There are few bands that treverse the lines of dance and heavy music as well as Enter Shikari. Since 2003, the band has carved an ever deepening niche in the global music scene, blending post-hardcore with their fond love of UK dubstep and drum and bass over three well-received albums. Bassist and co-vocalist Chris Batten spoke to Kill Your Stereo about their latest album and their upcoming appearance at Soundwave 2012.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your role in the band?
Well, my name’s Chris, I play bass and perform vocals in the band, and I’m one of four. We’ve been going as this lineup since 2003 and we just released our third album on Monday. I’m very outgoing, I like a lot of sports and playing music, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. Really, I’m just a very sociable and like to get out and experience as much as I possibly can. I’d hate to look back on my life and feel like I’ve missed out on anything, so I’d like to experience as much as possible.
What has the reaction to ‘A Flash Flood Of Colour’ been like?
For us, it’s been absolutely incredible. All the online activity we’ve seen and the comments have been making it all worthwhile. The album’s actually been finished for a few months, and having to wait for people to hear it was just excruciating because you want people to be able to hear it straight away and you want to know what they think. Having to wait that long was pretty painful, but we’re just happy it’s out now and people really seem to be liking it. All the stuff in magazines and everything, especially in the UK, has been really positive, and America’s really getting on board. The main thing you do it for are the fans’ reactions, and people have been going nuts over. We’re over the moon, really.
The album is set to take the number one spot on the UK charts this week. As a heavy, self-released band, how does it feel to be in this position alongside mainstream acts?
It feels slightly out of place, but we’re loving every second of it. As a band like us, releasing our own music and on our own label, we never really expected to be up there alongside the likes of Adele and people like that who sell that amount of records week in and week out. It’s just a really positive step for us and just something so great to be involved in.
Why has the band continued to self-release its music on its own Ambush Reality label?
The first album we set up Ambush Reality for, because we knew we were selling out shows around the country and we knew there was definitely a demand for the music, so we were never really a band to sit around and wait for anything to happen. We’d been speaking with a couple of labels and nobody was really jumping at the opportunity, so we though, “We’ll do it ourselves, there’s nothing stopping us,” and that went really well. We licensed our second album to a major label and it was a strange experience for us. Having to hand the reigns over to someone else after having so much control isn’t something we handled too well. After that album, we felt like we’d given that a go and wanted to get back to the way we liked doing things. I guess in today’s music industry, there’s no set structure or a set way to do anything, so we like changing things up, we like doing things our own way, and it’s where we’ve gained the most success from. It’s always felt like the right thing to do for us.
How did the writing process for the new album differ from previous releases?
I guess the main difference was that we gave ourselves enough time for this record. The first two records were quite rushed. The first record was written across a long period of time, we were touring, writing and making demos and things like that, so that all happened over a large amount of time. The second record was the first time we were all together and had to get right into it properly, so that was the first time we really experienced that. For this record, we gave ourselves a few months after Christmas 2010 for writing, and we basically went into the studio when we were ready. So all we had to do when we entered the studio was really relax and concentrate on the tones, the instrumentation, and just getting everything sounding exactly how we wanted it, really. That would be the main difference. I guess musically, the album is more extreme in every way. It’s got some of the heaviest music we’ve ever written, alongside some of the most delicate and melodic stuff we’ve ever written as well.
Is the writing process democratic or do all of the band members concentrate on their own individual sections?
Well, how it normally works is our singer is really into dubstep production and drum and bass production as well, so he’ll usually come to us with some electronic ideas, and maybe a couple of guitar riffs on there. Then we’ll take it into the rehearsal room, I’ll record my bass over the top of it and throw in vocal ideas, and basically that would be it. We’d just be passing it around to each other and working like that, and then we’d come together and practice it out to see how it felt in a live environment. So kind of like that, but there’s not really any set way we have of writing songs. Sometimes it can start from these lyrics that spark a melody, or an electronic riff or a guitar riff. There’s lots of different starting points.
What influenced the decision to record in Thailand with Dan Weller?
We actually grew up around the corner from Dan Weller and he was a bit older than us, so when were in our teens he was in his band called Sikth, which we were all massive, massive fans of. It was some of the most interesting music we were hearing at the time, so we’ve always had a lot of respect for Dan. He came to work with us on production of the guitars for our second album, but this time around it was just him and we’ve worked so well together. He’s really, really easy-going in the studio and loves experimenting, so the same as us, really. He just gets a really good kick out of trying something new, so we had a great time making the record, it was just so much fun. As for Thailand, we were doing some of the tracks in London and as we were doing them, Dan told us about his friend in Thailand with a studio he’d just opened, and was trying to get us to come over. We had a look at the studio and it was really impressive, and my first thought was that it was never gonna happen and that it was far too much of a studio for us and that it would be really expensive. As it turned out, it was totally doable and it made a lot of sense to go over there. In the end, originally it was just a choice of having to get the train home on the tube and going to a studio in London, or we could fly to Thailand, wake up in the studio, have amazing weather and nothing to distract us, so it was an easy decision.
The band has become more political with its lyrics this time around. What are the reasons for this?
We’ve come in drips. We’ve started getting a bit more direct with the lyrics. Our singer writes them all and I think we realised that people are actually listening to what we’re saying, and whether we liked it or not, we were in this position of having a responsibility to say something we felt really passionate about. We’ve never really been a band to write songs about lost girlfriends or anything like that. We want to write something important that we believe people should actually be hearing.
The album is a much more cohesive blend of dance and heavy genres of music that differentiates the band from its peers. Was this a conscious decision?
I guess with us, with genres and bands within genres, it never made much sense. For us, music has always been such an expressive artform, and we could never really understand why people would want to stick to a set of guidelines or rules that restrains them to one genre. For us, it’s always been a case of always wanting to put as much into our music as possible, so it kind of came naturally. We grew up just outside of London and we had a very thriving local scene, and had a lot of gigs going with local metal bands and such. Also, London is where you can hear some of the most amazing dance music in the world, so really we just had so much inspiration around us. We always wanted to stand out and we never wanted to regurgitate something we’d heard other people doing before.
Soundwave 2012 will be the band’s fourth time in Australia and the second time with the festival. What do you love about touring here and being a part of the event?
Well you know, these festival tours you’ve got going in Australia like Big Day Out and Soundwave especially are some of the most unique festivals with some of the most amazing bands, and they’re the festivals that everyone talks about as being the most fun tours to do. I’m really excited to get back over, we’ll get a lot of time to take in the sights and the culture, and it’ll be in your summer so it’ll be great. It’s a really great tour to be involved in.
What can fans expect from the setlist for the tour?
We haven’t actually decided what we’re going to be playing yet. It’s going to be the first tour where people are actually going to be hearing the new album. We’ve done three album release shows these past three days in the UK, and other than that, this will be the first time. We want to get a lot of the new stuff out there. It depends on the set times, but there’ll be a mixture of the older classics, but we’ll also play a lot of the new album. For us, that’s what we wanna be doing, and it’s refreshing as well.
Tell us about the craziest thing the band has ever done?
I hate being put on the spot about crazy things, because my mind goes blank! Basically a lot of band pranks, really. In the old post office van that we used to go on tour with around the country with friends of ours, I remember doing some ridiculous things driving along the motorway. We’d be lining our vans up at 60 miles per hour along the motorway, opening the doors and hanging out and moving each other. We found a naked guy in our van once who’d been hanging there for about an hour, and he jumped out on us in the middle of the motorway. Other than that, it’s all just a bit of a drunken blur really. We all like to have a lot of fun.
Where do you see Enter Shikari in five years?
It’s weird for us. We’ve never really made ourselves any expectations or set any targets. We’ve always said that it’s really just a hobby that’s gotten out of hand, and you know, we absolutely love doing and are happy to be doing it. I guess in five years if we are still making music that we find interesting and different, then it would be incredible if we could still be doing the same thing in five years.
Are there any comments you’d like to finish on?
We’re just really excited to get over there and see the reaction to the new songs!