“It’s a slap in the face, it grabs people’s attention” – An interview with Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds

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Over the past 13 years, Enter Shikari has been dominating the UK rock scene, with a wide variety of sounds that are constantly pushing the genre to its limits. They’re back with their seventh studio album titled Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, a commentary on modern life and an amalgamation of all their previous work. I spoke to Enter Shikari frontman, Rou Reynolds, about the album production, classical composition, mental health, and their live music reputation.

What was the inspiration for Nothing is True and Everything is Possible?

Rou: Life, the madness of the last five years I suppose. If our last album was about vulnerability, this one is about possibility and normally when people hear that word, it’s usually a very positive thing, you know, anything is possible if we put our minds to it. It’s almost like a platitudinal motivational thing that we’re all aware of, yet possibility is shifting and it feels like something that’s quite scary now. The album offers realism I suppose, there’s every possible human emotion completed on this album, it’s very varied.

How would you describe the sound of the upcoming album?

There isn’t really a defining sound to it, it’s probably more detailed than ever. It’s the first album I’ve produced myself so the amount of hours that went into this album are quite a fair bit more than the previous ones. There was a lot of attention to detail and because of the variation on the album, you know, there’s an orchestral piece, electronica, there’s rock; there’s everything we’d ever sort of done and every era of Shikari is represented. It sounds very much like a sort of definitive album really.

Going back to production, how was it solo producing the album?

It was amazing, it felt like I didn’t really have a choice now. The music is so detailed now, there’s so much going on, there’s so much beneath that needs to be thought about simultaneously. It needs an amount of dedication and time and sweat and tears in decisions put into it and I just feel bad asking someone else from the outside to come in and put all that in so it’s just down to us, Rory was a massive help on the album, he engineered a lot of it and I suppose when you’re keeping hold of a lot of the creative range you’re there until the end. Obviously there are benefits to co-producing – that’s what we’ve always done. It can be amazing to have another brain in the studio; someone coming from a different angle but this one’s so in-depth that it was a lot of work and an incredible experience.

What track did you enjoy working on the most and why?

“Ugh, it’s so difficult. If I could increase I can give a fairly honest answer. I suppose these two are kind of dichotomies really, the complete opposite ends from each other. ‘Elegy for Extinction’, which is the orchestral track on the record, that was so enjoyable ‘cos it was so surreal. It was different from anything I’d ever done before; working with 70 musicians, like a whole orchestra. It was something else, it was mad. On the opposite end of the scale, ‘Apocaholics Anonymous’, which is essentially just interlude. That was just me sat at my computer for hours, for days, for months on end; it was very solitary. So there’s the complete spectrum on this album – there’s the grand, or possibly ever grand-iest – and then there’s the very solitary details if that makes any sense. But both of those experiences were so rewarding I’d probably have to go with those.”

So what actually influenced ‘Elergy for Extinction’ as it is such an interesting piece?

I’ve dabbled with classical writing for a long time and I guess I built up enough confidence to be able to say “I think we should have an orchestral track on this album really”. I think we should try and make a Shikari track which is purely orchestral. It’s something that was quite bold but that’s where we find our excitement, it’s pushing ourselves forward. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while and we’d also met people who could help us achieve it. George Fenton, one of my favorite composers. He was heavily involved in the orchestration and the arrangement of the track so having these people to be able to help us; who spend their lives in these areas was incredible, and it enabled us to achieve the might and the mad depth of this track.

So you’ve managed to create a clear album narrative. How was that possible?

That’s always the most difficult thing at the start, and possibly all the way through. At the start, you do really feel that you’re at the foot of a mountain, like how the fuck am I gonna do this. You have these desperate ideas and try to piece everything together and make it have some kind of flow, some kind of narrative, that’s absolutely the most difficult thing. At the start I’ll usually be full of anxiety I suppose, not knowing, you start to have imposter syndrome, like “ah god can we really do this again? Have I lost it? Can I still write music?” All those thoughts go around your head but you just have to stay focused and take it day by day, then before you know it a few weeks down the line you’ve got a few solid ideas and things start coming together. It’s just about remaining calm and letting yourself go with the music creation and finally the routes, narratives and ideas will all start to form.

What was the logic behind leading with ‘The Dreamers’ Hotel’ and how do you think it’s been received?

We’ve been really happy with how it’s been received. It was our manager that suggested leading with that one, and we all turned to each other and went “yeah I think you’re right”. There’s just so much energy on it; it feels very now. There’s an anger to it. There’s a real yearning for escapism on it. The anger and the fury. The tongue-in-cheek fury of the verses  and then the real willingness and hope for what ‘The Dreamers’ Hotel’ is supposed to represent. A space of peace and patience, cooperation, collaboration. All the good things about humanity that currently feel like they’re being squashed by social media becoming a really difficult place to have a conversation and everyone has their own biases and ideologies. We can’t really speak to each other anymore we just speak at each other. We just thought it was the perfect track to lead with. It’s a slap in the face, it grabs people’s attention.

Are there any tracks on the album that are a throwback to your previous work?

I think there’s nods to previous stuff throughout. That was probably one of the only conscious decisions that we made right at the beginning is that we wanted this album to feel quite definitive. Throughout our career we’ve been so adamantly looking forward; we’re all about progress and experimentation and keeping things moving forward. Over the last few years, I wrote a lyric book, with accompanying essays, for each track explaining what they were about so that sort of forced me to look back again. It was only then because we’d never done it, we began to realise how far we’d come and all the work we’d done in our careers. It was quite inspiring, it made me think it’s not so bad to look back every now and then so hopefully on the album there’s lots of little nods and inspirations that will come across from every era of our band is hopefully represented on this album.”

What would you say has changed between The Spark and Nothing is True and Everything is Possible?

They were very different experiences. It was almost like I was forced into writing that album [The Spark] because of my situation. The years we were in when writing The Spark were some of the most difficult of my life, there was a lot of hardship there. When you’re going through those periods in your life, when you have the opportunity to create it’s very difficult not to create something that is about your experiences. You feel completely driven to do it. I think with this album [Nothing is True and Everything is Possible], because I’m in a much better place that I felt a bit more freedom to choose what I write about. It’s not like I have to write about something. That enabled a feeling of experimentation and a feeling of calm, like let’s go with this. It’s a bit more calm and a bit more open, which was freeing really; I can’t really think of another way of putting it. It felt a bit more in control, therefore, the writing was much bolder. There’s a lot more diversity, a lot more instrumentation, diversity in the textures of this album.

After your massive UK tour back in early 2019, you’re known as a strong live band. What track off the album are you most looking forward to playing live?

I think all of it really. We’re gonna be using most of this summer to basically work out how to play it live. We decided not to do any UK festivals this year because it’s gonna be such a lot of work to get everything ready for the tour that we’re doing at the end of this year. We’re actually going to be getting some practice in at the studio next week for the first time to bosh ’em out. So it’s going to be interesting and a lot of work but I suppose the obvious one is ‘The Dreamers’ Hotel’. It’s going to be such a nice vibe, so energetic and it’s a real passionate one for the gang to sing back at us. That’s got to be top of the list at the moment. But honestly I can’t wait to play any of them.”

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible is available 17th April via SO recordings.

Catch the video for ‘The Dreamers’ Hotel below:

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