“Knowing that the music won’t reach people in the same way is sad, but it’s important to carry on,” Enter Shikari frontman Rou Reynolds tells NME of the mixed feelings of releasing sixth album ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’ in the middle of a global pandemic. “People often look to art in times of hardship – whether it’s for escapism or positivity and a feeling of connection. Hopefully the album will be a source of good news for some people.”
They’re certainly giving Shikari fans a lot to cling to. ‘Nothing Is True’ acts as a tour, skipping across the vast, glitchy sonic terrain that they’ve covered over the last 17 years. Lyrically, with its themes of exploring what mankind is capable of in the face of adversity, the songs are “taking on new meaning” each and every day as the current crisis unfolds.
“That’s the wonderful thing about art – it changes within the context which you put it in,” Reynolds continues. “If our last album [2017’s ‘The Spark’] was an exploration of human vulnerability, this one is an exploration of human possibility.
“Over the last five years of political shocks and everything that we’re going through now, that’s shifted from something of positivity and motivation to something quite frightening. There’s a realism on the album. I could never be in a doom metal band. We’ll always make music with that essential sense of optimism, but at the same time realism is the most important thing for us.”
Reynolds talks to NME about his love of the NHS, his yearning to return to touring, and hope of a better tomorrow once all of this shit is over and done with.
The album feels like a collection of all your sounds to date. Were you in a nostalgic mood?
“For once, we set out with a real goal in mind – which was to attempt to make our most definitive record. Last year I brought out a lyric book called Dear Future Historians, with an accompanying essay for each song. That was the first time that I was forced to look back. As a band, we’re so relentlessly progressive. It’s almost like an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t look back, but now we’re looking at how far we’ve come as a band.”
But a key theme of the album is calling for change. Do you feel like we’re at a tipping point?
“The first song on the record ‘The Great Unknown’ opens with the line, ‘Is this a new beginning or are close to the end?’ I meant that in quite broad terms of all the various crises that we’ve had – namely the climate crisis which has affected every other crisis. Now we have this pandemic which is going to bring to light so many innate failings of the current economic system and how archaic it is. It’s not built for the times we live in and the infrastructures that we have. There’s a lot of unlearning and searching to do to have a system that’s better prepared. There are all sorts of little nuggets on the album that are becoming more prescient.”
Do you foresee a more caring future, or perhaps even a more socialist one?
“The NHS has got to be the big factor in everything. The insane reality of the last decade of harsh cuts and terrible management has to be scrutinised. I mean every detail. Hopefully there will be a real push from the general population now and a realisation of how important it is and how badly we’ve treated this as a public service.”
Do you believe that real change is possible?
“I’m worried about how quickly we as humans just go back to normality. History has taught us that so many times. We forget too easily, and that was brought to light by how badly prepared we were for the pandemic. We had lots of cuts to emergency planning, so we’re going to see how ludicrous these actions are and how short-sighted politics can be. It’s only really focused on the short-term profits of the private sector without having much thought for the general wellbeing of its population.”
What state do you reckon the music industry will be on after all this?
“I guess a lot of it depends on the economic reactions that the government has, and the support that it either gives or doesn’t give. It’s certainly going to struggle. We have to hope that at some point things are going to go back to normality. The live music scene can blossom again. Hopefully there won’t be too many casualties in terms of venues and job losses. It’s hard to tell.”
It must be surreal to be planning for a winter tour amidst all this?
“Hopefully by October and November, we’ll have reached some kind of level of normality. This as much of something to look forward to for us as it is for our fanbase. We were so gutted about cancelling our release shows, and now we just have to focus on these.”
You’ve always had a pretty ambitious stage production. What have you got in store this time?
“This was our first year as a band where we didn’t have any summer festival shows planned. We wanted to use this time to basically build the show. It’s such a varied and grand album that we wanted to be able to recreate it as best we can. By the time November rolls around, we’ll have an amazing show for everyone. The ambition of this album is much bigger than it ever has been, and we have to do everything that we can to replicate it live – you’re going to feel absolutely everything.”
That combination of a message combined with a party is always something you’ve done pretty well…
“What we’ve been trying to do since day one is offer a space where people can come together indiscriminately and celebrate community and life. It’s something that’s just left to art now. Religion has brought people together but is very much discriminatory. One of the best things about my life is being able to put on these events that enable that kind of community that is so lost everywhere else – where it’s so lost and dangerous. When we rehearsing, there was just an ecstatic energy. By the time we unleash that, it’s going to be like a kinetic experiment.”
So that first show back is going to be pretty intense, eh?
“The virus is confirming the fact that we’re one superorganism. It’s confirming how ridiculous nation states are. It’s confirming a lot of the underlying faults with our system. The supra-national mindset that we’ve been talking about for a while is now becoming self-evident. Hopefully we’ll learn some big lessons from that. Hopefully the sense of community when we do get back on stage will just be absolutely powerful – and something that we can all feel once we’re allowed to rub up against one another once more!”
Enter Shikari release ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’ is release tomorrow (Friday April 17). They’ll be touring the UK and Europe from October.