Last week, Stagnant Pools officially signed with Polyvinyl Records (Of Montreal, Deerhoof), just days after Bryan (guitar, vocals) graduated from IU with a double major in English and film studies and Doug (drums) finished his sophomore year here studying philosophy.
And then there are the actual shows. Even though classes have prevented them from doing any real touring, Bryan and Doug left Indiana multiple times this spring to open for some heavily acclaimed artists including EMA and Japandroids — on top of regular performances at local venues, such as the Bishop, Russian Recording, Landlocked Music and basements all over Bloomington and Indianapolis.
Bryan, the older Enas who does most of the talking for the two, still shrugs off any implication that he and his brother have really done that much. “Fairly busy” is how he describes this past month for them.
“Our dog recently had puppies,” he says, momentarily deflecting attention.
“All sorts of happenings!” Doug jokes.
Bryan and Doug began playing music together in their early teenage years, shortly after Bryan got his first bass guitar in eighth grade. After years of practicing Weezer covers and forming bands with their friends from the Indianapolis area (some of which now play in Calumet Reel), they began playing by themselves in 2009 — Bryan’s freshman year at IU.
That same year, they recorded their first song on Pro Tools and played their first house show on the east side of Indianapolis.
By last summer, they had already finished recording their debut LP, “Temporary Room,” which Polyvinyl will release Aug. 7.
“We didn’t set out to be a two-person band,” Bryan says. “We weren’t for it or against it. It just happened to be that way, and we were open to anything that seemed fit.”
Stagnant Pools certainly aren’t the only indie rock duo making waves with little more than some fuzzed-out guitar and a drum kit — that class includes the Black Keys, No Age and Japandroids, their new buddies and labelmates — and it’s easy to lump Bryan and Doug into this category at first glance.
The truth is that none of these two-man bands sound much like Stagnant Pools at all. While many have reputations for blistering playing styles, as if to prove they can bring more energy with two members than most bands can with five, Bryan and Doug lean more toward hypnotic atmospheres characterized by maxed-out reverb and near-mumbled vocals. Pensive instead of purgative, inward instead of outward, hoods-up instead of shirts-off.
To compare Stagnant Pools to these other duos would be a bit myopic; a more accurate description would be Japandroids crossed with Joy Division, Silver Jews or even The National — more melancholic bands with a baritone singer.
It’s just the type of music you might expect from two modest, slightly self-conscious brothers with three liberal arts majors between them.
“I played in some bands in high school, and I think the whole idea of being flashy and appealing, I don’t know, it’s kind of not what I want to do,” Doug says.
“And an addition to the band might have changed that,” Bryan adds. “It is hard when it’s just two people because there’s not a lot to hide behind. I felt like when we were playing with more people, I was more comfortable because there was more going on. But with two people, you want it to be tight and good. And we’re not perfectionists at all. We don’t yell at each other when we mess up.”
“I think that also reflects the record,” Doug says. “It’s so flawed musically. There’s so many mess-ups, at least in the drums.”
Whatever flaws might have made it onto “Temporary Room” didn’t bother Polyvinyl. After an audition performance of sorts in Champaign, Ill., late last year, the record deal was all but finalized. But Bryan and Doug still had a spring semester to finish.
“It was pretty easy to not want to care, but I mean, we both did really well the last semester,” Bryan says. “I think we just wanted to not have any regrets about doing school because we both enjoy academia. I had a lot of good experiences being in school, and I’m glad that I stayed in.”
For the Enas brothers, it was eerily fitting that IU landed Booker T. Jones as this year’s commencement speaker. Jones, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is arguably the world’s most accomplished musician with an IU degree. Bryan and Doug were both present for his speech, which might as well have been tailored just for them.
“I didn’t know that he was an IU alumnus,” Bryan says. “Just the fact that he was a good example of showing how important education is and still doing music. Because they said he wrote ‘Green Onions’ when he was 17.”
Jones might have had a head start on Bryan, 22, and Doug, 20, but they’re not complaining.
As they near their first national tour, the Enas brothers are leaving Bloomington with what they came here for: an education and a record deal.
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