Injecting Positivity:
An Interview with Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari

Words by Emilia D’Albero
Photo by Corinne Cumming

Right on the heels of their recent European arena tour, Enter Shikari are soon headed to North America for one of their longest and most intimate tours to date. Armed with their latest release, The Mindsweep, they’ll take over New York’s Gramercy Theatre for a show on May 5.

I sat down for a Skype chat with frontman Rou Reynolds to discuss the message of The Mindsweep, what Americans can expect from the upcoming tour, and the time he stole a taco from my roommate but claims he doesn’t remember doing it…

Emilia: So, give us a little bit of insight. What are we going to expect from this tour?

Rou: Well we’ve just completed kind of the biggest European headliner of our lives, really, it was like a proper arena tour in the UK.

E: Yeah, that’s crazy!

R: Yeah, really surreal. It was amazing because we got to produce such a different show, so the production value was huge. But as with, I guess, most things in life, it made us kind of miss the thing that we weren’t doing, which was playing small, gritty, communal, intimate shows. And obviously that’s what the North American venues will be. So we’re just kind of really looking forward to playing punk rock shows again.

E: So let’s talk about the album a little bit. Your album, The Mindsweep, was great; I’ve listened to it a hundred times. Obviously you guys have always had very political subject matter that you talk about, but with this particular album, what is the specific message that you’re trying to convey? What do you want your fans to take away from this album?

R: The “mindsweep” is the sort of disparaging or cancelling out or dissuading of new philosophies, new ideas, different alternative ways of living or structuring society or anything like that. And obviously those in power often want to cling onto that power by any means necessary, so “mindsweep” is when those in power basically sweep the mind of any kind of new alternatives, new ways of thinking about things. So it’s quite, kind of Orwellian, really, in its influences. Every song has a very different theme and has its own sort of entity lyrically, so there’s a wide range of subjects on there. But I guess it’s not so much a warning, but rather a kind of…almost an emboldening, I suppose, like trying to build the confidence of people. Because often you can be born into this world and everything can seem much wiser and older than you, in the ways we’ve been structuring our society have been this way for hundreds of years and it’s “just the way it is, we have to accept it”…it’s basically just trying to say that, to use the cliché, thinking outside the box is a good thing and should be encouraged. Our education system doesn’t really give critical thinking and things like that the attention that it should, and it just kind of breeds workers instead of breeding minds. So this album is hopefully something that will inject some positivity and confidence in people and any new ideas that they have.

E: It’s been a while since it was released. How have the reactions to it been? Have they been what you were looking for? Was there anything surprising?

R: Critically, the reviews and everything were by far the best we’ve had and really consistent, as well, so that was great. The fans seem to love it. With every band, you’re always gonna get a proportion of people who are like “oh, why don’t you make music like the first album,” but you just have to sort of deal with that, I guess. But yeah, it’s been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re really, really happy.

E: Good to hear. I think it was a really great album; when you listen to it, you can really hear all the passion that you put into it, so congratulations. When I listened to it the first time, it was great- it was punk, it was electronic, it was passionate. Then you get to “Dear Future Historians…”, and it is, in my opinion, my favorite song on the album, and also one of the most beautiful songs you’ve ever written. But it’s so different, so I wanted to know where that inspiration came from.

R: Ah, thank you. As a piece of music, it had been around for a while, actually. We wrote it on an American tour. I was kind of a bit homesick, missing my family, my friends, my girlfriend, and it kind of developed to be something that was so epic and so grand. I sort of avoided writing lyrics to it for a while because I was a bit worried about not being able to do the music justice. Often, with how our work is, in writing the music, you let the feelings that the music conveys dictate what the lyrics will be. And so I found it quite hard to write that one. It’s kind of the first true Shikari love song, in a way. But not so much a “love song” as in what we would think of as the modern pop song, you know, like “oh, she’s so lovely, I love her so much,” that sort of banal, really boring, overdone style of pop music. It’s almost like an ode to love as an emotion and just how powerful it is and how mind-blowing it can be. I have to be conscious of not picking too grandiose of topics to write about, cause it can seem that we’ve got ideas above our station or we’re egotistical. But I think with the music, it kind of has to be the bigger subjects, the big philosophies and things. Anything smaller than that, I don’t think it would fit.

E: Yeah, definitely. You say that and immediately my mind went to the latest couple of Muse albums. I think that they’re obviously trying to tackle something huge there. But I’ve read a lot that you guys get Muse comparisons all the time.

R: Yeah, quite a bit. And obviously they’re kind of one of the biggest rock bands who are trying to include all sorts of influences and be a bit wacky while still keeping a kind of pop sensibility to it. They were a big influence for us starting out as well; we used to cover Muse tracks when we were like 13 or 14. So yeah, we still get the odd comparison.

E: So we’re super excited to have you perform in New York. (Fingers crossed that you play “Dear Future Historians…”). You’ve played here a few times before- what’s your favorite part about being here? Everyone says New York is one of the greatest cities in the world, but what’s your opinion?

R: Well, for quite a while we always used to play the same venues and see the same part- that one venue…what’s the one that’s like, right in the middle of Times Square pretty much?

E: Oh, um…fuckin’ Best Buy Theatre, I hate that place.

R: Yeah, we played there so much and so we were always just right in the thick of it. It’s cool, but I didn’t truly begin to understand that sort of global love for New York until I saw a lot more of it and got out of that touristy hustle and bustle.

E: I have to bring this up. When I told my roommate that I would be interviewing you, she went “Oh, dude. A few years ago, I saw them play in New Jersey, and he took my taco, he stole my taco out of my hand and smashed it against an amp. Can you ask him about that? Why did he do that?”

R: (laughs) What!?

E: It’s such a ridiculous story, I don’t even know if it’s true!

R: Does she…definitely know…it was…me? (laughs) I have no recollection of that, was it at a show? I’m not sure why I would do that! (laughs again).

E: She says you owe her a taco now. Anyway, I’ll try to finish up here. What’s next for you guys? What are your long-term goals, for this album, for this tour…what can we expect next?

R: After this, we’ll be sort of winding down. We’ve got a few European festivals over the summer and we’re doing a little tour in Australia later on in the year. Then it’s just writing again, really, and sort of working back up to whatever will follow. I’ve started demoing a little bit, but I think for the first time in kind of ever, really, I’ve actually got a bit of a vision of where I want us to go. With every album, it’s very much been like, I’ll write and see what happens. Whereas now, it really feels like next year will be sort of Shikari Mark II. We’ve been going together over 10 years now and I think this will be a real gear shift.

E: That’s awesome, good for you. Well thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. You guys are super talented and I can’t wait to see you perform in New York in a few weeks.

R: Thank you for having me! We’re really looking forward to coming back.

Catch Enter Shikari on tour now….see all dates here | The Mindsweep