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Rou Reynolds On Reading & Leeds Festival: “[It] Nails The Beating Heart Of The British Music Scene”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 14 August 2019 at 17.05

Four sets in a weekend? Two per day? No big deal for Enter Shikari.

In case you missed the big news, Enter Shikari have a very busy weekend at Reading & Leeds Festival next weekend. Busier than any other band on the line-up - because they're set to play an unprecedented four sets across the weekend. That's two full sets, each day. 

Because that's just an incredibly outrageous notion (which we can't wait to see), Rock Sound caught up with frontman Rou Reynolds about what they have planned for their monumental amount of sets, and touched base on their brand new single 'Stop The Clocks'.

How did the idea for you to play four sets across the weekend first come to fruition?
Says Rou: “Well a few plans were being made more separately at first. Daniel P Carter called me up and asked if we wanted to do his night on The Pit stage, so that was pretty exciting. I was then chatting to our agent who was already fighting for us to get a slot on the main stage - a normal set rather than a smaller sweatier thing - so we were pretty excited about both, and that’s when we asked ‘is there anywhere that we can do both?’. We basically thought that if we play nice and early on the main stage, we could get everything packed down to move over and get everything set up for a headline slot on The Pit. We’re very lucky that our crew are amazing dudes, and we’ve known them for so long that they were like ‘oh you fucking bastards, but alright then’. It’ll be a hard weekend of work, but they were just as up for it as us. So from that point it was just ‘let’s do it’.”

It’s always a case with Shikari that even when the most basic of foundations are in place, you try and build it up as quickly as you can just to see what will happen.
"Yeah, very much. The most we have ever done was three sets in a day -that was at SXSW. Two of them were more industry showcases, so they were only 25 minute sets. I can remember by the end of the day my voice was pretty ragged, so I know I’m going to have to take it pretty seriously. I’m probably not going to drink at all until after the last set at Reading, where I’ll just have a massive blow out. I’ll just be looking after myself, and making sure I can perform at my best at every show that we do."

What do you feel makes Reading & Leeds such a special festival? What makes it such an institution?
"I think it’s the festival that nails the beating heart of the British music scene - I don’t mean that just with British artists, but just the atmosphere of music lovers in this country. It’s just the epitome of the music festival. It does it so well within how varied the line-ups are. There’s certainly always been an alternative side to it, but it has also managed to bridge all sorts of genres. It makes for such a wonderful experience as a punter - you can discover so many of your new favourite acts there, like I have done over the years. It rides the wave so well. Even though we haven’t played it for six years, I’ve still been every time and I’m almost jealous of walking around and seeing people have their first or second festival experience. Discovering that community vibe and having the best weekend of their lives is amazing to see."

How do you feel each of the sets you are playing are going to differ, and how do you go about crafting the right set list for each environment?
"There’s no real mechanism out there for us to be able to create the perfect set, I feel like it takes a lot of imagination. It’s like being a kid and singing into a hairbrush in front of the mirror - you have to put yourself there in that position. We’ve been lucky enough to play Reading & Leeds nine or 10 times over the years, so I can recall those memories and try and go back there in my mind and think what would work in what scenario. With our main stage set you could say that we can opt for the bigger, grander moments, and in the tent the intensity can rise. You can never really plan these things that well because most of the time you are feeding off the crowd, and different things that they will do will inspire me to do something. There’s this particular energy that comes from the influence we have on each other - a lot of things just happen in the moment."

What would say is the thing that should inspire fans to come to both of the sets?
"I guess the obvious thing is that they will be completely different sets - I think the unique thing with our band is the diversity of the back catalogue. It’s quite extreme really. Not only that every song that we play will be different, but I guess it will also feel a lot like a different band. We can morph into a well-oiled main stage festival machine, but then we can also morph into running over peoples' heads in a small space. I think for us Reading & Leeds has been more of a consistent memory maker over the years - there was the 2009 crowd surfing record, and then in 2011 Leeds was just an absolute wash out, and I was just rolling around in the mud. I do feel quite lucky to be able to have two opportunities to create such special memories all over again. I really can’t wait."

The other thing is ‘Stop The Clocks’ finally being out in the public. How does it feel to have a song that has become something of a fan favourite and phenomenon already finally be released?
"A lot of the emotion I’m feeling is relief. This song had its start not just in the ‘Spark’ recording sessions, but also years before that - I used to sing the melody in the bridge over the top of the ‘No Sleep Tonight’ chorus. That’s basically how it started, it’s the same chord sequence. There is footage of me doing back at Glastonbury 2015, and even bits going all the way back to 2014 as well. It’s been an idea and been in development for so long that it's gone through so many guises, and has morphed into so many things. Yet now it's finally finished and finally out, we are just so happy. We’re also so happy that we didn’t just rush it out either. This song is all about melody - they are the forefront. To get the instrumentation within the track right was really important, because it has felt like a bit step for us."

It’s a song that anyone who has seen you live in the last year has been able to become familiar with, and it’s also a song that you felt was big enough to name your whole tour after. What do you feel is so special about this song that is has warranted that level of admiration?
"On the subject of playing the song live, the wonderful thing about it actually coming out now almost a year after we started playing is that it almost feels nostalgic for some people who saw it say... nine months ago on the UK tour. That’s a really interesting experience for an audience - to be able to process a song through live videos online, or actually coming to a few gigs and seeing it live where they can even sing along to come degree, to then be able to see it come out finally as the actual song. It’s a completely different way to be introduced to a piece of music. A lot of the comments were saying ‘this song brings back such great memories of the tour and the new friends that I made’, so that was wonderful to read. As annoying as it was for us and, as I’m sure, for everyone else who just wanted to hear the song, we are still glad we did it the way that we did.

"The song itself is not too dissimilar to a lot of the things on ‘The Spark’, so I think that’s why it has this real emotion and passion to it. It’s basically an ode to human connection, and the joys and the reliefs that you feel when you open up to someone and you speak openly about vulnerability or a mental health issue. It’s a really freeing experience. I felt that a lot over the last few years within the discussions that I’ve had with all sorts of people - be it about my problems or theirs. I guess it stems back to that classic thing of how we are all the same - we all have our own issues to deal with, and we all want to find the best way to deal with them. That’s through being patient and open and kind with other people. The song touches on mindfulness and anxiety, and it wraps it all up in the joy that you feel, and the relief from those things that you feels when you speak about them."

In many ways it does feel like a curtain call for ‘The Spark’. In terms of the emotional journey that the record takes, it almost feels like a culmination of everything that has been learned and touched on along the way and draws this particular era to a close in fitting fashion.
"Yeah, it’s the full stop. It’s not really a Disney ending, but it is walking away with a certain sense of satisfaction. It completes the story of human struggle with the revelation and discovery of human connection, and the wealth of opportunity that it gives you. It felt like we wanted to give ‘The Spark’ its time, and not do the thing that we have normally done where we release two or three singles a year after the release of an album. 2018 was the first year in our existence that we haven’t released any music at all. Yet because ‘The Spark’ was connecting with so many people, we felt like we wanted to let it simmer. To be able to bring this song out at this time then, it really does feel like the full stop at the end of that run and a jubilant ending as well."

Saying that, how are you getting on in terms of the next era? How far into the process are you?
"It’s interesting this time - because this is our sixth studio album that we are about to embark on making, there is such a degree of experience there now that I can recognise the markers and defining points within the creative process. So the first section is just complete trepidation really, because you are shedding the skin of the last creature that Shikari had taken the form of, and you are wiping the slate clean again - you have to dream up a complete different world once again. It does fill you with quite a lot of fear. This is the first time that I have managed to keep a hold on it.

Previous albums it has really affected me - not to say that you get writer’s block, but you think ‘do I still have it? Can I still create?’. I think over the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of writing outside of Shikari and producing that I feel a lot more confident going in this time. I don’t feel as out of practice. Usually when we are on tour I don’t write that often. I think being able to look back and go ‘I get this feeling every single time and it’s really powerful and scary, but I always overcome it’ is helpful too - I’ve overcome it five times before. So currently there’s loads of ideas, but there isn’t a root or an aesthetic there yet - but not to worry because it’s going to come. I think I’m just coming out of that stage and heading into stage two which is when a direction is really starting to form.

Enter Shikari are set to perform an unprecedented four sets across Reading & Leeds Festivals next weekend.

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