2017 line-up includes: Enter Shikari, Don Broco, Bowling For Soup, Neckdeep, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Deaf Havana, Beartooth, Tonight Alive and We Are The Ocean.

Showcasing the best in contemporary emo, punk and ska, this three-stop touring festival last year moved its Midlands date from Wolverhampton to the NEC, allowing for easy access from across the country. 
Linked to the Leeds-based club nights and indie record label of the same name, Slam Dunk takes place over the May bank holiday weekend and boasts more than 40 acts over multiple stages, as well as DJ sets, exclusive signings and a riotous afterparty to round things off.

Lauren Foster talks to lead vocalist Rou Reynolds ahead of the band’s anniversary gig at Slam Dunk Festival.

Enter Shikari are headlining Slam Dunk Festival, which returns to Birmingham in May. What can fans expect from this anniversary show?
For the first time in our lives and for a band that relentlessly looks forward, we’ll be pausing for breath, celebrating our history and looking at how we got to where we are today. We’re allowing ourselves a few months of nostalgia as we revisit our first release, Take To The Skies. We’ll be playing every track from the album, which means a few songs will be getting their first ever airing live! 

Take To The Skies reached number four in the UK album chart, selling almost 30,000 copies in its first week. Prior to the release, did you and the band expect it to be so well-received? A debut album reaching number four is pretty impressive...
We’d been feeling a slow and steady surge of support for a while, as more and more people began to take notice of us, but I can’t say we anticipated the album charting. The chart was such a foreign concept to us anyway, coming from such a DIY punk background, so it really blew us away. I remember it really feeling like an incursion on pop music by the underground. It felt like a success for the whole scene.

Similarly, could you ever imagine when you started out back in 2003 that you’d be headlining the UK’s biggest punk rock festival? 
Absolutely not. Back then, it was just on our bucket list to play shows outside, to simply be on at a festival. After playing every small, sweaty and dark venue on the UK circuit, playing outside felt like such a luxury. I remember that being our only ambition - a somewhat quaint one, in retrospect. Now, though, it feels right. We’re more than ready. We’re insatiable.

In more recent years, you’ve worked closely alongside Hospital Records in releasing drum & bass remixes. How did this come about?
Hospital Records has been my favourite drum & bass label since I was about 16, buying records and getting into DJing for the first time. We’d worked with a few artists on their label who’d done remixes of our tracks here and there. And it felt like with The Mindsweep we had the perfect album - in all its diversity - to be reworked and remixed in its entirety. It turned out a few of the producers on the label were fans of ours as well, so it felt like a really natural and worthwhile project to do.

With that in mind, how do you think your fan base has evolved over the years?
I think it’s mainly just become more diverse. It started off as much more of a narrow, ‘underground scene’-orientated following. But it’s since blossomed to include people from all walks of life, all ages and backgrounds. I think this basically follows or shadows the progression of our music as it’s become more diverse, with wider influences. Growing up, we were very lucky to have had inspiration from drum & bass, neoclassical, grime, indie, and we’ve subsequently been lucky enough to have made friends and drawn followings from each of those scenes too.

Last year, Enter Shikari embarked on their biggest headline tour to date, playing numerous arena-style venues. Do you prefer performing bigger shows or smaller, more intimate gigs?
My preference is always to play outside, in and often against the elements. It feels more primitive and raw that way. But really, I get asked this question all the time and I’m honestly not fussy. I enjoy playing anywhere; the environment isn’t important as long as it provides a backdrop for human connection. Give me a mic, toss me down a well and I’ll sing my heart out if anyone’s down there to join me. Give me a stage in the middle of a swamp and I’ll wrestle an alligator for their enjoyment. 

Have you performed any particularly memorable shows?
The width, breadth and height of this question and all its possible answers gives me vertigo. But to give you something rather than nothing, the first one that comes to mind was in Blackpool, I think. We didn’t actually get to play the show, though, so I’m not sure it even counts as an answer to this question! The show was cancelled because, during soundcheck, our sub bass started loosening bits of the ceiling and consequently brought into question the structural integrity of the building.

Have you attended any previous Slam Dunk events?
Yeah, we DJed at one of the first ones, actually. And then again last year. Been a few times as a punter as well. Always a good time.

What does the future hold for Enter Shikari?
Sweat and toil. I’m halfway through writing an album that will redefine us and will hopefully bring our message to a new audience. 

Enter Shikari play Slam Dunk Festival at the NEC, Birmingham on Saturday 27 May.

Interview by Lauren Foster

on Wed, 26 Apr 2017

Showcasing the best in contemporary emo, punk and ska, the three-stop touring Slamdunk Festival this year moves its Midlands date from Wolverhampton to the NEC. Associated with the Leeds-based club nights and indie record label of the same name, Slam Dunk Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, meaning that attendees in 2016 can expect to experience the biggest and best Slam Dunk party to date. Over 50 artists will play across seven stages, alongside DJ sets, exclusive signings and a riotous afterparty to round things off.

2016 Line-up Includes: Panic! at the Disco, Of Mice & Men, New Found Glory, Mallory Knox, Yellowcard, Shikari Sounds System, Mayday Parade, The King Blues, The Story So Far and many more.

Slam Dunk Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Take us through the journey from its inception... 
It started in 2006, when I needed a large venue to put on Fall Out Boy in the city of Leeds. I ended up using the large Millennium Square - and as it was a Saturday, I turned it into an all-day event and called it a festival! It’s then just grown over the last 10 years - and we’ve added more stages and more venues as it’s done so. That’s increased the audience size from a couple of thousand to nearly 40,000. We first added a Midlands event, in Wolverhampton, in 2013. After three successful years there, we’ve moved to Birmingham’s NEC for 2016.
You’ve stated the 2016 event is going to be the best party you’ve ever thrown. What’s going to make this year better than the previous nine?
Its simply much bigger than before. The NEC is a great venue, and we’ll also be throwing a big after-party in conjunction with Birmingham-based promoter Uprawr. Taking place in one of the Pavilions at the NEC, it will be the biggest rock club night the Midlands has ever seen. 

The festival is usually held at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall but has relocated for the time being due to the venue’s refurbishment. Is the plan to move back to Wolverhampton when the Civic reopens?
We will look at the options. It will ultimately come down to the size of the acts we have on.

Slam Dunk Festival won Best Festival at the Kerrang! Awards in both 2014 and 2015. Did you ever imagine the event would be so successful?
No, not at all. It started almost as an accident - I never set out to create a festival. The event has grown at a good, slow rate. It wouldn’t have been such a success if we’d tried too much, too quickly. 

Who are you most looking forward to seeing play at this year’s event?
As it’s the 10th anniversary, it was important to book a line-up that represented the 10 years. I think we’ve done that, so I’m looking forward to re-living some great memories as well as discovering new artists. 

It must be a real bonus that Panic! At The Disco’s only UK dates this year are for Slam Dunk. How did booking them come about?
I knew they were planning to tour Europe around the time of the event, as I’ve always done their shows in Leeds, so I offered them the slot.

Are there any moments, good or bad, from previous years that are particularly memorable?
Nothing sticks out because there have been so many of both! It’s really fun and really stressful at the same time. 

Generally speaking, rock bands have a reputation for being rebellious. Are there any moments from previous years where this was particularly evident?
Back in 2010, the last time New Found Glory played, they and a load of other bands invaded the stage during the set of alternative girl band The Millionaires. It was pretty chaotic, so I hope they don’t do that again!

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever come across on an artist’s rider?
A framed picture of Cuba Gooding Jr.

What are your hopes for the festival in the future?
Just to keep getting bigger and better!

By Lauren Foster

Slamdunk Festival is at the NEC, Birmingham on Sun 29 May. Tickets HERE

on Wed, 27 Apr 2016

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