“It’s totally unknown to us what people’s reactions are going to be” : An Interview with Tom Clarke of The Enemy

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The Enemy are due to release their fourth studio album, It’s Automatic, on 9th October and it marks a new musical direction for the band. Lead singer, Tom Clarke, was kind enough to have a chat with The Edge about their evolution as a band, their unlikely influences and how he begrudgingly stars in music videos.

There is less than a month now until It’s Automatic is released, what are you most excited about it?

It’s totally unknown to us what people’s reactions are going to be. Previous albums have been a bit more predictable in terms of who’s going to like it and who’s going to hate it. But this one is really different to anything we have ever done before. Out of the people that have heard it already, about half of them have said it’s not as different as they thought and others have gone ‘Oh wow, that’s a massive change!’ I just hope for the people that think it is a big change, it’s a change that they like.

What are your favourite songs from the new album?

I’ve got two. ‘Melody’, that song has been around for years. I think I wrote it in 2009 and it has changed a lot over the years. We have recorded it so many times and there has never been a version where we think ‘that’s the keeper.’ It was only in the last album session that we got a version where the music reflects the sentiment of the song from when I originally wrote it. The other one is ‘Some Things’. This is the first time that Andy has really started coming to the party with full pieces of music. He came to me with the full piece and asked whether I could put some vocals over it. It’s ended up being my favourite one and I think going forward it’s going to be how we are going to do a lot of our writing. It works really well and the production is beautiful. It’s my favourite on the album and I think it’s one of the best things we have done as a band.

What are your musical influences on this album?

The thing is as a band our influences have always been pretty wide, but they haven’t always been apparent in the music that we make. I was classically trained, I’ve played the violin since I was 4 and taught myself piano. So musically I have been into lots of different stuff, like classical and jazz. Liam is really into jazz fusion with funk. Specifically on this album I started listening to soundtracks, especially the soundtrack to Drive really kicked this album off. The most recent The Horrors album was an influence as well as it had some beautiful things on it and there were moments that really sounded like Simple Minds. At the same time I listened to the new Brandon Flowers stuff, ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ has absolutely nailed production. It’s like he has referenced every piece of genius production in the history of music in that one song. There was also a lot of Kanye being played, for references to drum sounds as they are absolutely brilliant. So loads of different stuff and things that people probably wouldn’t expect. On one of our tracks, ‘Everybody Needs Someone’ ,there is a synth sound in the verse and the reference for that is an All Saints song.

Given that you have three top 10 albums, do you feel under a lot of pressure when releasing a new album?

I feel massive pressure if I’m honest. It screws me up a bit. I know that when you release an album you put yourself out there and there are segments of the press that decide they hate it before they have even heard it. You know they are going to rip it to pieces so you have to prepare yourself for that. Also, I genuinely worry whether the fans will like this album as it is different. What will happen when we play it live? Is it going to change the vibe of gigs? Will it kill our touring career? Because, that’s what pays our mortgages. It’s all pretty terrifying to be honest.

You all star in the video for your recent single ‘It’s Automatic.’ Do you enjoy starring in your own videos?

Every time we make a video I plead with whoever is making it to not be in the video. Like, we have professional actors that enjoy being in front of a camera and look good doing it, can’t they do it. I’m not a big fan of being in front of the camera or of the comment sections below YouTube videos, people comment with stuff like ‘OMG his teeth are rubbish’, it’s like yeah they are well done!

What are you most excited about in terms of your upcoming UK tour?

We are changing quite a lot. We are operating under quite stringent budget constraints as we haven’t got loads of money to throw at this like some people do, but we are stepping up the light show, as that is something we have probably been left behind with a little bit. We have brought in a new musician, who is going to play some of the synth parts and some of the lead guitar parts. So I am looking forward to working on tour with Gaz, as there are parts of the album we can’t play as a three piece.

Do you have a favourite live show that you have played?

For me the one that stands out is the last time we played T in the Park. We had played the main stage with the first album. We played one of the tents with the third album and I was worried because we didn’t have much radio play at that point. We walked on stage and the tent was completely full, with more people trying to get in. The crowd were so amazing that I had to get my phone out and film them. They were the best crowd we have ever had and it was the best we have ever played. If ever I begin to wonder why we are working in this ridiculous industry, I watch that bit of footage and that is why we do what we do.

Do you prefer intimate gigs or stadium shows?

I think I get equally as nervous for both but for different reasons. At big stadium shows if you mess up a lot of people will see you mess up. Whereas at a small gig people will see the whites of your eyes when you mess up. My favourite ones are those with 2000-5000 people, where they are sold out and the place goes off. I know Andy’s favourites are the stadiums and arenas. I think Liam is just happy to be smashing away at a drum kit wherever he is.

If you could sum up the album in one word, what would it be?

Evolutionary.

The Enemy are playing in nearby Portsmouth at the Wedgewood Rooms on Sunday 22nd November. Tickets are available now. It’s Automatic is out on 9th October via VAM Records. Pre-order an exclusive signed CD or LP here.

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