How does it feel to have everything? And who better to ask such a particular question than Everything Everything front man Jonathan Everything, a man given the surname of Higgs when not on stage?
Their debut album Man Alive has been received with the kind of critical adulation that secured them a place on the BBC’s Sound Of 2010 shortlist at the cold beginning of the year. Back to the present and, when we talk to him, he’s basking in the light of an almost un-English summer warmth.
“We’ve been getting a bit sunburned, you know, the usual stuff – but that’s been through filming videos, mainly,” he says. “We really enjoyed shooting the video for the rerelease of MY KZ UR BF; it was almost ridiculous in the way it was so professionally done. We had 50 people and all the cameras, and all the stuff that goes with it. We were on the set of The Bill as it was finishing, and we had loads of posters with ‘the end is nigh’ and ‘the end of the world’.”
He seems genuinely impressed with the end results. “It was really cool, on a much different level from what we’ve done in the past. This time we were able to sit back and let the other people do their stuff. The director we got this time had already worked with Wild Beasts, and he came back with a brief that had very visual things about explosions and stuff. They got the ill visions and the nods to the superficial in the song. The whole thing about MY KZ UR BF is about fooling you into thinking something real is happening, and then suddenly at the end it turns on its head and it’s not an illusion after all.”
“We find we’re using the same pay-offs, but in a different way”– Everything Everything singer Jonathan on his band’s reimagining of traditional pop music
Is it a conscious aim of the band, to counteract people’s expectations? “To surprise, certainly,” he concedes. “I think we’re aware there is a lot of predictability in pop music, which is fine to an extent as you want to have things you recognise. The first time it happens you find yourself predicting where it wants to go, and we find we’re using the same pay-offs, but in a different way.”
With a bit more thought, he broadens the subject. “I think all art should be like that really. We don’t challenge ourselves when we’re writing; we find the tendency to surprise comes up naturally. There is a tendency to straighten out some of the off the wall ideas, though, and even some of the things we’ve come out with are straightened out. But having said that I never find myself wanting to know what I’m about to do!”
Talking to Higgs is rather like listening to the band’s music, the singer revealing more information and invention with each listen. With their first album in the bag, Jonathan feels the quartet is making real progress. “We’re following the path that led us towards this – which obviously began with making the band, then writing the songs, then getting signed – and then years and years of thought. It’s an amazing feeling to have got to this point.”
It is in effect the end of the first part of a long journey. “I was at school with Mike,” Jonathan recalls, “and then met Jeremy in university. We were very lucky with how we found Alex Robertshaw though, as it was the result of a misprint in the NME which led to us going to see the wrong band. We found this amazing guitarist; it was completely ridiculous what he was playing. We saw him for a second time a few weeks later, and he was amazing again. So when our guitarist (also called Alex) left, his band Opera House split up and he joined us. We’re really lucky to have him.”
“I don’t think we’ve strayed at all in our creative urges either, this really does feel like who we are”
– Jonathan Everything asserting the convictions of the band’s debut album
All the band are currently focussed on their album, with “all the gigs leading to the release. The audience don’t know it that well yet, so we’ve had quite a lot of confused faces. I’m looking forward now to where we won’t feel like there are lulls in the sets when we’re playing the quiet numbers no-one knows. We can’t wait to play headline tours.”
For now, the sense of satisfaction is palpable. “I think we’ve achieved, and that we’ve shown ourselves honestly,” he asserts. “I don’t think we’ve strayed at all in our creative urges either; this really does feel like who we are. What we can offer is a bit of light and dark. Something we do well is variety, I think – a spectrum of moods, emotions and sounds.”
This goes some way to explaining the depth of their songs, which Higgs expands further. “In the microcosm of a song and a line there is a thread, but there is a lot of diversity too. I like to think it takes you all over the place, on a bit of a journey.”
We move on to talk about the band’s home town – and the possibility that Manchester was experiencing a creative lull when Everything Everything were formed. “It certainly was,” agrees Jonathan forcibly, “and I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone denying the city had rested on its past. You only have to go to Liverpool to see that, I think, where The Beatles are now ancient history. There should have been something in Manchester in the wake of Oasis. Not a seismic revolution, maybe, but for the city I think recently it’s been a case of ‘let’s pull ourselves up’. A lot of people have been talking about us and Delphic being part of a new thing, and I think we’re put in the same breath because we’re trying to do something different.”
Is that the injection of more rhythm into their music? “I think again that’s something you’ve got to learn about supply and demand. You can be interesting and beat around the bush, but I think it it’s a bit more surprising and satisfying than a straight dum – dum – dum – dum from the off then it works. If you can then achieve a sparing use of that in juxtaposition with other things, then so much the better. Before it was a case of the more you could sound like Oasis, the better things would be.”
Everything Everything’s new album Man Alive is out now through Geffen, featuring the singles Schoolin and MY KZ, UR BF. The band begin a 12 date UK tour in Newcastle on Wednesday 28 September 2010, details of which can be found on their MySpace.