Earlier this year, Enter Shikari released The Mindsweep, their fourth studio album and, quite possibly, their most dynamic to date. Like the rest of Enter Shikari’s discography, this album is a step away from the last one’s sound, but manages to keep their unique style intact.
Luckily, I was able to catch vocalist Rou Reynolds for a quick interview before he and the rest of the band started their North American tour. We talked about the band’s influences, English politics, recording, and touring, as well as VISA troubles. This is what Rou had to say:
As everyone who’s listened to an Enter Shikari album knows, your material’s filled with science, politics, environmental, and socioeconomic messages. How has the political atmosphere of the UK helped shape your ethos?
Well it definitely formulated our ethos in the very beginning. For instance, our local council kind of did everything they could to stop not just youth music, but youth culture; they’d close down youth clubs, they’d try and prevent shows from being put on at various venues. They’d just do everything they can really and I guess it was born out of just an ignorance.
Y’know, people over a certain age still think that punk rock is gonna be drugs and violence and things like that. It was slightly frustrating because what we felt we were doing was, y’know, getting kids off the street, getting them out of trouble, and sort of bringing the importance of community to their lives. I think that all those years of troubles that we had with the council just made us have an immediate distrust and an immediate lack of respect for authority really, and although that was just on a local scale, I think that then blossomed and it eventually inspired the ethos that we have today.
You mentioned how for this one, you weren’t going for any specific dub or trance sound. What else was different about recording The Mindsweep rather than A Flash Flood Of Colour, or even Common Dread or Take To The Skies?
One of the main differences is that all the sounds, sort of all the organic instruments, like the real instrumentation, was recorded live, so we didn’t rely on any string samples, any drum samples. All the brass was live as well; me and my brother played all the brass on the album, and we even got some woodwind on there as well, a clarinet, cor anglais, an oboe (laughs), so there was this real, sort of fresh, natural sound I think we never captured before, and I remember the day in the studio when, for instance, we got a string quartet in, some friends of ours, and they just nailed it, and it was such a magical day. It really brought the songs to life. I mean, I do a lot of composing just for fun and various side projects with classical music and stuff like that, so it was really great to bring that side into Enter Shikari.
One thing I noticed about the new album is “There’s A Price On Your Head,” and even “Slipshod”; it’s like every one of your albums, you have that song that just makes you stop and go, “What the hell just happened?” Do you guys just decide, “Y’know, this song sounds like we can have fun with it in the studio. Let’s put it on the album?”
Pretty much, yeah. We do, I do, write a lot of those sort of silly, crazy, heavier tracks. And usually we have to just pick one of them to go on the album ‘cause there’s so many sides to our sound; we have such a widespread sound that we want to make sure we represent each corner of the musical spectrum that Enter Shikari is confident in on an album. So yeah, we just end up just having one that just gets extra ridiculous because we just pour all of our crazy, sort of silly silliness and energy into that song.
“Slipshod” didn’t make it onto the album and is a bonus track just ‘cause it’s so ridiculous. I think it needs to be perceived as its own entity, it’s own weird thing off on the side there. It was a lot of fun to make, but we basically made that at the end of the two months in the studio and we were all kind of… fatigue was setting in and just, cabin fever I suppose, just being in the same spot for two months and just, we ended up having two days of just getting a bit drunk and making “Slipshod” a lot of fun.
I noticed on the YouTube comments that there’s been a lot of debate about what the song even means. Is there even any meaning to the song or is it just literally about some random restaurant that your cartoon characters visited?
Yeah, I mean, for once (laughs), that song literally has no sort of deeper meaning. It’s just sort of art for art’s sake (laughs). Yeah, it was just a lot of fun to make, to let off some steam and not have to really think about what you’re making and any statements that you’re trying to make. It’s just a lot of fun.
It’s been a couple of years since you guys did a full headliner in the States. Last time you guys were here was for Warped for a few days, right? What kind of experiences have you had on U.S. tours and how different is it touring than around the UK?
Yes. Well, the tour we’re about to embark on is going to be our 21st trip Stateside, which is just surreal. Crazy, to think that’s what we’re up to. But I mean, we’ve had some absolutely amazing times in the States, and we’ve had some absolutely horrendous times as well. Like, we’ve had some of our worst breakdowns and some of our worst tours, y’know, sort of sleep deprived, missing home, those types of tours.
The thing that always makes a tour worthwhile out there is even though we’re not half as big in America as we are in Europe, just the enthusiasm of those that are supporting us is just incredible and the passion, like just now, thinking about it, I already miss it and I’m already looking forward to getting back over there and just having people scream the lyrics back in our face. So it’s just incredible and we love the American people and we feel very at home there and yeah, we just always look forward to going back.
Before you head out on your headliner, I noticed you guys were playing South By So What down in Texas. How do you cope with the shorter set times and more restrictive schedules of festival season, apart from touring?
It’s tough, ‘cause playing a shorter set when you’ve got four studio albums is just… it becomes so hard to pick a setlist. It usually ends in complete arguments between all four us on trying to decide what to play, but you just have to pick a set you think flows, that you think represents a bit of every era, ‘cause if you don’t play old songs, people will be like, “Oh, why didn’t they play old songs?” and if you don’t play new songs, they’ll be like, “Oh, why didn’t they play the new songs?” so you can’t please everyone, so you just have to make a set and get on with it, and unfortunately, we have to have a short set ‘cause there’s so many bands, but those can be fun.
I remember the last few times I’ve seen you guys play, drummer Rob Rolfe has been absent due to VISA troubles. Actually, the last time I saw him behind the set was, I believe, The Dead Throne tour, like four years ago. Has his string of bad luck finally subsided?
Yeah, well I mean he did Warped Tour last year with us and he has his VISA for this tour, so everything’s sorted, but the thing is, once you have some stuff on your record, like even if it was like, 10 years ago or whatever, you’ve done all the charity and community work that you can do, it still doesn’t matter. Basically the VISA process takes a lot longer, so it’s always touch and go whether he’s gonna get it in time, but yeah, we’re all good and we’re very glad to have him out.
What does the future hold in store for Enter Shikari?
Just a lot more touring. We tend not to look too far into the future, to be honest. We just kinda take each day as it comes, thankful for the shows that we get and the support that we get, so yeah, just more touring, yeah. That’s it.
Enter Shikari will be coming to the area during the first weekend of April, playing a sold-out show at Gramercy Theatre on Friday, April 3, and Theatre Of Living Arts in Philadelphia on Saturday, April 4. The Mindsweep is available now via Hopeless Records. For more information, visit entershikari.com.