“The Ruins Of Ambition” was released on July 9th via Unrepentant Records.
Interview with Benny “No-Good” of the Enders 12/13/12
The Enders are a hard-hitting punk band from Indiana, or the “Midwasteland,” as they call it. I saw the threesome of Benny No-Good (guitar and vocals), “Canadian” Pete Mortenson (bass), and Omar Villareal (drums) play ear-splittingly sick live shows in Albany and Boston in 2012 and recently I was able to chat with Benny about how the band formed, and what’s coming up next.
Check out the interview here.
Gina Venz: The Enders have been around since 2009, but the current lineup has only been together since early 2012. How did you all get together?
Benny No-Good: It kind of happened in waves. Pete, our bass player, was friends with Kyle, our original drummer. When we parted ways with our original bass player, we naturally looked at friends first, and finding Pete is what came out of it. We did our first national tour RIGHT after. Late that summer, maybe early fall, Kyle left (on good terms, just had too much stuff happening to stay committed to the band), and we picked up another friend, Chris, as an interim. Omar came along shortly after, and joined around late January-early February. We were in the studio by March recording the album.
Where did you come up with the band name?
I just liked the sound of it. We tossed around a couple of ideas, none of which were apparently memorable enough to recall now (so maybe we made the right choice?), and it was the one that stuck. I liked it because it ISN’T obvious, and so our sound would define the name, and not the other way around.
After forming the current lineup, you almost immediately went into the studio. Was it tough to get it together to record that quickly?
Not really. I had a lot of the material written from the inception of the band or soon after, Pete and I had been playing together for nearly a year at that point, and Omar is just a machine. Anyone who’s seen us live with this lineup can back that up.
I’ve heard you describe your style as follows: “We play punk rock that sounds sorta hardcore… or hardcore that sorta sounds punk rock… whatever, it’s all semantics.” Do you think it’s important to classify/define your style? Why or why not?
I think labeling yourself is just stupid. I like the fact that people always come away from us with comparisons to different bands, and from different eras of punk and hardcore. Who wants to pigeonhole themselves into a narrow slot? I’m going with a non-punk comparison here, but I love the way Faith No More could do everything from jazz to experimental metal shit and still make it their own. Not to say we’d ever go that broad, but flexibility is important if you don’t want to end up writing the same song 45 times.
Describe the band’s influences.
Our influences are all over the place. I listen to everything from pop stuff like The Queers, old Lookout stuff, Fat Wreck, to hardcore like Sick of It All, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Agnostic Front, early Dropkick Murphys, a lot of the East Coast hardcore stuff… which is, as far as The Enders’ songs are concerned, where the bulk of my influence comes from. That may explain why we’re so well-received in the East. Pete and Omar have influences just as diverse. Everything from crust, death metal, grindcore, black metal, and of course, punk. There are a lot of things that go into us collaborating, which I think may show on future releases.
Omar’s drumming definitely adds a punch of metal to your sound. Is that a direction you planned to go in?
Yeah, we were really leaning toward more of a hardcore sound on this, and Omar’s aggressive playing definitely pushed us in that direction. Like I said, he’s a beast back there on his kit. He’s accurate as all hell too. We recorded a total of 14 tracks in the sessions for this album, and he had all 14 cut in 9 hours…PERFECTLY.
The Enders have recently re-released their debut album, “The Ruins of Ambition,” on Infested Records.
Did you end up using Kickstarter to fund “The Ruins of Ambition”? If yes, how did it go? Anything you want to say to your supporters?
We ran a kickstarter campaign but didn’t hit the goal, so I ponied up and put a lot of other things on the back burner so we could record the album. We did do a pre-order and got a solid response and a lot of support that way. We always appreciate any support that comes our way and enjoy a lot of feedback from people who believe in what we do.
You’ve written most of the songs on “The Ruins of Ambition” yourself. How do you get material for the songs you write? How personal are your lyrics?
I think the liner notes on the album say something like “Ben would like thank: ‘things that piss me off’”… that pretty much says it all. I’m a stubborn bastard when it comes to my opinions on philosophy and politics, so there’s some of that in there. Some of the songs are about very personal, sometimes painful things, but I tried to keep them vague enough to be loosely identifiable to more than just myself.
Why are you re-releasing “The Ruins of Ambition” now?
We were picked up by Infested Records, and since we only put it out in a VERY limited release over the summer, we thought it would be a great way to get it into a lot more hands. Or ears. Both.
The album literally ends on a rather discordant note at the end of the “outro.” Was that intentional?
That track was the result of me and our engineer/co-producer, Philip Zumbrun, goofing around with the booth monitors and my guitars when I cut the final guitar tracks. My main guitar is a Gibson with a P90 single coil, and it has the capacity for a lot of feedback if you let it go. Well, we let it go, and figured out, quite by accident, that you can literally play it like a theremin in front of a speaker, turning it at different angles for different tones. Tapping on the body of the guitar with my finger while it was in feedback gave us those chime sounds in there. We had so much fun on that stuff we just laid a couple of tracks of it and closed the album with it.
How did this album take shape? Was there an over-arching message? If so, what were you trying to convey?
Hmm. I suppose it took shape being a bunch of songs we’d been playing out already that hadn’t been recorded. Only a few of the songs were new to us for the album. “My Television” was an old set of lyrics I’d had that I fleshed out for this, as was “World That is Dead,” the environmentally-minded song at the end of the album. I had actually written that as a folk song during the whole BP spill thing. We felt like we needed another track for the release, so I wrote the riffs for it on the spot during our last rehearsal before packing it in to go record. “Human Potential” was a track that Pete and Omar had played together in another band years before The Enders. I wouldn’t say there was really a single message we were trying to put together… more a lot of different ones that are laced together.
You currently live in Indiana. Did you grow up there? How did growing up in the “heartland” frame your style/lyrics?
Well, I’m from Texas, and only moved to Indiana in 2007, so I wouldn’t say it has affected me to any great extent. I’ve lived in a lot of places, including St. Louis and Boston. Pete’s lived both in Indiana and Canada, so he’s kind of all over the place as well. Omar’s done his fair share of bouncing around, too. We just all happened to land in the right place together at the right time.
How is the punk scene in Indiana?
The punk scene in Indiana is pretty strong. The Punk Rock Night shows in Indianapolis have been running for 12+ years now and draw national and international touring bands consistently, as well as a countless supply of regional bands from around Indiana and surrounding states. They hold an annual awards show, and The Ruins of Ambition actually got best non-local release for 2012. That was a big deal to us since there were SO many amazing bands who came through touring on current releases. I mean, just like any award, that and a buck’ll get you coffee, but the recognition in the field and on the scene is great to see. We were pretty honored. The scene isn’t limited to Indianapolis, either. We’ve got bands and venues all over the place. South Bend, Fort Wayne, Louisville (just across the river in Kentucky), some isolated spots in northwest Indiana, Bloomington, all over. There’s a fairly known Oi label based in our town, too: OiTheBoat Records. So the scene is great all around.
How was the national tour, in terms of fans’ response? Was it out of your comfort zone?
The 2012 tour was our second national, and response was really great. We revisited a lot of cities from our first tour, and so we had friends and fans in place for several stops. We played a couple of other places for the first time, though. Our first Boston visit was on this one, and it was amazing. It was kind of overwhelming that when we played “Song For The Working Class,” they sang it. Having never been to the city as a band, that was pretty badass.
Are you writing new material?
We will probably be sitting down to work on material together soon. We were really busy all summer and early fall playing shows, and sort of took it easy through late fall. I know we’ve all been messing with ideas on our own, so it’s just a matter of getting together and bashing.
How have your experiences in 2012 (personal, political, band-wise, etc.) changed your outlook? And will it be reflected in future songs?
I don’t think that far ahead as far as ideas for songs. I usually write an entire song in an idea burst. So, depending on what I’m thinking about at that moment, I could write about anything. After the hectic schedule we kept through mid-year, we’ve honestly just been laying back a little and focusing on personal things. I got married and am starting medical school, and the other guys have also had a lot going on. We’re looking at some show dates right now in the Midwest through Spring.
What can fans expect from your live shows?
Anything and everything. We might do a Ramones-style one-second break between songs the whole time, or we may shit-talk each other and the crowd, act stupid, crack jokes, whatever. It really depends on the show and situation.
Where are you headed in 2013?
New songs, as many shows as we can fit in, and some random releases in different formats are some things we’re currently looking at. We’re really taking it as it comes right now, and enjoying it as much as possible
You can order The Enders’ debut album, “The Ruins of Ambition”, via Infested Records’ website.