Interview: Enter Shikari (St. Albans, UK)

Photo by Corinne Cumming

Photo by Corinne Cumming.

Enter Shikari has been extremely busy since their latest record, The Mindsweep was released last year.  They took on an impressive run of headlining shows in the UK that saw the band playing to the largest crowds they’ve had to date.  Now the guys are ready to bring their show to US soil.  Granted, on a way smaller scale.  But in no way does that mean that the guys are packing less of a punch.

I sat down with Chris Batten to talk about the tour, In-N-Out, and what’s to come from the band this year.

With your US tour coming up, how have you all been preparing for the tour?  What’s that process typically like?

I mean we’ve been pretty hands on and pretty full on really with touring since the album dropped last year in January so in between tours, really the best way for us to prepare is to just rest up and recharge the batteries.  That’s all we’ve been doing for a week and a half, two weeks and so yeah we’re ready to go.  We fly out tomorrow morning and we’re looking forward to it.

That’s incredible. What was it like playing back home to a crowd of 10,000 fans? That must have been an amazing feeling.

Yeah, not gonna lie (laughs) it was pretty cool.  You know for us I think these shows in the UK we’ve been building up for a long time now, so that last tour was the biggest headline shows we’ve ever done.  Then as well, we gave ourselves a lot of time beforehand to really build the show and prepare for it in ways that we’ve never done before.  We raised the level of production significantly and we spent a lot of time programming the show to be in 4.1 sound.  It’s essentially surround sound, so yeah we were just trying to really focus on how to make the show rad and how to enhance the experience of the show realm so it was really good sound.

I imagine that’s gotta be unreal.  I’m hopefully gonna be able to see your show in Los Angeles and potentially shoot photos for that so I’m really excited to see or to hear what that surround sound implemented will be like.

Ah (laughs) unfortunately being that as we’re in the states the venues for us are a lot smaller.  So unfortunately we won’t be able to do it in the states.  The venues just don’t know how for us to do it, it basically needs to be a venue where we bring in all of the PA, all of the lighting, all of everything and unfortunately as much as we’d love to do it it’s just not possible for us to do the surround sound and bring in all the lights and stuff like that.

That absolutely makes sense so unfortunately for US fans, they’re not gonna get to experience that but you know the energy that you guys bring to all your shows is pretty much…

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that even with the bigger shows that we were doing in the UK there was something that we were really conscious of.  Even though you know, you got all this extra lighting and all this surround sound and programming, to not let the rural energy and the aggression and the passion go from the show.  ‘Cause obviously you know it’s a lot harder to translate on a bigger stage and when you’re several feet way from the audience and things like that, so it’s something that we struggle to naturally keep relevant. We’re really looking forward to getting to the states where you know the audience is right in your face again, and it’s a lot easier to keep those shows very intimate and very energetic.

Exactly. Whose idea was it to implement that sort of surround sound into the live shows?

It’s something that we had been talking about doing for ages, and really this was like back when we were playing 5000 capacity rooms in the UK and stuff like that.  It was still something that was still not quite possible, it was only once we made it set to play bigger venues, since we were bringing everything in ourselves that it was even possible.  And still we had quite a lot of problems with it, like getting it and getting it to work so really it’s been an idea we’ve had for a long time.  But as well I think knowing now what we do know and the amount of preparation it took we were lucky.  ‘Cause we had a couple of nights off before the tour, ’cause our guitarist had another baby so we were at home.  If we hadn’t had that two months of programming and you know going back to the drawing board many many times it wouldn’t have been as special as it was.

Of course. Regarding the US tour, what can fans expect from you guys? I know that shows are expected to be pretty intense.  You were mentioning that you were trying to maintain that intimate feeling, do you have anything in the works for the US guys and is there sort of a precedent for what you guys want to accomplish on this tour?

Yeah, first of all it’s been a long time since we were in the states for our last tour so I mean really we’re very excited about playing new material.  I’m sure lots of people are reasonably excited about hearing the new stuff.  As well, I think for us the main thing about playing live is our music is so passionate.  The stuff we talk about and sing about we really really believe in and our shows have to be a high energy show in order for it to make us feel like it really means something.  So really what we’re really looking forward to is getting back to basics and playing some rowdy shows.

What do you look forward to when playing Southern California?

California?! The weather is nice, I always say to myself at the beginning of every US tour is that you’re only allowed one In-N-Out burger and that never stays, we’re all absolute suckers for In-N-Out burger I’ll tell you.

I think you guys deserve more.  You guys are going nuts every night, like go crazy, they just opened a Shake Shack over here as well.  You should try that out.  They’re pretty great.

They have those in New York, in Grand Central Station.  Yeah, I’ve been there, those are great too.  So yeah absolutely.  Other than that, the West Coast is probably I think where we first started coming to the states you know, and I think the West Coast was the first coast that really started picking up for us, so it’s always really nice.  It’s definitely part of the tour we really look forward to, getting home to the West Coast and playing California and down in San Francisco and playing places like that.

It’s beautiful, there might be a little more openness in terms of accepting…

Yeah, it’s funny, it’s such a massive massive country and we play great shows on the West Coast and great shows on the East Coast and somewhere in the middle we’re back to playing to like 10-15 people sometimes. So it’s up and down, but that’s what we enjoy about playing the states, that you never quite know what to expect.  And you have to be on your game as well ’cause you never know when you’re gonna get the chance to win someone over for the first time and make that first impression.

The Midwest is a whole untapped region, I’m sure you guys are gonna win over the Midwest now.  One thing I want to delve more into is about production.  I was wondering if you feel as though the band was looking to implement more of an electronic type production?  Just because listening to I guess say, “Arguing with Thermometers” vs the newer single, “Redshift,” I can definitely hear a difference in the presence of guitar vs electronic elements.  What do you think about that?

I think in terms of production moving forward we’ll always have the attitude that we would do everything and anything that we think sounds good.  [When] we went into the last album, we felt very comfortable going into it and that really gave us the freedom to be extremely creative. (Water starts to drip) Again from doing that, it only [gave] us more and more confidence as well.  We’re doing a lot more producing, you know we produce all the demos ourselves.  We’ve been learning this whole time about it and our production has been getting better and better and remixes that we do, it all comes to this.  It’s only helping us and that’s only gonna help the next record, so really I think we’ll be very very hands on in production on the next record.  Even in this last record you know, we have a sampling of drips and drops from the sink and the tap and we’ve been recording these.  That’s the drips and drops in “Myopia” that you can hear on the latest record.  They are samples that we recorded, we definitely weren’t afraid to get stuck in and try new things.

There’s a healthy level of experimentation in there.  I for one really enjoy hearing that progression in production. It’s really incredible to see how far you guys have come in that regard, especially for someone who tries to produce things occasionally, it’s a difficult process.

Yeah it is and it’s one that makes sitting down and trying and experimenting and going back and trying again.  It’s just one of those things that you know, often or half the time it’s likely a mistake and you thought you tried something and something else happens and then you’re like ‘ah this sounds cool.’

Yeah, a lot of twisting nobs and hoping that it ends up sounding really cool and then keeping it if it does.

(Laughs.)

I guess in that same vein, in terms of experimentation with guitar and bass at least with you and Rory.  What sort of level of experimentation do you all approach those instruments with? Are you constantly doing things like changing pick ups and altering peddles or have you found a set up that kind works and are you sticking with that?

I think again, we’re very much open to anything.  Rory used to be very analog and he used massive pedal boards.  Over the last album he has completely switched his rig, which is now the Kemper, which more and more people are starting to use and I’ve gone completely the other way.  I was running guitar rig live and now I’ve gone to running a pedal board.  It’s very much based on the sounds we can create in the recording session and to that we’re open to any kind of experimentation.  To be honest it’s normally, find something that sounds really cool that can happen within the studio, and then after try and figure out how to do it live.

Absolutely, it’s true it’s a different animal trying to approach those things.  Especially, I mean there are some types of gear that I guess allow you to maintain that sort of fidelity but I’ve been experimenting with those things as well and yeah it definitely, at least for me, it’s always changing as well.  I’ll go to pedals and then go to Axe effects, so it’s really interesting to hear you guys approach it that way.

Yeah we’re definitely open for any kind of technology or anything that we can create a sound from and get something cool.  We’ll figure out after how to get it sounding good live and things like that but I think that when you’re recording and writing you really just need to focus on what’s best for the record first of all.

Then you can go out there and try to reproduce those things.  Of course, all of your fans know that you all are adept at addressing a variety of social issues in your songs.  I was wondering what types of themes you’re currently experimenting with in newer material?

Well we’re not writing at the moment, but our band has always been about unity.  So anything we write about really is going to be a grand subject that affects everyone, -common topics being about climate change to banking.  I think we often can get too focused on that kind of thing as well so we try to keep a lightness to it, we don’t want to take ourselves quite too seriously, ’cause we are well aware that you know, for a lot of people, music is just something that you sit with and you escape with and so that’s something that we’re conscious of, but as well that doesn’t mean that we’re gonna write something that means nothing.

Especially with a lot of the issues you all sing about, a lot of that is very fresh and kind of in the minds of the American fanbase, so I think that resonates a lot with American fans.  Especially you know with the election coming up and there are a variety of issues that people are worked up about and I think you guys do a really good job of addressing them.

Yes, I think it’s amazing you can still relate to the lyrics even if it is a few months after.  The election stuff is never far away from the headlines but one thing that’s always clear is that generally people are all decent and they essentially all want the same things and I think it’s just about focusing on the facts and not getting carried away with all they’ve got and the pettiness.  The media always jumps on anything and makes it into a big deal and more often than not it’s portrayed in a bad light.  I think fundamentally people are all decent and want the same things, it’s just the media is trying to latch onto stories and dramatize things and making them so much worse.

Getting back to the songwriting process, I was wondering if that was something that you’ve approached in kind of the same way since the inception of the band or has that evolved? Do you tend to write certain electronic sections first and build around that or do you add in these elements after the general song’s framework has been created?

Yes, I mean definitely evolved. You know from the first album it was very much Rou who was doing the majority of the writing.  As we, me and the other guys have gotten more confident going forward with all of that, that’s changed.  Rou is still a very creative guy but there’s no real way we write music, there’s no real set formula if you will.  So it very much can be like you say an electronic riff that one of us has been working on or it can be a guitar riff, and then it’s just a case of sending the demos around to each other.  We work on them ourselves and write our ideas into them and we get together and see where we’re at.

Very cool.  So it blooms around kind of an idea that one of you might simply have and then stitch it together. 

Yeah, quite simply.  Lyrics normally are the last thing that go in and purely for the reason that I think it takes a while for us to really know what direction the song is going musically.  I think once we are okay with the arrangement and the feel that we’re getting from the song, only then can we sit down and go ‘hey what is this making you feel?  Is it more of an emotional angry song or is this more soundscape, beautiful kind of feel?’ so only then can you really find the lyrics that are going to set that emotion.

Very cool that’s a very interesting way to approach the lyric writing and I think that works very well because you do have to sort of analyze what type of song you’re creating.

Yeah, well I think music is always gonna make you feel one way or another.  That’s what’s great about music, is the emotions it can draw from people.  So if you focus on what emotions it’s making you feel and then you can base the lyrics on something that’s gonna make sense along those lines, that’s the way we’ve always done it anyway.

I think it’s working, I think it’s working out. Okay so lastly, after this run of US shows, what’s next for you guys?

Uhm, ah, you’re testing me now mate (laughs). I believe we’re back home after the states for a bit, and we go into some European festivals and then after the summer I think we’ve got some shows lined up, I don’t believe they’ve been announced yet so you’re gonna have to keep your eyes peeled, but we’ll be busy up until I think October and then we’ll be winding down and starting to write again for album number 5.

That sounds great man.  Thank you so much Chris, for talking with me today on behalf of Mezzic.com.  I really appreciate it. 

No problem at all.  Make sure you come say hello in Los Angeles.

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