Joe McVeigh, the Guitarist of the Belfast Noise-Punk Band Enola Gay, Tells Us How the Band Distinguish Themselves Within the Saturated Postpunk Market

Before hearing a single note or lyric from them, the Belfast postpunk band Enola Gay establish both their versatile music range and willingness to explore the politically confrontational with their name alone, which stems from OMD’s 1980 anti-war song, which in turn was named after the aircraft which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.

For the uninitiated, Enola Gay’s music blends noisy, abrasive guitars with elements of rap, electronica and even country. “We did it because all we were listening to was rave music and hip-hop,” guitarist Joe McVeigh tells Post-Burnout. “And then we were like, ‘Oh, guitars are starting to go in these new, cool directions.’ I say ‘new,’ but they were probably going for a bit longer; like, things like Gilla Band. I didn’t know who Gilla Band were until they went on hiatus. So, at the start, we were just throwing a bunch of shit at the wall, and you kind of have a naivety at the start, like a childlike wonder, and it’s fucking great.”

Formed in 2019, the band were fortunate enough to gain notoriety due to the influx in postpunk’s popularity at that time. “I remember me and Fionn [Reilly; the band’s vocalist] starting Enola Gay, and I went to the Belfast Tech [to learn] music production,” says Joe. “I went with the hopes of going to uni, but I ended up ditching the whole uni idea because I basically was asked, ‘What do you want to go to uni for?’ and I was told, by my tutor, that it was pointless unless I was going to teach.

“And he was like, ‘So, what are you going to do? Like, what’s your music that you’re doing?’ and I said, ‘Me and my mate are starting a postpunk band, but I think that thing is starting to…’ Like, this was just before Idles’ Joy [as an Act of Resistance]came out and Fontaines [D.C.] came out and all – like just before, but you could see that a shift was starting to happen – and I said, ‘Ah, but for fuck’s sake! Everybody’s starting to do it now!’ and he turned around and he said, ‘Well, I wish the music I was making was becoming culturally relevant again.’

“I was like, ‘Oh, shit! He’s actually right!’ And then we did benefit from it, but it also made things more challenging because you started to notice that people were trying to lift from the same things, so there were a lot of characteristics in music and techniques that you actually then had to avoid, but I think one of the reasons why we’re able to prove that we’re still worth our salt is that we have the whole electronic influence and the hip-hop influence, and I think the way we’re doing it, I don’t see many people replicating it.”

The other distinctive aspect of the band is their political lyrics, which don’t shy away from the harsh realities of how top-down hierarchal politics affect the day-to-day lives of ordinary people, themselves included. “We’ve been brought up in that environment,” says Joe. “We feel that the political thing comes to us quite naturally, and that’s because it is ingrained in our culture, as we are. We come from that generation of the Ceasefire Babies, and the generations before us clearly have a lot of generational trauma, and I think that’s where a lot of the bluntness comes from.”

Joe admits that their bluntness has verged on the controversial. “I remember one of our songs about Brexit had a line about Prince Andrew in it, and I remember Fionn turned around to me, being like, ‘You know, it’s mad that that’s controversial.’ You know what I mean? But you’re just fucking spitting facts.” He continues, “Fuck me. We’ve got more shit like that, but it’s just so fucked, because a lot of people have commented on the fact that it’s so blunt and it’s so direct, and I remember this woman – she said this in Edinburgh – she said, ‘I love the fact that I know what you’re talking about, and I don’t have to try and figure it out.’ We don’t really have a metaphorical approach to lyrics, and I think that’s where the hip-hop thing benefits from, because when you’re trying to get so many things off your chest, you only have a certain amount of syllables in a bar to get that across, so you may as well…you don’t really have to dress it up that much, really.”

Last October, the band dropped their latest EP, the experimental Casement, which enjoyed critical acclaim. “There was a lot of risks taken with Casement,” says Joe. “Because the first two songs, I feel they were kind of what people would’ve expected from us; those first two tracks that were produced by Johnny Hostile. But then the third track, ‘terra,’ which was written by Fionn. He just wrote that one night with his acoustic guitar. And then ‘firma’ became the second half of the two-parter ‘terra firma,’ written in collaboration with a Belfast producer, Mount Palomar.

“Yeah, we really did want to throw a curveball – and this relates back to what we were discussing earlier, about wanting to stand out – because we always knew that Fionn could actually sing, and we thought it would be an appropriate time to display that, to expand our sonic pallet, because we were like, ‘Well, the new uniform for this has been a bunch of fellas shouting with guitars, so we can stand to prove that we were more than that.’”

Courtesy of Singular Artists

The band have been enjoying some highs since the EP’s release. “Like, the maddest thing that happened recently is that we were on [the ARTE Concert show] Echoes, which is ran by Jehnny Beth of Savages, who was one of our main influences,” says Joe. “So, to be broadcast on live European TV is crazy – well, sorry, it wasn’t live; it was pre-recorded – but it was insane. Yeah, I don’t know, we just keep doing what we’re doing, and it does seem to be growing. And we are getting good reviews, like even on that…our first EP was in the top eighty releases of that year, which was crazy. And then I checked what the other one was, and it’s in the top three hundred.”

2024 shows no sign of slowing down for Enola Gay. Joe teases that their next single will be a “shoegaze ballad,” and says, “This year, I feel like we do have to be more strategic. We’re going to be putting out a lot of tracks this year. We’re touring America. We actually have a collab in the works, and I can’t really say too much about it, but it’s probably one of the most exciting things that we’ve ever worked on, and even the prospect alone, if I said what it was, I feel like a lot of people are going to be like, ‘Holy fuck!’”

But before then, the band will perform at Singular Artists’ Borderline Festival, which takes place at the Main Room and Cellar at Dublin’s Workman’s Club between the 15th and 16th of February.  On why you should check out their performance, Joe says, “There’s a few surprises that they can expect, which involve other acts on the bill, because there’s a lot of acts that we’re quite chummy with that are on the bill, so you might see an odd cameo for a ‘One night only’ thing.

“But, yeah, we love playing Ireland, but we don’t really seem to get to play Ireland that much because we’re always away. It has to do with all the costs and all that shit; all the stuff that doesn’t make music fun. But I would just say, we’ve got a lot of energy that we definitely need to give Ireland because it’s long overdue.”

Enola Gay’s latest EP, Casement, is out now. You can find the band’s music and social media links here. Borderline Festival takes place on Thursday the 15th and Friday the 16th of February, and you can find more information and tickets here. To hear this interview in full – where we go into greater detail on everything discussed and more – tune into today’s episode of POSTBURNOUT.COM Interviews… at 14:00.

You can also listen to this episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music Podcasts

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