Upset favourites Enter Shikari are back at Download once again, raring to take things to the next level. Touring non-stop since the release of ‘The Spark’, singer Rou Reynolds and bassist Chris Batten stop by for a catch up on site at a muddy Donington.
Hiya Enter Shikari – you must be Download regulars by now?
Chris: [I think we’ve done] four or five? I’d probably say five. Once in 2006, headlined the second stage twice, did a secret show… so maybe this is the fifth?
And how are you feeling for it, do you know what to expect now?
Rou: In terms of this specific festival, we’ll be interested to see if the crowd has any energy, or any will to live left after the mud and the rain. It’s always a worry with headlining Sunday night, but yeah we’re excited. The set is completely new, we tried it out yesterday with the warm-up show in Nottingham, and it went well. It feels really exciting, lots of interesting with fresh interludes and things. It’s a relentless one; it’s one of the heaviest – obviously, it’s Download, so we’re edging towards our heavier stuff.
You mention the changes in set and evolving – is that peeking toward the next chapter?
Chris: We are gearing up to write the next record, but yeah, we made a lot of work for ourselves over the last few weeks. We’ve got so many different types of festivals we want to try and cater for everything, so that meant like five different sets to rehearse and plan, which for us isn’t that easy because there’s a lot of electronic going on, so it all takes a bit of time.
How do you keep the live show feeling fresh, especially with such a busy schedule all the time?
Rou: It’s by doing the changes, keeping the set fresh. It’s a lot of work – mainly for Chris here who does all the live programming, which is awesome. It keeps the shows honest because if we’re excited about the set, then it’s going to come across. Whereas if we’re playing the same songs with the same structure, they’ve always been, even though it’s the best job in the world it’s still going to grate after the two hundredth time.
Chris: I remember noticing it when we were touring the states for eight weeks, and it was just the same thing every night. Since that huge tour we did, we’ve made an effort to keep it fresher for ourselves because when we enjoy it, more people feed off of that.
When you do change structures, does it inspire you when you hear things differently? Or change the meaning at all?
Rou: Yeah, it changes a lot. For instance, we dropped ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’ for about a year a few years back because it didn’t mean anything anymore, it was just this motion you went through, and we didn’t want that to be the way we performed that song. So you have to keep an eye on things because it’s very easy to just look at the sets and think ‘this is what we’re supposed to do’. But it’s like ‘No! You have to keep mindful of how you’re feeling, and how the show is coming across. And then it does change the songs. For instance, today, for the first time we’re playing a remix of NST, and it completely changes the song! It’s now this fairy, drum’n’bass thing (laughs) it’s nice to see those songs in the different guises.
When it comes to dropping songs, how does it feel?
Chris: Obviously, certain members will prefer certain songs, and I’ll have an opinion that a certain song will go down well in a live environment, so yeah, we never really have any arguments about it, but it’s a lot harder to drop some.
Rou: I guess we’re always trying to achieve balance and trying to tick off every bit of what Shikari does and make sure that’s in the set. It’s hard, though! A lot of the time an audience doesn’t know what it wants – it thinks it knows what it wants but then you give it something else, and they’re like ‘FUCK, that’s what I want’! I know that from going to gigs and being like ‘I hope they’re going to play this song’ and they play other stuff, and you’re like, ‘wow, ok then!’
Is there any plan in place for new stuff yet?
Chris: It’s still in the early stages – but there is a plan. We know when we want to be going in the studio, and what we want to be focusing on. It’s a bit too early to have a ‘this is what the record is going to sound like’ because we’re working through that.
Rou: It’s that weird no man’s land purgatory between one album and what will be the next when you have to shed the skin of the previous format, or makeup of what enter Shikari was and find this new one.
Making everything tie in together.
Rou: It’s quite scary because you’re literally dropping everything and facing just this road that’s empty and you have to populate it with ideas.
And where do those ideas come from?
Rou: I find with the inspiration you just have to fucking work, the whole thing of ‘inspiration hitting you’ – it can sometimes happen in expected places, but a lot of the time you have to knuckle down and search for musical routes you haven’t tried before, and it’ll come. It’s more likely not to come if you’re just not writing.
And the grander ideas, like colours? Is it just a ‘that’s a nice colour’ situation?
Rou: There’s always something behind it, like the aqua ‘Spark’ blue or whatever, was that was about coming out of a period of adversity, and the freshness and re-birth, so aqua, water. There’s something very fresh about that colour, so that felt right. We’re nowhere near a visual idea yet, but it will come.
Taken from the August issue of Upset, out now.