Conducting an interview over the phone is never ideal. Complications over the exchange of phone numbers and wranglings over a convenient time and date are all too common. And even then, there is unhelpful background noise, problematic losses of signal, and the ever complex matter of recording the conversation in the first place.
More challenging than any of this, however, is the danger of phone interviews becoming dry, stilted and wooden. Without the human spark of face to face conversation, these interviews can too easily become unbearably predictable question/answer exchanges. You can forgive Venue’s trepidation, therefore, when Enter Shikari’s Rob Rolfe opens up this interview by declaring that he is suffering from severe tonsillitis.
Yet it soon transpires that any anxiety was unwarranted. Rolfe is talkative and articulate, answering each question to put to him with the enthusiasm of someone who has never been interviewed before. And it’s worth noting that, belonging to a band with a press schedule like Enter Shikari, Rolfe has been interviewed a lot.
First on the agenda is the band’s obscure choice of recording studio – the group recently abandoned their previous haunt to record their last album A Flash Flood of Colour in the more exotic location of Bang Saray, Thailand. Rolfe’s answer is not quite as profound as you might have guessed however: “at the time we were working at a studio in Hoxton in London and the option came up of going Thailand and we figured it was a choice between commuting to London everyday on the train, or going to record the album in what’s pretty much paradise! It was a choice between grotty, stinky London, or a studio with a beach and palm trees outside the door.”
Coming from one of the UK’s mostly upwardly mobile bands, it’s relieving not to be delivered a dose of pretentious drivel about “comfort zones”, and actually receive an intelligible answer about the daily commute. Rolfe is as equally down to Earth when asked about the effect the new location had upon the record. He doesn’t try to claim some sort of affinity to traditional Thai music, but simply points out that the remote location provided a “great place to get away from distractions…pretty much all of the music was written before we went out there, but yeah, it was a good opportunity to really focus.”
Where Rolfe’s opinions become considerably less mundane is when talking about the agenda behind their latest record. A Flash Flood of Colour was one of the most outspoken and opinionated albums to be released in the last few years, the record touching on topics ranging from climate change, fossil fuels and freedom of speech.
But Rolfe isn’t happy being labelled as a “political” band – in fact he sees that as being way off the mark. If anything, he told Venue, Enter Shikari are “anti-political”. He explained that “basically what it boils down to is that politics doesn’t really seem to be adding anything to the world. We’ve tried so long to work with this system, using politicians to make the big decisions on our behalf but it’s failed us time after time”.
Nor is he happy to have A Flash Flood of Colour marked out as a “political album”, adding that “the album could be perceived to be talk around politics, but I think we see it more widely than that. It’s more expansive than just politics, we take a wider view … it’s about how the world’s going to run itself in the future, as one singular society, rather than about the ins and outs of why government has failed us”.
What Rolfe takes great pains to stress to Venue though, is that it’s not just bands and artists who should be talking about these subjects: “I think everyone’s got a duty to speak about these issues, not just bands or musicians. The fact that we are [as a band] kind of put up on this pedestal and people are willing to listen to what we say means it’s even more important to say what we think, but we need discussion everywhere.”
He is equally as eager to condemn artists who choose to pass over difficult issues to write songs a little easier for the listener to stomach: “you know, making people think it’s cool to have loads of money, lots of cars, shoot guns and be a gangster and stuff like that. They’re misguided people, but what’s more their abusing this position they have as role models by misguiding other people. If it was up to me, a lot more people would write music about things that actually matter in world terms…not just about how many gold chains they’re wearing, or about the hot girl they saw in a club.”
Enter Shikari hit the LCR for a two-night run on the 19th of December. If you like your bands opinionated and original, then it’s clear that these are shows you can’t afford to miss.