Three years and a global pandemic after their last album, UK-based electronicore pioneers Enter Shikari are back with all guns blazing with their new album A Kiss For The Whole World. The album, releasing 21st April, harkens back to the question posed by their 2020 album Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: “Is this a new beginning, or are we close to the end?” I sat down with band members Chris Batten and Rory Clewlow to talk about the recording process of their new album, their experiences during lockdown, and how COVID affected their approach to new music.
Rory Clewlow: Hi, I’m Rory.
Chris Batten: And I’m Chris.
Corban Skillånder: And I’m Corban, I’m here for Soundsphere magazine doing a quick interview with the guys from Enter Shikari for their date in Manchester at New Century Hall. So firstly, just tell me a little bit what it was like going into the recording process of this new album, where was it tracked, and everything like that. What was the whole process?
RC] We started at Rou’s house, our singer’s house, as he’s got a little studio area. And yeah, we did like a few months of just like, you know, demoing ideas and trying bits out. We had about like, 100 ideas at that point. And then we just like whittled them down slowly and like, ones just naturally got developed faster and further than others. And then eventually, we ended up renting Airbnb down in Chichester.
CB] Yeah, just outside. It was amazing.
RC] Yeah, it was like this amazing little farm house, literally in the middle of a farm, completely off the grid. So it’s all solar powered, had like, you know, a gas tank for the shower and stuff for the boiler.
CB] No central heating, was just fire.
RC] Yeah, no central heating, yeah. It was like a fire in the middle of the houses, it was really back to basics and rustic.
CS] Is that a new environment for you then, you’ve never been there before?
CB] I mean, it was the first time we’d ever been – because normally what we’ve done before is, you know, we get to the point where we’ve done the demoing similar to what we did this time. And then we go OK right let’s go to a studio and properly, and this time we were just like, you know, over the years, we’ve generated a lot of equipment ourselves, you know, got better at producing and you know, Rou produced the last one, which we did do in the studio, and we knew people. So we just hooked in our friend, George Perks, and he was willing to come and bring some of his equipment. And we just rented an Airbnb, and we decided we were going to make our own studio. So it was really just fun. Just knowing that, you know, studios get used a lot again and again by lots of different artists, so to know that no one’s ever going to get a drum sound like we got because no one’s really ever going to know that exact placement we recorded that drum part that we created, so obviously it’s really experimental and fun.
CS] Yeah, it’s quite cool. So the whole thing was tracked in the Airbnb, then?
CB] Pretty much, then just some vocals at Rou’s.
RC] Oh, yes, it was it was all either Rou’s house or this Airbnb.
CS] I like the kind of conceptual part of doing all in place that’s completely solar-powered and completely off the grid.
RC] It’s just completely DIY as well. I mean, we brought an engineer in, just so he could sit there and track stuff and all that. So we could just focus on recording.
CS] Awesome. And then kind of going back in time from there a little bit – Did you have any kind of writing sessions individually or anything like that,or was it all at Rou’s house and then to the studio? How did you kind of collaborate on ideas on it?
CB] We did do a couple of retreats, didn’t we? Like where we went one place in Norfolk
RC] Oh, yeah!
CB] And then we did another Airbnb, because after “Nothing Is True” we had this big period of, you know, we’d written this album, and then we couldn’t tour it, so we weren’t ready to move on to thinking about writing a new one. So there was a long period where we just weren’t writing at all, because we were like, we’ve just done one! We need to let that one live! We need to get out and play these songs. But then, you know, eventually, like a year and a half passed, and we needed to start doing this. So to kind of get ourselves in the mindset, we just agreed to go live in a house together for two weeks and just kind of see what came out. And that sparked some of the earliest ideas that we then worked on at Rou’s.
CS] That makes a lot of sense. I mean, doing music myself with other people, especially in that lockdown period, it kind of really forced the habits of making something on your own and then sending it off to someone else, maybe even just online, putting it on a Google Drive folder or something like that. But I guess if you’re going away together and doing that and actually physically being in the same spot, it sparks that creativity a bit more?
CB] Yeah, I guess you never know, like, because we’ve done it before where we’ve been at Rou’s and it’s quite regimented. Like okay, we’ll arrive at half nine, then gotta go home, you know, at half four to pick up the kids or whatever. But when you’re in one place together, you don’t there’s no limits on when you can be creative.
CS] Exactly. You’re not constantly clock-watching or anything like that. Speaking of “Nothing Is True”, the press release brought up the question that you asked on it: “Is this a new beginning? Or are we close to the end?” Which I guess when that was being written and recorded, you maybe weren’t aware of how pertinent that question would be at the album’s release, and I suppose the lack of tour cycle that you would have usually been able to do after it. How do you think that this new album follows on from that? Do you think it’s it’s related in any way? Or is it sort of sparking new ideas?
RC] I kind of felt that this new album is quite a lot more positive. Like musically, it feels quite positive. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s just because, you know, the rest of the world feels like it needs an injection of positivity.
CB] Yeah, I remember when nothing is true came out, you know, like, the cogs were returning weren’t they, and then COVID hit, and you know, we were like… “Should we release it? Or are we better stopping everything and holding off until this blows over?” And at time we make decisions, like, you know what? There’s so much in this album that is relatable, and we made that decision to go forward with it. And, you know, I guess if we had held off, it would have been holding up a lot longer than we thought we would. It was the right decision. But, yeah, this stuff that Rou’s been saying in his lyrics for a while was all of a sudden very pertinent. I guess with this one we just felt like it’s time to move forward. Back to business.
CS] And how does it how’s it feel of sort of being back on on the road after the kind of long period of not doing that?
CB] It’s crazy. It’s amazing how normal it feels again, now. First ones back were weird, because there was still a lot of, you know, like, testing on the doors. Everyone finding their feet.
RC] COVID tests every day. You’d get in a venue, and everyone would be like “have you done your test yet? And you’d have to do the test. You’d be watching it going: “If I have COVID, then the tour’s finished. That every morning. It’s just like, oh, it’s horrible.
CS] Yeah, giving yourself this anxiety every morning.
RC] Yeah. One tour we did, and then one person was positive, and it was like… Shit. And then everyone was arguing we had this big debate, and then end up pulling a tour, and yeah. So so glad it’s not like that anymore.
CS] I can imagine it’s quite exciting getting back into that space after such a long time.
RC] Yeah, well because me and Chris were just like stay at home dads for like, two years. And then all of a sudden it’s like, whoa, well, I’m a band guy again! This is sick!
CS] Yeah! How did you feel about that, were you kind of… not dreading. That sounds a bit more intense than I want it sound, but were you kind of thinking, “oh, I kind of like this” in an odd way?
RC] I remember when our album release shows were the first shows to get cancelled. If I’m being honest. I was scared, because I was like, I don’t even know how I’m gonna feel about just being at home all the time. Because going on tour is a bit like a drug almost. It gives you this sort of gluttonous satisfaction about going on stage at the time, living that life and partying and stuff. And I was scared about how I was gonna feel about missing that. I was like, “how am I going to feel about this being at home? Like calm at home all the time? Yeah, this is gonna drive me crazy”. But actually, after, like, a month, I was like, “This is great!”. I really started to appreciate it. It was the best thing that could have happened for my family as a family unit. It brought us all a lot closer. And then going back on tour again was definitely a period of growth for me personally as a dad and as a musician.
CB] And you know, at the time, I think it was scary, especially once we realised that actually, this wasn’t going to be going away anytime soon. What I found scary was the uncertainty of whether we were going to be able to be relevant when we’re allowed to do it again. Not getting that justification from an audience, the validation. That it’s still current and it means something to people. Without feeling that, you just start wondering, well, is this it? Are we gonna get to do that again? But I agree with Rory that, you know, now I look back on it, it probably came at a good time. Not just for us in our lives, but because it meant we had to slow down a little bit. That was our sixth album. If we weren’t playing shows we were writing and recording, so we didn’t really ever have that much of a break, we just kept going on and on. So this forced little break probably did a fair bit for us as humans.
CS] I was just thinking that, you do hear about artists kind of going on sabbatical and everything like that. And this situation kind of forced everyone to do that for a little bit.
RC] Yeah, we’d never been on sabbatical!
CS] Yeah, it’s good to take some time off and then get back all guns blazing! Thanks very much for talking to me, and have a great night tonight! I’ll see you out there!
The show at Manchester’s recently refurbished New Century Hall was a familiar one to the band. After having announced 3 groups of shows, each a month apart in the same string of venues up and down the UK, this was the second run.
Shikari are known well as pioneers of the electronic rock genre, and the new material seems to lean into this electronic space, especially with the light and laser spectacle that would seemingly have felt more at home in a rave or drum and bass show than a metal one. Theatrics and fun were the name of the game, as lead vocalist Rou Reynolds sprinted off stage left only to appear again clinging on to the wall at the side of the crowd, finishing off the song Hectic dancing on the top of the bar, avoiding cups as he went.
The setlist was packed with new singles and some new live debuts of tracks from the upcoming album, and already the crowd seemed to know every word – truly showcasing the expert hooks and songwriting the band have been honing since their debut. The main set finished with the all-time classic Sorry (You’re Not A Winner), which switched between verses into the viral Pendulum Remix, and their own 2023 Remix.
Enter Shikari know what they’re doing. Their absolutely packed live show, whilst perfectly on time, and an absolute technical marvel with lights and confetti cannons triggered by drum hits, guitar riffs and the like, somehow still manages to capture the energy and intimacy of a basement show. They are not one to miss.
The next round of UK residency shows taking place are in April, on these following dates:
Apr 13 – St Luke’s, Glasgow, UK
Apr 14 – New Century Hall, Manchester, UK
Apr 15 – KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton, UK
Apr 16 – SWX, Bristol, UK
Apr 17 – HERE at Outernet, London, UK
A Kiss For The Whole World will release on 21st April via SO Recordings/Ambush Reality.