After weeks of event cancellations, as the country began its plunge into lockdown, a surprisingly cheery Rou Reynolds picked up the phone to Brig to discuss Enter Shikari’s newest release, Nothing is True & Everything is Possible.
Prior to our conversation, Enter Shikari had joined the legions of artists forced to cancel their scheduled tours in the face of COVID-19.
“It sucks!” exclaimed Rou. “It sucks, but I guess we’re all in the same boat at the moment, every tour’s been cancelled. Not being able to play these songs live…we’re absolutely gutted.
“There was a real vibe just from the four of us in our practice room, so it would have been so good to play these songs live – we’re just going to have to wait a bit longer.”
Nothing is True & Everything is Possible has been dubbed by Rou as ‘the definitive Shikari album’ and has been widely praised by critics since its release in April 2020.
With this album, I wanted to have a little nod to every era of the band and to be inspired by the breadth that we’ve achieved. There’s tracks on this album that wouldn’t sound out place on our last album and everything in between,” said Rou. “That was a real conscious decision, to try and make a ‘best of Shikari’, but with all new songs.”
Throughout their career, Enter Shikari have never shied away from making political and philosophical statements in their music, and this album is no different.
“Our last album, The Spark, was an exploration of human vulnerability in terms of how it’s an innate feature of our species – we are a vulnerable species,” he said. “It talked about the unifying effects of that, but also the dangers of ignoring that.
“This album is more of an exploration of human possibility, which enabled us to produce a really varied album. It’s a very freeing subject, because possibility is such a two-way thing. It’s something to look forward to, but possibility is very much a two-sided coin.
“We experience so many shocks, so many weird things that we never thought would happen, we’ve lost touch of normality now. We’re just expecting things to be wild, and I suppose the pandemic is just the latest aspect of that course that we’re on.”
Perhaps the song most reflective of this is Waltzing off the Face of the Earth, an unsettling waltz with gritty lyrics covering controversial topics. When asked for his experience writing and recording the song, Rou said, “Musically, it’s odd.”
“The fact that it’s in the time signal of three, four, whereas within pop music, everything is in four, four. So immediately, you’re jarred a bit. We’re trying to immerse people in a soundscape that feels a bit off and not modern, and not real. The lyrics reflect that, the lyrics are just a load of statements and you don’t know which ones are true and which ones are false.
“It just shows the first half of the album title, ‘Nothing Is True’. It’s about how slippery truth is, how hard it is to ascertain what’s true and what’s false, and then what that does to social trust. It’s one of the most pessimistic, bleak outlooks on the album, for sure. I think it needed to be on there.
“Being realistic and being a realistic reflection of society is our artistic job. I don’t want to offer hope just for hope’s sake.”
March saw the thirteenth anniversary of the release of Enter Shikari’s first album, Take to the Skies. In those thirteen years, the band have released seven albums, played the biggest festivals in the country, and headlined hundreds of shows throughout the UK.
“It’s the classic weird thing of everything’s changed, but nothing’s changed,” said Rou. “I think we’re quite lucky in the fact that our character and our mindset hasn’t change. We’re very lucky to have a central crew around us.
“I know a lot of bands who lose touch of what their essence is and why they’re doing it. I think we’ve been very lucky to have that bubble so we can remain true to ourselves, without sounding too cringey.”
Rou has been very open about his mental health issues in the past and the influence that his struggles had on the creation of the band’s last album, The Spark.
“The thing we found out from the last album was just how pivotal and connected mental health and politics are I think every album has included both, whether I’ve realised it or not, because they’re so interlinked.
“The main difference was that I was writing this album from a much more secure place. With the last album, I felt coerced into writing, like I had to write about my experiences. It was only halfway through the process that I started realising I can open this up and make wider points by using my experiences.
“This time, from the start, I was just writing about broader themes and then noticing that there may have been aspects of my thinking that have influenced that.
“It’s still there throughout the album. I’ll always offer music that is honest and hopefully not be afraid to open up, but I would say that this album is much more outwardly looking.”
Despite the chaos in the world right now, Nothing is True & Everything is Possible carries throughout it a message of unending positivity, despite its examination of some dark themes.
When asked how the band managed to find this balance, Rou said that “that is a question I’ve asked myself our whole career.”
“Especially with the last album, The Spark, I wrote that during my worst year of existence. There was so much hardship in that year and it still came out with a lot of upbeat, positive vibes to it. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s just inbuilt.
“My dad was a DJ. From a young age, I was just inundated with the stuff that he played, and he was mainly a DJ within the northern soul and Motown world. They’re some od the most upbeat, melodic positive songs that have ever been made. Maybe that’s embedded in me, that could be it.”
He took a moment to think before continuing. “Or maybe I subconsciously know how important it is to offer hope within art, and not just be pointing out society’s flaws, but offering some degree of opportunity and some way of thinking that gives people a bit of relief from the hardships of everyday life.”
“I’m not sure, is the short answer,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s always been there and I’m sure it will continue to be.
Article originally published September 2020.