Enter Shikari interview: The sweat, the energy, the atmosphere and passion

Henry Lewis caught up with lead singer Rou Reynolds ahead of the band's massive show at Victoria Warehouse in November.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 20th Oct 2017.
Originally published: 19th Oct 2017

Image: Enter Shikari (credit)

In July of 2016, Enter Shikari frontman Rou Reynolds took to Twitter to shed some light on the sheer exhaustion, insomnia and general anxiety that he had been following in the run up and during the band's enormous show at Download Festival the previous summer.

Around the time of the tweets, Brexit had been declared, Trump was running for office and whole world of uncertainty had been born - this pushing Reynolds to write some of his most personal lyrics yet. The result was The Spark, the band's fifth album and one of their most explosive yet. 

With classic screamo rock, easily identifiable electro moments and a viciously punky element that helps to accentuate the venomous vocals, with lyrics like “Don’t wanna take my country back / I wanna take my country forward… We’ve really gone and f**ked it this time”

With such an emotional outpouring, it's safe to say Enter Shikari's live shows have been taken up a new notch, with Reynolds back with a new vigour, shortening the divide between fan and artist as much as possible, whilst himself and the band deliver a technological masterpiece live on stage.

Fans in the North West have the chance to witness this first hand, with Enter Shikari heading to Manchester's Victoria Warehouse on Tuesday 21st November. Ahead of that date we caught up with the band to get the lowdown on their new record, and much more.

It seems you have laid your soul bare on The Spark - is that something that came easily or did it take a while refining the lyrics to get over exactly how you felt?

It was incredibly arduous at first. There was so much going on in my personal life at the onset of writing this record but also the world was receiving shock after shock with Trump and Brexit etc. I found it very difficult to organise my thoughts and work out how all of this could be presented as art. I think once I found the too common things that link the personal and the political, I then had a sense of focus for the album. Firstly, after I realised the record would include my most personal lyrics yet, I thought that the it needed be bold, honest and unafraid to show human vulnerability.

I think one of the reasons we have people like Donald Trump in this world is because he has been told not to show his vulnerabilities at any point, the man went to military school and has been told to 'man up’ his whole life. It is no wonder therefor that he is 50% pride and 50% anger, his speeches constantly praising himself to prop up his very thin exterior of self-esteem. Secondly, the album focuses on how hardship and adversity can bring about positive changes eventually, and how we can learn and grow together.

I saw this as I came through my problems and also witnessed this especially in Britain as youth apathy has gone through an upheaval over the last few years, largely thanks to Jeremy Corbyn. Honesty and hope then became the two running themes for the music.

I feels like writing this album could have been quite a cathartic experience, is that true? In turn, do you think the listener might experience something similar?

I’m not sure whether it gave me psychological relief or not, it’s hard to tell. I didn’t think I needed to write about these things to cleanse myself or anything. It was more just what came to the surface as I was writing. I do think people appreciate honesty in music, especially as we’re in an era at the moment where much of the more manufactured mainstream side of pop music is quite narcissistic or even devoid of meaning or soul whatsoever.

So I think people are craving something real. Something that isn’t afraid to describe pain and address big things like loss, fear, mental health as well as hope, strength and unity.

The Spark has certainly seemed to connect with people in a bigger way than any of our previous works. I’ve already had some heart felt conversations with people who really appreciate it, which makes it all so worthwhile.

You’re not afraid to get in amongst your fans at your gigs - is the physical connection just as important as the musical connection?

In a world that is becoming increasingly divisive, I’ll take any form of connection to be honest! A lot of acts will embrace the disconnect that arises as the venues one plays get bigger. They enjoy the stage and the separation of artist and audience, they like their egos fed. I prefer to keep that close intensity where possible though.

Music, for the majority of our history has largely been something that everyone takes part in, often synonymous to dance in many cultures, everyone gets involved. It was only as classical music became widespread in our recent history that music performance became this event where you watch, stationary, uninvolved. So I prefer the more raw inclusive style where we all at least dance and join in singing together.

Which frontmen do you look up to? Is there anyone you’ve ever wanted to emulate? 

Oh many. Bowie has become probably the biggest influence for me as a frontman recently. His boldness and fearlessness is always inspiring as well as his ceaseless desire to progress and recreate himself. Sam & Dave (I was brought up on motown and northern soul) have always been a huge influence too and to be honest, they are where I steal the majority of my moves from. I also love Thom Yorke, not only for his ingenuity but I remember connecting with his struggles as a frontman from very early on in my bands career.

If you could pick out one song from The Spark that was perhaps the most important to you, maybe the one you’re most proud of once it was finished….

Oh blimey that’s so difficult. I’ll just go with Live Outside. I’m proud of that one because it contains so much of what the spark is about in a neat alternative pop package. The upbeat hopeful nature of the music against the sombre lyrics, the post punk and drum and bass influences, the harmonies, the angst, the (hopefully) unifying nature of it.

I’ve heard of a few different influences that have helped sonically this time around, Bowie being one of them - could you talk more on this, was it following his death that you really connected with his work. The phrase ‘Bowie -oke’ is something I have seen you talk about, what is your go-to track?

I was certainly a fan before, but his death, (as artist’s deaths normally do) really inspired me to delve into his output in full and celebrate and revel in his music. His fearlessness and honesty is all over this record. His large vocal range was also helpful for me, studying that gave me confidence to increase mine on this record. I did a whole week of bowieoke after getting some software. Heroes I guess is my classic, the song is so nostalgic for me because I heard that one when I was super young so it hold extra emotional weight.

In the 10 years since your debut, what has changed in the music industry that you have noticed? Do you find the entire recording process to be easier or harder nowadays? 

I think the process is easier now, but mainly due to the availability and relative reduction in price of technology. To be able to write and record a full song whilst on the road or anywhere really with a laptop on your lap is incredible and can only be a good thing as more and more people have access to music making facilities. That’s what I care about really, not about the industry. 

The record is also available on tape - talk to us about that process? Why did you want it out on tape? 

Pure nostalgia really. The younger end of our fanbase will have never held or seen a tape and it was such a big part of my life growing up. There’s something very real about tape, as with vinyl, you can see the mechanics of it. You can watch the reel spinning. It gives the music a physical presence whereas an MP3 obviously can’t.

You head to Manchester in November for a huge show and I believe your show is quite a technological feat - could you describe in detail about what you go through during a live show to make your set sound as amazing as it does…

Yes it’s a bit of technological feat as it’s in quadraphonic surround sound, so it will sound like no other gig you’ve been too. Unless perhaps you’ve seen Pink Floyd before, then it may sound similar. (Yes that's right, I just compared us to Pink Floyd) But away from technology, the shows are all about connection. The sweat, the energy, the atmosphere and passion in the room, it all means so much to us.

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