An Interview with Amanda Daniels About Her Abusive Former Boyfriend and Ex-Enabler Bandmate
Photo by Bronson Karaff / Courtesy of Amanda Daniels
Last week, Amanda Pearl Daniels—known best as the longtime bassist for hardcore darlings Enabler—alleged via a raw, emotional Tumblr post entitled "The Truth Shall Set You Free" that her former bandmate and ex-boyfriend, Jeff Lohrber, had physically and sexually abused her during their six-year relationship. She broke her silence following an Enabler interview for Exclaim! TV, in which she says Lohrber broke a promise to keep their personal problems private, and mischaracterized events from her time in the band. Soon after Daniels's post went public, Dustin Albright—who toured extensively with Enabler as a merch person in 2014—published a long statement on his Facebook page supporting her claims and detailing some of the abuse he witnessed Lohrber inflict upon Daniels, including seeing Lohrber slap Daniels in the face outside of a club in Brooklyn, and one particularly terrifying incident that saw Lohrber lunge at Daniels and start hitting and choking her while the band was driving. The latter incident led to the dissolution of that lineup, as everyone except Lohrnber quit the band as soon as they got home from that tour. The band continued with new members, but is currently on indefinite hiatus as per a statement by Lohrber.
That Exclaim! interview couldn't have been much fun for Daniels to watch, but one remark from Lohrber about what a "painful process" writing the band's new album had been for him proved to be too much for her to bear. As she asked him in her post, "Why?... Because you had to remember what it was like to see the person giving you shelter and feeding you laid out from the concussion you just gave them from hitting them over the head with about twenty pounds of vinyl? Because you remember how awkward it was when our drummer started asking questions about where the giant bruises on my thighs came from? Are some of those things painful to recall?"
He responded with a post of his own (which has since been deleted) wherein he insisted that he does not condone physical violence, questioning her decision to go public now and accusing her of starting a "witch hunt." It's perhaps worth noting that he did not deny her allegations of abuse, but found time to insult her playing abilities. Daniels then posted a rebuttal later that day in which she noted that the question of why victims stay with their abusers is a vastly complex psychological issue, and mentioned that she plans to pursue legal action against Lohrber.
In direct opposition to the visceral, violent world in which their relationship existed, the back-and-forth between Daniels and Lohrber has taken place in the cold, sterile arena of social media, with metal blogs looking on and commentors loudly weighing in. Save for a few misogynistic or flat-out heartless comments here and there, the overall sentiment that I've observed seems to be "Fuck this guy, and fuck Enabler"—which is a bummer for the newer members who joined after Daniels' departure, but an excellent indicator of the overall metal community's low tolerance for bullshit and desire to protect one of our own.
Though Daniels has received a overwhelming amount of support, not every reaction has been positive, so I wanted to call her and see how she's doing. When I spoke with her, she sounded sanguine, almost Zen, despite the stress she's undoubtedly under. She told me that she's long had all of Lohrber's online accounts and phone number blocked, but mentions feeling gripped by fear when, on the day she posted her initial essay, she received a phone call from his hometown—where she believes he is currently staying with his parents.
Though Daniels is safe, that anecdote underlined the very real dangers that can face survivors of abuse when they decide to speak out about their experience. She and I spoke for nearly an hour about how she's feeling now that she went public, and what she's going to do now.
Noisey: Enabler's had a ton of lineup changes since the band first started. Do any incidents with now ex-members stand out?
Amanda Daniels: Greg Thomas and Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley originally quit at the end of our summer tour after having difficulties with Jeff. We were supposed to play one more show in Minneapolis, and I remember we had four or five of our own shows after that and we played Chicago. That night, Andy and Greg wanted to go back to Milwaukee after our set, and started loading out after our set. For some reason Jeff thought they were being giant assholes and threw a fit. I was inside selling merch, so I didn’t see any of it happening but I was told that he lost his temper, got kind of agressive, called them assholes, and said a couple of insults he wished he didn’t say because he was really frustrated, not only because they were going home but also because there was a bunch of other stuff on that tour that he was upset about that he never really addressed—he does that, he keeps things inside and everything explodes later. Our next show was Milwaukee, and they played that with us as kind of a final last show, but they cancelled the Minneapolis show and the rest of the regional dates. Elena, Andy’s girlfriend at the time, was urging him not to go back because she thought Jeff was going to be violent and beat him up. At the time, I thought she was being really dramatic because all I knew was that he'd he yelled at them a little bit and threw his keys against the wall, which to me just sounded like a temper tantrum or whatever. He had done that so many times that I thought it was lame for two male adults to have that break up the band, but I recently found out that it was a much bigger ordeal because Jeff threw Andy’s drums in the middle of the street in downtown Chicago, and all this other shit! I was like "Oh, it makes a lot more sense why they up and quit now." [Laughs] Glad I never heard the story until years later.
What happened when you left the band?
That’s the story our merch dude and roadie extraordinaire, Dustin, put on Facebook. That’s why we all left the band, because Jeff had attacked me in front of everybody while we were driving to a show: he was cursing at me, tried to choke me, punched my face, all that shit, and then started taking it out on himself and tried to jump out of the van. I literally thought we were going to die. Somehow we decided to play a show, and then go home. And we did. And after, that we all quit.
I do want to stress the fact that I quit, and our parting was in no way mutual or on good terms. The people present in the van were specifically asked to never speak of what happened, with Jeff telling us that he's "handling it with the people who need to know." Apparently he's never addressed or handled it at all. We allowed him the time to come clean, but he never did. That's why hearing his take on what had happened in that Exclaim! interview was so upsetting
Did you have any contact with Jeff after you left the band?
Yeah, I had contact with him up until I believe mid-February or March, when I cut off contact with him completely. I heard from him a lot, he would text me. He owed me quite a bit of money so I stayed in contact with him because of that, and also he didn’t want me to quit, and obviously didn’t want me to talk about what had happened. Back in April, when the first stuff like this started happening on tour, we all kind of had an intervention with him, and he agreed to get anger management counseling and go to therapy and try to get help, and if he did that, we agreed that we would stay and stick it out and try to support him and work with him through it. And if he wasn’t able to do that, we wouldn’t able to work with him in this situation anymore.
We had a very short time in between tours so he used that as an excuse to not do it. And then the incident happened, and even after it happened, it was still us talking with him and seeing if he was ever going to follow through with that. He’d harass me often, and found reasons to reach out. Some days it’d be weird shit, like asking if he could have my cat when I moved, and other days it'd be really positive, hopeful messages like “Things are going good." There were still copies of the last stuff I played on coming out so he’d send me copies of the things I’d been on, too. Dustin also was supposed to go work with Today is the Day after it happened but decided not to, and when Jeff heard that he was touring with Ringworm instead, I was his first contact, like “Did you hear about this? What the fuck, blah, blah blah.”
Did he ever apologize for the things he had done?
Yeah, he apologized, but he apologized to the point where he was suicidal over it and it got really awkward; he showed remorse in the manner of like holding it over my head. When Today Is The Day had that really bad van accident, he was super remorseful because it gave him perspective on things, it made him see how fleeting life is and how rare and important what we did together is, and how we should be thankful all the good times that we had. He would continually request that the four of us in the van when he attacked me and also my boyfriend now would meet together and talk about what happened, and figure out a way to handle it because he needed closure, so he sent me an email requesting that, telling me he’s contacting everyone else to try and set something up...and that was a complete lie. He never sent any type of email like that to anybody. He only sent it to me, and that was unsettling, like, why was he trying to get me to meet him? If he wanted to say that he was sorry and find closure and move forward with me, and because he always had the hope that I would come back, why would you tell me you were sending it to everybody if you didn’t? Stuff like that would make me extremely sick. You can't trust him. That’s the last thing I ever wanted, to be alone in a room with him again.
Have you heard from him since you went public with everything?
Yeah, he called me. I’ve blocked him every way possible, but I know he’s living at home with his parents, and a number from his parents' hometown called me the day that the first Tumblr post went up. I didn’t answer, and I didn’t have a voicemail set up at the time. I don’t want to talk to him at all, or hear anything he has to say.
Have you heard from other people who you’ve played with, who were around during that whole period?
I heard from our first bass player Bubba, and Ryan is one of my best friends so I talk to him all the time. Dustin’s still a really good friend too, and I talk to him often. I’ve heard from an awful lot of the other bands that we toured with while it was happening, saying things like “I didn’t know, and I had no idea, and if I did know I totally would have done something,” and other people being like “I always thought he was weird.” I’ve had people we toured with back in 2012 being like “Wow, I always knew something was off in the lyrics, but keep your head up,” and people that we played shows with being like, “Yeah, I fucking saw him yelling at you outside a venue, and I wanted to punch him.” I’ve had so many people get in contact with me and tell me stories, it’s been honestly overwhelming—way more than I ever thought.
What did you think the response would be putting up your first Tumblr post? It seems like people have been really supportive.
They’re extremely supportive. I didn’t think that many people would care; if anything I thought a lot of people were going to say, "Well, that sucks personally, but I still like the music." I definitely didn’t expect to see videos of people trashing Enabler records or anything like that.
After I posted on Tumblr, I woke up the next day thinking, “Uhh, what’s going to happen now?” I was afraid of what he personally was going to do, and I didn’t know what to expect negativity-wise on all the blog posts or whatever. I didn’t know what to expect, besides people coming at me like “What the fuck are you doing, you’re trying to ruin him ” But surprisingly, I had none of that—not a single negative thing sent directly to me. It’s kinda crazy.
How do you feel now that you got it all out there?
I feel super relieved. I felt like I was walking around with this giant fucking secret all the time. It got pretty bad, like I couldn’t go out places or go to shows without people asking me how the band is, not knowing that I quit, or not knowing the situation with Jeff, and telling me a recent incident where they ran into him or talked to him, or asking me what happened and why I left. It’s not an enjoyable thing to tell a person. I tried to avoid it at all costs. Even my parents didn’t know the extent of the situation until this all came out; I had to say, "Mom, don’t look at Facebook today until you call me!"
It felt like I had a giant secret and I was a liar, and I don’t have to feel that way anymore.
What’s your next step now? You mentioned in your second post that you’re weighing your legal options.
Yeah, I’m looking into that. I’ve had a lot of lawyers reach out to me and give me advice. So I’m being urged by a lot of people to do that. It’s complicated, because it happened in so many different places, and you literally have to go every place that something happened and file a report. I’ve been told I can go down to my local police station so I can make an official public record report with all the evidence I have, and I probably have to go back to Milwaukee, too, because that’s where we lived for the majority of when it happened.
Do you want to do that?
I wanted to put it behind me, but that was kind of impossible. I figured I should start doing it, because I think I should and I want to see if I can. If anything, even with all the things that happened between us, I still want him to get better, and I still want him to be okay. We were together for a really long time.
Has Jeff been formally diagnosed with mental problems?
No, he was refusing to go. After we had broken up but were still in the band together, as a last-ditch effort he decided that he didn’t need personal therapy, but that we needed couples therapy. In an attempt to get him to go get any kind therapy—so he would maybe finally listen to someone—I agreed to go with him. Our friend knew an old hippie dude who had his own private practice where we could go and be comfortable, and he gave us a very low price. We had an hour booked, and we were there for two hours. I talked for maybe a total of five minutes. The guy agreed that Jeff could come back any time he wanted and he'd only charge $20 an hour, which was incredibly kind for this man to do, but Jeff never went back. Jeff has a belief that his personal demons are what helps him create music, so he thought that if he got rid of them he wouldn’t be able to write.
How long were you guys together before he started being abusive?
That’s what I’ve actually been trying to remember, the first things that happened. I think the first physical thing he did directly towards me was to spit in my face, and that happened about three years in. Things happened very slowly, kind of in a progression, where one day you look at your life and see what’s happening—like, how did it get so bad, you know? But it started with stuff like that, little instances to the point where you could be like “What the fuck, don’t do that. Stop that.” And then it spiraled slowly out of control from there. Before that, it was broken dishes and broken furniture and stuff like that. The first time I remember it being really bad was when we toured Europe in 2013, and I had bruises on my arms. I remember obviously being incredibly angry and upset, and it was kind of like “Do I leave? Or do I tour Europe in two weeks?” I didn’t want to not do all of those things I worked on and was planning on doing. There’s a lot of backlash because I chose to stay—a lot of victim-blaming and shaming and all that.
Yeah, but I believed a lot of it for a long time.
That is the worst thing to see in a situation like this, strangers on the internet shouting about how “she should have left.”
Yes, it’s easy to say. Those people have no comprehension and no understanding of what it’s like being in that situation. Our lives were completely intertwined in multiple ways; not just at home, but in what my passion was to do in life.
Are you still playing music?
I had a band back in Milwaukee with my close friends that was really good for me to play in, because it was a collective unit, and it was nice to be in a band that was just for the music. That’s what playing music is supposed to be about: being a creative outlet for a good group of people with a like mindset, and being on equal footing, where everyone can contribute, and everyone will listen to each other. I did that for a while, but then I moved away and I haven't found anything new. I moved to a small town where I don’t know a lot of people yet, so I don’t know who to be in a band with, and I also just felt like I needed a break. I mean, this will inevitably be attached to the things I do, but I don’t want to use anything that happens for selling records or anything like that. I’m learning to play classical guitar right now—I needed a break from the more aggressive music.
This is your first actual interview about the whole situation, right?
There’s been a huge outpouring of personal messages, but I haven’t really been contacted by anyone to talk about my personal story. I’ve had some people that still work with him now reach out and say, “Man, I feel weird about having my name on this shit now. I don’t really want to be associated with this now.” There’s a lot of people who had no idea of the situation, and they worked on it and they put time and effort into it, and that’s another thing I was really upset with Jeff about. I feel like he should have told the truth, and told them what was going on. He should have told them what happened, and they should know why people aren’t in the band anymore because 1. he’s capable of doing those things, so they should know who they’re going on tour with and 2. other people know what’s going on, and it’s slowly getting spread by word of mouth. They were going to hear about it eventually, and what was he going to do in six months when someone told his new members what happened? The fact that he put people in those positions was just shitty.
And now they’re going to have it follow them, because they played in Enabler, and that’s that band with that guy, and now these innocent people are tied to that.
They’re tied to it, yeah, and they have no choice in it, you know? And it was also the thing he used to appeal to me to not even talk about it publicly, like, “Do you really want to ruin it for everyone that’s involved? You’re not the only one that put time and effort and work into it, blah blah blah," and then I'd feel bad, like, "Shit, I don’t want to ruin it for people, they didn’t know what they were doing." But everyone who's reached out to me has said, “Don’t feel bad, it's not your fault.”
Is there anything else you wanted to add?
There’s a lot of stuff I could say right now. The other side of me doing this is that domestic abuse happens way more than anyone ever wants to think that it does. It could happen to anyone; it could happen in the least likely of circumstances; it could happen anywhere. It can be incredibly difficult to get out. It can be incredibly difficult to leave. I guess something I would say to anyone that is in a position similar to the one I was in is that no matter what your reason is for staying, in the end, it’s never worth it. Nothing is worth your personal well being and your personal health.
It’s hard too because in the music scene, you don’t see a lot of women in the situation I was in. I've seen some stupid stupid comments saying things like “Girls put themselves in certain situations, they act a certain way, how can you complain about sexual harassment? You place yourself in it, you’re the only girl in the middle of how many dudes and you’re drinking with them and blah blah blah,” all this shit, which leads to girls thinking they have to be there as an object or have a sexual purpose instead of just being there playing music and doing what they love.
It comes back to victim-blaming and the reality that some people don’t want to accept the fact that some of the music they like is made by shitty people.
Yeah, that’s true. It shouldn’t be condoned. It’s not fucking acceptable. Some music is made by shitty people, and in a lot of cases people make music as an autobiographical output. The music is directly about how they are a shitty person and the shitty things they do and they feel bad about it. And people say “I don’t care about what this person did. I’ve met him and he said a funny joke and we had a conversation about what pedal to use and he’s cool, so I’m still going to like his band.” How could you when you know what it’s about? If you’re supporting the artist, you’re supporting his behavior, you’re the one condoning it. The artist is the person that makes the art and it’s a reflection of that person.
So it must be kind of nice to see people smashing Enabler cassettes with hammers.
[Laughs] Yeah, that one felt kind of weird because there was still part of me that said “Hey, I’m on that record” you know? [Laughs] 5 percent of me was like “Hey! You’re smashing my music!” but at the same time, it was like, what the fuck did I put up with and deal with to make that music? There’s something bigger and something more important at hand.
Kim Kelly is an editor at Noisey. She's on Twitter - @grimkim