Mike Kunka is pissed. Not in some sort of Fred Durst “I’m pissed cause it sells records” sort of way. Kunka is ticked off at circumstance. His band, Enemymine, is as loud and caustic as they come, the dual-bass-and-drums outfit pushing the threshold of tolerable volume. That fact often gets Enemymine thrown in with the current crop of aggro-rawkers, even though the trio is just as likely to show off its soft underbelly as it is to make ears bleed. It’s something that just grates at the bassist and vocalist.
“The heavy music trend right now—it’s incredible how bad some of this stuff is,” Kunka says. “It’s the new formula rock, record labels pushing out band after band that you can’t even tell apart. And the sad thing is that we almost fit in with that. We’re loud; we’re tuned the same. Sometimes it makes me think we should be a folk band or something. Those groups are giving us a bad name.”
Kunka has a valid point. The neo-metal movement has reached critical mass, enveloping itself in a state of sameness. Groups are blending together; sales are leveling off. It might be up to bands like Enemymine to change things, to push the creative envelope.
The Washington-based trio is already working on it. Sure, there’s the obvious lack of guitar that shakes things up. “Lead guitar players aren’t the kind of people I want to hang out in a van with for long periods of time,” Kunka says only half-joking. “And when a guitar solo comes in I stop listening. I just like low-end and rhythm.”
And the group manages to do more with two basses than most bands can pull off with several guitars. Enemymine’s debut full-length, The Ice in Me (Up Records), is like a punch in the face and a cold pack to sooth the swelling, the band swinging between driving, bottom-heavy hardcore and mellow and melodic bass concertos. It’s like the trio took the swirling violence of New York noisecore—think Cop Shoot Cop, early Helmet or Babe the Blue Ox—mixed in a bit of the Northwest’s muddy distortion, and then, after screwing around for a while, watched an After School Special on depression. The chugging “Day One” and the rhythm-fest “Cocoon” are all power and aggression, Kunka growling the whole time. Then come placid instrumentals like “Man Enough” or the heart-sinking “Passive Equalizer,” Kunka and co-bassist Ryan Baldoz dueling for the most melancholic line.
“I’ve always liked stuff that can make you cry and stuff that’s really brutal,” Kunka says. “We’re trying to find a combination of the two, and I think we’re getting there. Whatever direction we hear in our heads, we try not to put a boundary on it. We can be super slow and quiet or super fast and heavy, it doesn’t matter.”
Enemymine’s sound seems to fit it’s frontman perfectly. While Kunka has the urge to grunt and shout, he says he’s painfully shy about performing. And it’s easy to hide behind a sonic barrage or melt into a quiet trance. “I’ve never looked at the crowd in over 400 shows,” he admits. Kunka only makes eye contact with the mic or his bass. If he has a particularly difficult part to play, one bass junkies might get a kick out of, he turns his back to the crowd.
“I always get super embarrassed if people think I’m showing off,” Kunka says. “I don’t know, maybe I picked the wrong job. I’m just so super shy. I used to hyperventilate before I had to give a speech in school. And I’m not really comfortable being the singer either, but singers have just as many ego problems as guitar players do.”
Even though Kunka’s a little timid about being on-stage, he’s still willing to do pretty much anything for his fans. Case in point: At a recent show in North Dakota, a 14-year-old came to see the band. He even helped Enemymine load in, lifting amps, lugging drums. “It was funny. The kid was like a total Fred Durst lookalike,” Kunka says. “He was his twin or something.” So in honor of the band’s newfound friend, Enemymine did something the group normally wouldn’t do: The band officially gave in and did a Limp Bizkit cover.
“He loved it. He came up to us after the show and made us autograph our CD and stuff,” Kunka says. “We just figured that that was as close as he was going to get to see Limp Bizkit play, so we thought we’d do it for him. Some people like heavy music, it just doesn’t matter who’s playing it.” Tonight is going to be a little different. The band is playing Norman, Okla., home of, as Kunka points out, “the No. 1 Sooners, whoa yeah.” He doesn’t think the band will have to pull out the Bizkit cover tonight. More likely it’ll be Enemymine’s version of “Rawhide.”
“I’ve never had a band play here before, so we’re a little nervous,” he says. “I hope we’re not playing behind chicken wire or something the crowd can throw beer bottles at. I’m just glad we’re not playing on a Saturday night. That would be too much. A bunch of drunk guys in for the game. Something tells me we wouldn’t go over very well with them. But we’ll see.”
Enemymine plays Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West (320-9887), Friday Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at the door.