With the release of their delayed fifth LP, Re-Animator, now barely a week away, art-rock four-piece Everything Everything are crackin gon with plans for a tie-in UK and Irish headline tour next Spring … pandemic restrictions willing.
But there’s no doubting that co-founder Jeremy Pritchard would rather be out on the road right now, the novelty of the last few locked-down months wearing somewhat film.
Hampshire-born, Kent-raised Jeremy, who met Everything Everything frontman Jonathan Higgs while studying music at Salford University, the start of a major adventure that would have far-reaching consequences for a band twice shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize and having received five Ivor Novello Awards nominations so far. But has it been frustrating lately, having to wait so long to get the new LP out?
“A bit. The frustration comes from not being able to play any gigs, feeling the music resonate in that environment. That’s the way I best understand what the music means to people. And that’s been taken away from us, as it has everybody.
“We’re doing what we can in the virtual realm and digital world instead, but it’s not the same. It was kind of exciting at the beginning, because it forced us to be ingenious and resourceful and think differently about how to make videos, do pictures, and so on.
“Even for the album artwork, where we were taking photographs of ourselves in our gardens, sending them to Jon to put into some 3D modelling software, generating artwork and videos in that way. And that’s cool. It forced us to think differently – always a good thing for any art form. But we’ve run out of patience and options now, and would like to just get together, play music.”
I realise it’s all a guessing game at present, but – even though your dates have been knocked back to next Spring – it’s still not guaranteed to work right if there are those huge gaps at venues between punters, right?
“It’s a completely unknown landscape, which is a bit daunting. We’re hoping we can do those gigs with some semblance of normality, the way we’ve been used to, but who knows.”
My social media timelines of late seem full of live shows from artistes’ bedrooms, back rooms, kitchens, whatever. It’s difficult to see everyone you want to. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Has it been a similar tale for yourself?
“Yes, you can get lost in the noise and then your audience becomes blasé, with this sort of swollen area of the culture, everybody trying to do the same thing. We’ve done a few livestream performances, there are more on the way, and we’re planning one other for around the time of the album release.”
Regarding the new LP release date, Jeremy (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) reckons that at least gives him and his bandmates – fellow 2007 co-founders Jonathan (lead vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar) and Michael Spearman (drums, backing vocals), plus Alex Robertshaw (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals since 2009) – time to work on something exciting to mark the occasion.
“Yeah, we’ll try and do what we can. We’re looking into that now, trying to do something that’s a bit more out of the ordinary to tie in with the release. But again, our options are limited really.”
Are you back rehearsing together? And are you all fairly close, geographically?
“We’re quite scattered around the country, with me and Jon in Manchester, Mike in London and Alex in Shrewsbury. We’re used to being itinerant in this way! For the last four months we haven’t really been able to do anything collectively. But this week we’re getting back to rehearsing … with two metres between ourselves, trying to unpick the new songs.”
You mentioned videos, and I enjoyed the one for latest single ‘Violent Sun’. In a sense, you seem to have gone almost full circle from your debut single, ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ – from white lab coats to red boiler suits.
“Yeah! It’s so often where we default to, the boiler suit. We’ve done it a few times. It’s quite an easy way to become uniform. We’ve always admired that kind of utilitarian ‘I’m going to work, I’m doing a job’ thing. There’s also a link to Kraftwerk, DEVO and bands that took what they were wearing almost out of the equation – making it uniform across the band. I’ve always liked that.”
Great examples, and those boiler suits also make me think of The Clash, early on, in the auto repair workshop next to their rehearsal space, having their overalls spray-painted and hammered.
“Oh, totally, yeah. Combat Rock era too. They’re definitely a band to look up to, aesthetically. That’s something that appeals to us as well. If you can wrap the whole thing up, present your own aesthetic niche, as well as the music, there’s the videos, artwork, what you wear … the whole thing.”
That video, like those for the previous three singles released ahead of the LP, was directed by Jonathan, all four band members shooting their contributions in their respective backyards. Mike shot his scenes in London, Jeremy’s seen running around Old Trafford, Alex – originally from Guernsey – did his in Shrewsbury, and the director in rural Northumberland, from where he hails.
The railway tracks you see are in Hadrian’s Wall country, with the wrecked aircraft on the fringes of a nearby RAF station, suggesting something of an ‘echo’, as Jeremy put it, in the fact that the plane like the charred instruments the band are playing is heavily fire-damaged.
There’s good reason for that, those damaged instruments retrieved from a fire that occurred in their studio lockup, deciding to use them one last time before scrapping them, fitting in nicely with the message behind ’Violent Sun’, about desperately holding on to the moment before it passes forever. So where was the lock-up where you had the fire?
“It’s part of a big Victorian mill, where we still rehearse. We’ve two different rooms, one on the ground floor as a lock-up, and one on the second floor, where we do most of our playing and actual work. There was an electrical fire and we lost quite a lot of gear. It was really shocking and happened on the day the lockdown was announced, about two hours before that came in. I was there dealing with the fire brigade, everyone trying to social-distance in a smouldering wreck.
“But it could have been far worse. Nobody was hurt and we could have lost gear that was more integral. A lot of what we lost was of sentimental value, but none of it meant we couldn’t play a gig tomorrow.”
That was in Ancoats, with Jeremy based quite close, in Old Trafford. And I guess, in view of his South-East roots, that’s as good a place as anywhere to add a bit of band history, Jeremy’s original three bandmates all hailing from Northumberland, introduced by fellow Salford student Jonathan to Mike and the original Alex (Niven), the three of them attending the same Hexham high school.
Soon, Jeremy and Jonathan agreed to form a band once their degree was complete, originally putting together Salford-based trio Modern Bison, releasing an album in 2006. And then came the re-think, the new band taking their name from the first two words of the opening track on Radiohead’s Kid A album, their first performances in the autumn of 2007, describing their sound as ’initially more punky, with more guitars and no synths at all … but the plan was always to expand the sound when we had the scope and could afford the gear!”
The first single arrived in December 2008, Alex Robertshaw taking over guitar duties from his namesake the year before the first LP landed, the band on the BBC Sound of 2010 longlist and then signing to the UK arm of Geffen Records, their first four singles included on Summer 2010’s acclaimed, Mercury Prize-shortlisted, top-20 debut LP, Man Alive.
Their 2013 follow-up, Arc, made No.5 in the UK, including sole top-40 hit ‘Cough’ and more critical acclaim, the band receiving an Ivor Novello Award nomination for next single ‘Kemosabe’, also UK Single of the Year at The Music Producers Guild Awards.
Third LP Get to Heaven followed in 2015, after a year off from touring, like the other albums certified silver, this time reaching No.7 in the UK, with A Fever Dream next in 2017, also debuting at No.5 and bringing a second Mercury Prize nomination, later crowned 2019’s Album of the Year at the Music Producers Guild Awards.
So now we’re up to album five, and it’s fair to say Everything Everything have never been a band easy to categorise. And they like it that way. Read descriptions of their music and you get words like eclectic, intricate, dynamic, complex; the cleverly-constructed songs and detailed lyrics distinctively sung in falsetto by frontman Jonathan Higgs.
Jeremy has said the intention is ‘to avoid cliche, or the cliches expected of white men with guitars from Manchester’. He talks of a ‘highly stylised and deracinated’ sound, saying ‘there are no genres I can think of that we haven’t learnt something from. We all share a huge number of basic passions like Radiohead, but all come from different areas of popular music: jazz and funk, modern US R’n’B, prog and krautrock, post-rock, punk, hardcore. We all love good honest pop. We’re a rock band.”
I’d maybe add electronica to all that, but first impressions suggested a band who, while too young to grow up with them, soon caught up with musically clever, tight outfits on the edge of punk like The Police and the more quirky XTC.
“Yeah, just on the edge of the post-punk thing. Definitely. I think some of that comes from a playful sense of musicianship. We really admire the linear nature of loads of punk or post-punk bands, but we’re all musos and music college kids and can’t hide that! There’s definitely a shared sensibility there. A lot of that music, certainly in the case of XTC, and personally for me – although the others listened to The Police – I’d never really exposed myself to that until after people started comparing us. But I went back, listened and really enjoyed a lot of what I heard. It’s interesting – we never really listened to those bands but seemed to channel something similar. That’s the nature of the zeitgeist, I suppose.
Former WriteWyattUK interviewees Alt-J also spring to mind. And whisper it, there’s also a sense of Gabriel-era Genesis in there.
“Oh yeah, and we talked about ‘Sledgehammer’ and the solo albums a lot with regards to one song on this new record.”
At time of going to press, I’ve only heard aan dvance copy of the LP a couple of times, and definitely hear that influence in there, as well as Radiohead, not least on impressive opening number ‘Lost Powers’ and track three ‘It Was a Monstering’. Early days, but it all sounds pretty great to me. I didn’t know so much when I tackled Jeremy though. Is this album, I asked, where the band are at right now? Or have they moved on again in the circumstances, with the delay?
“Yeah, it is still where we’re at. We are starting to think about where next, but it’s still … for the time being we’re still trying to do the record justice by getting it out there, and only just learning how to play it live, having recorded the songs.
“It’s about getting our stamina back up, and God willing, if we manage to play these shows, it’ll be where we’re at for the next 18 months. We are starting to think about what comes next, but only those first tentative steps.”
Are you already writing new songs?
“A little. Alex has a couple of bits and bobs floating around, but we’re taking it easy on that front for the time being. “
So what made this lad from Portsmouth, Hampshire, choose Salford University all those years ago, in the process changing the course of his life?
“I sort of ended up here almost by default. I grew up in Kent, moving there around two, growing up in Tunbridge Wells. I went through the UCAS process but didn’t really want to go to university. I just wanted to play in bands, keep doing what I was doing. After a year of that, I realised all my bandmates were going.
“I applied to Salford because a friend was coming here, and the course had quite a high-performance aspect, compared to others in other places. And within the first few weeks, I was introduced to Jonathan, he gave me a CD with around 12 demos on it, and I was immediately struck by the quality of the songwriting and the ambitiousness. That was it really. And that was 17 years ago.”
Initially you were the only member of the band who didn’t attend the same high school in Northumberland. Did you ever feel left out?
“A little, but I’d been at university with Jon, and the others hadn’t and we quite quickly grew out of that part of our life, and stopped playing exclusively to people we’d been at school with. We moved beyond that, and I suppose as a band you become less of a localised concern, wherever you’re from, wherever you operate, you become more of a national and eventually an international operation.”
What if anything did you learn from being out on the road with big league performers like Snow Patrol and Muse in 2012, after the success of your first LP?
“I think it taught us two things – how to perform to a big audience, but also that we weren’t one of those bands. We always enjoyed playing those big arena gigs, but in order to command those audiences you’re making a different music really and we have different priorities.
“I think we realised quite quickly that wasn’t what we were about. It’s an enormous privilege if we can play those gigs, albeit at support level and playing big festival slots, but we’re doing it on our terms, because we play the music we’ve made, and that’s always been about exciting ourselves and our audience and never about commanding big numbers.
“You enter a different realm, and that’s fine. A lot of bands have totally done that on their own terms. Foals are one of them. They’ve done it through sheer tenacity and hard work, not compromising the music. Radiohead did the same, and Blur. But they’re relatively few and far between, about one a generation really – to be a stadium band but still be a true artistic enterprise.”
You’ve played some iconic venues before now, not least Alexandra Palace. And on this tour, there’s the Roundhouse on the list. Are those big moments for you, playing those kind of places?
“They are big moments, especially as the live stuff is what I consider the part of the business I enjoy most. That’s what I grew up with, I was always looking at the back of music magazines to see who was playing where, and these places have a certain gravitas and significance.”
Jeremy’s first live show, he tells me, was Michael Jackson at Wembley Stadium on his Dangerous tour in the summer of 1992, when he was around eight.
“That was amazing. I couldn’t believe how loud it was. I remember being impressed by that, and kind of thought all gigs were like that. I didn’t go again until I was around 14 or 15, to my local venue, The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, going down to see any band that were playing. I always felt I had something to learn, it didn’t really matter who it was. I got into the habit of doing that every weekend, then every day after school, going virtually every night at one stage.”
Was there a specific band you saw and thought, ‘This is what I want to do with my life’?
“I saw Coldplay there in ‘99, and enjoyed that, but it was significant because of how big they became. I’d already decided it was what I wanted, before I started going to gigs. I was so into Blur in particular, when I was 12 or 13. They were a really big band at that time – real pop stars with Smash Hits covers. I think of that and how unusual that now seems, a bit like The Smiths in that they were also a cult act but also really big, pin-ups but completely an art enterprise. And I found the sense of camaraderie and fun and feeling of being in a gang really appealing.”
Are Everything Everything a gang in that sense?
“We definitely started out as such, and I think every band does in their late teens or early 20s. You start out with almost a hive mind – one entity, thinking the same stuff because you’re growing up with the same stuff. You’re yet to diversify.
“Then you find yourself in your mid-30s, with marriages and kids, people buying houses, realising you’re grown-ups. This record in a way is a reflection of that. The title is not insignificant in as much as the first four albums feel as if they are a conversation amongst themselves, but now we’re able to turn that page, begin a new chapter, and we’ve looked to other areas of life to inspire us. What Jon’s talking about is much more open, human and compassionate in many ways.”
We need a bit of that right now.
“Absolutely, and he’s thinking about births, deaths, marriages, and the natural world. And as it happened, although we’d finished the record in January and February and went to the next process, then the lockdown happened and people started re-communing with nature, and we found a new resonance to these songs that we hadn’t really anticipated.”
Do you think the fact that while the figures were still impressive, and it was another top-five LP for you, the fact that A Fever Dream sold less units helped you take that fresh approach, think it through another way?
“Possibly. But I’m not conscious of what we did or didn’t sell on that record. I think it was a success in as much as live it definitely felt like that album worked, and we toured well on that album. But I think it was maybe our first experience of plateauing.
“For the first three albums it had all been a step-up, then on A Fever Dream we realised maybe we were slightly out of step, as a guitar band in 2017. But then we got a Mercury nomination, which kind of helped build confidence. But I think anybody’s selling numbers are going to be down these days, and we’ll find that out quite soon.
“Also, the mainstream had moved on, something you have to be sanguine about. That’s the nature of these things. That’s sort of how it should be. We’re not meant to be in charge anymore.”
Time’s finally marching on, and we’re inching closer to that delayed LP release. What have you got planned in the meantime? Playing again together, primarily, I guess?
“We are. I’m heading in this afternoon, and planning this event for the album release, which with all these restrictions we’re living under at the moment, it’s going to be different to anything we’ve done before.”
Just from the quality of the singles that pre-empted the LP, you see the range within. From potential alternative dancehall smash, ‘Arch Enemy’ through to that driving rhythm beneath the super-catchy ‘Violent Luck’, then the more laidback, but ethereal ‘Planets and ‘In Birdsong’, on an LP you talk of being ‘buoyed by weighty concepts and a streamlined sonic approach’.
“I think so, and there’s even more colour and diversity on the record itself. In that respect, if I was to compare it to anything else we’ve done before I would say it’s most like our debut. It’s really disparate but also has a regained sense of regained innocence about it somehow.
“When we were making Man Alive, you don’t know you’re making an album when you’re making your debut. You’re just writing songs and want to play gigs with friends. Which is why they have this amazing quicksilver quality to them. You can’t necessarily recapture that.
“But I think we’ve managed to do something on this album. And you can’t help but be reflective when all these things suddenly reflect back at you!”
Everything Everything 2021 UK dates: March 19th – Nottingham Rock City, March 20th – Birmingham O2 Academy, March 22nd – Norwich UEA, March 23rd – Liverpool O2 Academy, March 25th – Manchester Academy, March 26th – Glasgow SWG3 – Galvanizers, March 27th – Newcastle O2 Academy, March 29th – Leeds O2 Academy, March 30th – Bristol O2 Academy; April 1st – London Roundhouse, April 3rd – Brighton Dome, April 5th – Dublin Olympia Theatre.
All four singles are available as instant downloads for pre-orders of the LP from the band’s official website here. Album bundles include signed albums and prints, plus exclusive merch designs. You can also keep up to the date with the band via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.