On April 21, English rock band Enter Shikari released their seventh studio album, A Kiss for the Whole World. It debuted at number one on the U.K. Album Charts. For the lads from St. Albans in Hertfordshire, whose oeuvre rebels against everything from global warming to the privatization of Britain’s National Health Service, the band’s ascendence reflects the public’s appetite for their unique fusion of “electronicore”—a genre that blends electronica with metal—and radical left politics.
A few hours before their sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in May, fans were lined up at the door, excited to see guitarist Rory Clewlow, bassist Chris Batten, drummer Rob Rolfe, and lead singer Rou Reynolds. In the upstairs of the ballroom, as Enter Shikari’s crew set up the stage, The Progressive sat down with Reynolds. The conversation covered the inspiration behind the band’s new hit single “Bloodshot,” the multicultural origins of electronicore, their decision to leave one of the biggest record labels in the world, and music’s place in the progressive movement.
Q: What inspired you to write “Bloodshot”?
Rou Reynolds: Political life is exhausting at the moment. The polarization is so bad. And “Bloodshot” is about our experience on social media, and how easy it is to be manipulated into full, no-holds-barred hatred of people you haven’t met. It’s about the difficulty of trying to communicate, of trying to use this tool—the Internet—that was supposed to bring us all together, make the world a smaller place, and connect us all around the globe. It’s done that, but it’s also causing real division. And, when you’re scrolling on social media, your eyes do feel like they’ve become bloodshot. There’ll be days where, especially at this moment because it’s album release time, I can justify being on social media a lot ‘cause I have to promote the album. Then that starts to snowball into me sitting there scrolling again, spending big amounts of time where I’m not conscious whatsoever.
Q: Enter Shikari is widely considered to be the pioneers of electronicore—how did the band arrive at that sound?
Reynolds: The music that we make is almost left-leaning just in the music itself. So set aside the themes. Set aside the subject matter, the lyrics. The music draws from such a broad range of the musical spectrum. I feel like that is a political choice in itself—to subvert the traditional genre boundaries.
Today, this has become normality. Twenty years ago, when we started, it was blasphemous. It was terrible to bring aspects of hardcore punk and put them in with aspects of dance music, electronica, and things. We received such hatred for doing that. But for us it was completely normal because we were brought up in London. It’s this cosmopolitan, multicultural hub. We were brought up around so many different aspects of music, so many different cultures. For us, it seemed to be just natural to absorb it.
Q: What is music’s place in the progressive movement?
Reynolds: My opinion on this has changed throughout the years. To some extent, it is a way of providing awareness to an issue. You write a song about some subject, a lot of people who listen to it didn’t know about it, and then they’ll think differently or they’re shown a different perspective or something like that.
That kind of thing is really important, but it’s maybe not as all-encompassing and powerful as I originally thought it was. What music is perhaps more for, in my experience, is as a motivating, refueling, and emboldening tool. I speak to doctors, activists, people involved in trying to change the whole energy sector to become more renewable, and our music has propelled them forward. A lot of these jobs, a lot of these aspects of our lives, can often feel quite lonely.
Q: Why did Enter Shikari leave Interscope Records?
Reynolds: Well, in the very early days, we thought making it was getting signed. We’d be doing it all DIY but with the idea of like, “One day someone’s gonna sign us and we’re gonna break out of this DIY underground circuit in the U.K.” But then we sort of quickly realized through a couple of experiences of friends of ours in other bands that perhaps that wasn’t the correct route.
We had two or three bands in the space of two years that got signed to majors who we knew and then were dropped maybe a year later. We were like, “Oh, maybe this isn’t making it.” But we released an album on Interscope because there were people there that cared and got the record. But the music industry is a revolving door, so they were gone six months later and we were like, “We’re stranded on this label. No one seems to give a shit about us. We need to get out of this.”
Q: Has the band’s experience with SO Recordings been different?
Reynolds: SO is one of the only real independents left in the United Kingdom. They don’t have shareholders or anything like that. They’re not beholden to anyone. It enables you to just know that everyone involved in your record is doing it for the right reasons. They’re doing it for the love of it.
We actually want to keep as much of that DIY ethic and our independence as possible. It’s something that is important throughout your life, to have that sense of freedom of being able to explore, of being able to create. We’ve always done interesting deals as well where we keep all our copyrights, license deals, and stuff. We keep everything.
Q: Do you think music would be different in a more equal society?
Reynolds: It seems to be from the majority of research, everything that we could possibly frame as good, thrives more in a more equal society. All the research on everything from childhood obesity to murder rates, to mental health, to social trust, everything you could imagine that would be good to look at if you’re trying to make a better society. And the countries that have a more egalitarian or a more equal society do better on all of them. You could almost spend a lifetime mourning all the art that never got made or the breakthroughs that never happened because people were stuck in banal jobs with no opportunities.