“Whatever it is, I want to do it honestly. I don’t want to hide. You can’t connect when there’s when you’re not willing to be ugly and sweaty, I try to let go of any of that.”
In conversation with Simona Castricum. Photography by Alexandre Dubois.
Simona Castricum: I just wanted to start off with picking up from your most recent show at The Retreat. What was the experience like for you to perform those songs fresh out of a release from so long ago? It was your first show back, yeah? What really, really struck me was the explosive energy that came out. It was really captivating. What brought you to that stage?
ENOLA: Part of it is an unconscious thing that happens…and then another part of it is something I’ve intentionally tried to cultivate, as a result of spending time with other artists working within different mediums – such as theater and dance and speaking to them about how they perform and how they get their body to take them to an alternate destination.
One technique I picked up on was how to place your body in that physical state first and then allowing the emotional aspect be a follow-on from that. It’s what catapults me to get into that state. When I’m performing on a stage, I go somewhere else…it feels as though it’s almost running away from me. It’s like I don’t even have control of it…but in a good way. It’s very cathartic.
In my everyday life, sometimes my true feelings can be a mystery to me. I have tendencies to be constrained at times and thrive on all sorts of disciplines. When I’m on stage, what seems to come out is almost a surprise to me. It’s such a relief , it just takes over and I don’t even realize the intensity of my own output – both physically and emotionally. It’s almost like I could be watching myself, like I’m there but I’m sort of not there. There’s a letting go of that control that transitions into a sense of freedom and wildness. I go to that. Almost like a surprise to me, I’m taking flight. You know, my body really trembles and I think the adrenaline, the nerves put you into that state. I’m like, “Oh, wow, they’re my real feelings about things.” You do all the rehearsals, you do the work and then when you’re up there, you just let go.
“I think it comes out of a desperation of wanting to connect. I want to connect with people so desperately and through music is how I’m wanting to do that.”– ENOLA
Other artists move me by being vulnerable, honest and sincere. Whatever it is I want to do it honestly. I don’t want to hide. You can’t connect when there’s something else when you’re not willing to be ugly and sweaty, I try to let go of any of that.
SC: You’ve moved from the solo electronic bedroom musician model to the band. I think it’s quite amazing that during a period of lockdown – one that would have forced most musicians into the solo craft of musical construction – you’ve successfully managed to form one.
ENOLA: It happened organically. When I first started performing, for perhaps the first six shows I played, I encountered a number of technical problems. No one could figure out what the issue was and it would never happen in soundcheck. I just ended up getting frustrated with having a laptop on stage. I couldn’t figure out what the issues were. I did production rehearsals and there were never any issues. I had really bad luck. My initial first few experiences were really challenging and very difficult and ultimately I think that’s a good thing (to learn). But I just was like, “Alright, I don’t want laptops on stage with me anymore”. I wanted to eliminate what could be causing the issues so I started performing with Melbourne musician Cailan Smith we started sharing some of the roles and seeing what we could do live. Cailan would jump around from piano, to drums, to bass, depending on the song. I would always kind of stick on the vocals and guitar. But Cailan ended up moving to Berlin. And I was like, well, I might as well (do it all) live and remove the computer/Ableton setup all together and started thinking about starting a band.
ENOLA will always essentially be a solo kind of thing, but I love performing and creating with everyone. They are all super talented. Currently, there’s like five of us, including me (Tali Mahoney on Bass, Josh Prendergast on second Guitar, Sarah Occhino on Synth and Brodie Casey). We played our first show together recently, we’re going into the process of making an album in late April. There is really beautiful comradery between us there. It’s exciting to be in a room with people I feel confident and comfortable enough to be vulnerable and create.
I think the reason why I made electronic music by myself was initially just out of an insecurity and fear of feeling no one would play with me. I made music on my own, because I was too afraid to play with anyone else.
SC: There’s a photo that you’ve posted on Instagram recently which is you with your band and the caption—
ENOLA: Yes, “if you get the impression that I’m fiercely protective over people I love you’d be right.” You know? Cos I am. I’m very protective of the people I love. Sure. Yeah.
SC: To me that photograph shows this caring quality that you have. Are there other parts of your life that inform that role for you?
ENOLA: I do get a lot of pleasure taking care of people I love, and facilitating a space that people feel comfortable is super important to me. I always express to everyone in the group that although the music is very important to me, I’ll always put people first, I always take care of everyone first. I feel like everyone really feels that. It creates such a really beautiful energy. I’m so grateful to the people that I have working on the project. Coming from a place of being like, “Nobody’s gonna want to play with me”, I’m very, I’m very grateful. I was having this conversation with Sarah, who’s playing synth. I want it to feel like a family. And I want everyone to feel really heard, valued and respected.
It creates a space where we can go into making the album together now, with a collective mindset that the band as a whole is built on a relationship of trust. And the trust of ideas, because when you’re exposed to that kind of vulnerability with a group, it requires comradery to function.– ENOLA
SC: I just wanted to throw it open to your lyrics. Your track about ‘So Long’.
ENOLA: I loved you so long, I became concrete.
I loved you so much, I got clean.
I loved you so long, I became a statue.
I loved you so long, I can’t look at you.
SC: What’s that shit like to get out?
ENOLA: It’s good. Yet, it’s difficult and I think it’s as it should be. It comes back to writing from a place of honesty and vulnerability. Music for me is a way to become aware of my own feelings or be able to process them. It’s like music making is really just a process of dealing with life, shit, grief, sadness, loss, and death. These things have been surrounding me over the last year, actual physical deaths and the metaphorical deaths of things like; relationships, deaths and conclusion of things that were once huge parts of my life. I’m really just trying (when I’m writing) to find a way to cope with that. It’s healthy, I guess, compared to, you know, letting it consume me and being destructive. It’s trying to find a way to make it more bearable. Performing and writing the songs is really just a process of me trying to have a better understanding of my internal turmoil and the world around me. I’m going through the process of understanding of what it is in a public setting, by writing these songs. Then when it’s done and it’s written, I’m more likely to be able to let go, have peace within it.
SC: I notice, too, the way that it connects with the audience. Are you aware of that when you’re performing? Are you aware of that connection? Can you feel that?
ENOLA: Yeah, I can feel it when people are connecting. At the same time, I’m not even too aware of what’s going on around me. It’s always my intention. As I said, it comes back to my driving need, hope and desire to connect, feeling like an outsider, feeling isolated as though I don’t belong. Performing and playing music is a way of trying to connect and be unguarded in a way that’s safe, in a sense. I feel like there is an intensity in the room when you feel people have really gone there with you. And you do look up and you can see that. So there is some awareness around that.
SC: Is there anyone you’re channeling?
ENOLA: I think there’s definitely influences or people that I’ve taken inspiration from. At the end of the day it’s an instinctual thing.You’ve got to find your own way to get there. I used to get really nervous and I wouldn’t be able to move through it, but now I’ve found ways to help it serve me…by looking around at other mediums and finding the parts to help deal with my nervousness, to actually use them to my advantage. There are many artists I’ve looked to in the past. Ian Curtis, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and Anna Calvi are all performers that I admire. I feel like that all put themselves into an altered state. I don’t know what that state exactly is. But you know it when you see it. There is something so raw, spontaneous and sincere with their performance, I can’t help but be moved by that.
SC: Your identity is so strong through that stage presence. Everything like flattened hand gestures, which are almost preacher-like. There’s something incredibly commanding about it. And then you’ve got this guitar flying around around the body, and then it comes back up. It’s like you’ve got this capacity to go backwards and forwards.
ENOLA: Sometimes my band says I’m ‘the preacher’ for a joke. (Laughs)
SC: I’m not saying there are a couple of personalities, but there are a couple of states you inhabit so incredibly well. What’s that challenge like of trying to convey that in a recording.
ENOLA: I think one of the things that’s going to be really important for me to achieve is to capture that through the making of the album. It does exist in the rehearsal spaces, but it’s definitely taken up another level when I’m on stage. That really only seems to happen for me live, the adrenaline, the nerves help me get into whatever that space is. They facilitate that.
SC: I think that vocal delivery, there is something incredibly ‘no shit!’ about it.
ENOLA: Thank you, Yeah. I’m wanting to, I feel it. I honestly want what I am saying to hit you know, I want it to really cut through, with a real urgency and conviction behind it.
SC: It’s that sincerity that makes you so individual, and I think that’s what builds connection with the audience. I’m really excited for what’s to come next. You’re a DJ as well. What brought you to music, what has that pathway been for you?
ENOLA: Yeah I am. I’ve been playing guitar since I was about five or six. I grew up in a really musical household. My mum was a pianist, and we always had lots of instruments around the house. My dad also plays guitar.
Lots of creative people always came through like poets, musicians, photographers, political activists, queers…from all walks of life. It was great because I was exposed to so many different lifestyles, such different music and so many different possibilities, that there was a real exploratory nature to it for me. I’m very grateful for that.– ENOLA
My parents were punks. I grew up listening to Joy Division, and my mum was into Dead Kennedys, The Smiths and Velvet Underground, Nick Cave, Violent Femmes. I remember there were a few tapes that were my Mum’s car that really influenced me – from The Smiths, to the Velvet Underground and the Talking Heads. So I grew up in a household where being a musician was always encouraged and wasn’t like, “you’d have to, you know, get a day job” kind of attitude.
SC: So, it always felt possible?
ENOLA Always. It even felt like, it was what I was meant to do. All my Mum’s friends were all musos, they all had mean busking at all their parties when I was young. I used to busk out the front of The Piccolo in the Cross in Sydney…It’s this really iconic cafe and next to his guitar shop. I was always playing guitar, but I never sang. I always felt like I could never use my voice. I’ve always been very shy about that.
Being a musician was always a possibility and always encouraged. Mum always exposed me to lots of great literature & would always take me to art galleries and to the theatre. I grew up around lots of queers. Some of the original Les Girls were my adopted godmothers. My mum raised me and I didn’t really have a lot of family around, but my Mum’s friends became this big type of oddball family. All Mum’s friends were really interesting. I was surrounded by people of the underground and I grew up around that. The only way I knew to rebel, I conformed, you know, like, I wanted normality, (laughs)
SC: No, it makes complete sense. What was the most normal thing that you’ve done?
I wanted a lunchbox (laughs). I wanted my mum to drive me to soccer practice in a soccer car or something…or I wanted her to go volunteer at the Tuck Shop. She didn’t volunteer at the tuck shop, probably for the best (laughs).– ENOLA
Some of the kids at school thought my mum was a witch. You know, punks with like, leather jackets, and, that kinda whole look, well that kinda looks like witches to seven year old kids on the playground (laughs). But you know, there’s an everlasting wildness & charismatic nature to my mum.
SC: So, she’s an influence?
ENOLA: Oh, huge. Yeah, oh, yeah. Totally. And also a really amazing pianist and worked at The Conservatoire of Music and Museum and has these dualities. She’s extremely charismatic. I’m very grateful for all of that, being introduced to all that at a young age, all those possibilities to be whoever I wanted to be.
SC: At what time did you feel like you were coming into your own? What was that experience for you? Did it come through music, or did it come through something else in a creative sense?
ENOLA: Only within the last two years – which admittedly feels weird to say – because I’ve been playing music since I was really young. I’ve always had a guitar on my neck, for as long as I can remember. When I got a bit older, I stopped playing. I became so hard on myself – I’m very self conscious.
Through all my teenage years, I didn’t play. I lost all my 20’s to drugs, basically. I didn’t play through all of that. When I came out of that, only then, did i start back into making music. I’ve only really been singing only recently. I think it’s a really recent thing for me to feel more creatively comfortable and that I have come into my own. I’d say, literally, in the last six months.b
SC: What was it that gave you the impetus? Is there something you can put your finger on where you felt: “I really feel like I can establish this trust in order to get into that space where I can be this person on stage”. What was it within you that helped you believe?
ENOLA: It was a gradual thing. I think it was baby steps. It wasn’t like, one day, I just woke up feeling like I could be on stage and take up that space. It was a gradual process, you know, working your stuff for ages on my own, just on my laptop, and like just producing in my bedroom. I didn’t want to put one vocal on it. Or if I did, I’d really disguised them and drown them and reverb. My partner at the time was always pushing “your voice is your best thing, you know?”
I’ve really struggled to communicate in some aspects of my life. Even when we were kids and we’d all sing in the car, I just couldn’t. There was such a fear in me to be heard and use my voice. I’ve only just felt that slowly disappearing over the last few years. Just by little baby steps of putting that out and getting good responses. Playing my first shows and singing a bit, having other electronic elements that i could really hide in. Just testing the waters and slowly, getting more confidence and being comfortable. At the same time, really trying to push my comfort zones.
The way I’m singing now wasn’t easy for me to get to. It was a really uncomfortable process. I was lucky at the time for having a partner that was really able to really push me…we had a really amazing relationship where we supported each other a lot creatively. They were hard on me, in the best way possible. I think they really saw where I could go. We spent time together where they were like: “I want more”. Now I’m screaming. A year ago, I couldn’t see myself possibly being able to do that. Coming up against what you’re capable of, or comfortable with and trying to push through.
SC: Also, a lot of last year was about filming ourselves. What was that process like for you?
ENOLA: Yeah, interesting. I mean, I try not to watch myself too much. Because if I do something, when I’m trying to propel, I’m really not trying to be aware of myself. I feel like if I watch myself and self analyze, and criticize, that’ll affect me. I don’t even want that to be a thought in my head. If I do something that I think is like, something that I want to do again, it takes me away from that place of being impulsive and in the moment.
SC: Still back on the idea of the conscious self.
ENOLA: Otherwise, if you’re trying to avoid doing something, or if you’re trying to recreate a performance, then I’m not.
SC: It’s almost as if the electronic aspects not only did not work in a technical capacity, but potentially also didn’t connect to your fire?
ENOLA: Yeah. I love listening to and enjoying electronic music. It was about hiding. In some ways, there are other elements going on. I do enjoy making electronic stuff, But I think there was an element of hiding everything in the machine. I’ve slowly creeped out of that, and felt more and more comfortable being at the front of having what I’m saying and actually having my lyrics being heard. I’ve become more and more willing and comfortable to be vulnerable with people. I think that’s why it’s not there necessarily in my electronic music and why it is more present in that musical setup we have now.
SC: Tell us about the photoshoot with Alexandre Dubois?
ENOLA: Alex is great. Super talented, seeing all that work that they’ve done before and always wanting to get something going together. With COVID-19 it was really kind of hard to get it off the ground. We were finally able to do that together. It was really comfortable straight off the bat. Sometimes doing that stuff you do a whole whole session, you might only get like, one or two photos out of the process. But I felt like, instantly, everything we did came easily and autonomously.
SC: The visual direction of it, you’re really big into training.
ENOLA: I had some loose ideas of what I wanted from the shoot, and Alex came to the table with all sorts of ideas. It came up in the moment. Alex had a weight in his studio, and I just picked it up. I am very into training – boxing specifically for over 10 years, so it was something that really happened out of habit, rather than being a planned prop. Of course, I’m gonna pick up the weight because I’m a smartass, you know (laughs). We captured this real 90’s nostalgic boxer aesthetic. I do feel like when i’m on stage, you can see the years of boxing come through in the way that I move my body. When I’m trying to get into those states, I’ll do things with my body to get my blood pumping. I think that comes through all the photos as well. That doesn’t always seem to come out so easily.
SC: It’s like your physicality is part of the lyrics, it’s part of your stage performance. The delivery of your lyrics are captured so well through the photographs..
ENOLA: Yeah, it just happened organically, but i guess that’s probably got a lot to do with Alex being such a talented photographer, fulled synergy between us as creatives and friends.
SC: Thanks so much for sitting down for such an intimate and real chat. What is coming up next for you?
ENOLA: I’m playing a show as part of Brunswick Music Festival at The Retreat on March 12, alongside Hunny Machete and Lalić. I’ll then be focusing on rehearsals as we’ll be going into the studio late April to record the debut album.