The Mancunion

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Interview: Enter Shikari

Randeep Samra discusses the future of Enter Shikari and the Zeitgeist Movement with lead guitarist Rory Clewlow

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In two and a half months – almost precisely three years after the release of their latest album, A Flashflood of Colour – Enter Shikari will release their fourth album, The Mindsweep, whose first associated tour lands in Manchester Academy this February. Many will remember their debut – 2007’s Take to the Skies – introducing a particularly interesting form of post-hardcore music with ostensible electronic influences both to the mainstream and underground alternative scenes – taking charts everywhere by storm and maintaining that stranglehold for months. Since then, the band went from 2009’s interesting and somewhat engaging – yet not entirely cohesive – concept album Common Dreads, to albums which reflect a natural progression from that socially conscious and musically adventurous project.

Since Common Dreads, Enter Shikari have refined their unique brand of post-hardcore littered with disparate influences from various subgenres of electronic, yielding in 2011 an album sounding much like the previous but with the influences melding into something which sounded at once more organic and more daring. In anticipation of what was to come next, I talked to Enter Shikari’s lead guitarist Liam “Rory” Clewlow to get a sense of what they’re hoping to achieve with their upcoming album, and understand the extracurricular activities the band are finding themselves engaged in.

When asked about the influences involved in the upcoming album, Rory explains that “we’ll pick bits from electronic genres but not put them in genre pigeonholes.” He had been particularly effective in implicitly getting across that the band were not interested in creating any sort of tribute to a genre or style or attempt to capture a particular aesthetic. The band, with disparate tastes held by each member – “Rob’s [the drummer’s] favourite genres right now are classical and house” –  did whatever they felt appropriate in conveying whatever they would end up producing. “The synths and stuff aren’t really tied to a genre; they’re more sounds that we like…” he continues, “nothing’s conscious, nothing’s contrived: we just sit down and see what comes out”.

The musical trajectory that can be traced from Take to the Skies up to now is, to a certain extent, evident from listening to just the lead singles from each album, up until the as-yet only song that the band have released from The Mindsweep. Going from a fresh and fiery track like ‘Sorry You’re Not a Winner’, with its nigh-uncategorisable dynamism and weirdness, and almost Dadaistic lyrical content, to the more hook-laden yet more socially relevant and just-as-punk delivery in ‘The Last Garrison’, we can see that the band have etched a sound of their own which makes it hard to group them into any sort of “scene” with any other artist. The Mindsweep marks the first time Enter Shikari have incorporated orchestral instruments into an album: “it’s the first time we’ve got live strings on an album, and they’re really prominent in particular parts of the album.”

Since Common Dreads, it has been clear that the band have aimed to communicate a certain sort of message through their lyrics. However, Rory is eager to emphasize that the band refrain from letting any particular ideology worm its way to the forefront of their lyrics. They primarily consist in, he says, “taking everything we know about the world and looking at it objectively… the anger isn’t directed towards the government or any particular entity; it’s directed towards the system in general – towards certain ways of thinking, towards the way the world seems to be. Only one song from the new album is about a particular topic,” he says: “‘Anaesthetist’ is about the decline of the NHS.” Indeed, it is evident from a listen to ‘The Last Garrison’ that the band are going for a more abstract approach to conveying their message than many of their forerunners have done.

With the band’s socially conscious and politically aware lyrics, it is no surprise that the band make active efforts to implement the corollaries of the “scientific way of thinking” they advocate in their lyrics in their actions as a band off as well as on the stage. Unlike far too many other so-called “punk” bands, they make active efforts to talk to their audience before their shows, and engage in politics on a more tangible level. The band’s lead vocalist, Rou Reynolds, has recently been involved in The Zeitgeist Movement – which is, as the project’s mission statement puts it,” a sustainability advocacy organization, which conducts community based activism and awareness actions.” Rou’s excellent talk for TZM’s Z-Day, ‘Music’s Social Value’, can be viewed in its entirety on Youtube. The talk succinctly articulates much of what both the movement and Enter Shikari are all about. In line with the general sentiment expressed throughout Enter Shikari’s career, Rory states simply that “the Zeitgeist movement is basically saying that the system needs to change.”

Enter Shikari are set to release The Mindsweep on 19th January 2015, and you can catch them live on February 20th at Manchester Academy.