Solo gigs help Enigmatic Foe re-evaluate material

Jared Colinger makes up the heart of Enigmatic Foe.

Jared Colinger makes up the heart of Enigmatic Foe.

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Enigmatic Foe may be one of the Knoxville music scene's best-kept secrets, but what is most "enigmatic" about the act has been its composition. With live shows offering anything from a one-man act to a full quartet, the players have had an impact on the music, making it veer ever so slightly from principal songwriter Jared Colinger's charmingly subdued pop intentions. Determined to present the bedroom pop sounds he hears in his head with detailed exactness, Colinger has gone back to the drawing board, or more appropriately, to "square one," playing solo shows while keeping an ear out for potential future band mates.

Colinger's unwillingness to compromise is justifiable upon listening to his recordings, which demonstrate a gift for crafting consistently impressive and diverse songs characterized by subtlety and glum longing. While Enigmatic Foe has been supported by Matt Higginbotham, Ryan Gaddis and Brian Kelly (formerly of Plainclothes Tracy) in various combinations, and Colinger does not deny the quality of the results, the Foe's live shows became more uncharacteristically rock-oriented than Colinger desired.

"(Everyone) who has been involved with my music, is and always will be a Foe for life," Colinger says. "Ultimately I, Jared Colinger, am the Foe. It's always been me. I started out as a solo artist and seemingly never left. I'm constantly seeking like-minded musicians to help me achieve the sound I create on my records and really take off…

"As an artist, director, painter, it's always harder to retain your identity when other people interpret your material and have their own input on what the end product should be. Towards the end, I barely knew who I was or who the Foe was. I decided I needed to start back at square one and become more confident playing my material in front of audiences, so I've gone back to playing solo shows until I find who I'm looking for."

Although the drop in live performers has detracted from the visual presentation of Foe shows, it is a sacrifice Colinger gladly makes to convey his material as intended. While acknowledging that this is not an ideal setup, Colinger is content to perform in this structure until he can acquire a perfect group of like-minded multi-instrumentalists who require no visionary sacrifice.

"The live show is me with a guitar and an iPhone full of backing tracks coming through a sound system — sounds really exciting, I know," jokes Colinger. "That being said, it sounds like me. I have a full band sound with all the multi-layered guitars, synths and melodies I have on my records. The downside is that it's not that interesting to watch unless you're dancing. Luckily I have a lot of dance-infused songs to get people moving. Certainly with a full band you have a better dynamic and visual presentation. I don't have any fancy lighting or go-go dancers. It's just the Foe; just Jared. But it sounds like me, which is what's important right now."

Off the stage Colinger is forcefully expanding his songwriting horizons by crafting scores to accompany the works of local filmmaker Jacob Boyd. Having at times felt exposed in performing songs revolving around his own personal experiences, Colinger has sought to deviate from what was once his primary inspiration. Colinger self-recorded a four-song EP based on the anime series Evangelion. Writing from the perspective of the program's fictional characters broadened his palate, and it was these songs that sold Boyd on the application of Colinger's music in multiple films.

"They still have my opinion, but I've been able to get into a character and sing from their perspective, not my own," explains Colinger in diverging from personal lyrical content. "A great example is the song 'Father' from the 'eva' EP. I have a great relationship with my own father, but since the entire EP is inspired by Evangelion, I wrote it from the perspective of Shinji and his relationship with his father. It's a terribly sad song about a child simply wanting to be wanted, wanting to be loved, wanting to be touched and accepted by his father. I've had to use my acting skills to write from someone else's perspective to be convincing. I'm done with the broken-hearted 'oh, poor me' kind of songs. I've done it so many times that I can't say it any other way."

Wednesday night, Enigmatic Foe joins a lineup of The Best of Us, Decades and Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts for a 9pm show at The Longbranch Saloon.

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Enigmatic Foe

With: The Best of Us, Decades and Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9

Where: Longbranch Saloon

Cost: $5

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