Jeff Lohrber (Enabler)

Enabler's Twitter bio: "The world is fucked and this is the soundtrack to its demise." perfectly describes the unforgiving brutality of this Milwaukee metal/hardcore crossover. Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull caught up with Jeff Lohrber [vocals/guitar] ahead of their set at Fest in Gainesville to talk about his bitterness towards the world, having Andy Hurley from Fall Out Boy temporarily join the band, and the release of their crushing new record All Hail The Void.

Can you give me a bit of history about Enabler?
Enabler started in the summer of 2009, mainly as a project I’d been working on myself for a long time just with a drum machine and writing songs. Then I had a band called Heartless that I did drums for and after that, I was a hired drummer for a lot of bands and I just got kind of burned out. It became clear that I really wanted to get out of drumming and I really wanted to get back to playing guitar and sing. I had never sang in a band, so I wanted to do something completely new and I had all these songs written, which ended up being our first record. There was a period where nothing was happening with the songs I was writing and as soon as we had our first line-up, it was just all go from there.

I’ve read that you’ve had a lot of line-up changes.
Yeah, that’s going to happen when you have someone in a band that writes all the songs. No one has really written anything else, it’s all kind of been my ideal. I treat everyone else as a band member, it’s not like ‘my’ band, but you’re going to have that when the songs are already pre-written and people come along saying they love the songs and can join, but then have other commitments.

Andy Hurley from Fall Out Boy joined the band for a while and drummed on your newest release, All Hail The Void. Do you think that’s helped Enabler make a bit of a name for itself?
For us, it was like Andy was in Milwaukee, he’s a friend, he loved the band, he put out our first record, and we needed a drummer, it kind of made sense. To the outside world, it was like, "Andy Hurley from Fall Out Boy is in this band?!" and then they’re hearing the band for the first time and thinking he started the band. People see he was in the band and go "What the fuck?" They think of Fall Out Boy and they see Enabler, it’s a complete different thing. For me, it made sense, because I liked a lot of Andy’s previous bands like Racetraitor and Kill The Slavemaster, so when he came back to playing metal, it just made sense to me, because that’s what he listens to.

I think within the DIY crowd, a lot of people ruled us off, because he was in the band and we had to prove ourselves - like, yeah, we have some guy from a pop band, but we’re going to kick your ass right now. It attracted new people, but it definitely stirred things up with a lot of people that had already liked the band, like, "You guys replaced your drummer with the guy from Fall Out Boy, are you going to start singing now?" [laughs] No. He just played the drums and he’s really fucking good at it.

You said you were a touring drummer for a while, how did that start?
I was a guitar player first and I could not find drummers to play with, so I bought a drum set, because I knew I could play drums and I just started playing drums and joining bands. It’s funny, because I’ve been in more bands than I can count on my fingers and toes, and I only have writing credits in Enabler and my old band Heartless. Whoever needed a drummer, I was ready to go. I grew up in a small town in Ohio and had nothing to do. I just wanted to get out.

Were you a fan of these bands or did you just join anything?
There were a couple I worked for just because I was bored, but with Trap Them, Today Is The Day, or Shai Hulud, I was a definitely fan of them prior. I remember getting a call from Today Is The Day and I was like, "Fuck yes!" Being a songwriter, I understand when playing drums that this is someone else’s creation and you’re adding to that. This person has wrote a song and you’ve got to make that song sound the best it possibly can. You’ve got to play a part in a band, a band’s not just about you. In this band, I’m the songwriter and other people play with me, and we’ve got to make this carnation sound as good as we can.

I’ve read that half of you are from Milwaukee and half are from Ohio, how does that work?
I’m originally from Ohio, I grew up in Dayton and I moved to Milwaukee five years ago with my girlfriend, who now plays bass for Enabler. We knew Andy and Greg were going to be leaving on the last tour, and we didn’t know anyone in Milwaukee that could handle this about of touring. The current guy playing guitar is Eric, who I’ve known for seven years, so I’m really comfortable with him. It’s the same with Dave, who’s now playing drums, he’s in the band Mouth of the Architect and I’ve been a huge fan of that band and watching him play drums since I was a little kid.

Do you still do all the writing? Does no one else contribute?
Yeah, it’s just the way that it’s worked. When the band first started, I had the songs initially written, so it was ready to go and it’s just been kind of like that. I’ve never been against people writing for the project, it’s just that no one really has. It’s not a dictatorship. I’m not sitting here telling people what to do, it’s just that I have this ready to go. If someone thinks part of my song sucks, then what should we do to make this better? I’m not going to be like, ‘No, this is my fucking song!’ If someone has a better idea, I’m all ears.

Were you stoked about Southern Lord’s interest in pressing the CD release of All Hail The Void?
Yeah, Southern Lord released the CD and then we had Halo of Flies and Creator-Destructor split the vinyl pressing in the States, and a label called Phobiact released the vinyl in Europe, which actually worked out really well, because we were able to keep the vinyl prices really low, since they were released through DIY labels. Then Southern Lord pressed the CD and they have their distribution. It keeps the punk people into the band, but it also expands into new audiences, since Southern Lord is a big label. There’s a lot of people who listen to Southern Lord bands just because it’s on Southern Lord. It’s a trust-worthy label where you know most of the stuff they put out is going to be quality. I was definitely excited when I got the email; I think it was a day before Christmas. We knew who were doing the vinyl pressing and we wanted CDs out. I know a lot of people are against CDs now, but we sell just as many CDs as we do records. Then Southern Lord got in touch and everything started to line up.

All Hail The Void is still really heavy, but some it’s definitely a lot more melodic and accessible - was that what you were going for?
I think it’s just a natural evolution of songwriting. On Eden Sank To Grief, it was this eight-song explosion, which was pissed about a lot of shit, and that vibe is definitely captured. On this record, it’s like, I got all that out and expanded the sound. Adding in the melodies has been a big thing, it gives the record room to breathe, but still has all those intense parts.

Your lyrics still seem really bitter and angry at the world, even your Twitter bio says, "The world is fucked and this is the soundtrack to its demise." Where does that aggression come from?
That’s my political views. Everybody’s fighting for something and things are too far-gone, what more can you do at this point? People aren’t going to change their mind. There’s this obnoxious right-wring Christian side of America and I’m not saying all republicans are bad, but there’s this insane sect of people in America that want everybody to act and be like them, and if you’re not, you’re damned and going to Hell. It’s ingrained in people’s childhoods and where they’ve grown up - so, fuck it. I’m just going to be pissed about it. I’m not going to try to change these people’s minds. They don’t want to listen.

I got a new job recently and I work with a guy who’s extremely racist, like scary-racist. I kind of forgot how bad it is. Like, this guy is a 50-year-old dude and he’s not going to change his mind, that’s how he is. What can you do in that situation? You just have to ignore, he’s not going to change his mind. A lot of Americans are stubborn with their views and it doesn’t make any sense, but what can you do to change it? The only thing you can do to change it is be yourself and not be like them. This band is my reaction to a lot of what you see on television and how things are here sometimes.

I read an interview with you and you said you don’t think All Hail The Void is your best work to date, which I found surprising.
After I did All Hail The Void, I was really burned out. It was almost 20-days of tracking and nearly 3-months of mixing and editing. I think in retrospect, it’s a really good record and they’re things on it that I wasn’t most pleased about, like some of the production things, but the thing is, I’m working with a producer, it’s not just my vision. The producer also has a vision, who was also the second guitarist at the time, and there were certain things I didn’t necessarily agree with, but overall, it came out to be a really cohesive record and it’s a good representation of the band and a good stamp of where we were at the time as a band. After that record was done, it really made me appreciate the first record a lot more. The first record really has this intensity to it and this fire that All Hail The Void doesn’t have.

They compliment each other really well where All Hail The Void is a lot more controlled, tighter and cleaner. All the things you don’t get on All Hail The Void, you get on Eden Sank To Grief and all the things you don’t get on Eden Sank To Grief, you get on All Hail The Void. I don’t think All Hail The Void is necessarily the best work, but in the time line, it’s a very necessary part of the band and I’m looking forward to the future right now.

We just recorded a new EP last month and we’re looking to get that out in February. I had almost 30 songs for this record I had to pick from and there’s a lot of new material that didn’t get used, so I’m really giddy about a lot of the new material that’s to come in the next few years. I think some of my best work is best to come. We’re not going to be that one band that puts out one record then tries to follow it up and not know what to do. The follow up is there already, it’s just figuring record labels and when will be realistic to record and put it out, which is fine, because the more time you have to sit on it, the more time you have to make it better, especially with the new guys’ input.

With Eric, he’s came in as the lead guitarist and it’s the first time since we first started that we’ve actually had a lead guitarist, where previously I’ve done the leads, even though I’m not a lead guitarist. I worked so hard to write and learn these solos, and they’re ok, then he steps in and doesn’t even try and totally out-shreds me. I’ve always wanted that combo where I handle rhythm and vocals and have someone else who’s the best fucking guitar player ever. I’m really looking forward to see what the guitar work is going to be like on the next record. I think it’s going to be completely over the top and blow everybody’s mind. I definitely am happy with All Hail The Void, but I’m looking forward to moving on at the same time.