By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – Straight outta St Albans, Hertfordshire, England the upstart outfit known as Enter Shikari has been purveying its unique take on British electronic rock since coming together as a quartet in 2003. Over the past decade-and-a-half, Enter Shikari’s guitarist Liam “Rory” Clewlow, bassist Chris Batten, drummer Rob Rolfe and lead vocalist/keyboardist Rou Reynolds have been attacking the scene from the bastion of their own record label, the appropriately named Ambush Reality. Fans from many musical folds were quick to pick up on the group’s genre-melding style, which borrows heavily from the realms of electronica and experimental rock while mining everything from dubstep to hardcore punk and heavy metal for instrumentation and inspiration. The resultant ‘electronicore’ sound is a sleek but complex hybrid that has set charts and dance floors ablaze across the UK. It’s something audio-pioneer Reynolds describes as the inevitable outcome of tapping into their collective creative impulses.
“Music flows out of me like vomit from a projectile vomiting drunk. I’m just the guy with a bucket mopping it up. And it’s relentless,” jokes Reynolds.
“All I try and do with Shikari is specifically write when I feel inspired – not provoked – into writing. Though I have no qualms with music for music’s sake, it is definitely not music for music’s sake. It has soul and it has purpose.”
The inescapable gravity of modern life is a topic that Enter Shikari feels exceptionally well equipped to address. Appreciated for pushing political dialogue into the musical spotlight, the foursome rarely shies from the dark side of human existence. Opting instead to project vitriol outwards, Reynolds and his company of multi-instrumentalists excel at transforming simmering resentment and personal outrage into bust-a-move worthy art.
“Music has been a tool that has brought communities together for millennia. We are united by the fact that we are all vulnerable to music’s emotional power. So, in effect, we are just continuing to use music for the same means, to bring people together, indiscriminately. If that means being political then that’s what it means. It doesn’t bother me,” he acknowledges.
“First and foremost, I like to be realistic. And, that means sometimes everything does seem to be going to shit and sometimes things do seem truly hopeless. A negative outlook every now and then is honest. The main thing I try to do is constantly make sure I’m putting things into perspective. Things are sometimes disheartening, but often exciting. I’m lucky to be able to have potential and willpower to do small things to make the world a little better.”
One positive stride towards that noble goal comes in the form of Enter Shikari’s fifth and most recent full-length release, ‘The Spark’ (2017). Representing a steady progression that began with their certified-gold debut, ‘Take to the Skies’ (2007), ‘The Spark’ conjures a heavy-synth whirlwind that resonates with grimy layered vocals, brassy orchestral arrangements and rabble-rousing rhythms.
“There was a lot more opening up about my life and experiences and a real determined effort to let melody take the forefront with this album,” confirms Reynolds, who composed ‘The Spark’ over the course of a year.
“I wanted to concentrate on a more lucid style of music with a more personal, honest and open lyrical theme. The thing that we’ve found is, really it’s simply about the humans involved. If you’re working with people who truly understand and support your music that’s what matters most. Through experience we learnt that major labels probably aren’t right for us, as our music is too left field and our nature too erratic and unpredictable.”
So, how does that nonconformism and spontaneity translate from studio to stage? Strap on your jammy packs, kids!
“We’ve been lucky enough to play some really big shows in Europe and have been able to really transform each venue we play into our own environment by using surround-sound and synchronised visuals. It’s takes months of preparation and work, but is so incredible when it all comes together. Having the sounds swirl around your ahead is almost disorientating and creates such an exciting atmosphere.”
Enter Shikari performs Monday, Feb. 13 at Commonwealth Bar (Calgary), and Tuesday, Feb. 14 at The Starlite Room (Edmonton), and Friday, Feb. 16 at Imperial (Vancouver).Commonwealth Bar, Enter Shikari, Imperial, The Starlite Room