Making some real noise: Enter Shikari’s Rob Rolfe
“Every cloud has a silver lining”
For Rob Rolfe, the drummer of electro-rock band Enter Shikari, that old adage might be more than just a comforting phrase. When he experienced one of his darkest days, it actually spring-boarded the beginning of something new in his life.
Rolfe has launched his own events company called Real Events and is giving the next generation of local bands in his hometown of St Albans a platform to perform. This act echoes how his band got started, and he is enjoying his time on the other side of the stage.
Keeping it real
Rolfe has been part of Shikari’s rise from unknown St Albans rockers to internationally-renowned music festival regulars over the past eight years. The band is known for achieving its success without succumbing to major label overtures, running the band in a DIY fashion.
Crucial to Shikari’s success was its relentless touring throughout the UK during its early days – gigs at house parties, tiny venues, local pubs and clubs helped to build a fan base. Rolfe is using this experience to help give the next generation of local musical talent a chance to shine.
“A few friends and I decided to put some gigs on at The Pioneer venue in St Albans, where we and others used to play almost weekly back in 2002,” said Rolfe. “Unfortunately, the local music scene has wasted away to nothing since those days and Real Events wants to bring it back to life.”
Rolfe started Real Events when Enter Shikari went to tour America at the start of 2010 and he wasn’t on the plane. “I got arrested for a minor misdemeanour a few weeks before we were due to set off, and it meant I wasn’t allowed an entry visa. To say I was gutted is an understatement,” he mused. But Rolfe understood that his band had to take the opportunity to increase its awareness in the potentially lucrative US music market.
When pushed on the subject, Rolfe remained tight lipped, but you could see the emotion that particular memory stirs up in him: “I helped pick a stand-in and things, but it was a kick in the balls. It cost the band and I missed out on a massive section of my playing career, but I don’t have any convictions to my name. Let’s leave it at that.”
However, Rolfe certainly used the spare time to his advantage; he saw family and friends, kept fit down his local gym, read a lot of books and started Real Events. Not for him the temptations of being in a rock band and lording it down the pubs and clubs. Maybe missing out on that first US tour was a harsh lesson learnt?
“Got an ID, mate?”
Real Events wants to cater to a wide audience of music lovers in St Albans and the surrounding areas. Rolfe wants to encourage young people aged 14 and over to come along to watch the bands, while still keeping older people happy with a licensed bar area.
“One of the Shikari managers knew about licensing laws, so we could have a bar on-site. We work in on a wristband system, with those over 18 receiving one,” Rolfe explained, “but it requires a lot of policing as you can imagine.”
Rolfe also added that the presence of a bar sometimes means a very clear divide on the venue floor: “Unfortunately the drinkers tend to stay at the back, away from the stage. It creates a bit of a divide but we are working on ways to get as many people in front of the bands as possible.”
Rolfe said he picks up new tricks with every event night he helps run. As well as considering all the promotional materials, the staffing solutions for the cloakroom and the bar, the alcohol supply, who will be doing the sound and lighting, he now also remembers to do little things like ticketing.
“The first night we ran, a friend of mine called me asking to purchase tickets,” he laughed. “We had no tickets to sell, so had to quickly set up an online ticketing page. You get so worried about how the day is going to run that you forget about the basics sometimes.”
Rolfe is still dedicated to Enter Shikari, but he doesn’t shirk his Real Events responsibilities when he is away touring or recording with his band. “I’ve helped organise two of our nights from my laptop and mobile phone while away on tour. They’ve always come together though!”
What’s up next?
Rolfe revealed that Shikari would be off to a studio in Thailand soon to record its third album. “At our recent recording sessions we’ve been putting our ideas on a whiteboard,” he elaborated. “We divided it into four sections – one for riffs, one for ‘works in progress’, one is for ‘rough cuts’ and one is for ‘final songs’.”
At the time of writing, three songs had been demoed and produced with Dan Weller (ex-Sikth) at Fortress Studios, with about seven or eight ‘rough cuts’ to be worked on further. Once everything is finalised, Weller and the band will then head over to Thailand.
“The album might not be out until the beginning of 2012, or maybe just this side of Christmas. But we aren’t going to just disappear until then,” stressed Rolfe. “I’m sure there will be at least one single and a video in the offing, and we’ll be touring soon to build up some anticipation.”
Rolfe will be playing in the US this year for sure, as Enter Shikari is booked to play the two-month long Vans Warped Tour this summer. Back at home in the UK, Shikari has been confirmed to play the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August and will be embarking on a tour later in the year. Will he be keeping out of trouble this time round?
“I’ll be keeping my nose clean, that is for sure!” he smiled. “But who knows what the future may bring? It’s nice to know I have other things I can be involved in if Shikari ever does stop being part of my life.”
So, maybe that one slice of bad luck might actually turn out to be a small blessing in disguise for Rolfe after all? Well, as they say, every cloud…
Keep up to date on Enter Shikari at www.entershikari.com
By James Barrett