A massive European band, Enter Shikari have headlined festivals such as Reading, Leeds and Download among others, while playing huge, headlining shows throughout the world. Continually building their fan base in the United States, their new album “The Spark” has been critically-acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s been described as a cross between Blur, Queen, Manic Street Preachers and Queens of the Stoneage, but decidedly very Enter Shikari. Be sure to have a listen to “Rabble Rouser” and “Live Outside”, two tracks from the album, embedded below.
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Sean Ritchie: Since we’re in New York City, we might as well start off with a New York question. So, what about the city particularly stands out to you when visiting?
Rob Rolfe: I think what stands out to me is the aggressive honking on the horn constantly. We were in [Manhattan] earlier doing an acoustic-type session, and we were just standing on the street corner after and all you heard was the aggressive honking. People don’t really do that back in England unless they’re really pissed off. So, I immediately look at the driver and think, “What are you so angry about? Calm down.” Every three cars are honking.
Rou Reynolds: I never really got New York until the last time we went, because we always pretty much played in, or around, Times Square. I only ever saw the madness of the area. I just thought it was all a bit intense. When we released “The Spark“, our last album, we spent about four days here, so we actually got see Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Central Park — bunch of others. Then it clicked, “Ah, this place is awesome!”
SR: It’s crazy how all the different neighborhoods have different vibes. We were also just in Midtown and we couldn’t find parking, but we pulled up here in Brooklyn and we found street parking relatively easily.
Rob: Yeah, it’s cool around here. I think I prefer it in Brooklyn, as opposed to Manhattan. Friends of mine when in New York would say, “Let’s go to a bar in Brooklyn.” And, I was always a bit apprehensive, because I thought Manhattan was the cool place. But now, as Rou said, being here for the last album exposed us to more of the city. There is so much carrying on in Brooklyn that I didn’t realize there was.
SR: Yes, you can even see the changes in the last five-to-10 years in Brooklyn. There’s more places to go out and there’s more places to eat. It’s pretty cool in that respect.
Rou: The vegan food here is amazing! I always have something really good here. Just down the road there’s a place called Champs Diner. It does all the classic diner food, but vegan versions of it. I’m going to try and go there.
SR: That’s really cool to hear. Now, bringing it back to your home country of England. What particularly differentiates it from the US? And, if someone was visiting for the first time, where would you send them?
Rob: It’s a difficult question. It’s always pretty difficult to pinpoint the differences between America and the [United Kingdom]. They are so different, but trying to figure out exactly what about them is different is challenging. There are so many small differences.
Rou: I think one of the broadest things is everything is a bit smaller — roads, cars, meals and houses. Everything is a bit quainter.
Rob: But, the other thing is, America is so big. There are areas of the US that are very similar to parts of the UK, but then you have places like Texas where there is nothing like that [at home]. The states individually are so different. Every state is in its own way different as opposed to the country as a whole. It’s like Europe, but luckily you all speak the same language.
SR: I understand that completely. Flipping into your music, how did you both become exposed to it? Was it something in your family? Friends?
Rob: For me, it was my parents and older brother. My parents had a record player and a big vinyl collection. They got me into The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. All those 60’s and 70’s classics. I remember summers just sitting in my bedroom listening to my brother’s Walkmam — cassette player. I would get so taken away by Hendrix. I then started learning the drums.
Rou: My earliest would probably be watching big-band jazz with my nana, which made me pick of the trumpet. That was my first instrument. My dad was also a DJ. He had a mammoth collection. I remember just being in the basement and just putting records on, dancing by myself when I was 10. Then I got into other types of music as I grew older.
SR: How did the evolution happen to wanting to create your own and eventually starting Enter Shikari?
Rob: When we did start our band we were 12 years old. It started off as covers. We played a lot of the music from our parents influence. We played a lot of Oasis, The Beatles and Stereophonics. We just kind of grew doing that and then slowly started writing our own stuff. As we were getting older and our tastes were changing we started to get our own gigs, as opposed to our dad’s birthday party or something. We began to break into the local music scene. We started with hardcore punk, but as we got older we got into more electronica and house — drum and bass. We just began to experiment more. Being from St. Albans, right outside London, we were very lucky, because anyone that tours England tours London. We had the worlds music almost on our doorstep. We took a lot of influence from it.
SR: Spanning off of that, running SCP, I started off with an idea, but it has produced new ideas as we continue building and evolve over time. It seems like your music is similar to that as you started off in one genre, but built and expanded upon it. To fast forward, you released “The Spark” in September of last year. How has it been received by the fans since it’s been out? How cool has it been to play it live?
Rou: In general, it’s been received really well, which was quite surprising, because it’s such a different album for us. It’s a lot more melodic and lucid in general — minimal. I think we’ve perhaps lost a lot of the fans that just want heavy over the years. It’s been received really well and it’s so much fun to play live.
SR: That’s great to hear! Switching into the travel side of things, when you have some downtime and are looking to get away, are you more of beach guys? Looking for a city? Or, somewhere in the mountains?
Rob: For my honeymoon, I went up into the Austrian mountains and then down into the flats of the Austrian wine country. So, I love being out in the mountains. But, one of the first holidays that we ever took together was in Mexico where we spent a lot of time on the beach. So, very much both. I like a bit of adventure and exploring, but I also just like to chill out, stick my feet in the clear water and have a Corona in my hand.
Rou: I guess I’m the same, but I haven’t really had a holiday in quite a while. I had a few days in Ibiza which is cool. That was beach oriented.
SR: Really cool. One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling. I feel like there’s a lot of parallels with that and music. You’re constantly traveling the world bringing people together from all walks of life under your music — different backgrounds and languages. Talk about how cool that is to have that power to bring people together. How important is it, in the world that we live in, to unite people with music?
Rou: Music is kind of the last bastion of unity there is. Religion is having it’s slow decline, and that was discriminate anyway. I feel very lucky and proud to be able to use music for the same thing it’s been used for through all of history. It’s always been something that’s brought people together.
Rob: It’s a universal language, as well. One of the most amazing things about it is you don’t have to understand what the singer is saying if speaking a different language, or even need it to have words at all. Music is a universal language that everyone can speak. It’s really unifying.
SR: I always love to ask well-traveled people if there are a couple destinations that they haven’t been to, but still want to see. Do you each have a couple?
Rob: Central and South America I’d still love to get to. We’ve tried for a long time, but it’s just fallen through. India is a place we’d really like to play. We had a few times where we thought it was going to happen, but it just kind of fell through.
Rou: I’d like to go to either of the poles. That would be cool. Literally very cool.
SR: You were talking about Central America. One of my favorite destinations is Costa Rica.
Rob: I’ve read reports, and I don’t know how they gauge it, but they are one of the collectively happiest countries in the world too. They’re in no way one of the richest, but there’s not a big disparity between incomes. It just seems like they live very happy lives. That excites me a lot.
SR: Similarly, being travel pros, when you hop on a flight are there essentials you need to bring with you?
Rob: Slippers, they’re good. I always take my shoes of straight away, but then you have to put the shoes back on or walk to the toilet in your socks. A good book too. I often zone out and just watch movies. Nothing too emotional. There’s something about being up in a plane that gets you emotional already. I always bring water, because it’s smart to stay hydrated. They never come around with enough. Headphones too.