WITH MASSIVE LIVE SHOWS ALONGSIDE THE WONDER YEARS BOOKED FOR 2016, ENTER SHIKARI ARE ON A HOT STREAK. IT’S ALL ABOUT STANDING UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN.
WORDS: JESSICA BRIDGEMAN.
Throughout their 12-year career, Enter Shikari have transcended more trends than most of their peers put together. Why? Because fewer bands understand the capabilities and importance of capturing minds with music, and repeatedly doing so successfully, quite like this St Albans quartet. “All we can ever do is raise awareness in anything, that’s all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says bassist Chris Batten, as he gathers with guitarist Rory Clewlow and drummer Rob Rolfe, by a vacant fence panel to do press backstage at Download Festival. Hours from now, the band will play in front of thousands when they headline the second stage at Donington.
In an unexpected turn of events, Enter Shikari’s top festival billing stands to address far more than the issues depicted on their 2015 album, ‘The Mindsweep’. Just 24 hours prior to our meeting, the band were forced to cancel a gig for only the third ever time in their history, as frontman Rou Reynolds fell badly ill. At the time of talking to us, Rou’s bandmates don’t know if he’ll even be fit enough to perform (he does, with a few tearful moments that make it a truly unforgettable set).
“We always try to remain positive about things and that’s what our music is all about,” Chris adds, as we rally topics from free healthcare and the UK government, to the current state of the band in Rou’s absence.
It’s crucial then, that Enter Shikari’s passion and influence isn’t formed on the sole opinions of one mind. While it may be Rou singing the words, these are beliefs shared by the whole band. Something it takes us approximately five seconds to confirm as they talk passionately as a group and individuals.
Having never been ones to shy away from speaking their minds either, ‘The Mindsweep’, in parts, deals with the dismantling of the NHS. And despite feeling depressed and downtrodden by the results of the 2015 General Election – a landslide win to the Conservative Party – Enter Shikari aren’t losing sight of the topics tackled on their fourth full-length.
“The issues are still very important to us and to a lot of people,” confirms Chris. With Rob adding: “The things that are talked about on the album are issues that will continue being important, and not just now.
“‘Anaesthetist’ isn’t just about the NHS, it’s about free healthcare in general. They’re all issues that effect everyone in the world, even if they’re in slightly different circumstances, they’re all still relevant.”
Not unaware of the impact their records have upon a young fan base, Chris notes the difference between pointing the finger and forcing opinion. “We don’t want to preach to anyone or anything, we just want to put out what we think and let people make up their own minds.”
For them, it was bands like System Of A Down and Rage Against The Machine who started to shape their views of the world as teenagers. Even more notably though, Enter Shikari credit UK hardcore and punk bands like Adequate 7, for giving them the ability to generate their own political opinions early on. “They used to play around our local area and they had a lot to say,” Chris remembers. “That was something that really grabbed us, that a band can really stand for something.”
Now, with a 2016 arena tour which will see them headline London’s Alexandra Palace, Enter Shikari are among few British bands really standing for something in the eyes of young rock fans today. “We’ve got a duty to talk about issues that we feel are important,” says Rob, before quoting Rou. “Art today should be representing the zeitgeist of the time.”
With the weight of ‘The Mindsweep’ embedded into their live show, it’s no real surprise Enter Shikari continue to be one of the most exciting bands in our current climate. As well as an unrivalled enthusiasm for their own songs, their standard stage setup packs plenty of strobes, huge lighting rigs and, er, an antique vase which always gets smashed during ‘Slipshod’.
“There’s nothing like the feeling out on stage, it feels addictive.” Chris says with his eyes almost clenched shut.
“Just being in that moment and being able to do whatever you want,” agrees Rory. “It’s the freedom to live in the moment and to make instinctive decisions in front of loads of people. It can feel so perfect and euphoric.”
So with the band’s touring schedule locked tight until next spring, long may it last.
Taken from the August 2015 issue of Upset. Enter Shikari hit the road with The Wonder Years next February.