“Not holding back and not being confined by genre is what defines this band” – hmv.com talks to Enter Shikari
Lots of artists will tell you they do things on their own terms. Some mean it and some think they mean it, when actually what they mean is they’ll occasionally turn up late for practise and cancel a few interviews. Not only do Enter Shikari mean it, they live it. Every one of their releases has come through their own Ambush Reality label, they tour relentlessly, hitting venues small as well as large, across the globe, they tour places most other bands ignore, and, perhaps most importantly of all, they’re outspoken in their lyrics and their interviews.
Their fourth album The Mindsweep is their most accomplished to date, as well as their angriest and most varied. We sat down with frontman Rou Reynolds and drummer Rob Rolfe to find out all about it…
When did you finish the album?
Rob: “It’s been done for months, but much as we’d like to release it as soon as we finish it, we know at this point that there’s a massive process to go through before it comes out. Mixing takes ages, so does mastering, it’s a bit frustrating having all these songs and not being able to show them off."
How long did this record take to make? Is this the longest you’ve ever spent on an album?
Rou: “It took pretty much the whole of 2014. We started properly writing this time last year and then went into the studio in May, for us that’s a huge amount of time to be off the road.”
Rob: “It’s the longest time we’ve ever been off the road. Six months. It felt like a long time. Weird.”
When you sit with a record for that long, do you start to imagine the changes you’d make?
Rob: “It would be, but we were making changes all the way, right up until the mastering, past it actually. We had it done, mastered, finished, all done and then we all got an email from Rou saying ‘There’s this one part I can’t live with, it’s got to be re-done’. So we had to get it remastered. Now the CDs are printed though, so he can’t touch it anymore!”
Last time out you went off to Thailand to record, this time you stayed in the UK and went to the countryside, why?
Rob: “There was no need to go abroad. But Rory (Clelow, guitarist) had a child so he needed to stay close to home. We’d also done a few tracks at the studio before, it was very comfortable, it sounded great, it’s far enough away from everywhere, and it’s got no phone signal so you can focus.”
Having gone to the other side of the world to record and this time to a remote part of the countryside, do you need to be far away from the city to make a record? Do you get distracted easily?
Rou: “There’s an element of that. We have done tracks in London before, but it’s not as enjoyable, you have to commute every day. I’d rather get away, it was amazing to be able to hike across the moors whenever you like, working away like this means we produce something hundred times better than we would in London.”
If you wrote for six months, does that mean you ended up with way more songs than you needed?
Rou: “Oh yeah, we went in with 50 songs and we managed to whittle that down to 15, which is what we attempted to record, 12 of which made the album. It’s a horrible process, when you’re so invested in all of those ideas and songs and you have to cut it right down. It’s difficult.”
“For the last 20 we got really brutal. We were drawing up graphs with X and Y axis and working out loads of variables, we were plotting how immediate a song was as opposed to how heavy it was and we’d come up with clusters. We’d then pick songs from clusters just to make sure the album was varied, it was very analytical. We wanted to showcase every corner of our musical spectrum.”
It’s a very varied record, is that something you always keep in mind? Making sure there’s variety?
Rob: “It’s always been a part of us, but it’s never a conscious thing. We never worry about losing our variety, if anything we need to be reined in. Not holding back and not being confined by genre is what defines this band.”
You worked with Dan Weller once again, what does he give you as a producer?
Rou: “We’re so close to him now, it’s so easy. He grew up where we grew up, in the same musical scene, there’s so much comfort and we’re totally on the same wavelength. He’s very good at keeping us organised, it’s easy to get lost in the studio and spend ages on one thing. He manages us and he’s so up for experimenting.”
You’ve experimented with brass and strings on this album too…
Rob: “We’ve used brass before. The trumpet is Rou’s first instrument, we even played a show once with a brass quintet. They both give such a lush sound, especially live, if you synthesis them it just doesn’t have the same depth.”
Rou: “Me and my brother did all the brass and we called up some locals for the strings, they had their number pinned to the studio wall. Two of them are in Bellowhead, the folk band. It was just a number we called.”
How do you think this record moves on from A Flash Flood Of Colour?
Rou: “We try not to think about things too consciously and over plan. The only things I had in my mind were to widen the instrumentation, to try new synths and to push our voices. Make the vocals harder and softer. We always try to write as much as we can and never confine ourselves.”
What about lyrically? What kind of record is this?
Rou: “I wait until I know what emotions a track is conveying and then dive in. There’s a few things I knew I wanted to address, I’d written a few snatches and some poems and I wanted to try and get them in, but it’s a flowing process.”
Is it fair to say it’s your most political record to date?
Rou: “I usually stay away from that word, but I definitely think it’s focused on social issues. Music is the most social thing we have, it’s the only thing we do together indiscriminately. We’re trying to further that and if people are getting together then I feel you should be talking about social issues.”
Do all four of you share the same opinions on each and every issue? That must be quite rare in four people…
Rob: “We all share common opinions and I think we’re all on the same page ideologically. Rou just happens to be the best with words. We all believe very strongly in what we say.”
Rou: “There’s a common logic. A lot of our opinions come from a scientific way of thinking, we don’t fall to the left and the right, it transcends opinion, it’s about what’s best for the planet.”
Last time out you toured for over two years and right round the world, is that the plan again?
Rob: “Yeah, pretty much. We’re heading out to the UK next month and then it’s all go from there. As far as we can see it’s gigs.”
Do you have a taste for the biggest states? For arenas?
Rob: “Yeah, we love the space and the chance to run around like mad. The more we can do with the production too, the better, we’d never write anything off.”
Enter Shikari’s new album The Mindsweep is released on Monday (January 19th). You can pre-order it now instore and in our digital store.