Rou Reynolds – Enter Shikari ‘Writing Music Is About Emotion and Instinct’

Enter Shikari have released their seventh album, A Kiss For The Whole World (our review here), and have overcome some serious challenges to do so. Their last album, Nothing Is True & Everything Is Ordinary, was released in the peak pandemic times of 2020, and saw the band trying to deal with an album release when the world was shut down. We’re all out the other side now, and we can see how Enter Shikari’s music has developed since.

I called up frontman Rou Reynolds to talk about it, and also pranked him by using the same meerkat picture as my zoom background that he used three years ago (evidence here).

At the time of our chat, the band were at the end of a run of five shows in the UK, and he was absolutely knackered as the band are very well known for extremely energetic live shows.

Rou, how are you finding playing five highly energetic shows again?

I’m in a massive hydration phase and it’s amazing how much difference it makes. Like, my voice is at 90%, which after five shows in a row, that’s never happened before. But no alcohol, four litres of water a day and yeah, does me wonders.

And I’m sure you’re practicing for the new album, A Kiss For The Whole World. You must be so excited for everyone to hear it.

Absolutely. You know, whenever you finish an album and have it all mastered and then you’ve gotta get it manufactured, and vinyl times these days or ages. So usually you’re sitting on it for like, six months or something. So you’re like, oh my God, I just want people to hear it.

It’s been a tough couple of years through the pandemic, and you’ve said that you didn’t write music for two years. What was going on there?

Yeah, I basically just lost the urge to write, and lost the ability to write throughout the whole pandemic period. I’ve retrospectively learned that I need human connection, I need live shows, and that sense of purpose, that sense of cyclical energy, that sense of connection—that’s fuel for me as a songwriter.

So as soon as the pandemic hit, it was like my mind just decided that if you can’t physically be in a space and share music, what’s the point in writing it? And it just sort of shut off, which was a very disorienting, and disconcerting thing, really. You know, I’ve written music since I was like 10 years old, so I’ve never gone through anything like that. So yeah, it was quite scary at times. But, once we started playing shows again, I finally and slowly got my confidence and my ability back.

Well, it’s good to hear it’s back and we have a new album out of it. I thoroughly enjoy it, and quite a few of the songs, especially like the opening track, ‘A Kiss For The Whole World’, it feels very movie-like, as in the opening song for like a really cool action montage and like everything’s happening and it’s awesome and cool. I feel like so many of the songs could actually fit into a soundtrack, is that something that you also think or am I just making this up?

I mean that would be nice! Getting your music on films and stuff is the dream. That’s sort of one of the only ways left to make money in this business. I write very instinctually, and occasionally I’ll imagine playing it live as I’m writing. But other than that, it’s very of the moment and what feels right.

I write very much. It’s quite a solitary experience to me and all about emotion and instinct, so I’m not really thinking very consciously about what I want this to sound like or what I want this to achieve.

Yeah, I can hear that there are a lot of different emotions being conveyed in this album, and the orchestra that you have like reappearing on multiple tracks! ‘Bloodshot Coder’, what an awesome track, when did you know you needed an orchestra in there?

I dunno! I mean, it’s something now that we’ve just absorbed as part of our musical palette. You know, I grew up playing the trumpet, that was the first instrument that I learned. And I remember playing in the orchestra at school and that was my first experience of playing with other people and that I immediately fell in love with that. The idea of being a small part in a really big sound and just playing your part, I love that. So I guess that’s why I was also drawn to being in bands as well.

Yeah, it’s just something I’ve always enjoyed. My parents had quite a broad range of music in the house and it lots of it classical, and so I’ve always loved writing orchestral stuff.

Oh! So you composed it all?

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I love it. With an orchestra, you obviously just feel so powerful. You have all of these timbres and textures that you can utilise. And when it comes to Shikari, we’re trying to convey a lot of different emotions in our music, it’s extremely diverse. So, it really helps, and you’ve got all these textures and instrumentation to pick from basically.

Interesting! I feel like maybe orchestral music or classical music isn’t super accessible for people in our industry our music scene, but I feel like you’ve really brought it in, in a really easy listening way.

There are certain moments or movements within classical music throughout the centuries. That is like the first punk movements really. You take Stravinsky, you take Wagner, these are people who were making people walk out of their performances, you know, because they were so shocked and so disgusted by the intensity and the ferocity of their music. There are so many people within classical music who have just pushed the boundaries, so it’s hugely influential for me as a songwriter.

Definitely. And then I guess this leads into all the sounds that you play with as well, like the track ‘Dead Wood’, there are so many cool sounds in there. Surely you had like a bunch of fun in the studio with figuring out what to put in there?

It was one of the most wholesome recording experiences ever. I had this dream of basically going into the woods in the middle of nowhere and recording an album. I’d been reading a lot of Henry David Thoreau and he has a book called Walden where he just goes and lives in the woods in Massachusetts for two years. And I just found that romanticised vision of being away from everything and just being able to focus on the music really magnetising. I wanted to do something that helped us reconnect as people, you know, because following the pandemic we hadn’t been a band, we weren’t playing shows, and we weren’t writing and recording music. We ceased to exist to a certain extent, so it was about reconnecting with each other, and feeling like a band again.

So we got this little farmhouse on the south coast of England and there was kind of a radius of two miles where there was just nothing, just fields and little pockets of woodland. We had deer roaming the fields in front of the house—it was extremely picturesque. And it was completely off grid, which was another box we wanted to tick. The album was completely solar powered, so only renewable energy was used in the recording of this album, which was awesome, although it did come with its difficulties. Like, we couldn’t record guitar and boil a kettle at the same time, so we had to schedule the day quite intently. But yeah, it was an amazing experience. It was just us four and our engineer George and it was just a really pure experience just five weeks coming up with everything in that farmhouse. It was great.

That sounds amazing. Now, I know they’re all your babies and it’s hard to play favourites, but does one rise above the others that you’re really proud of?

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot, it almost changes from month to month. But, I hadn’t listened to the album for about a month, and I put it on the other day when we were in Japan. I was walking through the streets of Tokyo at like 2:00 AM obviously completely jet lagged, didn’t know what was going on, but yeah, ‘Jail Break’. It just hits me so hard still, it’s a very personal song about personal growth and kind of escaping the confines of who you sort of think you are, your limitations and how you think about yourself and stuff. But it’s such a sort of upbeat, uplifting, euphoric like banger as well. So yeah, I can’t wait to play that one live.

I’m excited. I know, I’m sure you’re ready for the whirlwind album cycle tour. Do you have any news on when you might be coming back down to Australia?

We’re definitely working on it! It’s gonna happen. I can’t actually remember when we were looking at, it was either the beginning of next year or maybe late this year. But yeah, obviously cannot wait, it’s gonna be fun. I’ve really wanted to do like a more of an extensive tour of Australia as well, like go to more of the towns and more off the beaten track paces. I’d love to do something like that.

I’m sure we’ve got some great orchestras that you can just call up and be like, ‘Hey guys, can you learn this in like a week?’

Oh God, yeah. That would be amazing. Expensive though! But that’s the dream.

Rou thank you so much for your time, and congrats on the new album!

Thanks, Ebony.

Interview by Ebony Story @ebonyrose.s

A Kiss For The Whole World is out now!

enter shikari - a kiss for the whole world

Enter Shikari – A Kiss For The Whole World tracklisting

1. A Kiss for the Whole World x
2. (pls) set me on fire
3. It Hurts
4. Leap into the Lightning
5. feed yøur søul
6. Dead Wood
7. Jailbreak
8. Bloodshot
9. Bloodshot (Coda)
10. goldfĭsh ~
11. Giant Pacific Octopus (i don’t know you anymore)
12. giant pacific octopus swirling off into infinity…

About Ebony Story (211 Articles)
Wall of Sound Music Journo & Podcast Host // Loving the heavy heavy