‘Let's toast to the fact we got this far’, the lyrics of Enter Shikari’s new single The Last Garrison as it winds down before the final chorus of this melodically charged release from the bands upcoming album The Mindsweep. ‘Got this far’ is perhaps an understatement. The St Albans band first burst forth with their debut album, Take to the Skies, in 2007. Now, 7 years later, they prepare to release they’re much anticipated fourth album after a summer of Warped Tour headlines and European festival main stage appearances.
In the lead up to the big release on January 19th 2015, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to speak to Rou Reynolds, lead vocals and electronics. Catching Rou in the studio, I had a great 10 minute chat with this charming guy, even if we were interrupted briefly by a noisy sandwich van!
Enter Shikari spent their July out on the Vans Warped Tour in the US earlier this summer. As we spoke, Rou recalled previous Warped Tours being gruelling and pretty tiring due to Warped Tour’s DIY feel, This year Enter Shikari only played half the tour, meaning they spent less time in the ‘roaring Arizona heat’. Rou went on to talk of the sense community that revolves around the Warped Tour, with all bands and artists mixing when they aren’t on stage. On the subject of tours and festivals, we spoke about the difference between European festivals and smaller events like Warped Tour. Whilst Warped tour is a much smaller and intense experience compared to the large scale European festivals, Rou felt that,
‘Reading and Leeds are always a bit of a blur really, just because it’s so nerve-racking, it’s the festival we all went to as kids… When we finish it it’s always just a massive sigh of relief and you just think what just happened?’
Enter Shikari are an extremely crowd orientated band. Even at large events such as Reading or Leeds, they are always looking to get down and over the barriers to be amongst their fans.
‘To be honest even when we’re on the bigger stages we try and get down into the audience anyway, so that’s not really to much of an issue’
Perhaps one of the best things about Enter Shikari then is that they are capable of playing both large and intimate venues, supplying the same energy and enthusiasm no matter where they play. Rou mentioned that because of this he has no real preference to large shows or small shows, because either way he’s going to be in the crowd.
With The Mindsweep release date approaching, our conversation turned to the writing and making of the album, with my interest roaming to the bands writing process.
‘Usually I’ll come to the guys with basically the main structure of a song, a skeletal idea, and then we’ll flesh it out all together… I’ll get the lyrics done further down the line when theres more of an idea of feel, when the emotions are quite obvious coming out of the music’
The band’s songwriting, from this description, seems to be very collaborative and reasonably well thought out. Particularly interesting is Rou's choice to write his lyrics later on in the process to allow the feel of the music have an effect on the lyrics that are written to accompany it.
On the album itself, the band have made a conscientious attempt to stretch themselves by incorporating orchestral elements, as well as using older hardware. Rou spoke of how this was a choice made to ‘push ourselves’, to ‘keep people guessing… because the album itself is so diverse’. Rou also commented on the importance that The Mindsweep still received extra attention to texture, melody and rhythm that has become the staple of Shikari’s sound.
Our first glimpse of Enter Shikari’s latest offering comes in the form of The Last Garrison, a more melodic and catchy single release than is usual for the band.
‘The usual thing to do is lead with a heavier track or something that your dedicated,long term fancies will appreciate, but we thought we’d lead with one of the more melodic, stronger singles on the album… it seems to have paid off’
The Last Garrison is certainly something that will fly around your head for days, with its aggressive opening, to the calm bridge and euphoric ending chorus. The video for this single has already been released and can be seen on the Enter Shikari Vevo page, with the video for another upcoming single being shot this week!
Of course, all albums must be followed by a tour. The Camden Roundhouse, an iconic venue in London’s music scene, will play host to Enter Shikari and a sold out crowd on the 1st and 2nd of February 2015. Having added a second date due to a 24 hour sell out, Rou commented that it was ‘amazing… we can’t wait, the vibe’s always good… it’s a big room venue, and so much of the venue is on the floor, its always a pretty wild one… looking forward to it!’.
On the subject of venues, when asked if there were any favourite venues Rou paused for a thoughtful moment and replied with, ‘Not really, I don't find myself being to sentimental when it comes to the band, I hope that doesn’t sound horrible!’. After a brief laugh he continued,
‘In terms of favourites, there’s nothing that really stands out, but there are definitely venues that we love’
Turns out that not all venues are good, as Rou mentioned a place in Newcastle that he can no longer recall, that housed a ‘6-7 metre high stage… as the audience you were just craning your neck looking up…Things like that don’t really work!’.
With a 4th album on its way, sold out shows and numerous headline/main stage performances under their belts, it is safe to say that Enter Shikari have done pretty well for themselves. Having dropped out of university after their first year, the band decided to pursue their music career full time. When asked about the beginnings of the band, Rou felt that it was the right decision, although it was ‘kind of a forced decision’ due to un-met attendance and such. Luckily around the same time the band were being offered support tours, and everything seemed to be kicking off for them. Although Rou felt it was the right decision to drop university to pursue the band, he admitted, ‘I do miss uni…I would like to go back one day, be a ’mature’ student’’. If anything the bands experience at university allowed them to decide what was most important them, allowing them to focus in whole on their music.
Our brief chat about the experience of university capped off this interview nicely, with Rou returning to the rest of the band for further studio rehearsals. A characterful, good humoured guy, and a pleasure to speak to.
Remember to catch Enter Shikari at The Roundhouse, Camden on the 1st and 2nd of February, and look out for their 4th studio album on 19th January.