A year ago, Enter Shikari released their genre-bending album, ‘The Mindsweep’. Today, they find themselves in a form of album-limbo, between cycles, and yet the band are hard at work preparing for their biggest UK tour to date. The boys from St Albans gaze up at an arena shaped cliff face they’re about to scale; the shows are imminent, the set list is penned and the production is prepared, but how did they get here?
“We’re not really that ambitious as people,” offers vocalist Rou Reynolds. “We’re not constantly striving to become a bigger band or anything. When we’re lucky enough to keep stepping things up it always comes as a bit of a shock. But then, once you get past that, it’s just utter excitement really. Your mind just starts whizzing through the various possibilities you have with production and the different tracks that will work better in bigger venues and you just start planning it.”
This tour is not as a final payoff for the years of hard work or the conclusive realisation of all their efforts, but rather as an opportunity to expand, to progress and to amaze. “Even though it’s an arena scale tour, it’s still very DIY. We’re doing all the quadraphonic programming ourselves. I’m doing all the footage and the effects for the screens. So yeah, even though we’ve been off tour it’s felt like we’ve had a day job.” Rou laughs at the realisation of what his obsession for creative control has driven him to. “I’ve basically been in front of the screen coding for the last few months and it’s going to be good to get out of the house to see the fruits of our labour on the big screen.”
Now, it’s all well and good that Shikari are putting as many miles into their arena show as they can, but there’s that one phrase that’s been knocking around the internet in recent months, which Rou nonchalantly drops into conversation: what on earth is quadraphonic sound?
“I keep dropping it and forgetting it’s a sort of silly concept that isn’t really done,” Rou chuckles. “It’s basically 4.1 surround sound. We’ve got the normal stereo pair of speakers pushing out from the front of stage and then we’ve got two more at the back, which gives you a lot of scope to sort of encircle people in sound; have sound coming from different directions whizzing around the venue. It’s a completely different experience really. At some points it’s almost going to throw people off balance and be quite disconcerting. We’ve basically had to re-programme the whole set.”
It’s while discussing Shikari’s formative years that Rou remembers “a kind of vibe; this sort of discomfort. It’s not like sitting down at the theatre or going to watch a pop group. I think we’re trying to keep that sense of excitement and exhilaration. This is a way we’ve found we can keep that in the bigger venues.
“We’ve always been a band that likes to keep pushing ourselves,” Rou affirms. Enter Shikari aren’t desperate to become the biggest band in the world; they’re desperate to provide the best sonic, visual and even spiritual experience they can with each opportunity they are presented with. It just so happens that this attitude, paired with their focus and talent is what is providing them with the pathway to being a bona fide massive band.
If anything, Rou appears uncomfortable when posed with the question: what are Enter Shikari looking to achieve with this huge run of shows? “We don’t really think about things that far in advance in our band. We tend to cobble things together and see where it goes, which is maybe a negative thing but it seems to work for us. I don’t know really where we’ll go from here, but it’s certainly exciting to be doing something different that’s not out normal size venues, not our normal circuit.”
For Rou to suggest that Shikari don’t plan things may appear contradictory when you consider the time and effort they’ve been putting into their quadraphonic laden set over the last few months. But that forethought is simply the product of opportunity; it is necessitated by their desire to make the absolute best out of whatever is placed in front of them, rather than born out of a grand plan. In fact, if you want proof of Shikari’s make-do-and-mend attitude, all you have to do is ask Rou about their support slots for the upcoming tour.
“At the beginning we were looking at a few bands, but things weren’t working out with schedules and things. Then The Wonder Years were put forward. One of our techs is a big fan and plays them backstage with us all the time, so we’ve all grown to really like their music. We did Warped Tour with them maybe two years ago now and they’re a great live band; song writing, melodies – really, really good. It’s not your straight down the middle, typical pop punk either. There’s a level of maturity, a slightly more cerebral nature to the music,” Rou explains with suitably elevated vocabulary.
“Then The King Blues: I hadn’t heard from Itch for quite a while, I hadn’t seen him for about a year. Then I get a text out of the blue saying ‘The King Blues are getting back together, I don’t suppose you’re doing anything or are up for touring?’ So we just sorted that out and it’ll probably be like old friends back together again; a school reunion or something.”
Now, with the band’s latest single ‘Redshift’ being dropped completely out of the blue recently, is it a sign of things to come from Enter Shikari, or more just a patch of their ever-expanding generic quilt? “That’s the best thing about being an independent artist really; you’ve got no one trying to fit you in anywhere. You’re given free reign. You’re allowed to be inconsistent. You’re allowed to be erratic. You can make music as you feel and I think that’s what we do. We’re never going to make an album that’s purely heavy and we’re never going to make an album that’s purely mainstream or more immediate. I need that balance. I’m too fidgety; I get bored too easily.”
Given Enter Shikari’s evident passion for progression, without the pretence of progression for progression’s sake, and their wholly apparent political engagement, it would seem natural for their music to be used to inspire change outside of just the way their show is programmed. “I’m not a full on romantic in the sense that ‘music can change the world’. I think it can be a crucial fuel. That’s what I think music can do. It provokes such strong emotions; it can embolden people and their views. Obviously that can be used in negative ways as well. But, for us it’s important to keep spreading this basic messages of unity and peace and everything else we’ve been talking about for years.”
With that statement, you can’t help but continue to be endeared by Enter Shikari’s approach. Where many bands would ascribe their successes to their hard work, they’re more likely to suggest that their achievements are down to luck. And where some bands would insist that their music will change the world, they humbly admit their music is more likely to enthuse their fans, encourage growth and fuel activism. That said, Enter Shikari’s first foray into an arena scale headline tour is certainly set to be inspirational.
Taken from the February issue of Upset, out now – order your copy here. Catch Enter Shikari on tour at the following:
18 Glasgow, O2 Academy
19 Edinburgh, Corn Exchange
20 Nottingham, Capital FM Arena
22 Bournemouth, International Centre
23 Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena
25 Manchester, Victoria Warehouse
27 London, Alexandra Palace