Rock ’n’ roll always looks glamorous from the front row, but sometimes this perception is considerably different from what goes on off-stage. Take, for example, Doug Enas, drummer for Bloomington, Indiana’s Stagnant Pools. The duo’s debut disc, Temporary Room, has garnered plenty of attention for blending vintage alt-punk guitar violence with the gloom-and-doom postpop of the Factory Records’ roster. Even as the buzz was building, though, the timekeeper wasn’t exactly living the dream.
When he checks in with the Georgia Straight from a San Diego tour stop, Enas is happy to report the group’s first full North American swing is going great. But what might be best about hitting the road is that he’s been able to leave his day job.
That job, he reports, was anything but pleasant. As anyone who remembers when Bryan Adams was toiling away at the Tomahawk Restaurant will attest, to roll the dice on a career in music you sometimes end up having to make sacrifices. In the case of Enas, his sacrifice was exacerbated by a persistent medical condition.
“I played lacrosse until my senior year in high school and was going to go to college—or try and go to college—to play there,” Enas says. “But I broke my spine, which is still a problem to this day. Lacrosse was pretty rough, and that happening affected my whole life. I was in a back brace for four months.
“Earlier this year, my job was washing dishes in this restaurant, and that really messed with my back,” the drummer, who is just out of his teens, continues. “I kind of had a relapse where I ended up having to get a shot of steroids. We were touring and it was too much—too painful. Even these days, I have to be really careful with it.”
It’s not making his life any easier that Stagnant Pools—which is fronted by Enas’s singer-guitarist brother, Bryan—will likely be touring plenty in the immediate future. On first listen, Temporary Room seems like the kind of record that makes it easy to play “spot the influences”; based on the leadoff tracks “Illusions” and “Dead Sailor”, the Enas boys have more than a passing fondness for the apocalypse-obsessed guitar renegades of the early ’80s. They might have spent part of their teens playing in a band specializing in Weezer covers, but somewhere along the line they obviously picked up a scratchy vinyl copy of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy.
The further you get into Temporary Room, however, the more it becomes obvious that Stagnant Pools’ affection for the past doesn’t stop with Interpol’s favourite decade. Witness the way that, coming on like a one-man distillation of Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, Bryan goes the dirty-boots guitar route in the title track. Or the way that “Stun” does just that with razor-sharp sheets of shoegaze brilliance.
“There are so many bands right now who have a single notion that they just kind of roll with forever,” Enas says. “I don’t find that appealing at all. You sell yourself short when you stick to one sound.”
Also bubbling below the surface is a vibe of wanting to escape, something that is even hinted at by the record’s title. Actually, it’s all over the place, including “Consistency” (sample lyric: “This is the last place that I want to be”), the title track (“I can’t stay here/Everyone I know is leaving”), and “Dreaming of You” (“When you said you went away, I was hoping it would be forever”).
“We both had falling-out of friendships, and just kind of were growing up,” Enas says. “What you’re hearing is maybe a desire to move forward.”
And as part of that, making sure no one has to go back to the dish pit.
Stagnant Pools plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Thursday (December 13).