So, I interviewed Enter Shikari once before this. It was with Rory, their guitarist. I was on the bus to uni when I got the call, and I completely forgot it was happening. I had to pull a whole interview out of my arse while I was on the bus. After all of that, I don’t think it even recorded – I have no record of it ever happening, but I know for a fact that it did. You don’t forget a goof like that.
Needless to say, the next time I was assigned to interview Enter Shikari I was much more on the ball. I was also speaking to Rou, their frontman, so I took it a bit more seriously. No offence to Rory at all, he’s a very cool guy. That was just the way my brain processed things back in the day. The band were about to release A Flash Flood of Colour, which is one of my favourite ES records. I wasn’t to know that, of course, so it was interesting talking to the band while they were essentially in a state of flux.
From the dirtiest electronic wig-outs to the most face-melting of riffs, ENTER SHIKARI have surely become one of the more fearless genre-hoppers to emerge in the 21st century. Their third album, A Flash Flood of Colour, is set to change the game even more than their previous two combined – and ROU REYNOLDS, the band’s frontman, can’t wait for you to hear it. He got on the line with DAVID JAMES YOUNG ahead of their fourth visit to Australian shores for the Soundwave Festival.
At this stage of their young careers, Enter Shikari are a lot of things to a lot of different people. To U.K. fans, they’re the headliners, the show-stoppers, the kind of band that can pack out any room you put them in. To most North Americans, though, right now they’re that band sticking out like the proverbial dog’s bollocks in a mostly-metalcore bill headling by The Devil Wears Prada. They’re back to where they started almost, clawing their way to the top of the food-chain much like they did for so many years in their native land. It’s not a frustrating experience for the band, however – if anything, vocalist Rou Reynolds says, it’s a change of pace and a change of perspective for the hard-working band.
“It’s been really cool to just do the thirty-minute sets again after finishing up our headliner in the U.K.,” he says. “You can just throw everything into that half-hour. We’ve been finding it to be a really stressful change-over as the second band on – of course, me with my electronic set-up, it’s very hard to get it all working in, like, fifteen minutes on the stage. We’re back to having a smaller crew than we’ve been used to on tour, as well, so the four of us are all helping out as much as we can. It’s essentially a matter of getting everything done as quickly as possible so we can play for as long as possible.”
Reynolds goes on to note the band’s approach to being the warm-up act, agreeing that it certainly differs the band’s demeanour as opposed to performing to a crowd that has come specifically to see them. “It’s weird,” he says. “I think that we embrace it in different ways, I suppose. I mean, certainly, you’re there to win over as many people as you can, so that can add a bit of pressure. There’s less pressure in the regards that you don’t have to worry about it being “your” show, per se. People aren’t going to be up in arms if you’re a bit shit. We usually find that we play a bit better when we’re a support act. I dunno, it kind of makes us feel like the underdog again. It’s a situation where we often find ourselves really relaxed, and it’s one that we can thrive in.”
After taking some time away from extensive touring, the band have found themselves back into the full swing of things as they gear up to release their third album, A Flash Flood of Colour. As the band push themselves further than they ever have before from a musical perspective, Flash Flood is set to be Enter Shikari’s most divisive work yet. Fearless in its politics, off-the-chart in its dynamics and hugely ambitious from start to finish, it is a bold and brazen album that takes no prisoners and doesn’t have time for non-believers. The big question, of course, is exactly where the hell the whole thing came from. Even Rou himself has some trouble explaining exactly how Enter Shikari came to this point in their careers.
“A lot of the actual music is quite old,” he begins. “There are a lot of ideas on here that just weren’t fully formed enough to appear on either of our previous two records [2007’s Take to the Skies and 2009’s Common Dreads]. We were lucky with this record in that we actually got to spend two months just writing and experimenting with different sounds before we actually went in and made the record. We did the record with [Dan] Weller, who is an old mate of ours. He grew up just a few miles down the road from where we all grew up, so he was a major part of the scene that we came up out from. His band, SikTh, were a band that we all really looked up to when we were starting out in the hardcore scene. With how relaxed we were and how confident we were with Weller, this was really a fun record to make.”
Unlike the band’s previous work, A Flash Flood of Colour was not recorded in the U.K. Rather, the band took themselves to Bangkok, of all places; where they spent a month recording at Karma Sound Studios. “Once we got to Thailand,” recalls Rou, “there was such a sense of concentration on the record. There were no distractions surrounding us, so it allowed us to really have fun with it. The mind is best when it’s relaxed and able; and it definitely had an impact on the record.”
The latter half of 2011 saw the band slowly draw out more information about the record to fans. Initially, the band released the single “Ssnakepit” in September to an active and positive online response. It was the second song to be lifted from the album, however, that really shook things up: a state-of-the-union address by the name of “Gandhi Mate, Gandhi.” Part political furor and part ear-splitting dubstep, the song is an update of the song “Gut Up to This,” released by Reynolds as an instrumental under his electronica psuedonym, Rout.
“We feel as though we have somewhat of a responsibility, really,” says Rou on the band’s more political side. “Now that we’re in this position and people are actually listening to us – whether we like it or not. We just feel as though there’s an imbalance in mainstream music – or art in general, really – in terms of the subject matter; what people are talking about, what people are making art about. I mean, so much out there is just used to divide people; whether that’s religion or patriotism or whatever. So many things are being used in order to make us fear our fellow man. We feel it’s important for us as a band to speak up and speak out for things that we think should be addressed.”
As the grind of touring continues, Enter Shikari will soon find themselves back in Australia, where they are making their fourth visit. It coincides with the international release of Flash Flood, which drops in mid-February, and the band are particularly excited to play their second Soundwave Festival. They all have very fond memories of down under, particularly when they were first exposed to Aussie audiences through the 2008 Big Day Out festival.
“Before we started this band, the furthest I’d ever been from home was a little island called Gurnsey on the English south coast, between England and France,” Reynolds says. “Two years later, I’m going to Australia with my band. It was mad. It was something I thought I’d never do. It was amazing for us – everyone that we met on that tour was really friendly, the shows were all really energetic. Every time we go there – I know this must sound so cliché, but really – we’re reminded why it’s our favourite place to tour. In terms of just the band enjoying themselves and having a good time, Australia is always number one.”
Talk shifts to the line-up of the Soundwave Festival itself, and Rou couldn’t be more enthused. “When I looked at it, I just thought it looked incredible,” he says. “It’s going to be so good to be touring with Your Demise and letlive. again. We did the Warped Tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan two years ago – they were one of the only bands who kept us going amongst all this scene homogenised muck. It’s going to be a really friendly, laid-back festival. We’re excited.”