It’s been an amazing year for the British post-hardcore band Enter Shikari. With their newest album The Mindsweep reaching #1 on the UK Independent album charts and #5 on the Billboard US Hard Rock charts, as well as a slew of awards including ‘Independent Album of the Year’ from the AP Music Awards, this band is on a meteoric rise to fame and success, and they have managed to do so without the assistance of a major record label. DIME caught up with drummer Rob Rolfe and bassist Chris Batten at this year’s Welcome to Rockville festival in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jenn Devereaux: Tell me a little bit about your latest album The Mindsweep that was released last year?
Rob Rolfe: We recorded it in a converted chapel in Lincolnshire, England. We worked very hard on it.
Chris Batten: We did all of the demoing from home because once we are done touring, we like to have a little bit of time at home. So yeah, we did a lot of demos, and, once we had enough, we took them into the studio and hooked up with our producer.
RR: Rory had fixed up a little man-cave in his garage. He put up this little makeshift vocal booth and all of the guitars running into a computer and programmed all the drums. So we had been working on the demos for quite some time until we went in to record it for real. We recorded with Dan Weller and Tim Morris. [Tim] is actually out on tour with us at the moment. So yeah, we released it last year and it went extremely well. It got to #4 in the UK on the album charts, so that was good. It seems to be going down very well live.
JD: The album was initially released to stream online, was there a reason behind this?
RR: Well, in Europe, we released it with the physical product as well.
CB: Yeah, we did a week of streaming before it came out just because, well, the album had already kind of leaked.
RR: So, it was basically us sort of leaking it ourselves, but officially.
JD: Your lyrics hit on some really deep points ranging from nuclear weapons to climate change. Do you think as musicians in the public eye that it’s important to get a message across?
RR: Absolutely. It surprises us that more bands don’t talk more about these kind of social issues that affect everyone in the world. So everyday you take a look at the newspaper, or turn on the TV, or just listen to someone talking down at the pub about these kind of issues that we talk about constantly. But it seems to be skipping some people’s wavelengths. I don’t know how to describe it really.
CB: I think for us, as well, the music has always been very, very passionate and, for us to get up on stage and to be able to put everything into it, is something we feel very passionately about.
JD: Not even a full year after the band released this album, you guys re-released it as a remix called The Mindsweep: Hospitalised. How did that come about?
RR: Well, we’ve always been big dance and electronic music fans. We’ve always been big drum and bass fans, and we have had quite a few remixes of ours done in the past. Our music has a lot of electronic dance influences, so it sort of lends itself very well to being remixed. We are big fans of the label Hospital and all of their artists, so we started talking to the head of the label and throwing these ideas around.
JD: You guys own your own record label called Ambush Reality. Is there a reason you decided to go the independent route?
CB: At first, it was out of pure necessity really. We’ve never been a band to really stick around and wait for things to happen, even in the early days. We would be touring and booking our own shows and producing the music ourselves, so it always felt very at home to us. About the time it came out that we wanted to make an album…
RR: We had already done all of the hard work ourselves. We didn’t want to then just give it to a record label to reap all the benefits.
JD: Do you encourage that for other bands?
CB: I think each band is different. For us, it works perfectly because we love the freedom, and we like to be able to be as creative as possible and to be able to just put stuff out there. I think for other bands it can work very well, obviously, going down that major label route.
RR: I think we’ve been very lucky to meet the right people. We’ve built up a network of very professional people who know what they are doing around us. Basically what being on our own record label means is that we don’t have a record label sticking their oar in, saying we need to do this or we need to do that. If we want to release something, we can do it straight away. It just gives us so much creative freedom, and we can do whatever the fuck we want. We are kind of control freaks in that way.
JD: What’s the negative aspect of that?
RR: There isn’t as much money as the big machine. But at the end of the day, you’re sort of getting a lot more benefits from it that are worth it.
JD: Being from the UK, as outsiders looking in, what’s your perspective on Donald Trump and the whole American election race in general?
RR: I think Bernie Sanders is one of the most inspiring prospective candidates that you’ve had for a very long time. He seems to be a very sensible man with some very forward thinking views and ideas. If I was an American citizen, I would vote for him.
JD: If you had a hypothetical soapbox to get one message out into the universe at this very moment, what would be?
CB: Just one, huh?
RR: Well, first of all, there seems to be a lot of sort of dark t-shirts and a lot of angry people, and there seems to be a lot of big butch guys running into each other. Maybe I would preach more about love and friendship and happiness in the world, and a little less hatred and aggression.