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The Enemy's 4th album It's Automatic will be released on 9 October 2015, via Warners ADA / VAM Records.
In many ways the music industry is like a school playground, a furtive cesspit of name-calling, oneupmanship, and competitive jousting. This is particularly true of the UK indie scene, where more than one band often vies for the same audience at the same time. Since 2007, the socially anchored, Coventry power rock trio led by lead singer and main songwriter Tom Clarke haven't been afraid to shed a tonne of bravado as a shield for some deep-seeded insecurities – mainly Tom's own personal hang-ups. Considering he called his band The Enemy, the frontman certainly knew how to make a few back in the late '00s, and gave as good as he got. He'd make fun of The Horrors' hair and find himself banned from being played on Alex Zane's XFM rock show. Alex was an avid supporter of the band but Tom just couldn't help himself. The circus surrounding these dramatic episodes resulted in The Enemy having their music overshadowed by meaningless tattle. It's something that Tom today, speaking with hindsight from a carpark outside a studio where he's putting the finishing touches on the band's fourth record in less-than-glamorous Stockport, wants to bury deep in the past…
Over the course of The Enemy's undoubtedly successful run during the best part of a decade, Tom has inevitably had to do some growing up. Alongside his band mates Andy Hopkins (bass) and Liam Watts (drums), he can boast a hat-trick of top-performing records with Number 1 album We Live And Die In These Towns, 2008's Number 2 follow-up Music For The People and 2012 release Streets In The Sky, which also went Top 10. A source of greater pride, however, its that today he emerges not just more mature, but with a charming sense of humility and open-mindedness. Hearing him talk freely and honestly about how much he loves “genius” James Blunt's Twitter, or how excited he is by the likes of pop artist BORNS being played on Huw Stephens' Radio 1 show, immediately throws off any misconceptions surrounding the tricky fella. He's less guarded, more confident in his own skin, and therefore extremely good company.
This new found clarity is something that's made for a thrilling next musical chapter in The Enemy's career. Still only in their mid-to-late 20s, and younger than the bands they emerged with – and outsold – they're readying their most ambitious record, It's Automatic, for release this October. “We've been working on it for a long time,” says Tom. “It's a great record. It was difficult to make but not in a bad way. To people who are still living in 2007 it'll be a shock but to us it's a natural progression.” The birth of the record came when the band were on tour in Scotland, and the evolved Tom was having a crisis of identity. “I sat Andy down and said, 'Mate, I don't wanna make another Enemy record. I'm bored. We've nailed what we do, I wanna go and do solo stuff and make music like the music I listen to.' And he said, 'So do I.' So we decided to take a leap of faith together.” Tom warns that there's a possibility people won't get it. “But the songs are some of the best I've ever written, the production is brilliant and you have to put the fear behind you,” he says, with defiance.
The band's compulsion to challenge and reinvigorate themselves has made them far more ambitious with the parameters of their sound. One listen to future singles It's Automatic, Waterfall and Everybody Needs Someone will leave you with a clear sense of The Enemy's aspiration to pack out stadiums, never mind sell out the likes of Shepherds Bush Empire. Tom, however, insists that wasn't the intention – some of the tracks here date as far back as the beginning. "Back when we were doing the first album we were making music within set lines. Now that's all disappeared and the record is dictating its own direction. We're just going for it,” he says. “We've had a geeky obsession with what other people are doing and where they're pushing boundaries.”
Lyrically, Tom's outgrown social commentary and the political ramblings of the past, despite his recent Facebook outbursts lamenting the lack of decent socialist voices on the UK's band scene. They were at their most political when coming-of-age, but Tom is happy to leave that all to some new young torchbearer now. “Nah, I've had quite a few relationships now and all of them have gone wrong in one way or another!” he chuckles, revealing that It's Automatic is potentially his most personal record yet. “The most effective way for me to deal with a fallout or a bit of emotional excitement is to make songs. The songs on this record are about having an amazing feeling, driving a convertible down a highway in LA. Do you know what I mean? That's something I couldn't have written before because I'd never had that experience.”
So what is it about music that still has a hold over Tom? “I don't get the same buzz out of anything else. That feeling… There's a video on my phone that's kept me going during times when I would have otherwise given up. We played T In The Park and the crowd were singing our song back to us. That feeling when you've just had sex and the world feels amazing and all the problems that were massive a minute ago no longer are. It's that feeling, times an absolute billion.”