Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Song-by-song approach

The Badger Herald recently caught up with John Schmersal and Toko Yasuda of the indie-rock outfit Enon during the Japanese leg of their tour in support of the recently released Hocus Pocus. The band was enjoying a brief respite basking in the local television splendor. The metropolitan atmosphere of Tokyo was treating them well in between sets.

“The gadgets here are way too expensive, but everything here makes me drool. It’s like they knew I was coming,” said lead singer/guitarist John Schmersal.

Ultra-modern Tokyo must be a fantasy come true for a band whose live sets feature toy guns and short-circuited keyboards in addition to guitars and bass, and the live set is primarily what the band has been up to.


“At home I rarely ever watch TV,” Schmersal noted. “We have been on tour pretty much straight since Sept. 12 … Playing shows is pretty much an everyday thing.”

Hocus Pocus is a minor departure for Enon. While the band’s previous work often toes the line with prog rock, Hocus Pocus tends to be a more danceable endeavor. Still, the Japanese will not be swayed.

“Some of [our fans] are dancing at the shows … It depends on the show.”

Schmersal remains optimistic, though.

“I’ve heard lots of stories of even more popular bands coming over here and getting stone faces and polite clapping. I do my best to try and get a reaction out of people, but you can’t really expect anything from your audience. They are who they are.”

He continued, noting that the reception was more genial than dismissive. “The Japanese always genuinely look like they are checking you out. More like a deer in headlights, maybe …”

Japan should be a natural fit for Enon. Bassist/vocalist/synth player Toko Yasuda, formerly of Blonde Redhead and The Lapse, is a native. Hocus Pocus bears witness to her expanding role in the band and even features Enon’s first endeavor into her mother tongue on “Mikazuki,” which some reviewers have catalogued as Japanese pop.

“It’s pretty [shortsighted] to call that song Japanese pop just because it’s sung in Japanese. Those who say that obviously have never heard any Japanese pop,” said Schmersal.

Yasuda, who has been in the United States for the past 11 years, says she doesn’t really know what’s up with Japanese pop music these days. Yasuda described the song.

“It’s like a first-sight love under a crescent moon in spring. It’s a fictional story in a park with lots of cherry blossoms. The romance is described through the buds turning into cherry blossoms.”

The process of writing songs isn’t just Schmersal and Yasuda either. It’s inclusive.

“There is no division or multiplication involved,” said Schmersal. “Whoever starts always has the trump. If they have a vision, they are allowed to see it through. If they lose steam, others interject or add to it. We sometimes argue, but that’s close to the only rule.”

Another rule is that there are no rules. When asked about the reason for backing away from irregular meters and opting instead for danceability, Schmersal made the point clear.

“Change is important for us, but having a reason for it is not,” he said. “If a song is going to be memorable, it probably starts with the melody and not the math.

“Sometimes [a song] turns out complicated, and I discover this when I try and communicate it to others. Then we end up having to count it out.

“Creating rules and definitions in your artwork can be important. That stuff is a risky balance, though, and you won’t get an A+ in Enon’s class that way.”

Perhaps it’s this stratagem that has allowed Enon to avoid the complications more popular bands like Radiohead faced in the studio while recording their electronic offerings.

“There are and have, since the advent of electronic music, been amalgamations of organic and fabricated sounds — see Raymond Scott, Silver Apples, Suicide, Devo,” said Schmersal. “I can imagine the elders had their problems, but they are probably based on taste. When I was in Brainiac, we always infused the two.

“Only when [Brainiac] made Electroshock for President was there a conscious concern since there wasn’t much live drum or guitar playing … Luckily, Tyler, our drummer, was a big fan of electronic music. He didn’t mind not playing the drums at all. I guess it’s just a question of ego. Every great jazz musician knows when to play and when not to play. It’s about the music and the result, not everybody playing at once.”

Everything always comes back to the live element, though, and Schmersal ruminates that it’s “the only element [Enon] is really concerned with.”

“You can make a record and put it on the shelf. We play our songs out all the time … We want our live shows to be like a Saturday-night party, even on a Monday. That’s what people come out to see!”

Those interested in finding out what a Saturday-night party is like on every other night of the week can pick up Hocus Pocus or visit the band’s site at

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *