INTERVIEW: Enter Shikari ‘Sparks of Enlightenment’

in Interviews

It is hard to pick a moment in Enter Shikari’s 15 years of creating and performing when there wasn’t something of note to converse about.

Through five studio albums, Enter Shikari, have put forth a fresh perspective on understanding politics, technology and even our very own consciousness.

They are socio-political, sensual, sincere and spiritual and never fail to take their shows stratospheric.

Released in September 2017, their latest album The Spark is, to date, the most introspective and personal released. Drawing on a period of emotional turmoil experienced by lead singer Rou Reynolds, the band experimented with a variety of new elements and styles; while not amputating Enter Shikari’s unique mix of screamo rock, electronic flourishes and lethal vocals. The Spark, nevertheless, marked a significant change for the band. Lyrically, the album, highlighted anxiety, depression and self-doubt as topics to discuss, recognise and even alleviate. The Spark not only ignited discourse it helped eliminate the stigma, with fan’s old and new in regard to their own mental health concerns and the mental health concerns of those around them.

Last month saw the release of Enter Shikari’s, second book, The Spark: Lyrics and Exegesis of Rou Reynolds (Faber and Faber, 2018), which provided a deeper look at Reynolds mindset when writing tracks for The Spark and providing a life-affirming look into healing and analysing one’s own mental conflict. The Spark stands as a further testament, alongside Enter Shikari’s entire back catalogue, that Renyold’s is certainly one of our most profound, yet accessible, modern-day philosophers and poets.

As well as the release of their new book, the band have been preparing for their most extensive UK tour. With 28 dates spread throughout December, January and into February, it is quite literally the best holiday gift ever. I headed east to Lincoln and the city’s Engine Shed venue for the first date of the tour and a quick chat with Rou and drummer Rob Rolfe prior to what would be an explosive show that included quite a few surprises (more on those later).

Settling in the bands dressing room, on the what seem to be ubiquitous faux red leather couches found in dressing rooms everywhere, I asked how the guys were feeling.

Rou: Pretty good actually. I was expecting to feel far more stressed, soundcheck went really well everything is running really smooth. I feel more prepared than a normal tour.

Rob: Yer, at this stage in any tour, we’d normally be cramming last minute edits or rehearsals or something like that. But we are more prepared than we have been for any other tour which is worrying. Makes us think like what have we forgotten? What’s going to go drastically wrong? The first beat of the first song of the set tonight and everything’s going to break? But no so far so good.

Is that being prepared down to a very specific plan for this tour?

Rou: We’ve had three months off the road to program this set. It is a completely new set so that really helped.

So, this new set has that something to do with the tour being called Stop The Clocks?

(Rou and Rob: Laughter)

Rob: You’ll find out tonight.

Okay, just a few more hours till it becomes clear then. Looking at the second part to the tour and the dates in the UK. Palaye Royale will be joining you on tour. When the news of this went public there was a rather immediate negative reaction on social media. First, what were your reasons for adding them as your support?

Rou: I quite like their music, it is as simple as that. We always try to take out bands that don’t really sound that much like us. Years ago, we took out dubstep DJs, metal-core bands, indie acts just to keep it interesting – always. I didn’t really know much about them until they were put forward as an option. I checked them out, immediately like they don’t look like they sound, and I thought that they were cool. I listened to a few of their tunes and it was pretty cool. I’m looking forward to seeing them live, never seen them live and heard their great.

Secondly, what was your feeling’s about that reaction to the announcement?

Rou: We were clueless, we had no idea the things the band had been previously said online. Taking it very seriously, which you should these days, we tried to get down to the bottom of what was said and in what context.

Rob: A lot of it was, just a lot people getting worked up over, people getting worked up. People see one tweet by someone saying ‘ahh they’re this, that and another’ and they feel angry about it and tweet it again saying ‘why are you bringing this band out’ without having done any research about what happened or what happened after. A snowballing effect of everyone jumping on a bandwagon, getting up in arms about something when they don’t know all the sides.

Rou: The funniest, well no it wasn’t funny at the time, but kind of morbidly funny looking back. I saw one comment between two people talking about the announcement. One of them was asking what all the commotion was about. Their friend said, ‘oh they’re taking out a transphobic band’ and the other person said ‘oh, well their dead to me then’. It was quite clear, at that point, that neither of them had done any research into anything that was actually said. As soon as you get that label, no one wants to even put in the time to check. Because it is such a powerful label, being transphobic. Like whoo! I don’t want to even look like I am doubting, because the outrage then gets turned on you. It was a very interesting experience of outrage culture. I’ve seen it everywhere online over the last few years increase quite a lot. I felt like for a week I was being their PR and trying to battle everyone online, it was pissing me off because I was like ‘this is not my job, why am I doing this?’

It’s going to be an interesting tour.

Rob: A tour for us to remember.

Rou: Yer, usually I just assume that if you’re in music, the arts or anything creative you are probably going to be on the alright end of the human spectrum.

Bit of a topic change, your new book came out at the end of last week. What are your feelings about the book and its release?

Rou: It was a much more enjoyable experience writing this one than the last one, as the last one was four albums worth, it was a lot of work. I already had it in mind, when we were making the album as it is such a lyrical one, we will be doing an addendum to Dear Future Historians.

Did you find writing this book cathartic, did it draw a line under that time period and the personal issues you were experiencing at the time?

Rou: Yes, it’s weird the mind seems to progress so quickly. Now, thinking back to the period of time writing The Spark and all the things that The Spark is about on a personal scale. It just seems like another lifetime, another person. It was a specific nine-month period of really difficult stuff but now it’s like hard to remember what that was like. But I’m pretty sure it was cathartic.

When Rou’s lyrics, for The Spark, were first presented to you as a band how much of a shock were, they?

Rob: Well, I suppose it shocked us in that it was the most personal lyrics Rou has ever written. I am constantly shocked at some of the ideas behind the lyrics and Rou as a wordsmith. I love the way he writes and the words he puts together. I’m like ‘why couldn’t I have written something like that!’. I think him opening his heart out so deeply was something we all thought was a brave and bold move. It felt good that the majority of the lyrics were not just personal to Rou but societal too, and we were, of course, very supportive of Rou.

Do you think this is how you will continue your writing now? Looking internally as much as externally?

Rou: Yes, I think you have to in this day and age. I feel like the gap has closed, with this album, I’ve made the connection between a lot of societal problems that start with phycological problems and traumas. You only have to look at political leaders, look at their upbringing, you go ah ok …

Rob: …that explains a lot!

Rou: Now, that there is a link there. It has broadened the whole palette to work from on the next album, so I am quite excited for that.

Maybe with albums like these, we will in the future have political leaders in tune with their emotions.

(Rou and Rob: laughter)

Rou: Yer, hopefully…

Rob: That would be great.

Rou: … that would be a good future.

While I could happily have thrown question after question, at Rou and Rob, for well quite some time. However, there is both a full headline show for them to do, as well as, an after-party with Shikari Sound System, the bands electronic DJ alter ego. So, leaving Rou and Rob to continue their preparations for the night, I return to The Engine Shed’s main arena.

(Setlist spoilers ahead)

The sold-out show was an incredible tour de force in which Enter Shikari plundered their back catalogue for some long-lost tracks. Step Up and Gap In The Fence, neither of which has made a setlist in the past 4 – 5 years. Tonight they were hauled out of storage and set loose for our delight.

The completely delicious delirium of the Quickfire Round (eight minutes, four songs, no breaks – so don’t stop moving) tonight was a classic tetralogy: Sorry, You’re Not a Winner, The Last Garrison, …Meltdown and Anaesthetist. Prior to this, however, was the biggest surprise of the night, a brand-new Enter Shikari song. Live debut, hell this was a debut in every sense of the word. Having heard Stop The Clocks (now we know why the tour is thus named) once, out of nowhere it honestly went by kind of fast. The new track felt euphoric and the refrain something instantly identifiable with right now: having a great time, with someone likeminded and never wanting it to end.

A gig and in fact a night that could not have been more electric and eclectic if Enter Shikari had tried to make it so. Post-hardcore, rave and nu-metal along with the earlier mention genres all somehow affability providing a wonderfully perfect night. Thank goodness there are all the following dates to also enjoy:

Tuesday 4 December 2018 Tramshed, Cardiff
Thursday 6 December 2018 Cheese & Grain, Frome
Friday 7 December 2018 Lemongrove, Exeter
Saturday 8 December 2018 SU, Plymouth
Sunday 9 December 2018 Pyramids, Portsmouth
Thursday 10 January 2019 O2 Academy, Sheffield
Friday 11 January 2019 Rock City, Nottingham
Saturday 12 January 2019 O2 Academy Brixton, London
Sunday 13 January 2019 O2 Academy, Leicester
Tuesday 15 January 2019 Venue Cymrue, Llandudno
Wednesday 16 January 2019 O2 Academy, Liverpool
Friday 18 January 2019 O2 Academy, Bristol
Saturday 19 January 2019 Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Sunday 20 January 2019 UEA, Norwich
Wednesday 23 January 2019 Barrowland, Glasgow
Thursday 24 January 2019 Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen
Friday 25 January 2019 Ironworks, Inverness
Saturday 26 January 2019 Guildhall, Preston
Monday 28 January 2019 Roadmender, Northampton
Tuesday 29 January 2019 Guildhall, Southampton
Wednesday 30 January 2019 Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Friday 1 February 2019 O2 Academy, Birmingham
Saturday 2 February 2019 O2 Academy, Leeds
Sunday 3 February 2019 Manchester Academy, Manchester
Monday 4 February 2019 O2 Academy, Newcastle

Tickets are on sale now, from the usual retailers and via the Enter Shikari official website (here). Some dates are sold out, however, please avoid secondary ticket site with high fees and inflated ticket prices. Consider Twickets a fan to fan second market ticket site that only allows sale at face value or below.

Stay informed about all you need to know about Enter Shikari via their official website, Facebook page and Twitter from where they tweet as @ENTERSHIKARI.

Katie started work on local and BBC radio covering local music events and news as a young teenager; becoming immediately hooked on gig going. As well as writing for a number of publications in the UK Katie has also spent a decade working in Japan reporting on visiting bands and musical festivals. Flick Of The Finger's perpetually awkward veggie music junkie can be found on Twitter where she tweets as @tokyo_katie and Instagram as @tokyo_katie_captures where her feed is devoted to captures from shows past and present.

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