“A name that … meant being the best”: how rock band “Enumclaw” got its name

Tacoma’s new indie band “Enumclaw” is named after, you guessed it, Enumclaw

Technically, they’re rocking out in Tacoma. But the frontman of indie rock band “Enumclaw” says the band’s name is inspired by, you guessed it, the city we know and love.

It all started with high school sports.

Enumclaw’s lead singer and guitarist Aramis Johnson, who grew up in Lakewood and competed in the same wrestling league as Enumclaw, was always impressed by the strength of the Hornet’s wrestling team.

“I remember thinking those guys were superheroes to me,” Johnson said. “They were way better than I ever could have been. … (Later on) I’d blown off my high school wrestling career. In a way, to make up for that with my music career, I wanted a name that was badass, and (that) to me meant being the best.”

“Aside from that,” he added, “I just really like the way the word sounds.”

Johnson comes from the rap scene, where around 2013 he started forging beats for friends and building musical groups. Soon, he developed a love for a different kind of West Coast music staple: indie rock.

“I had never really put myself in the forefront, and so with this project, I just wanted to see what would happen if I was the frontman,” Johnson said.

Drummer Ladaniel Gipson and bassist Nathan Cornell joined Johnson to record their first EP Jimbo Demo, which releases April 30. Bassist Eli Edwards, who is also Johnson’s younger brother, joined the band after the EP was produced.

Originally, the band planned to call themselves “Jimbo” (hence the album name), but went back to the drawing board in search of a more original title. Johnson eventually pitched “Enumclaw” to the other band members – they weren’t fans at first but the name grew on them, he said.

Johnson knows a rural, mostly-white city like Enumclaw might seem like an odd font of inspiration for a suburban rock band with mostly black musicians.

But “I think I really like the juxtaposition,” he said. “If you’re from Washington and you know about Enumclaw, then it’s really funny and ironic that this black band is called Enumclaw, and if you’re not from Washington, it’s whatever you want it to be.”

And you don’t have to be a city-slicker to identify with the scenes from Enumclaw’s music videos for the singles “Fast N All” and “Free Drop Billy”, which were shot in and around Tacoma and its suburbs. Nor do you have to be a crusty, beanie-clad hipster to enjoy the washed-out sounds of grungy guitars and sizzling drums.

Driving through quiet neighborhoods under the cover of drizzling, thick gray clouds. Horsing around mushy grass fields and basketball courts with your friends. Between the cans of Rainier beer and Mariners hats, the videos are practically “Welcome to Washington” tourist ads.

The videos also reflect how Johnson, like many people, have felt over the last year: stuck in town with nowhere to go.

“All those places are places that I drive by or ride my bike almost every single day,” Johnson said. “I wanted to incorporate what’s been going on in my life. … I live in the suburbs, I grew up in the suburbs.”

Since they only formed last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Enumclaw has not yet had the chance to perform in a real live show.

But once they can, Johnson said, he’d love to bring Enumclaw to Enumclaw.