As the 2017 festival announcements come in thick and fast, Slam Dunk has revealed its first headliner: Enter Shikari. This bill-topping slot not only stands as their first ever full band set at the festival, but it also falls on the tenth anniversary of debut album ‘Take To The Skies’. “The first year we went we DJ’d, and this was… you know what, I don’t even know what year it was!” says Rou Reynolds, embarking on a hazy trip down memory lane. “It was way back, it must’ve been one of the first years. We just DJ’d one of the little side bars, there weren’t half as many stages as they have now.”
Slam Dunk certainly has grown, starting out as a one-stage affair in Leeds’ Millennium Square, it now takes over three different venues across the North (Leeds), Midlands (Birmingham) and South (Hatfield). It was this year the band’s DJ alter ego, Shikari Sound System headlined the Uprawr DJ Stage and now they’re returning to bring the full Shikari party.
“It’ll be very much a celebration,” Rou continues. “I’m really looking forward to playing the tracks again. ‘Today Won’t Go Down In History’, we’ve actually never played that live so we’re definitely going to bust that out!”
On those tracks, he also offers some personal insight: “It’s crazy. Some of those songs we’d been playing for a couple of years even before we went into a studio, so some of them were written when I was 16/17. It brings back floods of memories; be it touring or just more personal life around that time. It’s crazy how much music has the power to do that.”
“It’s mad,” he continues. “I never thought we’d still be doing this. I actually haven’t really revisited it since we brought it out. It was a bit of a rushed album. At the time I had problems with my vocal nodules, which was pretty scary, so I actually hate my voice on it. I can’t stand it so I don’t really listen to it, but musically I love it.”
With this anniversary approaching, it’s given both Rou and the band a chance to take stock of what they’ve done and what it’s given them. Some would assume that due to their longevity, Enter Shikari have always had their sights set on being in this for the long haul – not so, it seems.
“We never really had any ambition when we set out. We didn’t have a final destination so to speak, it was always just a hobby. It’s just a hobby that got out of hand. It got bigger and bigger, so now we’re just happy to be where we are and we just want to keep pushing. It’s only the last few years where we’ve had real confidence and ambition. There’s never any point where you feel finished or safe or just comfortable.”
“We were very inspired by the local scene in the early days, we were very involved in it,” Rou reminisces. “[We] started promoting and getting a lot of bigger touring bands in, we had a thriving, I’m not sure what to call it, technical-metal rock scene, but then we had loads of pop punk bands back in those days, like Lags from Gallows – his first band was a really great pop punk band.”
Over ten years, the Shikari sound is what truly set them apart from the rest of the herd. When ‘Take To The Skies’ was first released in 2007, it didn’t really fit into any one genre. Like a battle between dance and metal, they were a fresh sound.
“I think it was never going to be sort of metal-core or straight up heavy music, we never really fitted into that scene. We didn’t fit in anywhere because we love melody, we love harmonies, and I’ve been brought up on The Beatles as well. It’s just all this stuff related and came out through the music.
“Going back to 2004, when some of the first tracks on ‘Take To The Skies’ would’ve been written, we started going into London to raves and listening to electronica, house and drum & bass. Rory’s brother was a drum & bass DJ back then, he’d be on the decks playing the latest vinyl he bought and that was a bit of education. So we had all of these influences coming from all over the place.
“I think my parents were kind of a big influence melodically because my dad was a Motown and northern soul DJ, and that’s one of the most relentless and positive uplifting types of music.”
They’re grateful to have been able to stay the course for so long; life as a musician is often precarious. “Most of the bands that we’ve toured with in those early days are either gone or have had fifteen member changes. We’re a bit of an anomaly really. It’s weird, for me a band was always The Beatles – four or five people. Any change from that and it would be a different beast altogether. It’s important for us to have this original line-up and mindset and everything that we started out to do in the beginning. Things haven’t really changed.”
2016 hasn’t exactly been a quiet year for the band either, what with a worldwide tour that included a headline date at London’s Alexandra Palace, a show that was released as their second official live album (not including the bootleg series) and the immortalisation of the hard work Enter Shikari put into what they do.
Rou remembers: “That was an absolutely surreal night, that whole tour by far was the most enjoyable tour we’ve ever done and by far the most work we’ve put in on tour. It’s almost a bit of a contradiction the fact that it’s our first arena headlining tour, but it’s probably our most DIY tour ever. I did all the visuals for the screens and our production, we all planned together with our lighting guy.”
Along with this world tour, they also found the time to record and release two stand alone tracks to tide their fans over until 2017. ‘Red Shift’ and ‘Hoodwinker’ don’t quite allude to the form new material will take, however: “‘Hoodwinker’ is just this ruthless, ridiculous track that you can only appreciate by itself,” says Rou. “I think on an album it would be more of an outlier, and I think it would probably terrorise the other tracks.”
Now that Enter Shikari have reached this point in their career, the future is a gift that will only keep on giving. They’ve a juggernaut of a fan base, and as they look towards the next ten years no words have been truer than those in ‘Take To The Skies’ track ‘Interlude’: “We’ve come this far / that bit was easy / now do you dare to continue?”
Slam Dunk will take place from 27th – 29th May in Birmingham, Leeds and Hatfield.