Many of the readers will remember their 2007’s debut, Take To The Skies, an album that flowed smoothly between the underground and the mainstream with an unique mix of post-hardcore with electronic influences.
Those english gentlemen have grown up, and after 8 years, two more albums and some other EP’s, they have just released The Mindsweep ([PIAS] / Ambush Reality, 2015), redefining their sound with their most diversed and balanced album to date.
During their last visit to Spain, where they offered three impressive sold out shows, we had the chance to talk to Roy Reynolds (singer) and Rory Clewlow (guitar), to discuss their impressions of the new album and music in general.
How are you? The new album is almost here. How do you feel about it? Are you excited?
Rory: Yes. Absolutely excited. It’s been a very long process and it’s finally looming.
Rou: I’m more excited about this album coming out than I have been about every other album I think. I think it’s just the most, the best album that we’ve done. We’ve really refined ourselves and our music.
At this point of your career do you get any nerves when you release a new album or is it just part of living?
Rory: No just excited really. I don’t get nervous. Do you?
Rou: Nerves is probably too strong. Just anxiety a little bit.
Rory: I get more nervous or anxious when we’re releasing a single because a single on it’s own is just one little avenue of what we’re like, who we are, whereas when you release an album you get to show them the full picture. When you release a single it’s just a tiny little snippet so everyone – you always get people saying, if you release a single that sounds a certain way you get people saying, “Oh Enter Shikari have gone pop” ,or “Too much screaming and not enough singing” depending on what the single sounds like. Releasing an album is sort of like this is all of us, this is everything we’ve got at the moment. It’s a lot more representative.
I think you have always tried to go the extra mile with every album. When you started making this album, did you have any idea of what you wanted to achieve in terms of sound?
Rory: No. Nothing’s too premeditated. We just let everything come organically, just sit down and start writing, see what comes out. Rou’s got a hard drive full of ideas that we have gathered over the years. We’ll have a listen through that, see if there’s any riffs or songs that catch our attention and develop them. The only thing we really think about making an album, consciously, is trying to give a full picture of ourselves – the full spectrum. Before we went in the studio we had about thirty different tracks that we could have recorded. To figure out which ten tracks out of those thirty were going to make it we thought about, “Well these two tracks offer the same sort of vibe or the same sort of feeling so we’ll scrap one of them and just keep that.” We want to end up with the most diverse album possible.
“It’s good to bring people from different backgrounds together”
That was actually the next question. You have a very broad sound. You have included new orchestration and strings in this new album. How was the experience? Did it feel more comfortable?
Rou: Well we’ve always had strings here and there in our music but this was the first time we used live strings instead of samples. That whole day was quite magical. The points where you’re in the studio and you’ll be recording something and everyone looks at each other and smiles and you can tell there’s a vibe. It just brought the songs to live and gave them that extra dimension, made them sparkle. It was great.
Rory: The live strings – I didn’t realize how much difference it would make. When it’s all midi everything sounds a bit stale. It’s a bit too perfect. But when it’s live it’s ever so slightly out of tune. You have a few little squeaks here and there and the attack of the notes are slightly squeaky or something. There’s something about having live strings that just sounds so much better, more moving. Brass and woodwind as well.
Do you think with this time and age we live in – where there are loads of bands, loads of music – with the internet – is it more essential than ever to experiment with the sound and try to push yourself?
Rou: Yes. There is a lot. Because of the internet and because of how easy it is, historically, relatively cheap it is to make music, there’s a lot of sort of middle of the road, bad music around. So I think if you want to stand out or stake your claim in musical history then yes you have to go that extra mile and do something slightly different and keep pushing yourself. So I guess it’s a good thing. I don’t think you should ever think about that. People shouldn’t be thinking, “I need to do something to my music to make it stand out.”
Rory: You’ve just got to not worry about what people are going to think. It’s really hard to do but as soon as you start thinking, when you’re writing, “I wonder what people think of this?” it becomes a bit corrupted and diluted. The original idea becomes a bit compromised. If you want it to be different or stand out it’s got to come from that place of, how do I say this? Like Rou was saying, you shouldn’t think “I need to stand out, how can I make this stand out?” You should think, “I could put this in, I want to put this in”, and just ignore that voice saying this is unconventional. Ignore that voice, just do what you think is right.
“As soon as you start thinking what other people are going to think, the composition becomes a bit corrupted”
Do you have people you trust, when you’re making a record? Or do you prefer not to have external influence?
Rory: We just have our producer. We produce it with a producer – our friend, Dan Weller, who produced A Flash Flood of Colour, our third album. And he’s great. He’s very helpful.
Is it hard for you to agree?
Rou: Not at all. We’re not one of those bands that needs a producer in the traditional sense. We don’t really need guidance. We all did music tech at school or at uni so it’s just somebody more to manage the project and perhaps offer ideas here and there, just be that fifth mind. And he comes from the same music scene that we did and he was in a band that was, well is – they’ve got back together now – Sikth. We really respected them so we all see eye to eye, on the same level.
I came across that don’t actually like metal music but they do like you so I guess you also get over to not just metal fans but also rock fans and electronic fans. I guess it’s a good thing to be a band which is so difficult to tag.
Rory: Definitely. It’s good to bring people from different backgrounds together. You can always see that just by looking at the audiences at the shows, watching what people say online. Some people say they’ve met some of their best friends at Shikari shows, which is great.
Where does the anger come from? Does it come naturally?
Rou: With the music, yes. Without the music I don’t think it would be so easy. It transforms one’s state.
You’ve been together more than ten years now. How do you the music industry has changed in these ten years?
Rou: Obviously it’s struggled and shrunk and suffered a few collapses here and there. It’s had to keep up with the onslaught of technology. It’s interesting, if you meet people outside of the industry and people ask what do you do? And you say “I’m in a band.” And they say, “Oh you work in the music industry. That must be really difficult. You must be really struggling.” And they think that must mean that music must be struggling. Music’s been an integral part of our species since its ancestry so I don’t think it bothers us too much. Obviously we’d love to keep doing this full time, so we have to have a certain interest in it, but I think it’s good to keep the two separate.
“The Mindsweep feels like our more balanced album”
Do you think the internet actually helps?
Rou: Yes. It’s made it easier to have a home base. No matter where you heard or saw the band you can go somewhere and check out all of their music and get all the information you need. It creates a community as well, brings people together.
Some people say it’s overrated. Some bands say it doesn’t really help bands that much.
Rou: It doesn’t help small bands get big?
I interviewed a band, they’ve been together ten years. They’re not a big band. But they live for music but they said they think the internet is not as helpful as people think.
Rory: Exactly. You can put your music out there and there’s millions of other bands so it doesn’t help in the sense that you can get big just by being out there. But it does mean that if a band is good and something a little bit special or a little bit quirky or something, or doing something that resonates with a lot of people that there is more chance of it shining through more naturally. But to be honest the way we built our fan base in the beginning was by playing live shows. We just use the internet, as Rou was saying, as a home base. Back in the day it was so, so common, every band would say, at one point on stage, “Go to our Myspace account.” It was just the way. Obviously Myspace isn’t really that popular anymore.
Do you think The Mindsweep is a more balanced album?
Rory: Most balanced? It’s kind of, to talk about an album and how balanced it is is quite abstract really. It feels like that. The first time I listened to the album properly from start to finish I was driving in my car. I think driving’s a great way of listening to music. Having it cranked, in the car by yourself. And that is one thing I really felt. I didn’t realize how balanced it was but that was one thing that surprised me. I’d heard all the songs before but as a whole I thought, “This flows really nicely and is really balanced.” So it’s funny you should ask that question because that is the one thing I thought.
What are your plans for the next year?
Rory: More touring. The album comes out in January. We’re just touring, more touring and the more touring.
Rou: Hopefully we’ll be doing some festivals in Spain.
Rory: Festival season is our favorite time to tour.
Is it different to see you in a small venue like this than a huge festival? Which one do you enjoy most?
Rory: I enjoy both. Sometimes I don’t enjoy both. It completely depends on that intangible vibe in the air. Sometimes a show has it and sometimes it doesn’t. Whether it’s big or small.
For anyone that hasn’t been to your shows before, what can they expect?
Rory: To be honest we’ve never seen ourselves so we don’t know. Also to a certain extent anything can happen. Usually every show is quite different.
Rou: What people generally say to us is, “The energy in the crowd was really intense. And I made a lot of friends. And the lights hurt my eyes.” That’s pretty much the three things we get. And “Chris is really hot.”