The Enemy: “Indie sleaze? Isn’t ‘sleaze’ a derogatory word?”

The Enemy frontman Tom Clarke spoken to NME about the return of indie sleaze, revealing how he accepts that his band’s new package tour will be seen as a simple nostalgia-fest for many fans.

READ MORE: “There was a sense of optimism”: how ’00s indie sleaze made a massive comeback

Supported by fellow ’00s indie bands The Subways and The Holloways, The Enemy are headlining the ‘Indie Til I Die’ package tour, in association with O2 venues, for six shows in October.

It marks the second major tour for The Enemy since singer and guitarist Clarke, bassist Andy Hopkins and drummer Liam Watts reunited in 2022 after a six-year split. The Subways have continued in music since their debut album ‘Young For Eternity’ in 2005, while the tour marks The Holloways’ first shows since splitting for the second time in 2020.

All three bands enjoyed mainstream success in the ’00s, with 11 Top 40 singles between them, while The Enemy’s 2007 debut album ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’ was a platinum-selling Number One.

The tour continues the rise of indie sleaze nostalgia, alongside festivals such as Shiiiine On Weekender and the recent London dayclub Daytime For Heroes.

Read on for Clarke’s thoughts on package tours, who he’d want to see play in his own ‘Indie Til I Die’ showcase, The Enemy’s progress on a new album and how he’s never heard of the term “indie sleaze”.

NME: Hi Tom. How did the idea for an ‘Indie Til I Die’ package tour come about?

Tom Clarke: “We’ve wanted to play with The Subways for years. Bands attract egotistical sociopaths and there aren’t many who I’ve made friends with. But, when we started, we were playing the same festivals as The Subways a lot, and they’ve always been decent, polite, normal people. We said to the people we worked with we’d love to tour with them, but nothing happened.

“Then, O2 said they wanted to celebrate indie being cool again and asked: ‘How do you feel about touring with The Subways?’ We were: ‘Yes! It’s 15 years overdue!’”

Why are The Holloways completing the package?

“With us and The Subways, add The Holloways and you get a broad view of that 2006-2008 indie scene. The Enemy and The Subways are punkier, less refined, while The Holloways had a maturity to their songwriting. There’s a real craft to their songs, so it’s a great fit.

“I didn’t know The Holloways personally. We apparently met in the ’00s in Japan, but I don’t remember much of Japan, mainly due to booze. We all hung out at the photoshoot to promote this tour and it was so nice. It was like 2007, but with no egos in the room.”

Just how competitive were you first time round?

“Two things were at play. One was the incredibly limited number of radio playlist slots. The huge number of bands labels had signed were all competing for those slots. That competition can produce great music, because you’re all trying to write the catchiest chorus to get your band on the radio ahead of all the others. That made for some songs everyone loves from indie.

“Secondly, we were all so young. Part of your self-development and working out your place in the world means you were tribalistic, trying to find where you fit in. That made for cliques: people sticking together, then looking over the fence to see what everyone else has got going on. It’s nice now to come together and see we’re all still making music. No one is competing for Radio One anymore on this tour.”

 

Are you indie til you die?

“It would appear that way, yeah. I like a broad scope of music. I know a lot of people who say that mean they’re into Blur and Oasis, but I’ll put on jazz or classical. You have to appreciate other music to develop your songwriting. I was about to say: ‘You can’t keep playing the same three chords,’ but I’ve literally made a career of that.”

What do you think of the term “indie sleaze”? It wasn’t around in the ’00s, was it?

“I hadn’t heard of it until two seconds ago, when you just mentioned it. What’s indie sleaze supposed to be?”

It seems to be traditional indie, with the word “sleaze” added. You know, for glamour. 

“Hmm. OK if it’s for the glamour, but ‘sleaze’ sounds a derogatory word to me.”

How does it feel to be part of a package tour? Do you worry it’s just a nostalgia-fest?

“For a certain portion of the crowd, it absolutely will be a pure nostalgia-fest. But for some, it’s a discovery of new music they’re only just stumbling upon.

“Our shows now are three generations. The kids who were 18 when ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’ came out are now the older parents in the room, then there are new kids down the front who are discovering live music for the first time. That’s really exciting. And at the back, you’ve got the people who were the old parents first time round and who are now really old.

“It’s made for some of the best atmospheres we’ve ever had at our gigs. It’s creating a community, passing our music from one generation to another.”

 

What would be your dream Indie Til I Die line-up?

“You’d have to have Arctic Monkeys, as they defined the genre and set the bar impossibly high.

“In the uber-competitive days, I had a pop at some of the bands I’d want to put on now. I detested Courteeners, but I’ve come to really respect what they’ve achieved without any radio support. And an incredibly underrated band who we played with everywhere is Reverend And The Makers.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re playing to 80,000 people or a few hundred, The Makers always put the same effort in. At a time when the industry stamped on everyone’s spirit and said: ‘Nah, we’re not interested in guitars’ and labels said there was no money, I was one of those who looked at that incredibly depressing landscape and felt beaten. But Jon McClure just marched on. If you’re going into battle, you’d want Jon there.”

Do you worry where the future Indie Til I Die stars will come from?

“I can’t imagine how hard it is to get a band started now. When we got signed, it was a goldrush. Arctic Monkeys had just made their label millions and everyone wanted a piece. Bands were getting signed left, right and centre. It’s impossibly hard now by comparison.

“If any band deserves success now, I recommend Candid. Their production and songwriting are amazing and they understand stagecraft. They’ve got all the magic ingredients like working a crowd that fans don’t see: they only know they’re having a good time.”

 

Presumably The Enemy’s tours are less hedonistic now than in the ’00s?

“In order to stop myself drinking too much, I’ve driven to gigs for a long time. I hang around for a very short time after, then drive myself home or back to the hotel. Everyone else has caught up on my sensible schedule.”

How has the atmosphere been between you, Liam and Andy since you reformed?

“We’re closer than ever. When we first started again, everything felt delicate. We had to tread carefully, to not reopen old wounds. But once the tour itself started, the stress had gone, so it’s worked better than it ever did. We’re better friends. There’s no arguing, as we’ve finally found alignment.”

Tom Clarke and Andy Hopkins of The Enemy perform on stage on the third day of the TRNSMT Festival 2023 at Glasgow Green on July 09, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)

Are you writing new songs?

“We started writing this time last year, tentatively putting a few ideas down, feeling how it might sound. There was a pause, then once we got back to it, the floodgates opened.

“All these Enemy-sounding songs came out and it’s felt like the beginning again, before the demands of: ‘We need another ‘Had Enough”. When you pick them apart, a lot of the songs on ‘We’ll Live And Die In These Towns’ are quite weird. We’ve found that weirdness again. We’ve demoed the songs at our home studios, and in a fortnight we’re going into the studio with our producer, Matt Terry.”

What’s inspiring you lyrically?

“Initially, I was angry. A lot of anger came out in the first few new songs. Now, I’ve settled into a more inquisitive, playful space. Since my solo albums, I’ve learned to embrace storytelling. On our first album, we were singing about first becoming adults. Our life is less extreme now. No one wants a three-chord punk song about a trip to Homebase. You have to find new subject matter.

“Some songs highlight certain aspects of culture. Others are about how I’m fascinated by humans, because we’re the weirdest animals on the planet. And some is just what comes out of me. ‘Away From Here’ is just what came out of me, because with some songs you just blurt out lyrics.”

Do the new songs still sound like big primary-coloured Enemy anthems under the weirdness?

“Yes, but without trying to. What annoys me about our third record, ‘Streets In The Sky’, is that I can hear it was written to a brief. It was a record label saying: ‘We’ve got a limited budget, so what we need from you is XYZ.’ That record is the sound of me delivering that formula, saying: ‘If that’s what you want, it’s your money.’

“Writing our first album, we weren’t signed. There was no committee and that’s the case on this record too. It’s what we want to make. We’re so much freer again, saying: ‘What if the chorus doesn’t hit after 70 seconds?’ We’re making it at our own pace, but we’ve all said it’s got to be out next year.”

The Enemy, The Subways and The Holloways play the Indie Til I Die tour in October. Full dates are below and tickets are available here.

OCTOBER
4: O2 Academy, Edinburgh
5: O2 Academy, Glasgow
11: O2 City Hall, Newcastle
12: O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
18: O2 Academy, Birmingham
19: O2 Academy, Brixton

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