Hometown: Bloomington, Ind.
Members: Bryan Enas, Douglass Enas
Album: Temporary Room
For Fans of: The Cure, Joy Division, The Jesus and Mary Chain
We may never know exactly who funded Stagnant Pools’ debut album, Temporary Room. Last year singer/guitarist Bryan Enas purchased a secondhand leather satchel in his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, and when he got it home, he discovered it contained more than $400 in cash. Instead of rent or food, Bryan and his younger brother Douglass, who plays drums, put that money toward studio time, tracking 11 songs in 12 hours.
Stagnant Pools work best with less. Hence, the short session and the limited line-up. It’s just two guys making that big noise, but don’t let the two-man-band tag fool you: They’re not scrappy punks like Japandroids or a blues twosome like The White Stripes. Whereas those acts aim to sound minimalist, Stagnant Pools are maximalists, wringing an enormous attack out of drums and guitar. Listening to Temporary Room, you might not even realize it’s just two people.
Songs like “Illusions” and “Jumpsuit” owe a debut to Joy Division, the Cure, and Echo & the Bunnymen, but Stagnant Pools manage to put their own twist on familiar postpunk elements. Bryan’s guitar shimmers and chimes under a thick blanket of reverb, which pushes the meter into odd patterns. Doug’s stiff rhythms suture the songs together. The effect is a drone that’s too pop to be noise rock, yet too amorphous to be called shoegaze. It’s a sound that’s subtly and distinctively their own—one that turns their limitations into opportunities.
“At the beginning we were both self-conscious about it because we didn’t know if the sound was full or not,” says Doug. “People would come up to us after shows offering themselves as bass players or keyboard players.” Even as they wondered what was missing, the Enas brothers politely declined all comers and instead focused on their sibling dynamic.
Growing up in Bloomington, the brothers started playing together in high school, although their first groups included musicians outside the Enas household. One large indie-pop band in particular convinced them they didn’t want to be in a large band or play indie pop. Stagnant Pools started life while they were students at Indiana University, where Bryan double-majored in English and film studies and where Doug is working on a philosophy degree.
Balancing schoolwork with touring presented some problems, but they managed to find a way to balance their musical and academic pursuits. “It really only started to get tough toward the end of this last spring semester,” says Douglass, “because we were playing a couple of out-of-state shows on weekends when finals were coming up. We had to make up a lot of studying on top of driving and stuff.”
With Bryan out of school and their first record behind them, Stagnant Pools are concentrating on playing live and exploring all the possibilities of their two-man sound. “The chemistry has been there since the beginning,” says Doug. “I think if you have good chemistry, it’s going to sound bigger than it really is. That loudness is due to our way of understanding each other musically, more than to a guitar pedal or something.”