New EP by MrENC Evokes Lakeland Teen Experience in the 90s

Musician Eric N. Collins, better known to fans as MrENC, has released an EP, “We Do Our Own Thing,” which he calls a “love letter to Lakeland” that expresses nostalgia about growing up here in the 1990s.

Born in St. Petersburg, Collins moved to Lakeland at age 6. He grew up playing music around the house, often messing around with his mother’s guitar.  As a teenager, he saved up to buy a used guitar and learned using a guitar chord poster. He believes that the love of music is what pushed him forward.

“I always say I’m a music lover first, and then a music maker, and it’s always been like that,” said Collins, 45.

Playing in the Lakeland music scene for over 20 years, MrENC is his fourth project. “That just started as a solo project, kind of messing around,” Collins said.

While originally bringing in a rotation of musicians for various shows, the most recent recording was created as a band, with his brother-in-law, Dean Paul Lorenz, on guitar, Casey Newton on bass, and James Cook on drums. 

“So this project, even though MrENC is a ‘solo’ project, I approached it as a full band collaboration,” Collins said. 

The new EP, “We Do Our Own Thing,” features four songs that can be described as a “love letter to Lakeland.” Growing up in the town, Collins remembers playing music in a Lakeland with significantly fewer performance venues, and he has gotten to watch  it evolve, as well as see his own children visit his old haunts.

Remembering his experiences and adventures, Collins wanted to create a celebration of the people and culture here. However, he kept some lyrics vague. While the songs are specific for him to his hometown, he wanted to make it applicable to those in other places.

“The takeaway I really want for people, it’s nostalgia, but I didn’t want to do it in a gimmick kind of way,” Collins said. “I just wanted people to remember whatever adventures they’ve gone through. Whatever they’ve had, like special moments and memories in their lives, and to observe and celebrate and enjoy what’s happening around them at the moment.”

A graphic designer by profession, Collins attempted to convey the same message with the album artwork.

Album cover

“The way I colored it and edited it, I want it to look like memories,” Collins said. “Kind of dreamy, vibey, but not full-on ‘let me get some generic camera filter app and slap it on there.’”

The song “We Do Our Own Thing” was first released as a single. It stood out to Collins because it summarized the idea and feel of the EP.

“Especially with the chorus, that’s how we always felt when we were running around being crazy, and I feel like that’s how everyone is now,” Collins said. “It can be taken in a disrespectful punk kind of way, and in a way, I do kind of mean that. But also in a tongue-in-cheek way, like, ‘We don’t care what you think; we’re gonna do our own thing. This is Lakeland, Florida. We don’t have all this big stuff that Orlando, Tampa, or New York, wherever have, but we’re still going to do what we wanna do. And we’re gonna build our scenes. We’re gonna do whatever, and we’re just gonna go for it and have fun.'”

The title track’s music video was released on Feb. 3, with shots showcasing Lakeland, including Southgate Shopping Center, Florida Southern College’s Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, local high schools and Twistee Treat. Most shots were taken with the help of his wife and kids driving around Lakeland.

Collins’ sound has changed throughout projects, with MrENC leaning toward a self-described “surfy rock” and alt vibe. However, with the new project, Collins intentionally changed his sound again, turning toward the 90’s rock from when he started as influence.

“I think the 90s have kind of come back a little bit, like the resurgence of style and clothing, music, art, so it’s fun to see that,” Collins said. “So, I definitely wanted to take those influences and mix it in to the music now.”

“I was hoping it would be like a fun experience for people in Lakeland, whether you’re from here or not, even if you’ve just been here a little while,” Collins said.

The EP is available for purchase at Jesse Carl Vinyl in downtown Lakeland, as well as on all major streaming platforms.

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