THE Enemy have had to follow some big acts in their time but the fastest man in the world certainly ranks as a tester.
The Coventry trio were asked to perform to a free Hyde Park gathering for 80,000 Olympic fans a week ago – and ended up playing right after Usain Bolt completed his double gold coup.
“We didn’t know what to expect beforehand,” admits drummer Liam Watts. “We were told about it a little while ago; an Olympic rather than music event, turn up and play, see how it goes.
“But it was an absolutely huge crowd, going on straight after the 200m final... absolutely amazing. They had a big screen on stage and then the screen separated and we were playing behind it.”
Medal-winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton even got up for the last song, like a rose between three thorns, one could argue.
“Luckily we have had the experience in front of those sort of crowds. If we hadn’t it would have been a bit daunting. But it was nice to go out there and soak it up a bit.
“Everyone was so responsive. It was a great atmosphere. Everyone had come together and had a good time. And when we realised we were going on five minutes after Bolt, I thought there’s got to be at least 10 people there to watch us...”
That there was and The Enemy arrived match fit with new music suitably muscular and energetic for the occasion thanks to recently-released third album Streets In The Sky. It is the sound of three mates enjoying being in a room together and rediscovering the raw joy of making music.
“We have tried to get this album right and we just wanted to get out there and play it to as many people as possible,” says Liam, who concedes they had re-discovered the thing that got everyone into the band first time around.
“That’s the way we feel and we had the time to get it right. The first album, all the songs were there in six months. We made it and put it out. It was all just going that way, the ball was rolling then.
“The second album we were put in a studio and told ‘here’s when you’re releasing the album’.
“With this one we took time off and then started writing, had time to do it properly. This is how The Enemy sounds and always should. We just wanted good songs on it and if you get the sound right it’ll speak for itself.”
Helping them turn that fire into a fulsome, anthemic beast in London and LA studios was Joby J. Ford, an unlikely ally, perhaps, from seminal US punk outfit The Bronx.
“You have a list of ‘go-to’ producers that people always use, but you shouldn’t do it like that. You should meet people and see how it’s going, not just do it off the back of what they’ve done; work with someone who’s passionate at the time not on the back of an album they made for someone else 10 years ago.
“Jody’s in a hardcore punk band but he’s all about the song and is a really good player. We really trusted him to get his ideas across.
“We knew there was pressure there, not least as every album you make is a blessing. It’s great to make one, great to make two – when you get to your third you realise how privileged you are.
“But once we started writing and got tunes together and ready to release it the pressure had gone because we knew we had done our best. The pressure was only there when we were writing and there’s got to be an element of that because you want to bring out the best in everyone.”
Part of the process involved listening to some of the tunes on The Enemy’s highly effective debut, We’ll Live And Die In These Towns, as well as reviving half-formed songs and chorus ideas.
“We learned how to re-do stuff and bring it up to date, give it a fresh test. Naturally when we get in a room The Enemy sound comes out. We just need time to do that and I think we’re sounding the best we have. The sonics and the sounds have matched up whereas on the first album the sonics didn’t really get across the band we are live.”
Add into that a bit of maturity. Early hits Away From Here and Had Enough had Liam, singer Tom Clarke and bassist Andy Hopkins emerging like teenage greyhounds out of the traps. Now they’re all in their mid-20s.
They’re also slightly calmer, have got steady girlfriends and have forsaken the lure of London to remain living in Coventry. Long gone are the days of Liam getting banned from Tesco for having a kickabout.
“Most of the stuff we got up to we’d have done regardless of the band. The success we’ve had and taking time off has stood us in good stead. We’ve had time to really get our head round it. We can turn up and play to tens of thousands of people and not be too phased by it.
“We had a lot happen to us while quite young. We’re in a good place. We’re ready for anything.”
These days they even watch documentaries. Tom saw one about Park Hill Flats which led to the new album title.
The band were recording what was to become Streets In The Sky in the US and still seeking a moniker. A mate from South Yorkshire band Exit Calm texted, having also seen the programme, although the phrase has taken on a slightly different meaning rather than just celebrating Park Hill.
“It’s more about the everyday reality and the limitless situations of desperation and dreams you have,” says Liam before admitting: “We haven’t been original in any of our album titles.”
Liam, Tom and Andy Hopkins will, however, get to see the real, new-look Park Hill when they return to Sheffield’s O2 Academy on October 9 after a hectic summer of festivals.
Before then you can catch them at V festival this weekend and DJing at The Viper Rooms on September 19.