The boyish figure of Tom Clarke stands on stage, playing “The Drugs Don’t Work”. He’s surrounded by sound engineers, riggers and event staff, but seems lost in his own world. Watching him gently strum The Verve’s classic song, it’s easy to forget that he is the singer of The Enemy, a band that supported Oasis at Wembley.
Liam Watts bangs away on the drums behind him, trying not to get distracted by bassist Andy Hopkins’ antics. It’s hard not to picture the trio as schoolboys on their lunch break, using the school hall as a practice room for their band, but all working separately in corners.
Clarke finishes with the sound check and retreats up the stairs to the dressing room. We wait a few moments before Preston, the band’s hulking bodyguard, leads us backstage. It’s rare for rock bands to have their own security and they explain why.
“It kicked off in Manchester and some lads tried to jump Andy,” Clarke begins. “They got the shit kicked out of them, but if you kick the shit out of someone too much, you can’t go to America. So we got someone to kick the shit out of people for us.”
Clarke and Watts are barely five foot six and it’s very hard to imagine them “kicking the shit” out of somebody. Already, they’d introduced themselves with wrong names and, while very polite, they exude a touch of arrogance that is unnecessary.
The Enemy are barely into their twenties and have achieved national success, breaking into the top ten several times. Throw in the massive tours and that’s a huge benchmark to live up to. It’s this kind of early peak that has been the downfall for various indie bands in the past five years: The Zutons and The Futureheads are both in “where are they now?” limbo, for example.
However, they don’t seem to be bothered about the issue, saying they just want to play the best gigs they can. “You never feel any pressure. You walk out on stage at Wembley and say: ‘Let’s play some tunes’,” Clarke explains. Watts agrees: “They’ve all got different vibes and you have to adapt to each, but they’re essentially just the same thing.”
Naturally, the boys’ love of the 90s British music scene pops up. Clarke dismisses the sound check cover of The Verve as just warming up his voice, but calls Richard Ashcroft a genius. He’s also keen to point out just how amazing he thinks the 90s were: “You had Noel Gallagher picking up a million Brit Awards on the same night, smashed out of his head, telling the world: ‘I’m rich and you’re not.’ It’s when rock’n’roll was rock’n’roll.
“Nowadays, it’s different. If we won six Brit Awards, which we wouldn’t do because I slagged them off in our first year, not that I really give a fuck. If we won six Brit Awards and I said: ‘We’re considerably richer than you’, there’d be a million people at the NME saying what ***** we are.”
Clarke carries on his speech, calling the 90s the “heyday” of rock’n’roll. He believes that bands seemed to really care about winning awards and wanted to be the best in the world. It’s also something The Enemy strive to be, apparently.
“We don’t want to be famous for nothing,” says Watts, causing Clarke to make the curious blanket statement: “Everyone who forms a band wants to be the best band in the world and, if you don’t, don’t bother forming it.”
It comes across as a narrow-minded view, particularly as there are thousands of groups out there who just want to have fun playing music. Cover bands, for example, are happy to go on stage in local pubs and fill an hour with Queen songs. The trio are increasingly portraying themselves as more than a bit deluded. This becomes ever more apparent when asked if they could be the best band in the world.
“Err… yeah,” Clarke starts, before a quick interruption from Hopkins: “We wouldn’t have formed the band otherwise. That’s what we said the day we wrote our first song.
“It’s called having aspirations,” says Clarke, taking back control. “A lot of bands never get past a certain level because they get there and adopt a defeatist attitude of ‘this is it’ and it’s never it.
“If you’d have told us that Oasis would call us up and ask us to play Wembley, we wouldn’t have believed it, but I think we all knew that one day we’d support Oasis.”
Then comes the second surprising assertion from Clarke: “The day we wrote our first tune we knew we’d support Oasis and I know that one day we’ll headline Wembley. You’ve got to have those aspirations or what’s the point?”
The Enemy seem to be two completely different bands: one group is three young lads who love British music and can’t believe people in Japan know them. They’re polite, respect their rock elders, like Blur and The Verve, and enjoy chatting away with fans after a gig.
The other group is a cocky, arrogant trio that sees the world through the bubble they live in. They’re riding a wave of success and don’t consider the fact that all waves have to hit the shore sometime.
It seems like the main reason for this split is their age. Most people in their early twenties are worrying about finishing a degree and finding a place in the real world. The Enemy are living the life that most people dream of. Perhaps if their success had come a few years later, they might be a little more sure of themselves.
Hopefully, they’ll headline Wembley like they think they will. The music business has a nasty habit of spitting out bands who fail to keep up, and it would be a shame for these three to spend their time wondering what went wrong.Tweet