Enter Shikari’s singer, keyboardist and main songwriter Rhouton “Rou” Reynolds is not one to sit still stylistically.
“I’m quite sort of fidgety when it comes to music,” Reynolds said in a phone interview. “Because it’s been my whole life, I always want to keep learning new things and delving into different genres and being influenced by different styles of music and then incorporating it into what we do.”
Four albums into his band’s career, that artistic restlessness has allowed Reynolds and his bandmates – guitarist Rory Clewlow, drummer Rob Rolfe and bassist Chris Batten – to craft a sound that encompasses enough influences to leave at a loss for words anyone who wants a simple description of the band’s sound.
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The diversity is more apparent than ever on the current Enter Shikari album, “The Mindsweep.” Not only is the album as a whole varied, individual songs often combine several distinct musical influences.
For instance, “The One True Color” switches between frenetic segments with the screamed vocals of hardcore and highly textured melodic pop, complete with strings that add a touch of classical to the mix.
There’s an electronic/industrial bent to “Anaesthetist,” a track whose pounding beats and spoken vocals give way to brief maelstroms of accelerated metal and punk. “Never Let Go of the Microscope” shifts easily among spacey ambience, electro-tinged rap and raging metal/hardcore, while “There’s a Price on Your Head” mixes spazzy metal with classical grandeur and a bit of mathy electro-techno.
Reynolds found bandmates who share his sense of musical adventure
In the hands of many bands, the stylistic ADHD of such songs could easily sound scattered, jarring and forced. Enter Shikari, though, has a way of smoothly transitioning between parts and building in underlying textures and grooves that help keep the songs anchored in some consistency.
The diversity in Enter Shikari’s sound comes naturally to the band. In the case of Reynolds, it’s a direct reflection of the music he encountered growing up near London.
“I don’t think it (blending styles) was ever that much of a conscious thing,” he said. “We were just lucky, if anything, to have so many different influences. My dad was actually a DJ. He deejayed Northern soul and Motown. Then I started going out as a teenager and getting into the local hardcore/punk scene.
“We also had a great influx of local ska bands as well, ska/punk. Then obviously living just outside of London, we had all of the electronica dance culture that there is there. We just had all of these things around us.”
In forming Enter Shikari in 2003, Reynolds found bandmates who share his sense of musical adventure and possess the musical skill to navigate the band’s musical landscape.
Over the course of four albums released between 2007 and January 2015 (when “The Mindsweep” arrived), Enter Shikari has steadily grown its audience, and in the case of the 2012 album “A Flash Flood of Colour” and “The Mindsweep,” made top 10 debuts on the U.S. and U.K. hard rock album charts.
Reynolds downplays Enter Shikari’s career ambitions, saying the band is “just a hobby that got out of hand.” But it’s obvious the group takes its music seriously, while also having plenty to say lyrically.
The band’s albums all have featured their share of socially aware songs, but unlike many music acts with a topical bent, Enter Shikari has never been about simply complaining, ranting or raving about the world’s ills.
We’re very passionate and yeah, very optimistic.
Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari
The positive messages in the group’s music are particularly evident on “The Mindsweep,” which finds Reynolds showing optimism about the future.
“We’re not defeatists. We’re very passionate and yeah, very optimistic,” Reynolds said. “I think there are a lot of reasons to sort of be hopeful at the moment. The advances in technology and just the sort of real acceleration of human ingenuity at the moment are just incredible. I think there are solutions out there now for all of the real hard-hitting problems that humanity faces.
“There really is some good direction. We just need to overcome those who sort of stand in the way because either their companies, their livelihoods, their profits sort of stand in the way. Yeah, it’s just kind of fighting those fights and staying positive and encouraging perspective.”
The group is also serious about its live show, and Reynolds thinks the honesty and conviction the band brings to its music has been a key reason Enter Shikari has won multiple best live band awards in the United Kingdom.
“Obviously because we touch on so many different social issues, these are things that we are genuinely passionate about and genuinely angry about,” Reynolds said. “So I think there’s a real honesty and a real passion that comes across live that perhaps you don’t see in many other (bands).
“I think the other thing we try to do is really break down the barrier between the entertained and the entertainer. We really sort of bring anybody in. We’re kind of always anti-entertainer. We want to make people think. We want to make people feel included, and we really sort of thrive on creating that communal vibe in a show.”