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John Schmersal of Enon
Eluded by Dead Presidents
by Matt Crawford on Apr 04, 2008
Named after a small town in southwest Ohio, Enon (pronounced ee-nan) has had audiences that rival its namesakeís population. The power trio of John Schmersal (guitar/vocals) and Toko Yasuda (bass/vocals) of Philadelphia, and Matt Schulz (drums), who lives in New York, return to San Francisco in support of Grass GeysersÖCarbon Clouds, released last October on Touch and Go Records. Schmersal spoke with SF Station on the eve of a U.S. tour that will be followed almost immediately by a European tour.
SF Station (SFS): You are going to be on the road for almost three months. Are you ready for that?
John Schmersal (JS): I donít know. We were just discussing our readiness, as far as being packed, which I am not. But Iím ready to play some shows.
SFS: What are the essentials?
JS: Well, there is the clothing thing, and then there is all the weird stuff that you may or may not bring, like battery-powered entertainment devices. Iím changing my guitar setup a little bit, so Iím kind of back tracking and wondering if I should bring some extra guitar pedals in case Iím not into the way I stripped it down. For Toko the Nintendo DS is essential. For me, itís the laptop that has the music program we are using these days.
SFS: You have been trying to visit Mount Rushmore during your travels. Have you made it there yet?
JS: Actually, that is one place that eludes me still to this day. Toko has been there, and last time we were on tour we had the opportunity go there. We could have drove through the Dakotas, but another way was a little bit shorter so we bisected it. I was kind of mad at them the next couple of days because I have never seen it. Toko said itís not that big of a deal and itís smaller than what most people think, but someday Iím going to see it.
SFS: Matt is a vegetarian and Toko and yourself only eat fish. Is it hard to find places to eat when you are in distant outposts?
JS: It has gotten a lot better. There are some desperation places for times when there are not many options. The Olive Garden is good when you are in places like Arkansas, where food can be unpredictable. We donít have one, but GPS systems are amazing for finding places like vegetarian restaurants. That might be something we invest in.
SFS: Enon has been around nearly for 10 years. Did you think the band would have that kind of longevity when it started?
JS: No, I donít think time was much of a consideration at all. The first record was a 7-inch that I did by myself. I ended up playing with (former band members) Steve (Calhoon) and Rick (Lee) and we put together a set that had nothing to do with the single, but we called it Enon because that was the release that was out. It kind of went from there.
SFS: Now you are constantly asked about the origin of the band name. Do you regret that choice?
JS: Itís like anything that you could get sick of. I donít have any regrets about it. If anything, the one thing that is a little annoying is the unpredictability of the pronunciation. Most people pronounce it wrong, but Iím not going to correct them. People can pronounce it how they wish.
SFS: Have you visited Enon, Ohio, lately?
JS: Yeah, usually when we pass through Columbus and Dayton we will stop by there and visit the conical mound and the library. There are many Enons, actually. There is one in Alabama and there is an Enon Baptist church about a mile from where I live.
SFS: How does Grass GeysersÖCarbon Clouds fit with your other releases in Enon over the past 10 years?
JS: It was a chance for us to do something we hadnít done before -- and probably something that most bands do all the time -- which is work out the songs until they are solid and go in a studio to record them. Most of our other records have had a little preparation but a lot of it based on writing the song while we are recording.
We also wanted both Toko and I to sing a lot more together. To be practical when we play live we end up playing a more stripped-down rock set with me singing a lot of the songs. It became very unbalanced and if people preferred Tokoís voice over mine, they would be very disappointed. We wanted to do a record where we both sang a lot and it was equally stripped down.
SFS: Was it more difficult to take that approach?
JS: It was a challenge, but I feel like it got our chops together for recording. We were able to do a rock record and I feel like it was successful, as far as making rock music that is aggressive and exciting. I feel like we can do anything now as far as recording is concerned.
I think it had its pluses and minuses. The learning curve took awhile, but I feel like we have gained more ground and the future is wide open.
Enon perform at Bottom of the Hill on April 13th. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8:30pm and the show starts at 9pm.
by Matt Crawford on Apr 04, 2008