I recently sat down with Brian Strauss and Christian Cate of the San Diego local band Of Ennui to talk about their latest release, Tone Poems (listen here). If you’re a fan of heavy, melodic, atmospheric, moody shoegaze jams then this band is for you. Scroll down for photos and interview.
How did you all meet?
Christian: It was in 7th grade in science class, but we actually didn’t become good friends until 8th grade.
Brian: We basically we just like two little dumb-ass goons. I remember we had Spanish class together, and Christian would like to blow bubbles off the tip of his tongue, and he sat up in the front row, and one bubble managed to fall off his tongue and land of the desk, and the teacher looks over and sees it, and she lot her mind.
Christian: She pulled out Windex and started cleaning it furiously, yelling at me, I got a referral.
Brian: So yeah, shit like that is how we became friends.
How did you come up with the name?
Christian: So my previous band fell apart and I started writing solo music similar to what we write now, and it sounds kinda cheesy, but I had the idea of the name Bard of Ennui. So we got together and I threw the name at Brian, and he was like dude let’s just call it Ennui… but there was already a doom metal band called Ennui.
Brian: So we went with Of Ennui, because the joke was like there was no point of pointlessness.
How did Of Ennui come together?
Christian: Well, Ennui basically means boredom and purposelessness, and it literally started from just that. Brian just came back from college and wasn’t doing a whole lot, and I had a knee surgery so I was stuck in my bed going stir crazy. So we were just like, well fuck we need to do something productive, why don’t we start a band together and see what happens?
Brian: It was about six or seven months into it that Indigo joined, and then we played our first show in a garage, it was just 3 songs, just 15 minutes because we didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse, and we ended up playing twice. Then we played our first real show at a venue at The Casbah that year, and then after that we didn’t do anything for like 10 months.
How would you describe the new album Tone Poems?
Christian: I guess I would say it’s a little more serious than the last one. We put a lot more time and effort into it. A lot of our old songs I guess you could say are kind of repetitive, so we set out to make them very diverse and dynamic.
Brian: There was a hugely different songwriting process. The whole first record, Christian wrote the majority of the lyrics and I was more of like a guiding hand, just helping to steer his abilities as a songwriter, because he’s an amazing lyricist. I took on song writing full time for this album. So thematically its way different; I think Christian’s songs are written from a more personal standpoint, where mine are a lot more based on external factors.
What is your favorite track off the new album?
Christian: I love ‘Worst Guy Ever Made,’ but I think ‘Spectre’ is my favorite.
Brian: Mine is either ‘Worst Guy Ever Made’ or ‘Portrait of Pieces.’ ‘Spectre’ was our first song we wrote off the new album, and it was our first attempt at breaking out of the standard verse chorus bridge type writing structure.
Where did you record Tone Poems?
Both, together in enthusiastic unison: BACH TO ROCK
Brian: Christian works at a music school in Encinitas called Bach to Rock, they have a little recording studio there and we recorded the album there live.
What does the writing process look like for you?
Christian: One of us comes with an idea, or a rhythm, and we just kind of build off of that.
Brian: Christian is really good at coming in with a little seed that we can all kind of work off of. As far as lyrics go, I do all of the writing away from the rest of the band but I figure out all of the melodies during practice.
Where do you do a lot of your writing?
Brian: I have a few hours every day where I’m able to just be alone in my house and just write, write, write. I like to dedicate time every day to writing or making music, it’s very ritualistic. It’s a routine, I don’t like the mentality of waiting for inspiration, you’re never going to get anything done if you wait for it to come to you. You have sift through the shit to get to the gold. You just gotta write a lot and be able to strip away the excess.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Both together in enthusiastic unison: BORIS!!!
Christian: So we all individually have a lot of different musical influences, but Boris is definitely number one. They have refused to pigeonhole themselves into any specific genre, and that’s always been a driving influence for me. I grew up listening to a lot of punk and hardcore, and whenever a band progressed or sounded a little differently, they were blacklisted and people refused to listen to them for that reason. I just got tired of hearing the same album because bands didn’t want to progress, so I love listening to Boris because its so heavy yet so beautiful and constantly changing and always evolving. But I feel like some other big influences for us are Slowdive, Jawbreaker, My Bloody Valentine…
Brian: Yeah Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil are huge influences for me lyrically.
Christian: Yeah Jawbreaker is by far my favorite band of all time, they saved my life in middle school. Hearing ‘Sluttering’ for the first time changed my life. Greatest band ever made.
Guilty pleasure music?
Christian: Madonna! I actually love Madonna. It’s not a guilty pleasure. But as far as guilty pleasures go, I fucking love that new Maroon 5 song. It’s so catchy, I fuck with that hard dude.
Brian: I’m pretty unashamed of what I listen to, but I do have a guilty pleasure unrelated to music. I fucking love pickles. Every show we play I make a stop to buy a giant pickle from 7/11. For my birthday Angus got me a jar of pickles. I fucking love pickles.
What are some of your goals as musicians?
Christian: I think our main goal is just to be able to tour. This has been more of like a passion project for us, we’re not really trying to “make it,” we just do this because we love it.
Brian: One of the things I always hear from musicians is that they wanna “make it,” and well, what does that even mean exactly? And people have really abstract concepts of what it is to “make it,” and at least for me personally, I don’t think of it in those terms, I just kind of take everything step by step and I just set incremental goals.
How do you feel about the local music scene? Anything you’d want to see change or evolve?
Christian: I would want to see anything in a sense change, but I do feel like a lot of local bands seem to stick to a very specific sound that’s somewhat overplayed and very similar to a lot of stuff that’s already out there. So I feel like there could be a little more diversity in that sense.
Me: Well… maybe there is and you’re just going to the wrong shows…
Christian: Hey.. Good point.
Brian: Yeah I think there’s a lot of good bands and a lot of amazing musicians that are actually doing more for the community than they’re actually doing for themselves.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
March 6th, Soda Bar, and The Merrow on March 22nd with Ex Girlfriends and Soft Lions.
What are some of your favorite shows you’ve played?
Brian: When we headlined the Soda Bar with Battery Point, Heirgloom, and Half Eaten, the place was packed, we played for an hour and 15 minutes and people asked for an encore- and that was fuckin’ cool.
Christian: I loved that TJ show we played, you were going wild, you fell into the drum set, you broke your guitar. Despite everything that happened and went wrong we still played.
What’s your favorite part of being in this band?
Christian: We all love each other, like I don’t really hang out with anyone else. I love writing music because it’s so enjoyable and cathartic. It’s hard to pinpoint exact reasons why I love this band, I just do.
Brian: well yeah you don’t have to book the shows or anything, you just show up.
Christian: Yeah I just show up and get to play music and drink, Its great! Brian is the leader of the band for sure, he’s #1
Brian: Oh come on, don’t say that. I feel like my favorite part of this is being able to organize all these things and then get up on stage and feel some sense of validation for all the work we put into it, it’s a good feeling.
Any final thoughts?
Christian: There’s this sick band that you’ve probably never heard of called Of Ennui, check them out!
Brian: I just want to reiterate that even though they aren’t here for this interview, Angus and Indigo are equally integral parts of this band, just as much as Christian and I are. This band is only this band because the four of us have an extremely unique and loving and personal connection and I think that resonates in the music.
Christian: If a single one of us left this band, it’s over. This band is us four, if any of us ever have to leave or move on to something different that will be the end.