Enter Shikari have been tearing it up all over the world since their first demos in 2003. 15 years later and the band are deep into touring their newest album, “The Spark.”
The album is slightly different from what loyal Enter Shikari fans have come to expect over the years, and I sat down with singer and frontman Rou Reynolds ahead of their show in December to discuss the more personal nature of the record, artists’ responsibilities, and the current political climate of rising nationalism.
Your new album, The Spark, has a very different sound to previous albums – especially songs like “Live Outside.” What would you say sets it apart from the previous album?
Rou: Lyrically it’s a lot more bold in terms of personal issues. I think I’ve always wanted to write music as honestly as possible and usually most of my high-strung emotions have come from global or social issues, so that what we’ve sung about. Because if I’m going to be running around crazed on stage every night then I need it to be about stuff that means a lot to me.
The last few years have been very strange, interesting and difficult for me personally. So I feel like for the first time I’ve had something to write about in that realm.
Musically – I had a very distinct, focused idea of what I wanted this album to sound like. We wanted to concentrate on simplicity and lucidity. The music was a bit more focused on the melody and vocals; I wanted to prove myself as a songwriter.
Were you the auteur in this or was it a group effort overall?
Rou: I’m the songwriter I guess. But usually I’ll take a demo to the guys and we’ll bang it out together.
Do you think it’s been received well so far?
Rou: Yeah, we’ve been really happy! Because it is quite a different sound, quite a step forward for us. I think every album is a progression. But yeah it seems to have gone down really well.
I get the feeling some of the tracks – “Take My Country Back” in particular – are in response to all the crazy shit that happened in 2017 – the rise of the right, nationalism, Brexit, Donald Trump. Is that fair to say?
Rou: Yeah I think that song has a few sort of levels. One of the most frustrating things that it talks about is echo chambers and how we all have our own views emboldened because we only see what we want to see. So when we actually get in a conversation with people who don’t have the same views as us it gets heated very quickly. Because we both say, “no I’m right!” and we’ve both read all these articles, and this is what our friends think so we must be right. So the dialectic just fails. People can’t have conversations and it just becomes about winning the argument rather than making people understand your point of view.
I read in another interview that you felt bands could no longer afford to be apathetic. Do you think more artists should be using their platform to broadcast a message, especially in the current political climate?
Rou: I swing back and forth with this; I can’t really make up my mind. I don’t think people should be forced to write music they don’t want to write. I mean not all music has to be overtly political.
We’re seeing a lot of shit political music this year – just very basic slogans – and it seems a bit cynical; they’re just doing it because it’s cool now. I think all that matters is honesty. If you’re making music that you like and you’re saying things that you wish to be broadcast, then I guess that’s all that matters.
Your sound seems to be evolving into something more accessible to more people, especially compared to songs like “Mothership”. This also shines through with collaborations with artists like Big Narstie. Is there an obvious intention in appealing to perhaps a more widespread audience or is it just something that evolved naturally?
Rou: I think we build up more confidence with every album and every tour, and we get more influences. I think we’re also slightly frustrated with being ghettoised as this “noisy” band, when we’ve never been just about aggression. Like we’re not a hardcore band, we’re not a straight up punk band. Yeah they’re two massive influences on us, but melody has always been absolutely essential to everything we’ve done. And I think often we get lumped in with post hardcore, metalcore, whatever the fuck you want to call it.
Hopefully there’s a lot more to us and we have a lot more to offer than that. I mean we’re not the best heavy band; I’m not the best screamer or whatever. But I think what we are really good at is diversity and passion. So as long as our music is dynamic is and passionate then that’s what Enter Shikari do.
What’s your impression of Berlin?
Rou: I love Berlin; yeah it’s amazing. I remember the first or second time we came to Berlin we were supporting the Prodigy and they were always given parties after shows, but they would never go because they have families and what not. So we were given their after show rider, which is basically this massive bowl of spirits and drinks. And we were like 18 or 19 at the time, at the crazy after party, thinking we’re really cool and just drinking the Prodigy’s drinks. And that was in Berlin, and it was a good time.
Looking towards the future, what’s on the cards for Enter Shikari?
Rou: Well just touring the Spark for now. America in January, we’ll be going to Australia too. Hopefully we’ll have some new music out by spring or summer – we’re working on a few things that we can hopefully share with everyone.