Palatinate Music chatted to Rou Reynolds, lead singer of Enter Shikari, about their new album The Spark, musical unity, and on-stage wardrobe malfunctions.
Shikari have always had this kind of political edge, you like singing about current issues and arguments. Do you think this is intrinsic to the identity of Enter Shikari, or is it just what you want to write about?
I don’t know whether it’s intrinsic, because certainly when we first started the band, that was not like a major point of why we were making music. It was only shortly after those last few years of touring where we started building up a fanbase [when] we sort of suddenly realised that people were listening to us, and you sort of start to feel a bit of… not pressure, I dunno, you start to really think about what you’re putting out into the world and what impact that has.
Do you feel like your music has had an impact then?
Yeah I think so, I mean I’m not one of these sort of utopianist people that think “music can change the world!” but I think it’s a fuel, it fuels activism, it fuels enthusiasm for different things.
It definitely brings people together!
You were at Slam Dunk Festival earlier this year, and the number of people screaming out the words to songs like ‘Anaesthetist’ was incredible.
For me, playing music is like an honour, because it’s the one thing really, like if you go back through human history, any sort of tribe, any culture, any society of humans has always had music, it’s been this tool that brings people together, and we live in such a divisive world now, to be able to wield these tools of unity, to play musical instruments and bring people together is an amazing feeling, so that’s definitely, absolutely imperative to what Shikari are doing. Or trying to do anyway.
The album art for your newest album ‘The Spark’ is quite interesting: who came up with it and is it what you envisioned the art would be like?
Yeah, well I wanted to make something physical for this album, something tangible that you could touch, whereas before most of our artwork has been photos, or actual art, so we had this idea to make this – well we just call it “The Machine”. It’s really inspired by minimalism and brutalism and futurism, and the main idea is that it’s not just an instrument, it’s also a radar, so it’s trying to get that idea across that music can be something that guides you through periods of adversity and things – like I was saying before, a fuel basically, that keeps you going. So that’s what we were trying to achieve, and I think the clean nature of the artwork as well, with the aqua background, that’s trying to reinforce this fresh new sound and a new start for the band, because it feels like a new era for us really – more so than any other album.
Are there any songs on the album you are particularly excited to play live?
I’m, like, super excited to play all of it. There’s gonna be tracks on there that create different atmospheres live, I think we always strive to create really diverse music so we can play a live set and have a whole spectrum of emotions that will hopefully be running through the venue. Things like, ‘Rabble Rouser’ will just be so much fun to play live, but then a track like ‘Airfield’, I can’t wait to play that as well because it’s more delicate than anything we’ve ever done, so it’ll be such a different atmosphere in the venue. So yeah, I’m looking forward to those two.
So do you think you are going to go more in the direction of ‘The Spark’ on future albums? Or have you not really thought about it yet?
Yeah, I’m not sure where we’ll go from here. I certainly think melody has become really central to what we are doing now. With the songwriting, that’s what I was really concentrating on with this album – the vocals really taking the lead, not relying on so many hectic sounds and so many changes within one song, just aiming for simplicity. I think that’s become quite important though – the last few years I’ve built my confidence up a lot more as a singer, whereas before I felt like the sort of punk DIY kid who just fell into doing vocals really, purely because I’m a songwriter and you normally end up singing your own songs. I’m not a particularly confident person, I’m quite reserved in normal life off the stage, I never had any singing lessons or anything like that, so it’s only the last few years that I’ve found some proper confidence for melody to be the central thing. So that might be something with longevity for the band going forward, but yeah I can never really tell what Shikari are going to do next, to be honest!
Do you have any funny moments that have happened on tour with the band?
Oh jeez. Well, yeah [laughs].
If you could pick one out, which would it be?
It’s so difficult to hone in on something, it’s just such a broad range of things that have happened. The only one springing to mind is when my belt broke on stage, and my trousers fell down. I was wearing shorts actually, they were big khaki baggy shorts, so they fell straight down and I thought, “I guess I just have to finish the set in boxers”. Everything that could’ve gone wrong on stage has gone wrong, so you just take it as it comes at this point.
Enter Shikari are on tour now: you can catch them at Newcastle Metro Arena on 19th November.
Photograph: Matt Vogel via Flickr