Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds: “A lot of punk has lost its original edge”

This year marks the tenth anniversary of St Albans genreless quartet Enter Shikari‘s sublime debut album, Take to the Skies. The raw, visceral and manic record laid out the foundations for a band whose options seemed, and to this day still seem, endless. Rou Reynolds and co. are currently working on a brand new studio album, but in and amongst that they’re also touring Europe and the UK (the latter of which includes headline sets at Slam Dunk Festival) in order to celebrate their debut album’s continuing success. We called up frontman Rou Reynolds on his way to the studio to discuss the anniversary, the current relationship between punk and politics and how the band’s new record is shaping up.

Hey Rou. How are you doing?
Yeah, very well thanks! I’m walking right now, and we’re doing some recording today. It’s also nice to be home!

You’ve just rounded off a US tour in support of Take to the Skies’ 10th anniversary. How was it?
It was great! It was a very nostalgic and emotional run. We were demoing new music right up until the day that we left. We were supposed to have a week to practice too, which of the rest of the guys did while I was busy in the studio with our producer working on some vocals. The first few shows were a bit shaky, but I suppose that’s what made it even more real and raw. It felt like being plunged back a decade into the past in and amongst all of those memories. It was quite an intense but fun tour, especially in order to take a breath and look back!

It’s the first tour in support of its anniversary. Looking back on the album, how do you feel about how everything turned out?
It’s weird, because I don’t think we had any expectations or ambitions from the record. We were never this group of lads who wanted to take over the world or who wanted to make such big statements, so for us it felt like every door the album opened was just amazing and a huge success. We’ve always been really happy with it. I haven’t listened to it properly for about eight or nine years and most songs we stopped playing about five years ago. It’s all very strange looking back, and I sort of hate the way my vocals sounded on it. I was still finding my voice so it was different for me to listen to the vocals. We’re all really happy with it, though, and we look back on it fondly.

(c) Kristen Alligood
(c) Kristen Alligood

If you could have done anything different in hindsight, then what?
We certainly wouldn’t have rushed it the way we did. It took us two weeks to do everything, and I don’t really know how we achieved it. We certainly couldn’t have done that today. I guess I also should’ve pursued some medical advice too and waited for my voice to recover before causing further pain. Other than that I don’t think I would change anything. People keep asking if we’ll do a re-release or remaster but I think that the album perfectly encapsulates that time period. It’s there in stone, and there’s no need to adapt it.

Looking back, what moment made you realize that this could really become something?
Little things like just going into a proper studio were absolutely massive for us. The EPs and demos we first did were just recorded in a garage with borrowed equipment and anything else we could get our hands on. Working with a producer was also a big moment, and it made us think, “wow, we’re a real band now” or whatever that means. In 2007 we also played our first mainstream festival, Download. We did one of the tents and I think that was the first point where we realized we were actually sticking our noses into the touring circuit. Everyone rammed into the tent and there was so much hype surrounding it. I think that was quite a tangible point of realization.

You’re not supporting a new release right now. How are you intending to plan out the balance between old and new when you continue touring Take to the Skies?
I mean, it’s definitely a Take to the Skies tour first and foremost so we’re playing every track from it. We’re not doing it in order, though; I don’t like it when bands do that because it means people come out of the present and all they think about is waiting for their favourite song. It’s less “in the moment”. All the songs are jumbled in there, and we’ve also reworked and remixed some of them. Same goes for the new songs, too.

And what is the future looking like for Enter Shikari? How are the demos sounding?
We’re still in the early stages right now, essentially just getting demos together as well as a vision. I personally had a busy few years, and it’s been quite hard to sit back and get footing somewhere in order to create a vision for what the music is trying to be. It’s been one of the toughest records for us to write and formulate, and we’re only now properly getting to that point. The only pressure we have is from ourselves, as there’s nobody barking down our necks to get things done. It’s going to be an honest and not rushed version of ourselves.

Are there any bands out there right now who give you that same feeling which you yourself had back in 2007? Or just music you’re enjoying in general?
It’s weird, because when we enter the studio it’s almost like a lockdown. You work with music all day so you end up listening to very little other stuff, really. I’m always trying to absorb as much inspiration as possible beforehand, but in the studio it just becomes a lockdown situation. I’m trying to think of some newer artists, but I really haven’t been listening to that many. I’ve mainly been discovering artists who have been around for a while, in particular some summery, happy and chilled out stuff in order to get away from the intensity of the studio. I’m listening to a lot of Bombay Bicycle Club, Regina Spektor, Four Tet and a lot of electronica. A friend of ours, Keeno, is a drum and bass producer and I sang on one of his new tracks. It was great to work with him on an original track, as we’re big fans of one another and he also remixed a track for our Hospitalized record.

How’s your clothing line, Step Up, going?
Good, good! We had a winter release at the beginning of this year and hopefully we’ll be having a summer one to. There’s no consistency to Step Up, though. We’ll disappear for a year and then come back out of the blue. I’m trying to get some other people involved to help it keep afloat when I inevitably fuck off on tour again.


Your tweets have always been very outspoken and honest, and quite rightly so. How important do you think it is for artists to have a voice on current affairs?
This question comes up everywhere, and it’s an important one. I always feel like I’m changing my answer though, so I really need to think of the right line to stick to, haha! A lot of punk, in my opinion, has lost its original edge. People are grasping at straws so much that they’re now turning to Johnny Rotten. He won’t even attempt to criticize Donald Trump! In a way, that shows how out of touch he is or always was with what punk has become. Hardcore punk itself was always about community, but Trump is nothing like that. He’s divisive. Artists really, really need to speak up. Music intrinsically is a uniting device, and for millennia it’s brought people together, whether it be around a fireplace with flutes made out of bones or whatever. Music has always been central to us as a society through the ages. Now, the festival and the gig are the only things that really bring people together indiscriminately. It’s not for me to put pressure on people, though. If people want to speak out then that’s great, but if they don’t feel comfortable with doing so then that’s also ok. A lot of people aren’t politicized, but it’s just about what you’re comfortable with.

So do you think that things like social media play a part in this, particularly in regards to how some are scared to voice an opinion?
Yeah! Capitalism has influenced the way in which people act in that regard. If they have a pedestal or some sort of respect then they won’t want to speak out on potentially divisive issues so as to not alienate fans and put their position on the rocks. There’s a lot of that, but I also think that there are plenty of people who just aren’t politicized enough through their own general comfort. There’s also people who don’t talk about it much within their social circles, which is fine. Furthermore, there are those in poverty and all they have time for is keeping themselves and their families in good health. There’s a full spectrum, and on top of that people are also just too scared to speak out in fear of losing any success they may have. It’s a nuanced discussion.

Indeed it is, yeah. We’re going to round it off here for now, and we’ll see you in Utrecht next month!
Haha, cheers! I’m looking forward to it.

Enter Shikari will headline the TivoliVredenburg’s Ronda hall on Friday, 12 May with support from Mallory Knox. Get tickets here, and follow Rou on Twitter here.