Packed to the brim with whiplash-inducing twists and turns, searing social commentary and enough chaotic, kaleidoscopic energy to have listeners drenched in sweat and out of breath by its interlude, Enter Shikari’s sixth full-length effort is the perfect musical rollercoaster for pop, rock and punk fans to embrace as the album that will undoubtedly go on to define 2020.
It’s also a distinct encapsulation of all the colour and calamity the band have spent their past 21 years brewing – that fact by design, according to guitarist Rory Clewlow.
The 15-track Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible comes three years after a decidedly focussed effort in The Spark, which sought to revolutionise the aesthetic behind the English electronicore warriors; less garish and erratic, with a defined sound and restrained potency… A calmer Shikari, in a lot of ways.
But alas, the state of affairs in 2020 is too turbulent for Clewlow, frontman Rou Reynolds and co. to maintain that calm façade – the world needs Enter Shikari at their ballsiest and most batshit crazy.
And by gum, have they stepped up to the plate with this absolutely captivating clusterf*** of an album.
What is it about LP6 that makes it the definitive reflection of what Enter Shikari is and stands for as a band in 2020?
The first ideas for a new record started coming to us around the time Rou was writing this book [Dear Future Historians], which is basically a collection of essays about every single one of our songs. We also had the ten year anniversary of [debut album] Take To The Skies around then, and we did a year of touring for that, so we had to re-learn a lot of those songs for the first time since 2007. With those two things coupled together, it was the first time that we’d really sort of looked back at our history.
Because normally, we’d very, very rarely go back and listen to the earlier stuff – we’re always just thinking about what we’re doing now and what we’re going to do in the future. But these things forced us to reflect on our past for the first time, and that had a big influence on this album because all of a sudden we were going, “Oh yeah, we used to do that all the time! We used to sound like that!” There were some techniques we loved to play with back in the day that we had sort of forgotten about as new ones popped up.
The Spark was so different to anything you’d done before it, but in a lot of ways, this record feels like a callback to the Shikari we knew and loved right before it. Was it always the plan to wind the dial back a bit after making an album as left-field as The Spark?
There was a little bit of backlash we faced when that record came out. Because with The Spark, we were like, “Let’s just push ourselves – let’s just see what we can do, and how different we can make this.” Just to kind of get ourselves out of the formula, y’know? It was like, “C’mon lads, we’ve done four records now, let’s do something different.” We wanted to try a really focussed concept, and the idea we had was for this retro ‘80s synthpop kind of vibe – something really ridiculous.
But then after that, when it came to thinking about this record, we stepped back and went, “Y’know what? Let’s not have a focus at all. Let’s just go back to making records that have everything and the kitchen sink in them.” So we didn’t have a singular concept that we wanted to explore, or anything like, “This is what the record is going to sound like.” We just went into it saying, “Let’s start writing, and let’s not worry about whether it falls into the same world as the rest of the songs.” And that had always been our mentality towards Enter Shikari albums before The Spark as well.
I feel like one of the benefits of writing for Enter Shikari would be that you can never really disappoint anyone by straying too far from your core sound, because your core sound has always been so aggressively diverse and experimental. Do you feel like you have a level of freedom as songwriters that other bands don’t?
Definitely! I mean, we’ve heard of bands that openly talk amongst themselves about how they’re bored of their own sounds. A producer will say to them, “Why don’t we try adding something like this in this bit?” And they’ll go, “No, our fans won’t like that – we’re a metal band, we’re just going to do metal.” And these are bands that are doing really well for themselves, but they have that mentality where if they do anything outside of the ordinary, they’re suddenly cheating themselves. And that’s completely alien to us. We’ve always been like, “Oh, that sounds different and unusual – let’s try that!” We’re always looking for the next thing – the next idea that will spark our imagination and interest us.
What kind of guitarsenal did you have to play with on this album?
I’m very much about keeping things simple – I’m not a real tech-y gear head kind of guy. I pretty much recorded the whole album with one guitar, which is the same guitar I use live – it’s an American Pro Telecaster with stock pickups in it, and the only real modification I’ve made is the Evertune bridge. Ever since I discovered it – eight years ago or whatever – it’s been a complete lifesaver. I tune my guitar once in the morning, and then all day in the studio, I can just pick it up and play. It’s saved so many hours in the studio.
I know you use a Kemper for all of your effects live – are you using that in the studio as well, or do you have a secret toybox of pedals we should know about?
So this record was done in halves – we had about three weeks in the studio, then we went on tour for a couple of months, and then we came back and had another three weeks in the studio. For the first three weeks, we hit up some of our friends who use a lot of Orange amps. Because yeah, like you said, I do only use the Kemper in my day-to-day life – I don’t even own any real amps anymore, I sold them all years ago.
So we borrowed some Orange amps – a Dual Terror and a Pedal Baby – and I also borrowed a Victory Kraken, which was really nice. I played on all of those for our first stint in the studio. and then when we came back to record the second half of the album a few months later, the engineer we were working with, Dan Weller, he got sent the Neural DSP Archetype: Nolly, which is a really good amp simulator plugin. And literally, we tried it out once, and after that we didn’t use anything else for the whole session.
We did the whole second half of the recording with one guitar and one amp sim, because the sound we got from them was just so good. And that’s normally how I like to work; I like to keep the workflow going and not worry too much about which guitar I’m using, or stuff like that. We do a lot of the effects in post as well – because this album was self-produced, we had a lot more time and a lot of freedom to tweak stuff, or experiment with different patches and plugins.