Winnipeg's Enjoy Your Pumas make their own way on debut LP, 'Commonality'

You’ll never get a straight answer from Enjoy Your Pumas about the band’s name

“We change the story every time,” guitarist Josh Benoit admits to Listen, Dammit, after spinning a tale involving a book he supposedly read about a post-apocalyptic world in which a man befriends a puma. Lies! All lies!

No matter: the origin of the name is less important than the music, which is catchy, oft-understated indie-pop anchored by singer Rosie Blais’ surprisingly assured vocals — surprising in that she sings with the confidence of someone who’s been doing it much longer than she has.

Blais and Benoit started Enjoy Your Pumas in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as an acoustic bedroom project, and it soon grew into a full-fledged band that just self-released its full-length debut, “Commonality.”

“We had maybe three songs when it was just him and I playing, and it was very folky,” Blais says. “Josh actually sang, and now he doesn’t sing on our music anymore.”

Here are three more things we learned:

1. They write the songs, you interpret them. There is a theme running through the lyrics on “Commonality,” but the band isn’t keen to spell it out. Blais does allow that she writes lyrics based on her own experience and relationships (not necessarily romantic) with the people around her. “If you knew the order that the songs that were written in, you could follow a sort of dark place I went through for a while, but I’m pretty reserved about telling people my own interpretation of the song, because I want people to find their own,” Blais says.

2. Influences only take you so far. Although Enjoy Your Pumas have drawn comparisons go Metric, Radiohead and even Bjork, the band is mostly interested in sounding like itself. “I’m not really going for a sound myself when I write, I’m looking to write something that I’d want to listen to,” Benoit says. Drummer Luke Janzen says the band develops songs collectively. “The thing that contributes to the unique sound of Enjoy Your Pumas is that we take a very democratic approach to the songwriting,” he says.

3. Fitting in is overrated. The Weakerthans aside, Winnipeg doesn’t have a booming indie-rock scene, so Enjoy Your Pumas has had to find its own way. There’s a bigger punk and metal scene, but as far as we go, I don’t know where we fit,” Benoit says. “We’ve played on lots of different bills with lots of different bands.” Janzen thinks that’s to the group’s advantage. “I think we’re almost stronger in terms of a national scene,” Janzen says. “We get compared to bands from out of town as often as we would get compared to bands in our own city.”

Text by Eric R. Danton photo by Andrew Workman

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