‘Nothing is True & Everything is Possible’ was the album Enter Shikari put “more time, effort and tears” into according to Rou Reynolds so, naturally, they’ve felt in limbo, unable to gauge the reception to their work thanks to being unable to play live, since its release in April.
The band was always taking the summer off to plan how they’d realise the album live, and rehearsals started up again a few months ago, but without “that reality” of performing live, as Rou describes, it doesn’t feel like they’ve released the album yet.
Instead, Rou – who also produced ‘Nothing is True’ – has been writing a book on the themes of the album in a similar vein to the band’s ‘Dear Future Historians’ work, and it is due for release next year. He also penned an open letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak about supporting the UK music industry and started up a mindfulness podcast too.
Looking back on the year, Rou talks us through the impact 2020 has had on the band, and the narrative of ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’.
Having written this album last year, are you surprised how self-fulfilling a lot of the album has become?
I’ve never really had an interest in being a Doomsday prophet or something, but I think the underlying systemic pressures and structures are now so clearly pointing humanity in a direction, that it is quite easy to make at least some subtle predictions about what’s gonna happen. But, because it’s one of those things we’ve been talking about, as well as many sane people, until there are actual structural changes, things are just gonna get worse and worse.
So, I think part of me just isn’t surprised anymore that we can write a piece of music that may, on the surface, have a lot of poetic license and be fictionalised or slightly hyperbolic and then it turns out a year later, no, it was none of those things, it was actually just a description of life at the moment. That’s happened a few times, and I think on this album, it’s taken it up to a whole new level.
‘Nothing is True…’ also holds tightly onto optimism too, and that’s important not to forget, but how has your optimism been tested this year?
There’s a massive part of the book which is all about this, how to balance hope and optimism and pessimism and realism and what’s the most healthy way of thinking. For me, it just seems to fluctuate. We’re all so influenced by our environment; if you’re scrolling through my Twitter timeline, with the people I follow, pessimism will bludgeon you around the head. But at the same time, if you concentrate more on the positive aspects of technology and the news stories that are generally interesting, our scientific ingenuity is still spellbinding, it’s still incredible, and there’s much to be optimistic about.
Is mindfulness how you maintain the balance?
I find that really helps me; it still really flummoxes me that it’s not a complete part of our curriculum growing up. To be able to be more in control of your mental health and your mental state and to be able to be more aware of the intricacies of how your mind works. To be more aware of how rumination works, how anxiety works, how it grips you, how it can take you over.
Mindfulness, for me, it’s like a dog by my side, it’s been my best friend. It’s been a really helpful tool, and a lot of the feedback from the podcast that I started and things have been really good. I think people have sort of appreciated an introduction to the topic and it’s helped a lot of people, which has been awesome. It’s not for everyone, some people still don’t get it or can’t be arsed with it or whatever, and that’s fine, it’s just a bit of information there that can help people that feel like it may help them.
There seems to have been a real split this year in people that have been inspired to create music out of the situation we are in, and those who have felt overwhelmed by it – where do you fall?
We were still doing all the final touches on the album in January, but since we mastered the album I certainly haven’t done any writing whatsoever, all the music I’ve done has just been like little livestreams and acoustic stuff. I’m not entirely sure why that is, I think a big part of it is literally just being sort of perplexed by everything and not being able to know where to start, or how to be inspired. I think part of it also was that ‘Nothing is True…’ was such an intense experience, producing it as well as being the writer that I think part of me is just like, ‘I’m done with that style of work for a while’.
Also, I think with the book, it enables me to have that outlet of criticism and social commentary but without relying on equal effort from creativity as well. I’m able to make these points without having to put it to a beat. In some ways, it’s easier, and of course, you can go into so much more detail, and I think that’s what I’d be more inspired to do, really go into more detail now, because I’m so sick of what’s going on. I haven’t really felt inspired to write music because you can only go so far with criticism and social commentary in music. I think it can be very powerful emotionally, and you can affect people, and you can explain concepts, dive into philosophies on a sort of surface level, but I think the book has enabled me to go a lot deeper which I feel like I needed to do. I’m not sure when I’m gonna pick up the pencil again, or the guitar or whatever it is, but I suspect it probably won’t be until next year or something.
Taken from the December 2020 / January 2021 issue of Upset, out now.