“I wanna wake up brand new” Enumclaw lead-singer/guitarist Aramis Johnson sings to begin Save the Baby, their massive-sounding debut full-length, out October 14 via Luminelle Recordings. The album is a swing for greatness; a collection of life-affirming and deeply personal songs about the importance of chasing after your dreams.
Not since Nirvana irrevocably changed the rock music scene over two decades ago has there been such unequivocal excitement for a band from the South Puget Sound. Enter Tacoma, WA’s Enumclaw, whose early singles “Fast N All” and “Free Drop Billy” conjured a swirl of breathless praise from fans and choice publications like Pitchfork and The Fader before striking a single note in front of a live crowd.
Even though they hail from the home of grunge, their influences stretch a bit further; the group is already well on their way to becoming “the best band since Oasis,” their earliest motto. Aramis says the band led by the Gallagher brothers is a clear inspiration, given their rise from a working-class background, and not just because his own brother is in the group as well.
Says Aramis, “In the lineage of rock, Oasis is the last band to go from some random dive bar to a stadium. And if we’re not selling out stadiums, we’re not doing it how I wanted to do it.” The emotional stakes of being a massively popular rock band are incredibly clear for Enumclaw who came from a modest and sometimes harrowing upbringing in Seattle’s sister city, Tacoma.
Aramis describes Tacoma as an inescapable component of the band’s identity. “I honestly thought I was going to move to New York last April,” he says. “I was gonna take a break from doing music stuff, to live in a big city and try becoming a photographer. But the band [and its growing profile] ended up keeping me here in Tacoma.”
His father passed away from sickle cell anemia when he was just 10-years-old, his mother walked for miles to a job at Subway, and his family subsisted on food provided by EBT cards. His best friend when he was younger was diagnosed with schizophrenia. “I feel like if I were the one who had gotten sick, he would have handled it better than I did,” he says, the aforementioned survivor’s guilt heavy in his voice.
Those personal experiences heavily color Save the Baby, titled for the dreams he’s preserved since he was a young child to make a mark on the world. It’s an album about the importance of following your dreams, in spite of romantic relationships going sour and the pressure that comes with being a young Black man who grew up with a fair share of hardships, and about the importance of following your dreams. On the second verse of “Park Lodge,” Aramis sings about the survivor’s remorse of a friend’s mental health deteriorating as his own rock music stardom was on the ascent. “It’s about the feeling of being stuck in Tacoma,” he says. “Just like a lot of people in the Black community feel like they have to make it out through sports or rapping, I have to make it out with the band. I feel like this is our and the band’s only option to do something in a real way with our lives.”
Enumclaw is Aramis, guitarist Nathan Cornell, drummer Ladaniel Gipson, bassist (and Aramis’ younger brother) Eli Edwards. Working alongside producer Gabe Wax (Soccer Mommy, Crumb, Fleet Foxes), Enumclaw's Save the Baby delivers an album where on each track the band plays with dynamics while taking their songwriting to the stratosphere. The grinding guitar on lead single “2002” is no match for Aramis’ soaring chorus, while the music of “Jimmy Neutron” evokes the romantic, wind-swept feeling he sings about propelled by an instantly memorable riff. “Cowboy Bepop” feels like a ripcord letting loose and flapping behind a car on a joyride.
The opening self-titled track is divided by a valley of murky haze, sending the uptempo rock of its first movement into the lighters-up moment of its closing section, all thunder and heft. Aramis exclaims his satisfaction with the take before the recording abruptly cuts off, the first in a series of earnest insights into the joy of getting to achieve the band’s ambitions.
On “10th and J 2,” a striking, pulsating rock song tinged with melancholy, Aramis sings of destiny, something he believes in greatly. “It really felt like it was my last shot to make it out of here, from a mental perspective, from a career perspective,” he says about writing and recording Save the Baby. As he plays the chords of “Apartment” on acoustic guitar, he sings, “Hey! You’ve got one last chance! / Why not give it all that you can?” It’s essentially a letter to himself, a reminder to put his all into pursuing a childhood dream. For himself, for his loved ones, for all the people he’s known who never made it out of the cycle of trauma.
Save the Baby is an album about stepping into your purpose, about the determination it takes to not give up on yourself in the midst of heartbreak and setbacks. It’s not a stretch to imagine a younger version of the band getting a glimpse of the future and freaking out by knowing their destiny of making it as a rock star has landed on their doorstep.