[Photo by: Jennifer McCord]
“When it rains, it pours” is the age-old saying.
He lost his last two remaining grandparents, whom he was very close to. Then his long-term relationship ended—albeit on good terms—which was a huge blow. He was also prescribed a drug as a remedy for a physical health problem that had some side effects and subsequently affected his mental health.
The final straw was an awards ceremony Enter Shikari attended: Reynolds’ ultimate situation for anxiety. The spotlight was on him: the pressure of being a “rock star” The expectation to exude humor and appear interesting coupled with an abundance of egos in one room while suffering from post-tour exhaustion rendered it an uncomfortable environment. So he did what others might do in those situations: turned to drink and drugs as a means of coping. The morning after the event, Reynolds had a huge panic attack and was hospitalized. Then came extreme insomnia, which lasted for four whole months. Within this time, Reynolds experienced a full sleepless week and even questioned his own mortality at one point. This whole period culminated with the frontman changing his attitude toward songwriting.
“It gave me more desire to speak about the personal in our music, because I end up speaking about the social/global politics and whatever else,” Reynolds says. “This forced me to want to speak about the personal because I wanted to connect with people. I was opening up on Twitter a lot and speaking to people, and I found that it made me feel so much better, because so many people had been through or were going through similar issues. Also, I was reading a lot of philosophers, Rousseau and Schopenhauer, and they’re very much all about complete honesty and how to know yourself, you must know others. I wanted to make an album that was very honest and wasn’t afraid to show vulnerabilities of the human condition. Ten years ago, people would feel awkward speaking about or listening to this stuff. It’s definitely getting better, but there’s still a lot work to do. It’s starting to feel like it’s as normal as having a physical ailment. Having a bad knee, a bad neck, a bad back—everyone’s got something, and it’s exactly the same with mental health. It’s not something you have and something you don’t, it’s a spectrum, We’re all predisposed to strengths or weaknesses.”
What do you do in times of trouble? Perhaps seek a bit of comic relief. In Reynolds’ innovative mind, something ordinary like karaoke wouldn’t cut it. So he created Bowie-oke.
David Bowie’s passing in January 2016 shook the world to its core. The musical icon sadly died just two days after his 69th birthday, a date that also marked the release of his final album, Blackstar, which won five Grammy Awards earlier this year.
“I was always a fan, but as with any high-profile death of an artist, it made me to delve into his back-catalog properly,” Reynolds says. “I put on a Bowie-oke party. Downloaded some crappy software and did Bowie-oke all night. The software lasted for about a week for free, so I found myself sitting in my room doing karaoke alone. Being a singer, karaoke wasn’t something that I was particularly interested in—because I sing all the time, but I only sing my own music. For the first time in so long, I was singing other stuff, and it felt like I was pushing myself because Bowie had such a range, a rich baritone, an amazing falsetto. I learned a lot, and it gave me the confidence to increase my range on this album and focus more on the melodies and the vocals. I was striving to make slightly more simplistic music because, with Shikari, often one song can feel like five songs crammed into one! Bowie’s fearlessness is very inspiring.”
Rou channelled his personal experiences as he wrote Enter Shikari’s new record, and as the process became cathartic, he started to see something at the end of the tunnel: The Spark.
“The Spark was an idea to speak about the darker elements of life but present it spritely, and that’s prevalent throughout,” Reynolds says. “Post-punk was a huge influence on this album—Depeche Mode, Joy Division, the Sound and all these late ’70s, early ‘80s bands—it’s following in those footsteps. It’s not afraid to address deep and somber subjects, but there’s still a lot of positivity in the music and that was something I was very conscious of when I was writing. I wanted to be able to be a year on, when this album was out and we were performing these songs, to do it with a smile on my face.”
Enter Shikari are yet to experience Trump’s USA. But with a new record to unleash and a solid fan base across the pond, it’s only a matter of time.
“I don’t have an interesting, original take on Trump!” Reynolds says. “It’s clear what he is. I’m looking forward to going. I want to see it for myself. I want to speak to people and find out what more we can do as a band. Since he’s got in, I’m still reassessing everything. What’s the next step? How do we combat this? I’m looking forward to getting over there and connecting with people. Hopefully, we’re going to go over early next year in January/February. We’ve only played two tracks live off of The Spark, so I’m a bit anxious, but I’m excited, really, because I’m so happy with it. When I wrote these songs, I hoped that writing would help me get through that period—which it did. Now, I can sing them with an element of relief and perform them with an element of hope.”
Listen to “Rabble Rouser” below:
Enter Shikari’s The Spark is out Sept. 22. You can preorder it right here. Tour dates are below.
11/16 – Liverpool, United Kingdom @ Echo Arena
11/17 – Cardiff, United Kingdom @ Motorpoint Arena
11/18 – Nottingham, United Kingdom @ Motorpoint Arena
11/19 – Newcastle, United Kingdom @ Metro Radio Arena
11/21 – Manchester, United Kingdom @ Victoria Warehouse
11/22 – Brighton, United Kingdom @ Brighton Centre
11/24 – Birmingham, United Kingom @ Barclaycard Arena
11/25 – London, United Kingdom @ Alexandra Palace
11/29 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ AFAS Live
12/01 – Luxembourg City, Luxembourg @ Den Atelier
12/02 – Paris, France @ Elysee Montmartre
12/03 – Cologne, Germany @ Palladium
12/05 – Hamburg, Germany @ Mehr Theatre
12/06 – Copenhagen, Denmark @ Amager Bio
12/07 – Berlin, Germany @ Huxleys
12/08 – Warsaw, Poland @ Proxima
12/09 – Prague, Czech Republic @ Lucerna Music Bar
12/11 – Vienna, Austria @ Arena
12/12 – Munich, Germany @ Tonhalle
12/13 – Fontaneto D'Agogna, Italy @ Pala Phenomenon