An Interview with Enablers as They Kick off European Tour in Germany

Jennifer Brown

Avant-garde, spoken-word band Enablers start their 42-show tour through Europe. PopMatters caught up with them in Dresden and they talked about the European music scene and what it's like to be part of such a distinct genre.

The American four-part “spoken-word” act Enablers toured through Dresden last night. Marking the group’s second stop on a 42-show European tour, the Dresden show followed a concert in Leipzig and a five-day rehearsal in Berlin (the band members are sprinkled throughout the US and don’t have too much time to practice together regularly). The band’s performance was titillating and thought-provoking, building off of strong instrumentation and beautiful cadence and flow within Pete Simonelli’s vocals. I hung out with the guys before the show and talked about all-things music.

You guys are known as a pretty under-the-radar “cool” band in Germany. Fans of yours seem to be pretty loyal, from what I gather. Do you sense this loyalty when you tour through Europe?

Yes, definitely. A lot of our fans become our friends. We do all of our own booking -- Kevin does all of the booking -- so we manage to meet people that way. The Internet also makes it so much easier.

Wow, really? You book your own shows in Europe? But this network seems incredibly hard to get into. I know so many bands who try to get over here, but it just doesn’t happen.

Well, the first tours weren’t really tours, but it got better. We work with a group of like-minded people who want to bring good music to people who care. Also in the beginning, our label got people to pay attention too, which broke the ice a bit. With booking, we choose to do the work ourselves because if you’re a person booking for a band that’s only drawing 50 to 150 people and you’re only making 15 to 20% of the profit, you won’t have much motivation to work hard. We’d rather do it because we know we’ll do the work.

How many times have you played at Beatpol?

This is our second show at Beatpol, fourth in Dresden. Dresden seems to be a good town for us.

Yeah, but Dresden isn’t always on the list of stops for artists…it’s too bad sometimes. Why do you guys make an effort to come through here?

This place in particular is legendary. We feel honored to play here. Dresden’s a great city to stop through because of its proximity to Leipzig and Berlin. You know, all three cities are within a couple hours of each other, but we can have a show and bring a crowd to each one.

Regarding music, you guys have a distinct sound. Did you go into the project knowing you would have this sound?

In the beginning there was a vague idea, yes. The primary concern was that the music wasn’t going to be a backdrop—it was going to be an integrated process, as far as the words and music went. Usually we start to write new songs with a guitar riff and we’ll take it and bash the song out from there. Everyone brings something to the table.

Obviously the lyrics are an important part of the whole thing. Do you guys find it hard for European crowd to “get” your music right away?

No. I think they’re more interested. They’re a lot more receptive. So-called “spoken-word music” has an ugly reputation in the US, but here the music is seen as a different sound that’s also attractive. We have a more engaging experience with our audiences here.

What other bands do you guys like and admire? Do those bands also tend to be avant-garde?

Most of them. There’s a lot of avant-garde jazz we enjoy -- mid to late 60s jazz and blues. We’re also big fans of Hüsker Dü and Sonic Youth. Also Pere Ubu. Spoken-word music is low on the list of music we enjoy, but there’s a lot of music that’s based around the idea, for instance, the band The Fall, or a lot of soundtracky stuff.

So this is a huge Euro tour you guys are doing. Where are you headed? What are your favorite cities?

We’re starting in Germany and going through Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain… basically a big loop around Europe that begins and ends in Germany. Our favorite cities? That’s a tough one. Madrid’s fabulous -- it’s in the top three. We also look forward to Bologna. It’s a big university town.

Really? Bologna? I’m surprised by that. I guess I’ve only seen the club scene.

Oh yeah, there’s a lot more going on. Italy has a really strong folk tradition. I’ve always found under-the-radar stuff in Sicily.

What’s your favorite thing about touring through Europe?

Being out of the states! FOOD. Italian, Spanish, French… in France, we stay off the main roads so we can have a nice lunch. We’re looking forward to it.

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