Why Enter Shikari's New Album Is Their Most Definitive Record Yet

Enter Shikari are back with new album Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible. As Rou Reynolds explains, it’s their most definitive statement yet…

Why Enter Shikari's New Album Is Their Most Definitive Record Yet

Rou Reynolds describes the early stages of creating a new album as “standing at the foot of a mountain”. You’re looking back at the peak that you just scaled beforehand, he says, wondering how the hell you’re going to manage to do it all over again.

“It’s super-disconcerting and disorienting,” the Enter Shikari frontman gulps, explaining how he felt wrapping up the incredibly successful era for the band’s 2017 LP The Spark – which won a Kerrang! Award for Best Album the following year – while nervously looking ahead to album number six.

Fortunately, motivation to start hiking came from a surprising source last year. While gathering a collection of essays and lyrics for his book Dear Future Historians, Rou found himself looking back over the St Albans titans’ prolific career for the very first time. “We always relentlessly look forward,” he says, “and it was quite nice for once, because it gave me a sense of history and perspective, and gave me a grasp of how far we’ve come, and what we’ve achieved.”

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This reflective period gave Rou the idea that he wanted to create the ultimate Enter Shikari album – “It’s a real signpost, and it’s like, ‘Look at where we’ve come from, and look at what we can do,’” he grins.

Welcome, then, to Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible, Enter Shikari’s grandest statement yet (and, given everything that’s come before it, that’s really saying something). Excellent lead single { The Dreamer’s Hotel } premiered on BBC Radio 1 last week, and it’s a venomous sign of what’s to come from the full release, which is due out on April 17 via So Recordings…

Why was { The Dreamer’s Hotel } chosen as the new album’s lead single, Rou?
“I think it has a general excitement to it; it’s quite fast-paced and it feels a little bit on edge, even in the choruses. There’s this juxtaposition, thematically, where the verses are all fury, and then the choruses are trying to convey what ‘The Dreamer’s Hotel’ is supposed to be. It’s this place of safety and possibility and imagination, outside of the furore of society. The whole thing seems to have an urgency to it, and it just felt like a good foot forward to lead with.”

Where are you coming from, lyrically?
“I imagine The Dreamer’s Hotel as this place of respite from the fury of the outside world, so it’s very much influenced by online interactions, and the divisive nature of the world at the moment with tribalism and group identity. And it’s not even a political thing; it just seems to have inundated the whole of society. There’s just immediate anger, and it’s created this world of real tense distrust with everyone, and it’s a really horrible space to be in, emotionally. The Dreamer’s Hotel is this wishful-thinking, rose-tinted place where one can get away from that and dream again, and think about how to improve society. In the song it’s this dilapidated, deserted place (laughs), because no-one’s checking in to that hotel anymore. We’re all just too busy being furious with each other outside of the hotel.”

Is this hotel a concept that pops up throughout the album?
“It’s just in that song, but the album is very much about possibility, and dreaming, and the various dichotomies and juxtapositions within possibility. It’s about how possibility has gone from something of a promise, to something that is becoming terror in a lot of aspects. It’s a theme that’s throughout the album, but this song in particular concentrates on that metaphor.”

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You started writing the album last summer. Was it a conscious decision to not wait for things like Brexit to happen to then write lyrics based on that?
“Yeah. I don’t really like writing about specific events. There’s definitely a time and place for that, but personally I love to look at the deeper relationships and underlying connections that tie events together. It’s just stepping back a bit and looking broader, and it’s all about perspective. We’re quite lucky being in a band, and being within art in general, because you have time to step back and think. There’s not really many vocations that allow you to do that. I knuckled down and looked at things in a more philosophical way than going for the ‘Fuck Brexit!’ thing. I’ll always be on the streets shouting those things, but when it comes to the art that Shikari make, it has to be something that looks between the lines, and tries to offer something that isn’t just a knee-jerk reaction.”

You told Kerrang! last year that it would have been easy for Shikari to go away and make a doom metal album, given how much gloom there is in the world. Presumably you haven’t done that, so how did you settle on a direction?
“These things just have a way of appearing. With the last album I was personally in the gloomiest place I’ve ever been in, but a lot of the music came out very positive. I think that seems to be an aspect of Shikari’s DNA. Even though we’re talking about very real, very sombre and occasionally frightening subjects, there’s always an element of hope and fortitude. It doesn’t matter how I seem to feel in my gut – it still just rears its head. But that’s nice, because I don’t think I’d be happy if I was just playing doom metal (laughs). If that was all we were doing, I don’t think I’d feel as creatively satisfied.”

Is the album as eclectic as we’ve come to expect from Shikari’s sound?
“Well, possibility is the central theme of the album, lyrically, but it also is musically, too. We’ve pushed further and asked ourselves, ‘Where can we go? Let’s fucking go there!’ One track is a symphonic orchestral piece, but then there are other tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place on our first album, [2007’s] Take To The Skies. I think one thing about this album that’s slightly different is that we set out to make something that encapsulates everything that Shikari have done. This album is more broad, and there’s more confidence in the songwriting. Plus, I produced it, so it gave us more attention to detail. There are more hours that have been put into this album than any other – a lot more sweat, toil, and crippling indecision!”

Have you achieved that truly definitive statement, do you think?
“I think, for the first time, this is a body of work where each era of the band is represented. Before, the songs on each album sound like they’re a part of that album only. There’s a slightly different progression to each one. Whereas on this – and obviously it’s new and feels different – it has more nods to where we’ve come from. And I can’t even say it was a conscious thing – it just does.”

You’ve spoken before about how it’s in your nature to try to please everyone. Did you have to let go of that in order to focus on what you wanted to achieve?
“Because that’s so ingrained in me, it’s incredibly hard to let go of – and I think a lot of the time it’s subconscious. But when I’m writing, I can’t write something that I’m not completely exhilarated by and absorbed in. If I don’t have that feeling from a song of, ‘I cannot put the pencil down! I cannot put the guitar down! I have to finish writing this…’ then I will just discard it, whether I think it’s gonna please anyone or not. I think I’m lucky that this juggernaut of emotional push with a song overrides my desire to please everyone (laughs).”

When and where did you record Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible?
“We did two big sessions at two great studios that were about 20 minutes away from each other in Worcestershire. That was where the bulk of it was done, but then we did a little bit in Texas, and I went out to Prague with my arranger, George Fenton, to work with the City Of Prague Symphony Orchestra [on the song Elegy For Extinction]. That was a completely different, crazy experience! It was so surreal, and absolutely mind-blowing. A lot of the album was also recorded at my house, just at my little studio. I think that was it!”

You’ve always been heavily involved in producing Shikari albums, but when in the process did you decide that you were going to take on the responsibility of doing this one all yourself?
“It just got to the point where it wasn’t even a question. I’ve learned so much about production, and co-producing the last one was a confidence boost. Also, you wouldn’t say to a mum, ‘Why did you decide to bring up your kid?’ (laughs). As a songwriter, you’ve birthed the kid, and then to have someone else bring it up would be unthinkable! It was like, ‘There’s no way I can let someone else in now.’ There’s a lot of depth to what we do, and it requires a real dedication that I just wouldn’t feel comfortable asking from anyone else.”

What was an average day like in the studio?
“It started off, I would say, relatively healthy. And especially when we were in Worcestershire: those studios were great, and we had a plan for each day. We’d spend the day recording from about 9am, and then stop around 10pm. So it was still putting in a long shift, but we could continue that for quite a while without getting too much fatigue. But then, November and December… urgh (laughs). One of my big faults as a producer is time management, and while I’ve definitely got better at it, it got to the point where me and Rory [Clewlow, guitar] – who did some of the engineering and was a huge help on this album – would be up so late. We did a small tour in Australia in December, and I think we slept about eight hours in four days. We’d play a show and then come back to the hotel room and just stay up all night working! It was a very intense ending, but that’s what it needed: that complete dedication, and letting it take over your life in every aspect.”

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You’re playing five intimate UK gigs to launch the album in April. What was the decision behind that?
“Getting the set right and being able to transform these songs live properly is going to be a mammoth project, and we haven’t even thought about that yet (laughs). So with these shows we can concentrate on playing a few songs from the album and get those down. We’re also working on some stuff for later in the year to then do shows that will properly go in on the album, and show it in its proper light. We’re not going to do any UK festivals this year – we’re just going to be getting our heads down to make a new live show that, as always, pushes possibilities!”

Enter Shikari's new album Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible is due out April 17 via So Recordings

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