Exclusive: Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds Talks New Album, Process and Inspiration

AUSTIN – The sounds of the upstairs neighbor shuffling about and their dog made the most noise in the otherwise quiet morning during this pandemic.

The quarantine had me preparing for this artist interview as if I were going for a job interview. I could not remember the last time I actually wore a t-shirt from my closet rack. But, I needed to at least look presentable so I put on my favorite Smiths t-shirt only appropriate given the weather and craziness happening recently here in Austin.

The mental preparation was enough for me to get my mind moving, it would be the first artist interview I’ve conducted while a worldwide pandemic is going on. There’s a first time for everything.

The night before I had the preview link of the new Enter Shikari album, “Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible” and listened to it in its entirety while drinking beer.

Some songs were just outrageous with my over-ear headphones and a decent volume range. The album was incredibly well done and put together. I had a sense of reminiscence as I listened to it. It reminded me of when their early records dropped and I was the later years in high school and in college. Lots of history there that I’d rather keep as very good memories until later, perhaps.

I opened up the Zoom app on my desktop and joined the meeting that I had scheduled with Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari. The lengthy discussion gave us a deeper inside look into certain tracks of the new record and also the process and creation going into it.

My conversation with Rou went something like this:

Jamie: Rou, thanks for taking the time to speak with me, how’s your day going so far?

Rou: Thank you for having me. Yeah, it’s good, it’s weird obviously with everything going on.  I haven’t really had a meaningful interaction with another human for almost two weeks now, just odd. It’s just me and my cat here at my flat. But, I’m hanging in there trying to promote the album. I can’t complain, my health, and my family.

Jamie: I think it’s very important to check in on others, it’s important to have these tools (zoom) to talk to each other.

It’s a great record, congratulations on the album.

Jamie: What was the process like putting this record together?

Rou: It was an ordeal [laughter], well yeah you know, it took the better part of the year, it was recorded in five different studios. A couple in England, a lot of it was recorded at my house, this was the first record I produced by myself. We also did a bit of it in Texas, Prague, and the Czech Republic.  What we set out to do with this album was to make our broadest record yet. Really focus on the musical agility. We really pride ourselves on it and not being afraid to be on a span of the musical spectrum. I think with that diversity, it then becomes realistic because you know life contains all sorts of emotions. We just want to be able to reflect that with our music and just have this broad palette to choose from in terms of the textures and the instrumentation.

Jamie: Do you feel that since you self produced the album, it allowed you to be more creative and have more input and feeling toward the album when writing the songs?

Rou: Yeah, I co-produced the last few albums. I think it was just the case of learning from those people and just building up the experience and confidence.  There’s so much detail in this album, I think it needed, basically,  I felt bad asking another human being to produce the record because it needed so much time and effort. I felt that if it came from one place it would be a lot of original ideas and passion wouldn’t get lost in the process if I was always at the helm. Often, I write a demo and the record we make is great and happy with it, then I go back to the demo and be like we actually like this magic here and the edge there. I just wanted to retain that feeling.

Jamie: Do you feel like since winning Kerrang! Awards 2018: Best Album for “The Spark” that there is more pressure putting the new record together?

Rou: Records are always hard to make, especially right at the beginning. You almost get like, choice paralysis or you just get the anxiety of it, you get frozen.  You’ve just climbed one mountain that you’re really happy with, the last album. When you’re expected to write another one it’s like standing at the foot of Mt. Everest. You’re like..oh my god how am I going to do this again. Starting an album is always full of trepidation for me regardless of any accolades. This album I came out from such a different place, the making of “The Spark” was a really dark period in my life. I went through a lot of hardships in a short amount of time. So, making “The Spark” I felt coerced into writing about those things. I had to write about those things. With this album, I’m in a much more comfortable place and a stable place. I felt more freedom. I could choose what I wanted to write.

Jamie: You could tell from “The Spark” to “Nothing Is True” that there is a clear departure, it’s very raw and there are bits and pieces of sounds from your classic albums on your record. When I heard the track, “Reprise 3” it was such a strong callback to “Take To The Skies” which I really appreciate and I think the fans will be pleasantly surprised when they hear it.

“And still, we will be here standing like statues.” You finally have a statue on the cover of your album. I feel like it spans a nearly two-decade career for you all as a band.

Jamie: Do you feel like this might be a spiritual successor to “Common Dreads” or any of your classic albums?

Rou: Yeah, that was actually a definitive choice and decision that we made on the onset. So a few years ago I wrote the book, “Dear Future Historians,” which is all of my lyrics together compiled with essays that basically go into the meaning of the lyrics and the inspirations behind them. That was the first time I looked back at our journey and sort of really got a sense of where we have come from and all the different areas that we’ve explored as a band and musicians. That sort of inspired me to make an album that has these little tips of the hat you know [laughter] and little nods of different albums and eras of the band and tried to make a record that felt definitive. It was an aim I suppose, one of the goals of this record was to make a record that was all-encompassing.

Jamie: Yeah, it definitely sounds like that. A lot of the tracks are very well produced. The instrumentation on “Elegy For Extinction” is fantastic.

Jamie: Do you feel like maybe you could pursue scoring movies or shows? That sound was just so raw. When I heard that track, I heard it back-to-back twice and it almost felt like I was watching a mini-movie in my head from a Hero’s Journey to end a little bit. 

Rou: Yeah, I would absolutely love to. I haven’t written music for film or TV since university.  I did one year at uni doing music technology and composition before we had to drop out because the band was taking off so much. The main thing I remember really enjoying was writing music to film.  We had one semester where we were doing loads of that then. I would love to go into it. We’re always looking for things to explore.

Jamie: Were there any surprises on the new album after hearing it from start to finish that really stood out to you?

Rou: Yeah, “Modern Living” is a track that was, we probably didn’t see the kind of result that we eventually made as we were making it. Listening back to it now, it’s a really strong track, it’s really different for us. I can’t wait to play it live, it has a sort of swagger to it. This kind of slow confidence. What was really quite simple, it’s a really simple classic guitar riff, I think it’s going to be a real fun one live.

Jamie: You say that it’s a classic rock sound, but it punches you in the gut in a good way. I put my headset on and put the bass and vibrations. People are going to be jumping around to that track.  I like how it leads into “Apocoholics Anonymous.”

Author note: I called the track alcoholics anonymous and Rou quickly corrected my flub. 

Jamie: What was the process behind “Apocoholics Anonymous?” It sounds like a fun track and it sounds like you had a fun time making it. 

Rou: It’s “Apocoholics Anonymous.” It’s a play on words. It’s a portmanteau, I believe is the word. It’s combining alcoholics and the apocalypse. It means that someone who is addicted to the apocalypse.  It’s almost like a self-knowing bit of self-critique because I think anyone who is paying attention can see that there are so many threats in life. Be it from people of questioning intelligence and morals on the nuclear button. Be it a catastrophic climate change, be it antibody resistance, health crisis, all of these things that could potentially destroy civilization. It’s very easy to fall into that nihilistic, “omg its the end of the world today,” “omg it’s coming this week.” It’s a play on that while not trying to take away from the seriousness of our situation. It’s a real sort of, it’s kind of a fun track. Even when we’re dealing with huge subjects, it’s important to make sure not to lose our sense of playfulness I think. It’s a real innate part of human nature. Comedy, I suppose in general, can be a good defense mechanism. When times are really difficult or struggling with crises or threats. It’s good to remind yourself that you’re alive and that you still have the ability to make a joke and connect with other human beings. That’s what that song does. It’s kind of like remixing “Modern Living” right away.

Jamie: “Marionnettes 1 and 2” almost sounds like it is a mini record in that second half of the album because the elements switch, lots of different sounds, synths, and beats. How in your mind did you put that together?

Rou: Yeah, that was a beast to make. Basically, it’s kind of telling the story of didactic fiction. It basically tells the story of puppets discovering their strings and trying to imagine what that would be like. It’s a frivolous exercise, it’s fun to imagine that your whole life you think you have complete control of your actions and suddenly your whole species discovers that you are being controlled by some higher power. Just how sort of disconcerting and how disorienting that would be. But then, it makes the wider point still even though the process getting to that truth would be difficult and learning the truth would be painful and scary but still, the truth is better to be known. Then to be ignorant of it. That’s why it ends with the line,” truth hurts but truth frees.” It can be a very freeing notion, truth. Musically, it starts off as kind of like a wild western soundtrack or something. Then it goes through the breakbeat and influences of rave and electronica. Then there’s a lot of post-hardcore influences, especially in “Marionnettes 2.” Really interesting synth work, there’s a lot of sampling of bells and chimes in the chorus too. Also, lots of playing with rhythm, there’s really jarring bars of rhythm in the drum beats. Sort of makes you feel like, uh, that’s not quite correct. We did a lot of micro-rhythms. It’s supposed to give you a sense of discomfort. With Enter Shikari, it’s important that you always comforted by our music. Sometimes you should feel discomfort because it’s a reflection on life.

Jamie: There’s a part in “Marionettes 2” that’s about a minute and 20 seconds in that feel likes the climax of that song starts around that range and it just keeps building from there as you mentioned. Now that you explained the meaning of the song I get it.  It’s a great track,  the fans are going to love the album. It might be a love letter to Enter Shikari fans. We talked about this previously, its got bits and pieces for everyone. I feel like there is a large notion of freedom on the album.  You can clearly hear that with each track, and it sounds like you had fun producing the album alongside the rest of the band.

Jamie: What are the band’s thoughts on the album being complete? Since we’re not able to hang out physically, do you feel like it has brought you guys closer now that it’s done?

Rou: Yeah, for sure. It was so much fun as it always is. I know they are super proud of the album. There were lots of things we did differently on this one. The drums are one of the reasons why I wanted to produce the album myself was to really concentrate on the drums and the drum sound. Just the sense of rhythm throughout the album I think, me and Rob have never worked as closely as we have and I think you could really tell. The individual sounds of each drum on each record to the general variety of rhythms and percussion. That really stood out. Rory was a massive help on this album, he basically helped in the engineering of it. He did a lot of like the real nitty-gritty leg work in terms of programming and things. He was a huge help. Chris is sort of like, he programs the live show. He is the wizard that puts it all together and enables us to reproduce our music live. He now has the difficult job of putting it all into Ableton software we use live and working out who’s going to play what and what type of keyboard at what point. Basically, how we’re going to replicate it all. Yeah, I think as a band we feel like such a tight unit now and everyone is a piece in the whole entity. It feels like a natural and enjoyable process at this point.

Jamie: It sounds like you guys are a tight brotherhood. A lot of bands don’t really make it 20-years as a four-piece without disbandment. It’s great to hear that you guys work together to put this album together. People enjoy your live shows. It’s an experience. People have not seen Enter Shikari definitely need to see Enter Shikari live.

Jamie: Do you have a message for any fans out there going through the quarantine?

Rou: Yeah, what can I say. Well, we’re certainly going to be stepping up our communication with our fanbase, especially as the album is released next week.  I’m going to start doing more live streams, I did one yesterday. I wanted to wait because I ordered a lot of equipment and I wanted to do it properly. Also, I wanted to think of actual ideas instead of me being on Insta live reading comments not knowing what to do.  We’re going to be doing acoustic sets but also live guided meditations. Which I think is very important. I think now is a great time to learn mindfulness. It’s helped me to no end, it could help everyone. I want to take all the mysticism out of it, I can’t be bothered with all the mumbo jumbo. I’m very interested in the science of it and how it can help us understand our own minds. Our own mind is a very turbulent place. So I’m going to start doing that and start doing some live DJ sets so we can have little raves in our houses. We’re going to have some fun and make the best of this bad situation. Definitely want to send my love and strength to everyone who is going through all sorts of problems and having to deal with any hardships right now. Big love to everyone out there.

Jamie: Those words are very positive and uplifting and I think a lot of people appreciate those words. Your fanbase is wild and fun. I went to the subreddit for Enter Shikari and I like seeing how the reactions are when you guys post new tracks. When you guys dropped “The Great Unknown,” everyone was freaking out on the subreddit. They loved it. Lots of positive comments toward the song. Lots of people anticipating the album, so I’m sure they’ll appreciate all these words.

Nothing is True & Everything is Possible out everywhere on April 17th.

Rou one last question for you, what is your favorite track off the album?

Rou: Aw, don’t do this to me. I mean you know, it changes every day, I’m still excited about it all. What could I go for? “Crossing the Rubicon,” as we’re ending on this positive note. I think it’s one of the most positive tracks on the album, one of the most optimistic. It’s the importance of being bold, the importance of community, and the importance of perseverance, so I feel like it’s a good track for our current situation. It was so much fun to make as well. It’s a really good sing-along song to be arm in arm. It’s one of those. At some point,  we’ll be singing it together.

Jamie: Thanks for chatting with us today.

Rou: My pleasure, thanks for having me today.

Have a comment? Tweet me:

Tweet me here: twitter.com/jamiebarriento

This article was originally published on News 4 San Antonio.