Enervate: Tom and Lan on EP "No Time Left" and the New Era of Milwaukee Hardcore

(Photo credit: Samer Ghani)

Milwaukee might not be a place that immediately comes to mind when discussing cities that host a thriving hardcore scene - but come to just one show in the area, and trust me, you’ll understand. Allow me to introduce you to one of the most promising new bands making up Cream City’s hardcore scene - Enervate.

Featuring members from bands including Cross Me, Infamy, and more, the band is made up of several prominent figures in the Milwaukee hardcore scene, as well as a fairly new face - vocalist Lan, who’s originally from Florida. Enervate formed shortly before the pandemic, releasing their first demo in April 2020. This year, their EP No Time Left came out this past July, and the band finally got to play their first show a few weeks ago on September 11th, alongside two other new bands, Reality Check and World I Hate, as well as a couple Milwaukee favorites. It was super exciting to see how well-received the set was.

Vocalist Lan, bassist Tom, and myself discussed everything from all things Enervate, No Time Left, and Lan's lyrics about his experiences as a black man - as well as TikTok, soul food, the superior cool gas station chain, and so much more. Grab a drink, make yourself comfortable, and give this one a read.

AA:  Introduce yourself with your name, what you do in the band, and a random fact about yourself.

TH: I’m Tom, I play bass, and a random fact about me is... I just ate Rocky Rococo’s pizza with Adam Kobs. [laughs]

LM: I’m Lan, I sing for Enervate, and what’s a good random fact... I have a dog, her name is Koda.

AA: Who played your first hardcore show? What impact did that have on keeping you involved in hardcore?

TH: So, I actually don’t know who technically played my first hardcore show, when I first started going to shows. Metalcore, hardcore, and punk bands would all play the same show, so I saw hardcore bands at a pretty early age, but didn’t really understand that it was hardcore music. To me, it was just live music, and I didn't really get the difference until a couple years later. I would say, probably, my first show that I knew, “Okay, I’m gonna go see a hardcore band,” was probaly Terror. They played at this venue that’s no longer a venue,  in, like, 2007. They played with Set Your Goals. Weird tour. [laughs] Terror, Set Your Goals, and this band from Milwaukee called Get Rad. That was probably the first time I ever knew I was at a hardcore show. First time I saw Terror, that’s basically what made me fall in love with hardcore, and I've been seeing them every time they play here ever since.

LM: My first hardcore show was in South Florida. I didn't know it was a hardcore show, because I knew none of the bands on the bill, but it got extremely violent, very fast. It was this band from Florida called Old Habits, and I think this other band Thick as Blood was on it. That was the first hardcore show that I went to, that I didn't know was a hardcore show.

TH: That fuckin’ rocks. [laughs]

LM: I was terrified, there was this glass wall in the middle of the venue, I do not know why, and somebody shattered it moshing, so there was glass all over the floor, and no one stopped. [laughs] So that was my first show!

AA: It's so funny, I feel like it’s always the case that within one of your first few shows - something crazy happens, and you’re like, “Jesus Christ, these shows are so violent!” Then you keep going and it’s like “oh! …. Punched in the face... Okay... Regular Saturday night...” [laughs]

LM: [laughs] Exactly, it was crazy.

Photo credit unknown - DM for credit @resonatingzine

AA: Most of the members of the band are in other Milwaukee bands. What made you want to start a band like Enervate?

TH: So, me and Adam [Kobs, guitar] have been wanting to do a band together for a really long time. We kinda just sat down one day and made it happen. We don’t necessarily try to emulate one certain sound, but we take influence from bands like Madball, E-Town Concrete, Biohazard, that kind of vibe. We wanted to do a band that was somewhat consistent with the Milwaukee sound, but also our own sound, our own style, if that makes sense. Then we asked Lan to sing, and the rest is history!

AA: Enervate has a lot of politically-charged lyrics, including “Target Off My Back” and “My Fight,” which focus on Lan’s experiences with racism. What inspires you to incorporate these themes into your music?

LM: For me, personally, an easy way to describe this is that I have a “black man first” mentality. Like, before I am anything, I'm always gonna be a black person first, you know? And so, I guess, when it comes to lyrics and writing, especially off of the first record, I tried to make that as clear as possible. I feel like it's only right to kind of share that experience and talk about it on those records. 

It’s kinda crazy, because [after] we were recording that demo, we had everything recorded, then we released it - and, literally, that following summer, we’re all outside, protesting and being active. So, I feel like it kind of elevated, for me, a lot of the things that I write about, as far as racism, and the black history that I talk about in the few songs that we do have. They have a very new meaning to me because of that. 

I felt like it was something that I had to do, and it only felt right because, before I'm anything else, I'm always gonna be a black person. So, talking about that experience, and going through that experience, then being able to express it through hardcore music - I don't know, it just felt very necessary for me. Also, a lot of the black people in the hardcore community sometimes feel as if it’s a space where we definitely want to belong, but sometimes, it feels like a subgenre where we kind of have to cut it out for ourselves. That was another side of it as well. Also, shoutout Zulu.

Video of Enervate’s first show/Milwaukee Hardcore flea market by @guav.va 

AA: Enervate just dropped a new EP, No Time Left. How was the writing and recording process for that EP compared to your demo?

TH: The musical aspect is pretty consistent. Usually Sean [Slaughter, drums] and Adam just kind of come up with the structure of the song, and then, you know, we’ll all just kind of fine tune them as we go on. I kind of feel like, on the EP, we pinpointed a little bit more where our sound is headed, if that makes sense. [We] just kind of dialed everything in a little more, made everything just a little bit tighter. As far as the lyrical aspect is concerned, I’ll let Lan take that one, since he writes the lyrics.

LM: The first record was fun to record, and also was very fun to write. That was my first time writing lyrics for a hardcore band in a very very long time. Fast forward to this most recent release, it felt very good. It was essentially the same process. I feel like every band experiences, for lack of a better term, the growing pains from your first record you ever put out, to the next record you put out. So, I feel like, musically and lyrically, we’ve kind of grown into our next level. 

We broke out of our shell a little more with the recent record, which is cool to see - Adam has been getting way crazier on guitar with the new record, trying out new stuff, and Sean also has just been getting really great on drums. For me, I think that happened through the recording process, working with Collin St. Mary from Indiana [Nineteen Stars Recording] - I’ve just loved seeing the progression from our first demo to our most recent tape, especially in how Adam and Sean recorded and were willing to take a little more of a chance and be more expressive with their playing styles. And - I’m sorry Tom, but it’s always fun to watch Tom play bass. [laughs] Because Tom used to play bass very stiffly, but now, I don’t know. It’s just fun to watch him now. It’s just the growing pains! Because now, he’s just like “yeah, I’m gonna be really, really, sick on bass.” It’s just fun.

TH: [laughs] it’s getting there for sure, my playing has slightly improved over the pandemic. So hopefully that translates to our live performance as well.

Album art for No Time Left

AA: The album cover for No Time Left, done by artist Jawaune (@momgotchicken on IG), features a collage of the members of Enervate as kids, incorporated into Jawaune’s art. The end result is really unique and awesome, in my opinion. Was it more your idea, or did you give Jawaune creative freedom? What does it mean to you?

LM: Me and Adam and everyone just wanted to do something different with the cover. The artwork on the demo is just an outline of us from a promo pic we’d taken, and for the most recent record, my thought process behind it was kind of to do the same thing, but to make it more personal - and that’s only because I feel like the new record is, for me, more personal. I guess it’s more of that, becoming more expressive [through] music, how you do it, and growing into your own skin and becoming yourself. That’s kind of the idea behind it, and that’s kind of why I was like, “Yeah, let’s use pictures of us as kids for the cover.” [laughs] I just thought it’d be a sick idea to show where we came from, and then where we are today.

Jawaune is this really, really talented artist. We just gave him the pictures and told him to do whatever he wanted, just, like, make some characters for us - and that’s essentially what he did, and it came out really dope. It was really really cool to see him do his thing, [to see] his creative style, and to do his own artwork, but also incorporate us into it.

TH: Yep! Jawaune also did the Permanent Damage art for Hard 2 Swallow, so that’s how we got hooked up with him.

LM: He’s a rad dude, he does art therapy and just got into grad school in St. Louis. Shoutout to him, he’s really cool, I really like him.

AA: No Time Left features two killer guest spots from Jordan Moten (Kharma) and Jeff Georges (Bloodbather). What made you want to work with them?

LM: Honestly - I wanted a song with my friends [laughs] ... And people who I thought had very unique styles and very unique perspectives, I guess. Jordan writes a lot of the stuff for Kharma himself, which I thought was sick, so he’s always been a rad dude to me. He was one of the first people I met when I moved to the Midwest, and that’s just the homie. I wanted him on it, for sure. And then Jeff was cool to have on it, because me and Jeff go way back. I remember seeing Jeff at his first show, and was like - damn, that kid’s sick. And he’s always just been, like... I don’t know, I'm not trying to little bro him, but it’s always been like, “Yeah, that’s my little bro.” [laughs] But yeah, I love that dude, so to have them both on the record was just kinda cool. 

I just wanted people with unique perspectives - Jeff being a part time rapper, the fact that Jordan's writing process is just insane. [laughs] And also, we all share the common black experience, even though we have very different perspectives - with Jordan being from Chicago, and Jeff and myself being from South Florida. It was cool to see that all come together in a song where we were just talking shit and having fun.

TH: Just to add a little bit, I think the coolest part about that song is that Jeff, Jordan and Lan all collaborated on lyrics. Each of the parts they did, they wrote themselves. I thought that was super cool to all collaborate on one thing and have the end result be super fuckin’ sick.

(Photo credit: Samer Ghani)

AA: Your first demo came out in April 2020, right around the beginning of the pandemic. In September, you’re finally going to be able to play your first show, alongside a bunch of awesome Milwaukee bands. How does it feel to finally be able to play shows together?

LM: A year and a half later… [laughs] I don’t know. I’m excited. Not to sound fucked up, but I think the pandemic was kind of a blessing, in the way that it kind of gave us more freedom to quarantine by ourselves, but it also gave us time to meet up when that became safe again. We’d meet up, hang out, and, I don’t know, kind of get to know each other better musically.

AA: I do think the pandemic was a good period artistically for a lot of people. For me, personally, it helped me slow down and feel less like I had to listen to every new thing coming out, and I got to decide what mattered to me to write about, you know?

LM: That's sick, though! Again, this is gonna sound so fucked up, but it did give a little bit more freedom. I'm glad it gave some people time to reevaluate and try different shit and do new shit, since they had to be indoors.

AA: Yeah. And, you know, obviously, it would’ve been nice for that to be under different circumstances. [laughs] But I'm glad you made the best of it too!

TH: I agree with all of that, I’m super excited for this first show.  I’m really excited we get to play the show with all our best friends, too - that’s a huge thing for me. You know, any first show is gonna be fun and exciting, but the fact that we get to play with literally all of our best friends on one bill, that’s so fuckin’ sick. And I honestly can’t wait.

AA: Playing in bands is only part of what Tom does for Midwest hardcore - you’re also, in my opinion, one of the hardest-working promoters in the Milwaukee area. What has it been like for you to get back into the swing of booking shows?

TH: It’s been really exciting. The year and a half where I couldn't book a show, that was the first time I haven't booked a show in almost 5-6 years - the first time that I haven’t had at least something coming up. And like, at first, when the pandemic hit, it’s not that I felt lost, per se, but I was like... I don’t have anything to work on, so I'm kinda bored [laughs] Like, a “what’s next?” type of deal. And then, I guess I didn't really realize how much I missed booking and attending shows until that show at the Cactus Club. 

Just being in that room felt like my first show all over again. And I know that the September show will probably feel like the first show I booked all over again. So I'm super excited, honestly a bit nervous - not for the turnout or anything, just cause this is my first show back. I couldn't be more excited. And like I said, just being able to not only book our first show, but Reality Check’s first show, to just have all of our friends play - it’s gonna be sick.

AA: And, I mean, kind of World I Hate’s first show…

TH: it was technically supposed to be, but then somebody I know named Thomas Van Gent had to book a show before this one… [laughs] No, I'm kidding, it’s fine.

Flyer for Enervate’s first show AKA the September show being referenced… Look closely at those faces

AA: What are some things you’d like to see more of in Midwest hardcore in the future?

TH: Definitely more bands, more new faces. I feel like, not that the September show is gonna be the beginning of a “new era,” because that kind of sounds corny. But, you know, we haven’t done this for a year and a half, so it almost is kind of like the start of something new, because I'm sure there’s gonna be kids there that it’s gonna be their first show, ‘cause either they got into hardcore during the pandemic, or discovered a band on fuckin’ TikTok or something, and that’s super cool. I honestly love that, I think it's so sick. I'm too old to be on there, but here I am, still on there anyway. [laughs] 

AA: [laughs] And I feel like you’re one of those people who used to make fun of me when I got into TikTok at the start of the pandemic!

TH: [laughs] Yup, that was me, and then here I am, I fuckin’ watch that shit every day before I go to bed! 

AA: They can be good! [laughs] You got recipes, educational shit…

TH: Exactly! [laughs] But, yeah, I think it’ll be the start of something new here in the Midwest. Essentially, I feel like it might be a time to bring in a bunch of new faces, which is always the goal, obviously, to expand the community. So, if it takes a kid seeing a TikTok video or a Twitter video or whatever, for them to come out to their first show, that’s fucking awesome. 

But yeah, we definitely need more bands in Milwaukee, and then more new faces.

LM: I agree - more new faces. I also really miss mixed genre shows. I miss having bands play with rappers who play with other people... Just having a mixed bill. I think that’s kind of what I'm excited about moving forward with hardcore, because I think Tom is maybe possibly trying to plan some stuff for the future. 

Also, more diversity in hardcore. I'm really, really happy to see all of my friends of color making strides, not only in the Midwest, but other places as well, and having fun with their music... I think it’s important for not only ourselves - because we should always be ourselves - but for our community as a whole. It's just sick to see, and it encourages new people to come out, so I think it kind of plays into itself.

Seven Bridges Trail in Grant Park, Milwaukee, WI - photo credit to Bobby Tanzilo

AA: If a band came to Milwaukee and asked for some spots to hit up, what would you recommend?

LM: Oh, this is a really easy question. Okay, first of all, and I don't mean this with no disrespect - shop at black businesses, eat at black businesses. I would tell people to go eat at Daddy’s. It’s this soul food spot around the Avenues West neighborhood area of Milwaukee, and they make really, really good soul food. The other place I’d tell people to go eat if they’re trying to stay closer to the downtown area…. Damn, this is hard. I thought I’d just recommend Daddy’s and call it a day, to be honest. [laughs] 

Oh! There's a really cool food truck spot in the Walker’s Point neighborhood where on the weekends you can catch maybe 3-4 food trucks posted up out there that always sell food, called Z√≥calo. If you wanna stay kinda towards the Bay View area, you can go there, and they usually have good options, but for me, it’s gotta be Daddy’s - because they have really good soul food, and I love soul food. 

TH: I would say for coffee, I don’t really drink coffee, but the thing I drink is more, like, a milkshake with espresso added. [laughs] I just like it as sweet as possible. But you definitely can’t go wrong with Stone Creek. That’s my go-to if I get coffee at all, shoutout Stone Creek.

AA: What do you get?

TH: An iced white mocha.

AA: Hey, that’s a latte! That’s a real drink, it’s good enough. [laughs]

TH: [laughs] It’s basically just a milkshake with caffeine.

AA: I mean at least it’s not like, a Frappuccino or something. [laughs] Although... Those are good sometimes too.

TH: Okay, true. [laughs] So shoutout Stone Creek, shoutout my friend Sofie who works there, as far as food… you can never go wrong with Vanguard. Vanguard is kinda like the GOAT, the go-to late night Bay View dining experience. 

LM: That's true.

AA: I took your recommendation and now it’s definitely one of my favorite restaurants in general, honestly.

TH: Oh! One more. For a cool outdoors spot, definitely Seven Bridges. That’s the coolest park in Milwaukee, in my opinion.

LM: There’s also the park by the North Point Lighthouse, by the museum in Milwaukee.

[we trail off talking about how some people think there’s nothing in Wisconsin, including Lan, who moved here within the last few years - and we start discussing the many wonders of WI, including Kwik Trip]

AA: I’m going to drop this controversy in here - I just went to a Wawa for the first time, and sometimes I wonder… Does Kwik Trip deserve a place in the “cool gas stations” debate? [laughs]

LM: Man… That’s wild. I’m kind of spoiled by Wawa, being from Florida, and Kwik Trip is cool, but when I see it, compared to Wawa, I’m just like… Nah. [laughs]

AA: [laughs] I mean, disclaimer, the Wawa I went to was in a smaller suburb of Jersey, so that might have something to do with it. I thought they’d be bigger for some reason!

LM: I think Buc-ee’s takes the cake, honestly. It’s only right. 

TH: My personal gas station rating - Buc-ee’s, number one, GOAT, Wawa, close second because they have the sweet tea that I could drink every day for the rest of my life, and then I’d say Kwik Trip. I’ve never been to a Sheetz, so I can’t compare. [laughs]

LM: I’ve never had the pleasure to go to Sheetz, I’ve only had Wawa - but Wawa sells this Waiakea water, and it’s literally like volcanic Hawaiian water or whatever, and I can't lie to you, it’s the best tasting water i've ever had in my life. And I've only ever seen it at Wawa. So, until more places offer that, I think Wawa’s my GOAT. 

Album art for the Milwaukee Style compilation

AA: Any upcoming plans you’d like to talk about?

TH: Yeah! Definitely. We’re playing a show on November 8th in Milwaukee with the almighty Terror. Terror is one of the bands that got me into hardcore and is also my favorite hardcore band so being able to play with them is a dream come true. It’s at The X-Ray Arcade, and Low End and MH Chaos are also playing, so it’s for sure a show you don’t want to miss. I’m doing a show here late November for Jocko from Omaha. It hasn’t been announced yet, so hopefully they don’t mind me spilling the beans a little early. Other than that, Enervate is writing for an EP we’ll be recording hopefully sometime early next year. We recently added a second guitarist to the band, so that’ll bring a new dynamic to the songs. 

I’ll also just mention quick, it’s been out for a few months now, but me, JJ and Michael just put out a comp, Milwaukee Style. It is a benefit for the X-Ray Arcade and the Cactus Club. You can find that at milwaukeestyle.bandcamp.com, you can check it out, you can order it digitally, and all the proceeds will be split between the two venues. We did have cassettes, but they are unfortunately sold out.

AA: Any last words?

LM: Shoutout Ballista, ‘cause I love River, shoutout Bloodbather, ‘cause I love Matt, shoutout UnityTX, ‘cause… yeah, homies. Kharma, Jordan, the boy. Jawaune, @momgotchicken, the artist who did our art for us. Shoutout to 1648 Records, too. They did tapes for us. And shoutout Grounds of Execution. And shoutout X. Not the weird dude that died.

AA: Xavier?

LM: Yeah. X. Kubrick. Delaware hardcore. [laughs] And shoutout every band he plays in, all three million of ‘em.

TH: Shoutout Reality Check, I live with Emilio [vocals] now and they’re fuckin’ sick… [laughs] Shoutout Infamy, I hang out with Brian Frost literally every day, shoutout Low End, shoutout World I Hate, shoutout to Murderface… Big Laugh, for sure, band is sick… Shoutout to Cactus Club for being able to do all-ages shows now, I’m excited to book there. Shoutout MH Chaos, band is fucking sick. I’m gonna forget something or someone, but oh well.

Thank you again to Tom and Lan, this interview was super fun, and they’re both great dudes. Listen to Enervate, the Milwaukee Style comp, any of the bands they mentioned - and, on god, if you get the chance to visit any spots they recommended (especially Vanguard), you better do it.

Follow the band on social media below:

Twitter | Instagram | Bandcamp

Listen to No Time Left:


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