I had the pleasure of talking to Enter Shikari’s frontman Rou Reynolds about the band’s new album ‘The Spark’, their upcoming UK tour and their beginnings in Hertfordshire…
First of all, what inspired the title of your new album ‘The Spark’?
Rou: I try to make album titles which are very literal in what I hope the album will be for people who listen to it. ‘The Spark’ is trying to be a piece of work which will ignite some feeling of positivity or hope. I want it to spark something. A lot of the songs are about coming through adversity, seeing the light and making connections.
What song from ‘The Spark’ are you most looking forward to playing live?
Rou: We’ve only practiced a few of the songs so far, ready for a release show this weekend. But I’d say ‘Rabble Rouser’ is going to sound absolutely ridiculous live, I can’t wait to play that! In terms of energy, that’s the one I’m looking forward to the most. But there’s another song on the record called ‘Take My Country Back’ which is really upbeat and quite serious. On the flip side of that, there’s ‘Airfield’ which is a much slower, piano-led track.
When your new single ‘Live Outside’ first came out, I read a few comments on Twitter and people seem to think that it appeals more to the ‘mainstream’ market and given what you’ve said about simplifying the songwriting, does that help to reach new audiences?
Rou: Sometimes it’s actually quite hard to figure out what a ‘mainstream’ audience is going to like! When we’ve had our most success at stations such as Radio 1, it’s been with songs that we totally did not expect to do so well. One of our songs, ‘The Paddington Frisk’, is basically 2 minutes of shouting and noise but somehow it got onto the A-List at Radio 1 and it was being played every day! ‘Live Outside’ seems to have got the attention of people who wouldn’t normally listen to Enter Shikari, which can only be a good thing. We’re just trying to connect with as many people as we can, so as long as that’s happening, I’m happy.
‘Live Outside’ gives me a feeling of ‘united frustration’ with everything that’s going on in the world at the moment, but I know that your songs mean different things to different people. Can you sum up the meaning of the song from your point of view?
Rou: Frustration is definitely the key feeling of that song… and escapism, wanting to get away from everything. I wrote it during an intense period in my personal life, going through loss and mental health problems. But at the same time, it was a tumultuous period for politics, so it kind of sums up this feeling of being overwhelmed. So whether it’s getting outside of your head because of all the negative things going on up there, or trying to run away from global political issues.
You’ve got a big UK tour coming up in November, what can fans expect from this tour?
Rou: We’re going to be playing a lot of songs from the new album ‘The Spark’, but we will definitely be playing some older stuff as well. It should be quite a varied setlist, we’re working on it at the moment. They’ll be a few songs from every era of the band and it’s going to be in surround sound, which we used on the last tour. We learnt so much from that on the last tour, about the technical aspects of sound, so it should sound even better this time.
I love the two new music videos you’ve put out, they give off a futuristic Hunger Games/Divergent vibe. Are we going to be seeing videos as creative and unique as this in the future?
Rou: We haven’t planned any videos for the next single, which will be ‘The Sights’. But the two we’ve released so far were directed by the same guy, Bob Gallagher, so we’ve become friends with him now so hopefully we’ll get to work with him again on videos in the future.
You used to play in a few small club venues such as Club 85 in Hitchin, did you ever think back then that you’d be playing such huge venues in the future and touring around the world?
Rou: Absolutely not, I often say that music is a hobby which just got out of control! I remember when we started playing gigs outside of St Albans and that felt really exciting. We never had ambitions of being big for the sake of being big or to play arenas. It’s crazy that the same music has got us into such huge venues.
Who are a few of your biggest musical influences?
Rou: Probably David Bowie, after he died I found myself revisiting his entire back catalogue of music. I was always a fan, but I went really deep into all of his music and learnt a lot about singing and having the confidence to increase my vocal range. He had such an incredible range.
Can you tell me a fact or two about yourself which you think fans may not already know?
Rou: Well, the first instrument I ever learnt was the trumpet, surprisingly! I started playing when I was about 8 and then when I reached about 14 or something, I thought it wasn’t very cool to play the trumpet so I wanted to learn how to play guitar instead.
You’ve performed at Reading Festival many times, has there been one year which was your favourite?
Rou: There are two which stand out, I think it was 2009 and 2013, they felt like really special performances. I think 2009 was the year when we broke the record for the number of crowd surfers on the main stage. Reading is definitely one of those festivals where you look out and think “F**k this is crazy!”.
Do you prefer performing at festivals or at headline shows?
Rou: I love playing outside at festivals, it’s so special to be performing and then look up to see the sky. It makes it a really raw and natural experience, ‘connecting with nature!’ [laughs]
You’ve played festivals outside of the UK, which have been some of your favourites?
Rou: Pukkelpop in Belgium is an amazing festival! Sziget in Hungary is comparable to Glastonbury, it’s huge and diverse. Rock Am Ring in Germany is really good. We’ve been really lucky to be able to play festivals all over the continent.
Finally, do you have any advice for any of our students who are aspiring to become successful musicians?
Rou: Make sure you keep pushing yourself and indulge yourself in all sorts of styles of music. Experiment until you hone a sound which becomes original and interesting. Say ‘yes’ to everything, play every gig you can and play each one like it’s your last. The music industry is so saturated, especially in America, so it’s difficult to get your head above the noise. There’s a lot of luck involved as well, people don’t often talk about that… We know so many great bands who just haven’t ‘made it’ and have broken up now, which is really sad.
Thank you so much for your time Rou!
Rou: Thanks for your support!
Enter Shikari’s new album ‘The Spark’ is out now, via Play It Again Sam