Interview: Expanding and Accelerating with Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari

May 2016 Vandala Enter Shikari Rou Reynolds InterviewRou Reynolds talks touring, “Redshift”, world event, music and much more!

Interview by Ashton Clemmer
From May 2016 Vandala Magazine
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Just over a month ago, Enter Shikari headlined a show in London, at Alexandra Palace that had attendance of 10,000 people. What was the experience like to play for an audience of that calibre for the show you were headlining?

Rou: It was very surreal. Most of the show was a blur to be honest, as they normally are; shows that are that big where you’re just so full of adrenaline. You’re rushing around doing press, and last bits of editing the production, the show, or the lighting as we literally do everything ourselves, show days are always full on. It was the biggest headliner of our lives so it was an incredible and very vibrant day.

What was the most special moment to you about that show?

Rou: Walking out on stage and seeing the massive energy and passion, and the enthusiasm in people’s faces that were there. Knowing that there was people there that have followed us from day one, ten years ago, and knowing that there were people there who were seeing us for the first time and how excited they all were about it. There was such a vibe in that room and it’s such a wicked venue as well, I love Alexandra Palace because it’s one big ass room. There’s no balconies, no levels, everyone there is in one big, pit, if you’d like (laughs) and it’s always such an incredible atmosphere.

What element does it give to a show, when you have everyone in one area like that?

Rou: Just that sense of community and the sense of one mass, one entity really. I think that when you start playing arena sized venues, a lot of the venues that offer that size are often quite sterile or corporate and full of advertisements, and their fine. However think with venues like Alexandra Palace it feels more like going to an old school rave venue where it’s a bit dark, and a bit drab but all that just adds to the vibe of it all and it’s certainly not sterile, or full of corporate logos and things. It really feels like a music venue where the music takes the focus.

In the future, as the band grows and plays larger concerts, will it still be important to play the smaller, intimate venues?

Rou: Yes. I find that we usually are yearning for what we’re not doing (laughs). I guess it’s kind of like classic thing of wanting what you can’t have I suppose. If we’ve done a run of really big shows or festivals, playing to so many people, we sort of ache to be back in a dirty, sweaty little venue playing for a few hundred people again. Then after a month of doing just that, we’ll start getting ideas about big productions and wanting to be on big stages again. There’s these two sides to us really, where we want to keep the best of both worlds.

What are you able to do differently in the bigger venues than if you were playing the smaller stages?

Rou: Oh man, so much. That’s the main thing that excited us and for the first time, I think now we’ve got some really stringent ambition after doing this tour. Perhaps because we didn’t realize that the amount of extra creativity and the amount of atmosphere that you can build in a big open space allows you to be so much more creative. We did quadraphonic sound which is basically 4.1 surround sound and no one really does that; the last people to do that was Pink Floyd and it’s quite an undertaking. It took months and months of programming and reprogramming the set and all the electronics to be four outputs instead of the normal stereo 2. We also had a huge screen behind us and instead of just paying someone to do some visuals, we really wanted the visuals to reflect the music and come from the same headspace that the music comes from and I guess out of a bit of naivety, I took all of that on myself. It was adding another dimension to the whole Shikari Live experience and it felt quite different from any other screens because we didn’t get it professionally done. It was kind of “punk” in how it was made, where things were kind of pillaged from everywhere and slapped together. It was a really interesting build up experience on this tour but it’s made us really excited for the future and what we’re going to do next.

You’ve just wrapped up the European tour, and now coming over to the U.S and Canada, do you find the atmosphere of the shows are different in any way?

Rou: No, not really different. The amount of passion and intensity is still the same, but I guess through reputation or word of mouth, that people that come to our shows are always full of energy and out to have a good time. There’s a real sense of community wherever we go in the world and we’re really lucky to have that. Obviously things are a lot smaller for us out there [North America] but it’s still definitely just as fun.

I noticed the last European date for the tour, was Brussels, Belgium. What was it like playing in the city only a week after the attacks?

Rou: It was a strange atmosphere in the city, and we actually got a police convoy to take us in. The police insisted we had a convoy to take us into the city centre because most of it was still closed and it was pedestrianized basically. Our venue was maybe 50 or 100 meters from where the attack happened and it was crazy just stepping out of the bus in the morning and taking a short walk and seeing the huge amounts of flowers and it was really emotional. The city itself was up and running again, people were working and it felt like there was a real sense of everyone trying to be fortified and just carry on. It’s a very hard atmosphere to describe to be honest because you could still feel the sense of sadness and shock, but people were trying to have that stiff upper lip, and not let it interrupt their lives too much. The show itself was really great and I think people really appreciated having that outlet. We really like to make sure our shows are really communal, because our music has always been about one thing really; unity. I think people appreciated that we didn’t cancel, because a lot of people expected us to do so, but without wanting to be disrespectful for a city that needs time to mourn, I think most people thought it was important that the city carry on as normal, where art and culture doesn’t feel threatened. It’s a resilience I suppose, and after things like that happen it brings people together and you forget smaller issues or qualms that are going on in you’re life. It puts everything into perspective.

Being that the show was an outlet for a lot of people, how does it feel knowing that you can provide that outlet and comfort for people?

Rou: It’s amazing. It’s often quite bewildering, the amount of emotion you can inject into people’s lives, the amount of anything that you convey in your music and the great thing about music is that we’re completely vulnerable to it. Music can change our emotions and it can adapt how we feel and see outlooks; it’s extremely powerful. It’s a great honour to be able to use it to inspire people or allow people to have that emotional outlet. There were certainly a lot of tears on the night actually, and you could really tell it was a very special outpouring and quite cathartic for a lot of people.

Coming into America right now, with the campaigning, and the elections coming up fairly soon. Do you think that the U.S. fans will relate to some of the political content in your songs this time around, than your previous visits?

Rou: To be honest, I tend to keep away from party politics, I’m more interested in wider concepts and philosophy and things like that. Times like these where people feel like they have a say, every four or five years, depending on what country you’re in, you finally get that chance to do your tiny bit of democracy. It’s an inspiring time because people start to speak out and speak up about what they believe in. It makes tours more interesting, especially when we’re playing these smaller venues and we can hang out on the march stand and speak to people face to face and get a feel for how people are reacting in the local areas.

This tour only stems north of the U.S. border for a few dates. Are there plants to return to Canada and play more cities?

Rou: Nothing at the moment. We’d certainly like to, but it’s just a struggle to fit a massive land mass into one month, or six weeks like this tour is (laughs). There’s quite a few festivals on this run, which we’ve never done before and they help make less of a dent economically, because they pay a bit more so we had to root around them because they were booked first. So unfortunately there’s only three or four dates in Canada and we’d certainly love to come back because every time we play a show in Canada it always feels really worthy, and there’s a lot of passion there.

Accompanying you for each show along the North American tour, is Hands Like Houses and The White Noise. What was a deciding factor for having these groups on the tour?

Rou: We’ve toured with Hands Like Houses a few times before and they’re all sterling chaps. To be honest, I don’t know much about The White Noise, but from what I’ve checked out of their music, and everything I’m really looking forward to catching both of them live.

The White Noise definitely gives off more of a punk vibe in their music, do you think that having diversity in the bands is important on a tour?

Rou: Yeah, always. It’s difficult, especially in America because the sort of scene we often find ourselves in, I don’t really know what to call it, but that metal-core, or alternative scene is often completely saturated with drivel, and bands that sound exactly the same as every other band in that scene and it’s hugely uninspiring. It’s important to us to find bands that we find interesting just to keep our mental health running high (laughs), when we’re cramped in a little van touring for six weeks.

I’d like to talk about your single “Redshift”, that was released a few months ago now, there is a lyric in the song that says, “.. It appears that Heaven’s been abandoned…” Can you elaborate on the line and what inspired the lyric?

Rou: I guess that line can be opened to all sorts of interpretations. The song itself is heavily inspired by 20th century cosmology. There’s been some incredible progresses in the last 100 or 150 years in astrophysics and cosmology and I find that a lot of our music is inspired by science, because you’re at the cusp, the very edge of human knowledge for whatever science you’re studying. It’s hugely inspiriting because it means you’re writing music about stuff that hasn’t been written before. Instead of just writing recycled love songs or about emotions that you know at least ten songs that are going to be better than yours, about this emotion or scenario (laughs). Redshift is all about how our universe is expanding and how it’s accelerating in its expansion to the point where a couple trillion years from now, if some civilization on some planet, somewhere is looking out from their planet out to the universe, they’ll basically deduce a completely false version of the universe. Everything will have sped away so fast from everything else as the universe expands and accelerates, that they’ll look out and they won’t see any other galaxies because they’ll be speeding away at the speed of light. Since you can’t see anything at the speed of light, life forms in the future will deduce that they’re completely alone in the universe. That’s what I meant by, “Heaven’s been abandoned” because they’ll literally look up and there won’t be any galaxies in the sky to look at or observe and I just thought that was incredibly sad. Really the song is about how lucky we are to live at this point in the universe’s age.

In the music video for “Redshift,” you see the world born and then destroyed. Is this a representation at all of how the planet is deteriorating as it goes through this cycle?

Rou: To be honest, the video was just a lot of fun. We had a director who we’ve been working with awhile who is a complete wizz-kid at visual effects and we wanted to have the Earth implode upon itself whilst were playing. The actually meaning of the song that I just described is obviously very hard to visualize in depth, so we went for something a bit more fun and a bit more sci-fi for the video.

While you’re writing songs, to what degree are you focused on trying to get your message to relate to your listeners?

Rou: I think unless you’re just stating things very clearly, very unambiguously, or very un-artistically, people are always going to have their own interpretations of your lyrics and of the music. I’ve got no problem with that and I think that it’s important to open their arms, take in the music and make it their own. For me, what the lyrics, what our messages are in our music, for me that like a second layer of things. If people are willing and able to find the time to work out what we’re talking about and become interested in those topics, that’s the second win. If we’ve got them listening to the music and enjoying that, it’s amazing and if people are intrigued and interested by the lyrics and our various stances for things in the world then that’s wicked. It’s the icing on the cake.

Do you feel a special bond with the fans who understand your music, and do you get a sense that they feel connected to Enter Shikari?

Rou: Yeah, absolutely. When I see people literally bellowing back the lyrics with the same amount of passion that I put into writing them, there’s nothing that beats that. It’s great to see people having fun, but when you know people really mean the words they’re singing. There’s nothing in the world that beats that feeling.

Is having a great connection with your fans, something that’s important to you?

Rou: I almost hesitate to use the word, “fans.” I try to think about the people that like our music as people who are very similar to me. I make music that I love, I’m the biggest fan of my music and if I wasn’t, what would I be doing? People want honest music that I enjoy, so if people love this music that I’m making the same way that I do, there is an immediate connection there. I already know so much about the person who is listening and enjoying it, because we have a similar music taste, possibly outlook. Our music is so diverse that it takes a lot more effort for people to get into our music because it’s not the most immediate, middle of the road, easy listening music. It makes me appreciate that person as well because I know that they’ve had to sort of work at it; a bit of effort has to come from the audience which is really important to us. It makes me have a complete respect and want to build a friendship with everyone who likes our music because I immediately feel connected to them.

Other than through music, what do you do that you feel helps build a strong bond between the band and its listeners?

Rou: Something we’ve always tried to do, is completely not have a pedestal. Not make us seem untouchable, pop-star/rock-star entity. That’s not what we’ve ever been about so it’s very important to be very approachable and be the people that we are, just normal people like everyone else. Whether that’s in person at shows at the merch tables or the bar or if it’s online. I’m on Twitter pretty much 24/7 speaking to people, to people, conversing, getting into arguments you know, just like every other f*cker (laughs).

Mentioning Twitter, there was a recent post stating, “We never stop producing.” After the touring, can we expect new music later in the year?

Rou: Yeah. We’ve just started demoing and I’ve been writing for a few months, just getting the first ideas really. I think for the first time, I have a vision, where a lot of what we’ve done up until now has been very much off the cuff; sitting down, writing music, seeing what comes out and going with it which has totally worked for us I think, I hope. It feels like we’re about to begin Enter Shikari Mach 2. It’s going to be an exciting next few years for us but it’s a long ways off as we’ve got a lot of touring and festivals so we won’t be in the studio until the very end of this year.


One response to “Interview: Expanding and Accelerating with Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari

  1. Pingback: May 2016 Vandala Magazine, Lita Ford, Richard Patrick of Filter,Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari, Mortiis | Vandala Magazine·

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