Before legendary UK rockers Enter Shikari took the stage at the Basement East, one sentiment could be heard throughout the crowd, “I just wish they were bigger in the US.” The band’s current US run includes a couple festival dates and a handful of intimate shows – a major shift from their recent arena tour in the UK. Before taking the stage in Nashville, lead singer Rou Reynolds was generous enough to answer some questions regarding their newest album, touring in the US, and some favorite up-and-coming artists.

What would you say is the biggest difference between touring in the states compared to the UK/Europe (other than the more intimate venue sizes this tour)?

“Well the other obvious difference is the sheer size of it. It takes 6 weeks to even make a solid dent in North America so it’s always a tour that tests you to your limits! I would say the shows can be slightly wilder over in the States sometimes too. I think there is a portion of the alternative scene in the US that really yearns for something other than the standard metalcore sound, something innovative and diverse. And that’s what we deliver.”

Nashville is going through similar struggles to the UK with small venues closing. Can you talk a bit about what you all have been doing to support local venues in the UK?

“The arts are only well funded at the hyper high end—opera and high art for example. And in the live industry it is only at the arena-level that funding and building is achieved. So for any youthful nuanced scenes or the alternative world in general, there’s certainly no governmental funding (like in German or Scandanavia) and consequently we’ve seen the grassroots venue circuit suffer tremendously.”

“As a band we’re lucky enough to be of a size where we can do arena tours here in the UK, so we have been fighting to get arenas to start funding smaller venues. After all, who will fill out the arenas in the future if there are no smaller venues for artists to grow up playing whilst honing their craft? So on our last UK arena tour at the beginning of this year we gave £1 for every ticket sold to the Music Venue Trust, who fight brilliantly for the grassroots circuit.”

Enter Shikari at the Basement East May 10

Reynolds makes no mistake when discussing the passion of North American fans. Before their set, people could be heard discussing the lengths they’d come just to see the group. As a drum & bass heavy playlist filled the venue, California, Maryland, Minnesota, and Florida were just a few of the states I overheard. As I listened, I began to question if I was one of the only people there actually from Nashville. 

Various groups discussed purposely routing their drive through the Great Smoky Mountains and stopping for hikes on the drive up to Nashville. A recurring sentiment that may seem odd to outsiders, but makes perfect sense for fans of a group known for their overtly political and environmental themes. Themes that even bled into production on their newest album, A Kiss for the Whole World, with the band recording the record in a solar powered cottage off the coast of England.

You all started exploring orchestration on Everything is True & Nothing is Possible, and have continued that on this record. How did the composition process differ on A Kiss for the Whole World?

“Yeh, the trumpet was the first instrument I learnt as a kid, and I used to adore playing in the school orchestra. It’s a surreal joy to now be in charge of a professional orchestra and have my ideas brought to life by 50+ classical musicians!”

“In general I think AKFTWW was my favourite album recording experience. We rented out a cottage on the south coast of England and lived there for 5 weeks, just the band and our engineer. It was a wonderful escape, a real back-to basics experience. The house was off-grid, 100% solar powered and we had to chop wood everyday for the burners to stay warm inside. We cooked for each other, and had some great runs across the countryside. It was very idyllic, and exactly what we needed to all reconnect after the pandemic, it was like being given a second chance as a band. The whole experience was so thrilling and I’m very grateful for it.”

Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari at the Basement East May 10

My eavesdropping soon came to an end as the lights dimmed and Reynolds entered the stage reciting “System…” off of 2012’s A Flash Flood of Colour. Quietly, the rest of the band took their places as they seamlessly flowed into “…Meltdown.” The venue immediately transformed as the spotlight on Reynolds was replaced with pulsing lights and Shikari’s unique blend of buzzy synths and chugging guitar filled the space.

“…Meltdown” was followed by the distinctly more pop-sounding “Live Outside” (The Spark) and recent fan favorite “Giant Pacific Octopus (i don’t know you anymore)” off A Kiss for the Whole World. After which, Reynolds laughed, “three songs and she’s a goner,” while rattling around his mic stand. It marked the first of numerous technical issues throughout the night, but all were handled with a similar humor.

There are a lot of call backs on this album. “Jailbreak,” for example, includes the lyric “Wish I was back at the dreamer’s hotel.” I was wondering if those self referential lyrics were intentional, or if that’s something that just naturally occurred in the songwriting process?

“I love creating a universe for my music to live in. I sometimes think of it like a film franchise. Take Star Wars for instance. The universe they’ve created now is huge and varied. With each new release we may return to a planet we have already seen, or catch up with a character we already know. I think of my lyrics and music as doing the same thing. We’ve also now built up quite an output with 7 studio albums, so giving the new fans some bearings is also helpful I imagine!”

Enter Shikari at the Basement East May 10

The night’s set continued with “Anaesthetist,” “Torn Apart,” and “interlude” before returning to A Kiss for the Whole World with “Jailbreak” and “Bloodshot.” Both songs stood out on the album’s release, but they truly come alive in the live setting. “Bloodshot” specifically garnered some of the best crowd reception of the night and seemed to shrink the venue into a full-body experience.

Starting when you all did, MySpace was huge in the scene, and we’ve now watched social media take on different forms in the music industry. “Bloodshot” discusses that relationship with social media now, but how do you feel that as a band, your relationship with social media has shifted throughout your career?

“I try and think of social media in the same way we always have, no matter how much it changes, and no matter how dangerous it becomes. We use it to stay as connected and open as possible with the people who support us. I never want to feel like a lofty, uncontactable, holier-than-thou band who look down on their audience.”

“I think we’re now a long way from how the original pioneers of the internet and social media saw things, and the utopian dream of a simple technology that made the world a smaller place has become hijacked by one that also promotes bad faith, and amplifies lies and tribalism.”

Rob Rolfe of Enter Shikari at the Basement East May 10

 “Bloodshot” was followed by their most recent single, “Losing My Grip,” featuring the lead singer Jason Aalon Butler of Fever 333 on vocals. Reynolds provided thanks to Fever 333 before they launched into the song with Butler’s voice playing over the tracking.

Rou recently posted a breakdown of the production on your newest single. Is that kind of behind the curtain view something you all are planning on continuing into this new album?

“When we get the time yeh! I love letting people in on how we create.”

You recently partnered with Jason Aalon of Fever 333 for “Losing My Grip,” and you have previously worked with artists such as Wargasm and Cody Frost. How do you go about choosing who to work with on these single releases?

“It’s really all down to what I can hear. In all those instances I was simply writing a track and could hear their voices on it. We’ve always been a little hesitant on collaborations and features but yeh we’ve had some great experiences and accomplishments recently.”

Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari at the Basement East May 10

The mood noticeably shifted as the band filed out leaving Reynolds alone on stage once again. The spotlight returned as he began to discuss his recent desire to play an old song they hadn’t performed in years – before correcting himself with “well actually I played it a few weeks ago.” He explained how he “discovered a whole new world,” when learning about Israel’s use of white phosphorus against Palestine and made sure to emphasize that this was back in 2010. He simply stated, “I hope to god there is a Gaza left,” before starting a solo rendition of “Stalemate.”

The band quietly returned, but not for long. “Stand Your Ground; This Is Ancient Land,” “Enter Shikari,” “Mothership,” and “Solidarity” in such rapid succession it was hard to tell where one song ended and another began. It was roughly 12 minutes of madness that reinvigorated the audience before the final stretch of the night’s set.

Flummox at the Basement East May 10

While there was time for a breather, “It Hurts,” and “satellites**”  followed close behind. After which bassist Chris Batten stepped up to the mic to thank local band Flummox for opening the show. He laughed, “We play a lot of shows and it’s rare to see a band like that. They were mad,” and I couldn’t put it better myself.

Describing Flummox is an absolute feat, but if I had to, I would tell you to imagine Primus if they had a propensity for doom metal and arming trans girls. If you can catch a Flummox show, just do it. You won’t be disappointed.

Flummox at the Basement Easy May 10
What is an artist or group that each of you/you are really passionate or excited about right now?

DIIV, The Philharmonik, DJ Sabrina The Teenage DJ, Hobo Johnson.”

{The Dreamer’s Hotel}” closed the show as a mock voicemail for the so-called Dreamer’s Hotel played before the encore which opened with the infamous, “Sorry You’re Not a Winner.” They played through the original verse and chorus allowing the crowd to clap along to the iconic opening riff before shifting into the Pendulum remix of the track. The show ended with Shikari offering “A Kiss for the Whole World x.” During which a boy no older than eight crowd surfed, disconfirming my growing belief that I was the youngest person there. As they all left the stage, the sound of bird calls played over the speakers, offering a rather peaceful end to quite an eventful evening.

The forthcoming Dancing On The Frontline features remixes, BBC sessions, and more releases on June 7.