. The quartet was complete.
“I don’t think I could have been in a band without Nathan, Ladaniel and Eli,” Johnson says.
In a way, each of the band members learned new instruments to get the project off the ground. Gipson had played guitar and ukulele but never drums. Edwards picked up the bass for the first time for the project. Cornell took up bass before Edwards joined the group, and Johnson had never much played guitar or sung prior to the band. Though they’d all participated in making music since the mid-2010s, whether that was DJing or putting out songs digitally on platforms like SoundCloud, Enumclaw is a new mode of expression for each of its members.
“It’s odd to me now,” Johnson says, “that something we’ve come together and done in our friend’s bedrooms is now in the world and exists on its own. People are consuming our music the same way we consume other people’s music.”
Two major avenues inspire the songs the band makes: the sing-talk-yet-melodic-droning vocals of artists like Drake and Kid Cudi and the emotional, angsty rock songs from grunge-era bands like Nirvana, Oasis and The Smashing Pumpkins. The band’s music is the sound of dripping wax over an out-of-tune, scratchy turntable. In other words, it’s nuanced, provocative and even blissful. On the new EP, songs often touch on a hope to see more of the world and not to be trapped in any low-stakes cycles.
“I wrote these songs on an acoustic guitar in my living room by myself,” Johnson says. “I had a lot of time to reflect on myself and the people around me. I have friends I grew up with who have maybe been to Seattle three times in their whole lives, and we’re now in our mid-twenties. I don’t want to be like those people.”
“I feel like I’ve messed up relationships in my life,” Johnson says, “whether platonic or romantic because I wasn’t vulnerable enough. So, putting that stuff into the music is me trying to learn how to be vulnerable for the first time.”
Enumclaw members came to music early on in their lives and have since become rather obsessed with it. That care and deep love show clearly in the songs they create. For Edwards, it’s that music can change the world. For Gipson, it’s the freedom music offers to say anything at all in song. For Cornell, it’s the act of forgetting space and time while performing. And for Johnson, it’s the catharsis music offers that keeps him coming back.
“Music fills the void like nothing else,” Johnson says.