Interview: Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari
Enter Shikari frontman Rou Reynolds played a short acoustic set at Rough Trade on Sunday in support of his new book ‘Dear Future Historians,’ which is a collection of all the Shikari lyrics, including essays explaining them. This is the second edition of the book, and this time round includes the lyrics from the most recent Shikari album ‘The Spark.’ Rou performed several songs off ‘The Spark,’ including lead single ‘Live Outside,’ and also played ‘Constellations’ from 2012’s ‘A Flash Flood of Colour,’ which has been a live rarity lately. It is a refreshing experience to see these songs in an acoustic format, and Rou makes them seem as if they had been written for acoustic performances rather than the arenas that they are usually played in.
I also had the opportunity to chat to Rou about the book, the future of Shikari and the ten-year anniversary of ‘Common Dreads.’ Here’s what he had to say:
Do you think a book explaining the lyrics is going to be a feature of every album now?
I think it’s almost expected of us now. It’s a lot of work but I do enjoy it, and it makes an interesting companion piece to the music. I would be happy to do it for every song that needs it. You can never really tell what’s next.
Was it harder to write about the newer or older songs?
Definitely the older ones, purely because of my memory. I felt like a detective having to go back through old lyric sheets and diaries. I had to get onto my parents’ old computer and look at some files on there.
As a big mental health advocate was it harder to do this smaller acoustic shows without the rest of the band?
It was strange. I’ve done a few acoustic sets before but not too many. It’s still a learning process for me but by the end of this run I was much more confident having had more experience on stage by myself. It is strange for it to be just me on there – no production and just me playing guitar. It’s a very raw experience, and is a good way to separate whether someone can actually sing when you leave them on stage alone with a guitar.
Why did you decide to do a tour of smaller venues on the last one compared to the arenas?
We just felt it was time to play something smaller again. One of the good things about our band is that we can adapt to so many different sizes of stage, and we enjoy playing the ridiculously big shows and the tiny sweaty club shows. With the current climate of venue closures all over the country we wanted to get off the beaten track and support the cities who don’t always get the tours running through them.
The era of The Spark is over, how are the summer shows going to be different because of this?
Now we’re in a very strange no-man’s land. It’s an exciting time because we’re shedding the skin of ‘The Spark’ and starting to think about what comes next. It’s a very experimental phase and after every album we always question ourselves before launching into the next one. We’re in the stage of bringing ideas together at the moment but haven’t got a direction yet. The summer shows are going to be very varied sets and have something from every era of the band.
So no new music before the end of the year then?
Well we’re finally going to release ‘Stop the Clocks’ before the end of summer but nothing else this year.
What’s going to happen to Sparky then?
I’m not really sure yet. It’ll still be part of the show because it works brilliantly live and we love the aesthetic but maybe not such a focus.
Are you doing anything for the 10-year anniversary of Common Dreads?
We don’t have any special shows planned. There will certainly be songs from that album on the festival shows though. We only really did the Take To The Skies anniversary shows because that was our very first album, but if we did that for every album then we’d be doing anniversary tours every two years and it would be a bit too much.
Are you writing about current events?
Lyrics usually come last, but it’s hard to write about contemporary affairs because things move so fast at the moment then the lyrics could be out of date if I write something now and then it isn’t released until autumn 2020. If The Spark was an album of perseverance then the next album will be one of anguish.
As a touring band are you worried about the logistical effects of Brexit?
Yeah there’s a lot of uncertainty around it because we don’t know what those will be yet. We do okay and we have the contacts to navigate it so we should be alright with touring Europe still, but it’s the smaller bands who will struggle the most – especially with the financial side of things.
Who would be your dream band to tour with?
That’s a hard one, we’ve been so lucky to tour with so many of our heroes. Just after we released the first album we were able to support The Prodigy and Linkin Park on arena shows, and Biffy Clyro in America. Even doing headliners by ourselves we had Hundred Reasons support us who are one of our biggest influences. We feel like we’ve achieved most of our dreams. Today I get more excited by fresh younger bands doing exciting things such as Black Peaks on our last tour.
What have been your favourite shows recently?
At the moment it’s the acoustic sets because I enjoyed them far more than I thought I would. The European tour we just did was really consistent as well, it’s quite rare for me to enjoy an entire tour as much as I did for that one. I think a lot of that is down to what I’ve learnt about mental health and self-care and also potentially us becoming closer as a band too. France has notoriously been a pretty tough one for us, probably because of the fact that 70% of music on the radio in France has to be French, but this time round we had some excellent shows all throughout different regions, not just in Paris. It was so unexpected for them to be so good.
Is the quadrophonic sound going to remain a staple of future Shikari sets?
When the venue is big enough I think it would be hard not to do it now. Humanity is very quick to acclimatise to new tricks and then it becomes normalised and we want them all the time, like phones for example. I think that’ll be the same psychology for us – it’s been incredible to create that surround sound atmosphere which made every show so much more theatrical and it would now feel like we were lacking something if we didn’t continue to do that. We constantly want to be pushing forward with new technologies as a band.
How are your two sets in one day at Reading and Leeds going to differ?
They are going to be completely different sets – not one song the same. There’s no theme to either, they’re just going to be tracks from every era of the band.
Any plans for any more collaborations along the lines of Big Narstie?
Yeah I think so, there’s a few ideas going around at the moment. Potentially for the new album or potentially for individual singles. In the last year and a half I’ve been doing a lot of writing for projects outside of Shikari and it has slowly taught me how to collaborate. As someone who has only written for myself and my band I’ve seen music as quite a personal world, but I’m slowly learning to write with other people, which frightened me before.
Any personal favourite releases lately?
The new Skepta album, I’m looking forward to the new Rhythm Methods album, Kate Tempest has got some new stuff coming out, and I’m enjoying Frank Carter’s End of Suffering as well. A big variety.
How do you get your hair to do its signature thing?
It’s basically just a shit-tonne of hairspray. There’s a particular hairspray that doesn’t use any water which doesn’t weigh it down at all.