Every so often a band comes along that redefines the acceptable parameters of music.
A band that is so far outside of anything you have seen or heard before that some people refuse to give them their dues based just on the fact they are too different.
That band for this generation is Enter Shikari, and according to vocalist/programmer/keyboardist Rou Reynolds, the band themselves knew that they were providing something fresh, unique, and ultimately dangerous when they burst on to the unsuspecting music world in 1999.
“Yeah it was a bit of a risk,” Rou agreed. “Because we weren’t ambitious whatsoever and it was just a hobby so we enjoyed playing local gigs and having this sound that threw people and in some cases pissed people off ha-ha. The genre purists didn’t like us at all. There was no grand scheme or grand goal which I think in effect helped us as a band because we weren’t distracted in any way.”
“We never shied away from melody,” he continued. “Even though we’re influenced more by other genres like punk, drums and bass and electronics, I think melody is essential to what we do. I was brought up on stuff like Motown so the roots are there. We’re not exactly mainstream; we consider ourselves more in the niche area of the musical spectrum.”
Enter Shikari have never shied away from mixing different sounds and genres, and one of the drawbacks with creating an eclectic sound based on mixing genres which technically should not gel well together is finding which ones work and which ones clash. Rou says that while this has always been a source of experimentation, it is also one of the joys of being in a band like this.
“A lot of it is just…. I hate using the word organic because it’s such a cliché,” he stammered, “but I’m quite lucky to have grown up with so many different musical influences, whether it was my uncle or parents or friends. Rory, our guitarist, his brother was a drum and bass D.J, and that was a huge influence for us. My Dad was a Northern soul D.J and Motown were also a huge influence. Then we had our local punk scene, and my uncle was very into dance music like Prodigy and stuff like that. Even classical music, I did that at school, so I guess then it was a natural thing to formulate music that didn’t follow any one genre or confinement. It’s just what happens when I sit down to write music.”
With such a rich and diverse cross-section of styles to draw from, it is easy to imagine that pretty much anything goes when it comes time to writing music, but Rou says there are a few things that he won’t consider.
“There are definitely certain types of music that I don’t like, or I don’t touch,” he stressed. “Some of that can be ignorance, but one thing I don’t like is needless ostentation in music, like too many guitar solos or like in modern R & B you have all this voice warbling like ‘waaaaaaa’ where they can’t hold just one note, they have to make seven notes in two seconds. When ostentation takes the focus, and you lose the focus of the song and the direction of the song that annoys me. That’s why I’ve never really done a guitar solo which is a bit strange I guess for my role in the band ha-ha. That’s pretty much the only thing I avoid. We’ve always said our music has two goals; it has to be dynamic, and it has to be passionate. That’s about it really.”
Although their style of music is completely different to many of their contemporaries, Rou says that it is more a case of the band doing what makes them happy, not what will be seen as different and unconventional by others. Their music is a product of their own beliefs and influences, not merely a snub at the music industry in general, and that is the key component that provides the impetus for their success.
“We’re not contrarians,” he said. “We don’t say ‘how can we do this completely different from everybody else’. It’s more like how can we do things in a way that will work for us? We were never stringently D.I.Y, but that just worked for us so we did it. The thought of giving our copyrights away or sharing the musical direction of the band with someone else and other things that were an asset to us never appealed to us. I think it’s also out of necessity because in the first few years we were a band no – one in the industry was invested in us. No –one knew what to do with us. We had a few meetings with the odd label here and there, but they just seemed a bit confused. They either wanted to put us in the rock scene or steer us more towards the dance scene, but we felt like we were outsiders in both. Even the press as well would constantly put labels on us. Almost every year they’d call us something different so we knew we had to take control of our own destiny.”
With an upcoming tour of Australia, this month Rou says that although the trappings of fame can become tiring, every member of the band still very much loves the world that is Enter Shikari and promise their Aussie fans something special when they hit the stage.
“Yeah definitely,” Rou replied when asked if it gets tiring. “I think it’s……. if you’re working at a job and you’re doing stupid hours, and you don’t like it then you’re gonna get down and depressed but if you’re working a lot of hours doing something you love you’re still gonna be knackered but feel like you’re in a good place. I’m lucky I get to put so much effort into something I enjoy and thrive off. I feel burnt out in the sense of touring sometimes. I don’t particularly enjoy that, I never have. I much prefer the creative side, like being in the moment in the studio and writing music – that’s what I live for. It’s only when I’m on stage that I love the touring. I don’t like the travelling and being away from home as much. In saying that it’s going to be a pretty awesome show when we come. We’re doing tracks from every album plus we’ve got live remixes that we’re throwing in… We’re excited to be coming.”