Belfast’s Enola Gay have already created a bit of a storm. From a DJ slot with Steve Lamacq at the 100 Club in London to accolades from the likes of Louder Than War, their brand of noise rock is generating plenty of attention. On completion of their first UK tour, I took the opportunity to talk to Joe McVeigh (guitarist) and Fionn Reilly (vocalist) in Glasgow after their support slot with Therapy?. Along with Adam Cooper (bass) and Luke Beirne (drums), the FUR-piece have been around the UK, and I wanted to find out just how it all panned out.
Once refreshments were secured and niceties exchanged, it was straight down to business.
What has been the most unexpected, surprising thing about your debut UK tour?
Fionn: Actually getting it done, actually being able to do it and finishing it. And it going well, no major disasters.
Joe: We had no driver, our driver dropped out 5 weeks before the tour. Our drummer dropped out in December after the Irish tour and drummer Luke Bernie joined a month before the tour. We’ve been on tour with him longer than we’ve known him.
Fionn: Sitting here at the end of the tour its hard to believe we got it done, accomplished it all. It’s been on such a knife-edge in the run up to it. To say we’ve done it is crazy.
It was so ambitious, so many nights in all these independent venues across the country. What was it, 25 nights?
Joe: Actually it was 31. We were supposed to do 30 but the Windmill Brixton sold out so we added a second night.
That is very unusual. For a band that’s only had a number of singles out, no album. Your first UK tour and to take on 30 nights is pretty phenomenal.
Joe: We were sat there ready, we did 5 gigs but we were so hungry for shows and then the big C happened and we just thought let’s just write write write and get as tight as we can. Obviously drummers kept dropping out and we had to change the line-up a few times. But we just kept writing. We just wanted to be ready for whenever these shows kicked off. We didn’t have the current line-up when the tour was announced. We didn’t have the money for it. The thing I’ve been most surprised about is the turn out. A lot of our shows have been packed out.
Fionn: It’s surreal, playing a show like Tunbridge Wells for example, and there being a moshpit of 20 or 30 people at the front all young people
Did you fell that momentum grew as the tour went on?
Joe: 100%. In the first two weeks you had the Sundays and Mondays when the turnout wasn’t really the best. And by week three….. By posting all the videos of crowd’s reaction, that really helped. People were saying they really liked the videos and made us want to go. And then because shows were selling out along the way that helped create a bit more of a buzz around it and it just did grow from there, and then next thing you know for example as Fionn said Tunbridge Wells was rammed out and it just got to the point where it was like go go go at every gig.
Fionn: Even at the start if there was 5 people at these shows we’d have been happy, that’s what we were expecting just to go and play for really small crowds and build-up from there organically. It went way better than we thought it would.
Broadcast in Glasgow was the first gig and it wasn’t sold out. I think they let people in that night because not enough tickets had been sold. But because Broadcast is a venue, people know it’s a venue, they were having a drink, saw the signs and they came down to have a look. But to think that was the first gig on the tour, you just commanded that stage. Joe you crowd-surfed which is pretty
dangerous at a gig that’s not sold out!
Joe: That was my first time doing it! As soon as I jumped back on stage Fionn turned me round and pushed me back out “just get back out there right now!” I’d never done it before and by the end of that gig I’d done it 3 times!! I’ve just learnt that that gets the crowd going so beware when ‘Scrappers’ starts playing……
And Fionn, you move forward, you’re quite confrontational with crowd which is good. It’s what your music is all about, its got that raw energy and edge to it……
Fionn: It’s because people can’t understand what I’m saying so I need to portray the message some other way. And some of them are angry songs so I have to look a bit of manic up on stage because no-one has been able to understand a word I’ve said for the whole 6 weeks!
You’ve talked about social media and using Instagram. You posted about the gig, the venue, the crowd and the support bands every night. You would name check them all and I think that helped build momentum too. Also you were really gracious because you were talking about every support band and you’re a young band yourselves. It’s a great attitude going forward…..
Joe: I don’t think it’s something we’ll ever lose because at the end of the day everyone there: crew, bands, support bands, you know we’re all fans of music so why would you not want to. You know before this we wouldn’t really listen to much guitar music. We did when we started but we kind of fell off the waggon a bit and we went back to electronic and hip hop primarily. But now we’ve seen the wealth of it. It’s been really inspiring. There have been a lot bands that we’ve played with played with that have inspired us. Gurriers killed it the 3 nights that did. Yabba who are the best band in the world. Maruja were sick. Ketamine Kow they were all about 17. Their front man is like a 17-year old Mark E Smith and at the Adelphi club he completely owned the stage. deaf deaf deaf as well from Manchester they were brilliant we played with them in Blackpool and they finished with a newer song and it was my favorite.
Fionn: There are some really unique bands. Yin Yang as well. She did her first two gigs in the Windmill opening for us. Her first ever two gigs. You wouldn’t know to watch her.
Joe: She told us that she only started producing over lockdown and I couldn’t believe it because her beats are so unique. I don’t know what she’s doing but her beats are so unique. She’s amazing, her flow is brilliant. It was an honour because it’s like we were watching her and thinking this is definitely going to grow. I mean most at most times we’ve been watching the class supports and sat there thinking thank God this is not a competition.
Fionn: It feels like there is a community around, a wealth of music that is going to be coming out in the next few years and sort of new genre, new scene compared to the last 5 years or so. It going to be interesting.
How did the support bands come about on your tour? There is nothing worse as a gig-goer when you’re going to see a band and the support band is nothing at all like the main band. But it looked
like you had put a lot of thought into the bands you had as support. Is that right?
Joe: Half of that is down to our agents who looked around and asked the promoters for bands and for us to pick our favourites.
Fionn: It was a joint effort though as there were a few bands we knew beforehand that we brought on tour. There was a mixture between that and local promoters trying to get us local acts.
Joe: There was bands we were fans of already like Gurriers we’d play with them before. We had heard Yabba before. Yin Yang, a guy I know back home went to school with her and sent me her stuff and as soon as I heard I just shared her stuff and start talking over Instagram. I just said I see that your London based do you wanna do some London shows. Didn’t know that it was going to be her first 2 shows but she’s did it and she killed it. We’re very proud of all of them.
Fionn: It’s just be class. We’ve been spoilt and looking at collaborative potential in the future.
Joe: We would love to curate our own festival. We already know who we would pick the only hard part is trying to juggle like who goes on after who caused the competition would be so fierce. They are all incredible in their own ways. The talent is so incredible.
Fionn: I just can’t wait to see all these bands. We’ve got a connection with all these people now. It’s going to be class watching them grow as we grow.
Joe: YinYang was completely different (from Enola Gay), we know she is a solo producer and we’re a noise rock band and yet it still worked. We wanted to enjoy ourselves as much as we can so wanted to have a good band to watch first.
How did the sofa surfing go on the tour?
Fionn: Went well, sometimes we had beds, sometimes we had sofas, sometimes we had floors, sometimes we stayed in the van.
Joe: Too many people to shout out. We have met the absolute salt of the earth. The people that have helped us out have been the kindest. A lot of people commented on the smell the next day
Fionn: Worlds smelliest band for sure.
Were there any standout nights on the tour?
Fionn: Multiple. Manchester is the obvious. It was St Patricks Day and sold out in Yes basement.
Joe: We were supported by Maruja and Yabba. Such a strong line-up.
Fionn: For 3 bands to go and absolutely smash it. The crowd was moshing from the very first song of the first act.
Joe: Before bands even came on they were just vibing to the music tht was playing. We’ve met a lot of people that have mentioned that they have been waiting since lockdown to see us, it’s been really nice to talk to people. It’s mad that all the songs were written in my bedroom, just me and Fionn jamming. And then you go and you meet people and they tell you what the songs we wrote in my room mean to them. That’s been emotional.
Looking back, Enola Gay started and then Covid happened, was there any point you thought you weren’t going to carry on as a band?
Fionn: Aye a few nights ago!! Seriously though you meet people who enjoyed the night and they re-motivate you.
Joe: Shout out to Alan who drove us for the first half of the tour. He’s a legend. He left our tour to go and deliver medical supplies to the Ukrainian border, that’s just how much of an amazing human being he is. And shout out to one of our best friends Reece who stepped in, and did the extra Therapy? week. That was dropped on him at the last minute!
Fionn: Shout out to Greggs, otherwise we’d have starved to death weeks ago!
Joe: Please sponsor us but please heat up the vegan sausage rolls!
Moving onto the support dates with Therapy?. Obviously that wasn’t the plan when you first set out on your headline tour. Incredibly it fell perfectly into place. What was it like stepping onto bigger
Fionn: Weird very weird. For the first couple of nights I didn’t understand what was going on. It was good though. Big shout out to Therapy? for having us on. The crowds have been massive and the stages have been massive, and we’ve been talking to lots of people after the gigs who seemed to enjoy it so that’s the main thing.
Joe: It was 2 weeks in when we got offered it. We were in Liverpool and when we got the offer on my phone and we were like “this is crazy”. Therapy? wanted us on and it’s class to be appreciated by people from Belfast who you know lay a lot of the groundwork for giving people the gigs back in out hometown. It was strange going from sold out shows with lunatics who were just going mental for you, to then having to win people over. We like a challenge. The sound is different for your monitors and stuff all on stage like in a bigger stage.
So the obvious question is, what’s next? Apart from the obvious: sleep, washing, fresh socks, eat shower, say hi to family .….
Joe: A week in Europe, and we’re looking to record stuff soon, get more stuff out now we’ve built a bigger audience. We’re not stopping anytime soon.
Fionn: A few days home and we’ll be recovered then we’ll be back out again.
Joe: The majority of stuff we’ve played on this tour is unrecorded. And we have plenty of stuff that’s finished that’s not even in the set yet. There are songs we’ve written that we haven’t even played together in our practise room. But there is plenty of stuff in the works. We’re proud of it all and we’re just gonna keep the energy going. We’ll write some slow songs eventually we have one at the moment but we think post Covid people just wanna jump about so that’s where we’re gonna give them.
Interesting that some of the bands I’ve spoken to have said that having lived through this most bizarre of times during lockdown they have created songs but haven’t learnt how to play them live. Lockdown then went on for so long, 2 years. It’s another interesting twist on this whole crazy situation that we find ourselves in. You’re just starting to play live now, after two years of not…..
Joe: How many gigs did we do before lockdown? 5. And so about 12 in total before this tour.
Fionn: We’ve done more gigs in the past 3 weeks then we did in the past 3 years.
Joe: We are hungry for it….
Fionn: Starving for it…literally starving……
And on that note I took the hint and let the smelliest band in the world go into the Glasgow night on the hunt for Greggs…..
Enola Gay will be playing at The Great Escape festival in Brighton in May with two warm-up gigs beforehand in St Albans (10th May at The Horn) and Hertford (11th May at Corn Exchange).
For more information on the band check their facebook and instagram.