Clash Magazine: The Peaks
So, the Maya calendar didn’t foreshadow the end of the world and we made it all the way to the end of 2012! To be fair to the early Mayan civilisation the whole thing was taken out of context by journalists, as is usually the case (bloody journalists). The world isn’t really going to end is it? Don’t be stupid. We’ve got stuff to do. We’re too busy to be wiped out aren’t we? “Inevitably the world will become uninhabitable,” says Everything Everything frontman Jonathan Higgs minutes into our interview. Oh, perhaps it might happen then. “The sun will get too hot and we won’t be able to live here eventually. But we’ll probably be extinct before that. There’s been a few high-profile natural disasters recently – the Japanese tsunami for one. We try to measure and predict everything, yet things can just be swept out to sea in an instant,” he continues with a sardonic smile.
He’s perched on a stool in one of Manchester’s trendy, post-modern bars with two fellow band-mates – bassist Jeremy Pritchard and drummer Michael Spearman – to discuss the inspiration behind new album, ‘Arc’, which came out on Monday. It’s an apocalyptic record inviting some heavy subject matter into the playful framework of 2010 debut ‘Man Alive’. “The environment is something that’s underlined our life. The hole in the O-Zone layer became a hot topic around the ‘80s, which is where we all come from. It’s like our Cuban Missile Crisis,” Jonathan explains before confessing that he doesn’t actually recycle personally (Is he trying to kill us!).
Economic crisis has rocked the very foundations of a man-made system we had so much faith in, meanwhile religious faith itself is dwindling as self-worship and materialism take hold in the wake of science’s message: that we might all inevitably be alone purposelessly stuck to a rock which is precariously spinning in a vacuum narrowly avoiding being hit by asteroids which could wipe us out at any second. What’s the point of it all?
“We can’t really pretend to offer any answers. We’re a fucking pop band,” admits Jeremy. “All we can do is reflect what we see around us. That’s the job of the artist.”
‘Arc’ swims in a sea of uncertainty, questioning the fabric of society, hinting towards the 2011 riots, assessing modern materialism in the wake of economic crisis, pondering our fragile position in the universe, and offering no easy answers. The title itself alludes to the peaks and troughs in human progress. As we chat people flutter by with pints in both hands and huge grins across their faces in anticipation of the weekend, blissfully unaware of their inevitable fate.
In an artistic vision so gripped by the power of nature where does God fit in? “I think the deepest meaning you can ever find in life is to procreate,” Jeremy says. “There’s nothing unfulfilling about that. It’s amazing, and as good as having any religion,” he adds. So all we can really do is make the most of the time we have and get laid as much as possible, simple. “It’s like a Mexican wave. Every generation has its moment to stand up. All you can do is pass your ideas on, write shit down… and keep shagging,” Jonathan laughs.
Everything Everything’s off-kilter rhythms might not provide the most romantic backdrop within which to procreate but nonetheless they’ve made the most of their five year existence so far. ‘Man Alive’ proved to be one of the most impressive debut records to come from Manchester’s scene in a long time and picked up a Mercury Award nomination as recognition. Each track was a rhythmically shifting journey, packed with competing creative ideas, the sign of a band desperate to pack as much of their inventiveness onto disc as possible. “We were so paranoid about sounding like someone else with the first one,” Michael admits. “This time we’re less concerned with that and more with getting sincerity either musically or lyrically across.”
As Jeremy says it would be “wilfully perverse” to stay in the mindset which conjured their debut: “Our music stumbled when it came to making a true emotional connection with people. It was brain music. It was clever, but it wasn’t necessarily sincere or honest,” he expands. ‘Arc’ is the culmination just under two years work, seeing the group develop a new found skill when it comes to plucking heart-strings.
It’s an emotive record. ‘Torso Of The Week’, describes the desperation of a girl running on a treadmill towards an ideal of media perfection she can never attain. Crushing guitars accompany Jonathan shouting ‘what you wrestling with?’. ‘Armourland’ explores the relationship of a couple finding solace in each other as their city becomes ‘a bone yard’ akin to an unchecked riot scenario.
Meanwhile ‘Undrowned’ expresses disenfranchisement from the unjust modern world. Eerily looping keys accompany Jonathan’s swirling thoughts: ‘who wants the Falklands and who wants the Balkans/I love you just like a bank’, he sings in a maelstrom of discontent. Each sentence choicely depicts an image from the last three tumultuous years: ‘Princes drive drones that can see through your bones’, and ‘the people in parliament don’t know the half of it,’ there’s also ‘a billionaire with his innards nailed to the walls…’
“Austerity economics doesn’t work. Cutting because we’ve overspent doesn’t work, and the way Osborne wants to go about it is by hitting those who are poorest hardest,” Jeremy argues passionately. Couple this with relentless marketing campaigns, lowering living standards, and it’s a recipe for trouble as Michael explains: “We live in a capitalist society. We’re bombarded with shops and adverts. Are people disillusioned by the fact they can’t have things they’re made to feel they should have? I’d say so. Is society more unfair these days than it used to be? Again I’d say so.”
The band were also in the 2011 riots, granted not with a flat-screen TV overhead but they saw it from a flat in Salford. Jonathan’s instinctual reaction to the trouble colours parts of ‘Arc’. “I didn’t want to come down on either side. I wasn’t interested in who was right or wrong or any of that crap,” he explains. “Strangely there was community spirit around the time of the riots, which ever side you were on,” argues Jeremy. “It was either ‘fuck the police, we’re all in this together,’ which I can understand, or the people that came out with brooms the following morning, which I can also understand. It’d be good if there was more of that spirit to be honest.”
Humanity’s arc might be on the decline but Everything Everything are definitely on the rise. “We’re eternally cynical and cautious, but it feels like we’re doing well at the moment,” is the wary way Jeremy words it. After earlier talk of natural disasters he says “we’ve really weathered some fucking storms in our time, personally, professionally, all of us, and we’re still here.”
Perhaps his watchfulness is understandable given a few stages where things seemed less rosy. “I remember Lemmy saying in the Anvil documentary if you don’t get one tiny spotlight at the right time in your career then it doesn’t happen and we’ve been very lucky to have one or two of those,” he continues, before Michael adds; “It was all going to fizzle out at one stage until Zane Lowe saw us on TV by accident and saved our asses. We looked back at that point a year later and realised we were pretty fucked and if that hadn’t have happened then who knows.”
Later in the interview Jeremy also remembers another turbulent time: “We were basically an unsigned band for most of last year. The option wasn’t picked up on the second album by Universal because it didn’t exist anymore. We knew we would have been absorbed into one of their other imprints but we thought we could do better elsewhere. I don’t think any other band has been nominated for a Mercury while technically being unsigned.”
‘Arc’ sees them back with the familiar faces they knew from Geffen after the whole team moved to RCA Victor. Producer David Kosten was back at the helm in Manchester’s Blueprint Studios, but this time the record is credited as being produced by him and the band. “From what David tells us it’s more like working with four producers. The songs are written with very clear sonic ideas in place,” says Jeremy of David’s suggestion to credit the album differently. “We mixed it with him too. The only thing we didn’t do was the mastering, and even then we were there,” laughs Jonathan. “So yeah, we’re control freaks really,” Michael sums up.
The only thing they’re forcing themselves not to oversee is a feature length film being planned to document their journey from the inception of this album throughout the next year. A small taster of footage without dialogue forms a bonus feature with the deluxe edition. “It’s going to be like Anvil,” jokes Jonathan. Get yourselves in the documentary by catching the guys on the road in February. They’ll be playing from Feb 6th, before ending in Manchester on 22nd Feb. There’s a new uniform replacing the ‘Man Alive’ boiler suits too. “We’ll have to change them as time goes on, as though we’re getting promoted from record to record,” Jonathan says.
So there it is then. We’re all going to die; that’s the message Everything Everything have for us on a strangely life-affirming piece of art. Let’s give living our best shot. ‘I’m coming alive!’