Hanging out with the guys from ENOVA is a lot like being inside a kick drum: There's excitement and tension; limits are stretched. It's a constant shift of high and low energy frequencies, just like the insistent force on a drum's tightly drawn skin.
Let's call it a challenge. The band, comprising vocalist Elliot Weber and guitarists Anthony Gabuzzi and Derek Keever (bassist Matt Brunsvold was not present), is positively manic, each member vying to one-up each other, playing with knives (attempting to re-create the knife game from Aliens), ordering shots, and laughing as their friend rips off the bar security's golf cart, riding off into the night with a triumphant whuurrrrr. It's rock-star behavior, and Weber is something of a reality TV star: He and his twin brother appeared on the latest season of CBS' The Amazing Race.
This mix of turbulent enthusiasm and impulsive tendencies pretty much sums up ENOVA's music, a mature take on the "young alternative" genre, fusing heavy and melodic elements to cast their own shadow on the style of American hard rock popularized by Chevelle, Incubus, One Republic, and Linkin Park.
"The goal of ENOVA's music is to allow every listener to have a sense of ownership with our group," says Weber. "Which we hope inevitably leaves them wanting more."
ENOVA is new, but its members hardly are fresh faces in the musical world. Each has toured the country, tasting success and failure. On first listen, ENOVA shares plenty of sonic space with the core members' former acts, Gabuzzi's Comfort for Change and Weber and Keever's Ronin Meyer.
But things are taking off in a big way quick: Though ENOVA has only one show under its belt, the band's first single, "Counterpart," premièred on this season's The Amazing Race.
The group formed in 2011, and although its bio says that frontman Weber teamed up with guitarist Keever after Ronin Meyer disbanded, they describe it differently in person. Gabuzzi, who also has played in The Brix with Authority Zero frontman Jason Devore, says he and Keever began recording sessions at 3 a.m. in the back of a tour van with heavy hitters Man Made Machine. While braving icy roads and flat tires, Gabuzzi and Keever experimented and wrote songs.
They sent the tunes back to Weber, who arranged the songs and developed vocals 2,000 miles away in Phoenix. Once Gabuzzi and Keever returned to the Valley, they recruited their old friend Matt Brunsvold (The Brix) to play bass. They added Anthony Gavalyas to hold down the drums, although he isn't a permanent fixture — a handful of drummers rotate through ENOVA.
"Elliot is, hands down, the best voice I've ever worked with," Keever says. "We didn't get along when we first started playing together, [but] we were just on different paths at the start."
Spinning influences as wide-ranging as Pantera and The Beatles into one sound didn't come naturally at first, and the band spent much of its nascent period working out the kinks. Luckily, Keever could be counted on to never stop playing.
"Keever looks at writing music like he's creating a movie," Weber says. "He's like a Picasso on guitar who is painting a canvas and just keeps going. One day, we were writing and he broke the G string but just kept playing, and the tone was so interesting. I feel like it could be his signature tone, something that would be used someday as a model if really implemented."
While at times the band seems divided as to who does what and where credit is due, they respect each other and have clear-cut expectations and goals.
"Elliot's the king of the hook," says Gabuzzi. "We've written everything from R&B to hardcore metal. We like to think, instead of guitar, why not have a piano or symphony?"
The anything-goes mentality is apparent in the songs. Take the distorted, aggressive "Awaken," full of crunching guitars and surprising tempo changes, and compare it to "Gamble," a slow, slinking ballad accented with harp and strings. "One More Time" opens with a soaring intro, then builds into a stomping anthem. "From a dream, we pass over," Weber sings over the crashing chords, and the song sounds like it's destined to take over modern-rock radio.
The band's debut EP, Awaken, is due out soon, but the songs already have garnered attention from around the country. Weber included the song "Counterpart" in his audition video for The Amazing Race, and the producers liked it so much that they used it on the show, exposing the band to an entirely new fan base.
"We're not getting younger," says Weber. "If you can capture a younger audience that grows with you, that's key."
ENOVA's story has been a rapid one, but the band knows maintaining momentum requires more than a reality TV boost.
"Everyone is challenging themselves to go bigger and better and to think outside the box," says Weber.
Adds Gabuzzi: "It's great to think outside of the box when it comes to music, but there's a formula to success that's been working for decades. Every song we approach, we want to make it best, so it's not like we have three hits, but 12 hits."
Of course, there are the words of another talented local rocker, Bret Michaels, to consider: "Thinking outside the box is not enough. You then have to think outside that box in order to be noticed. Or else you may become your own cliché."