There are few bands that approach the creation and distribution of art with such vigor as Enter Shikari. From the back of pubs in St Albans to arenas, they have approached every step of their adventure with pride, passion and perseverance. Not just delivering vital statement pieces on the state of their homeland but also through a global lens, their unique brand of sincerity and savageness has allowed them to wave their flag in all four corners of the planet.
Though that is one of the reasons that the pandemic years took such a toll on them. Forcing the promotion of their last record, Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible, into an emergency stop, as well as all touring plans, they were stagnant for the first time in 15 years. Creativity became a struggle, with the things that they considered their lifeblood a distant pipedream. That’s also why their latest album, A Kiss For The Whole World, is such a powerful statement. A celebration of connection and catharsis, family and ferocity, it is the result of being able to get back to what they do best.
Now as they spend some time in the US to bring the ruckus to their worldwide audience, idobi catches up with frontman Rou Reynolds. An honest and humble look at what it means to have your passion put on hold, it is a conversation fueled by gratitude and excitement for being back at it again.
How has it felt watching this new album blossom and grow since it dropped?
It’s been a surreal but really joyful time overall. At first, it was a dramatic relief. You have exorcised that demon. You have done it. When you are at the start of an album, it feels like such a daunting mountain to climb. That was especially true after the few years leading up to it. The main powerful emotion was the relief of it being done and us personally being done with it. People have indulged in it, and it has seemingly gone down really well. I still find it quite disorientating because there are so many different mediums for people to show us that they like it. But it has been so encouraging, and it makes us so happy. Though the one-on-one conversations make the difference, they are the ones where our biology can understand it. We’re meant to speak to people in physical spaces rather than take in data on screens. Your brain isn’t really absorbing it. The conversations are where it becomes concrete.
That’s also a central part of the joy that exudes from this album. The return to that connection. And considering where you were with Nothing is True & Everything Is Possible, that whole campaign had to be processed and evaluated through those screens. The jump between the two is a substantial emotional chasm.
Yeah, absolutely. The whole run this time around has been a slap in the face. This is how intense it can get. With the previous album, every physical plan was scuppered, but many Zoom-based promos didn’t happen either. It was mayhem, really. So, this has been a reminder of what it is actually like to release an album. Relearning how to be a band. There’s a whole cocktail of emotions that go into it. There’s also a huge amount of gratitude. That’s the outlier. And being back Stateside as well, that’s another feeling too. There’s such a passion out here, and being able to play shows again when we haven’t been there in so long is so special. It just makes us so happy.
When you were having the lightbulb moments for this record, the beats that turned into full ideas, was gratitude also the biggest feeling there? After looking back on not being able to be a band but not having the creative energy to do what you do, you could finally flex the right muscles again.
We wondered how quickly we would ease back into taking all of it for granted. Not having a real sense of constant gratitude. We actually thought it would be fairly immediate. Even though it’s such a sudden change from not playing shows for a year and a half to then playing loads again. We just thought we would slip back in, and that would be it. I thought that was just human nature. You do things a few times, and it all becomes normalised. But it hasn’t been like that. Perhaps there are still so many conversations about the last few years. There are still remnants of the struggles that I was feeling, especially in my ability to write. There are constant reminders of what we went through, and they keep feeding those feelings of gratitude.
The thing also is that a lot of what you were hinting at on Nothing Is True… has become even more true as time passes. You also planted yourself firmly in that mindset in the downtime as you worked on your latest thesis based on those ideas. So you were living incredibly close to such heavy topics. But with this new album, the concept of human nature takes over from the analysis. What it means to feel, think, love, and live is central, and it’s such a raw and honest euphoria to experience. The juxtaposition between the two is quite something.
The whole band is centred around human connection. I started writing music when I was younger because I was often so anxious in social situations that I wasn’t very good at communicating with people. Music was the way that I could communicate in a way that I felt safe and comfortable doing. That initial reasoning has never really changed. I’m still doing things that same way, and I’m just so lucky that I get to make those connections on the scale that we do now. It’s worldwide, and those shows are a breeding ground for connection. Some people have made friends, got married and met people through this band, which is amazing. It’s not just a case of gaining confidence in yourself. It’s also the sense of doing something that is worthwhile. Bringing people together as well as bringing them feelings that they need.
With each moment you have had this year, the reflection you gain from it will have been so different. We had two years of forced reflection, looking back on how things used to be. Now, you are experiencing everything again for the first time, and the reflection is on the person you were during those more challenging times. What does that look like for you?
Once you come through a period of adversity, it’s so hard to put yourself back into that mindset. How was I feeling? I can’t say enough of how disorientating it was. How disconcerting it was. To have written music for so long and to be such a consistent thing is everything to me. It is how I organise my thoughts about the world and myself. How I communicated with the world. It was how I discovered new things, a driver to personal growth. So suddenly, being unable to do it was the most frightening thing. My purpose had disappeared entirely. My brain basically said, ‘If you can’t share music in a live setting, what’s the point?’ It just switched off. I’ve experienced writer’s block, but not a year and a half worth. I had reached my mid-30s, and my creative years were behind me. Washed up and dried up. That’s why everything now feels so good. Because the experience was so foreign and odd. I had to suddenly be Rou, not Rou from Enter Shikari. It was a period that I look back on now where I can see the intriguing advances I made in terms of understanding myself better. In terms of broadening my life, finding a sense of self-acceptance, and not just relying on the band to define me.
Breaking out of the cycles that we impose on ourselves and what society imposes on us is vital to remembering why we do any of this at all. And now, returning to the band with that sense of why it is so special and looking forward to what the future can be, is simply one of the most significant victories you can have.
For sure! All of this has accentuated the fact that this is a new beginning. A rebirth of the band. The complete dormancy to the period of self-discovery to getting back out there. It has made everything feel like a brand-new start.
- Sept 14 – Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
- Sept 15 – St Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall
- Sept 18 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
- Sept 19 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
- Sept 21 – Columbus, OH @ Skully’s Music Diner
- Sept 22 – Louisville, KY @ Louder Than Life Festival
- Sept 23 – Birmingham, AL @ Furnace Fest
- Sept 24 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Chelsea’s Live
- Sept 27 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
- Sept 29 – Mexico City, MX @ Foro Indie Rocks!
- Sept 30 – Guadalajara, MX @ C3 Stage