Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Interview: Everything Everything

Interview with Manchester-based art-rock chart champions Everything Everything. Check out the condensed version over at Spoonfed.co.uk, or the expanded reissue below. 

Hype can be a poisoned chalice. The balloon can quickly burst on some poor feted next big thing, whether commercially or critically. Worse still, a band can be left trailing in the triumphant wake of their like-minded peers, labeled as Johnny-come-latelys to a party they might have helped start, or simply engulfed by the hot air cloud surrounding contemporaries and forgotten.

It’s a fate which could have befallen Everything Everything. Labeled part of a spurious ‘Manchester scene’ – although the quartet formed in Manchester, none of their members hail from the musically fertile metropolis – the band had been forced to play third fiddle whilst fellow leading lights Delphic and Hurts saw their stock soar. All three were long-listed for the BBC Sound of 2010 poll, but only Everything Everything failed to make the final shortlist. As 2010 stuttered to life, Delphic hit the top ten with debut album Acolyte, while just a day before the release of Everything Everything’s own debut Hurts scored an unlikely singles chart hit with the icy synthpop of ‘Wonderful Life’. Meanwhile, the band was left fretting over their prospective fortunes as trailing single ‘MY KZ, UR BF’ stalled at a hundred and twenty-one.

They needn’t have worried, as Man Alive duly gate crashed the UK top twenty, picking up open-mouthed plaudits en route. It was a fitting prize for a record which fizzes with invention, often flitting seamlessly between unconventional time signatures before peaking in a series of beautifully melodic art-pop choruses, all held together with the dexterous falsetto yelp of frontman Jonathan Higgs.

If the music both challenges and rewards, then the band themselves are a far more straightforward proposition. Preparing to perform at a Spotify/3G sponsored show at Shoreditch Town Hall, I find Higgs and drummer Michael Spearman in genial spirits. Articulate and warm, they riff off one another; touching upon in-jokes without ever seeming exclusive, while their answers exhibit a sharp, self-deprecating wit underpinning thoughtful reflections – starting with their reaction to music scenes.

Much like any new, exciting band, you were labeled as part of a scene. Why do you think the music press is so concerned with scenes?

MS: The ‘Manchester scene’? It’s just something to write about. The thing about any press is that they have to fill pages. In order to have something to write about you sometimes have to create it. I think the ‘Manchester scene’ is just people trying to draw a circle round some bands in an area.
JH: None of us are from one place so you couldn’t really say we were anything.

So you don’t feel part of it?

JH: I don’t think anyone does. If you ask any of the bands they might say it’s great that there are some good bands having a modicum of success at the moment but they won’t say “oh we used to hang out playing darts and then we all decided to start playing the same kind of music” because that isn’t what we sound like and that isn’t the case. None of the bands sound the same.

Are you comfortable with being labelled in this way?

JH: It’s not like we don’t fit. We’re all as much part of it as we’re not. The coincidence of us and Delphic and Hurts and Egyptian Hip Hop gaining a certain amount media attention at the same time makes the London industry suddenly raise their head and say ‘oh, something’s going on up there now’. Because it’s happened simultaneously people think it’s a scene.

I read elsewhere that you made some disparaging remarks about Oasis and their impact on music in Manchester – is this right?

JH: We’ve never mentioned Oasis ever in an interview. The media likes to think that we hate Oasis. I really like Oasis – I loved them at the time they were good.

What about your reported spat with Liam Fray?

JH: Errrr we shared a toilet cubicle together but we didn’t share any words. He probably doesn’t even remember or give a flying fuck about anything at all, in the same way that we don’t.

Apparently he told the press he didn’t think much of you.

JH: He did but I don’t actually think he has ever heard us and if he had it’s fair enough that he might not like us.

Do you ever listen to the Courteeners?

JH: Well...
MS: It’s not to our tastes.
JH: I wouldn’t sit and listen to any amount of shit – it doesn’t mean I want to destroy it or make a city change it’s mind about one band. You know, “Manchester you better stop this now, they sound slightly like Oasis in a very tenuous way.”

Man Alive peaked at number seventeen on the UK Album Charts...

[Interrupting] JH: It was number ten for a day! That’ll be on my gravestone. It was number thirteen by midweek. It slipped a place a day until Sunday.

What were your honest expectations?

JH: It’s not like we just “did it for ourselves” but we didn’t really have any expectation. People were coming to our gigs; we were in the BBC poll thing. But our first two singles got thrown back by radio producers because they were too weird.

Were you happy?

JH: Yeh. If you’re a dead cert band from day one there’s no point in making it – you might as well be on the X Factor. Likewise, no one really said “I can’t make head nor tail of this: you guys need to be playing ATP in 2029 to seven people who heard your first demo.” You want to be somewhere in between. Seventeen is pretty good.

So you aren’t big closet X Factor fans then?

MS: I think it’s a really tired format now, it’s really bland and predictable.
JH: I like it to begin with when they just get those idiots in. It’s quite funny.
MS: Is that still funny though? Some of the people clearly have mental illness, literal mental health problems. Then again someone like Daniel Johnston – he’s definitely mental but he hasn’t really been exploited.
JH: All this stuff used to happen behind the scenes but now you get your dead cert winner with the public before you sign them and before they make a record. It’s just like watching the mechanics of capitalism really, which is interesting in its horrific way but generally produces some terrible music.
[Thinks] JH: What about Leona?
MS: She had one good song.
JH: Two [singsBleeding Love’].
MS: Ok that’s a good song but she hasn’t done anything in ages.
JH: She’s been trying to break America. It takes a long time. It killed Robbie, it killed Craig.
MS: Don’t get him started on Craig David. [Laughter].

No, go on: tell us all about Craig.

JH: I really liked him when he first came out. I wouldn’t admit it then but I do now. His debut album was great. I think he really could have been an amazing artist but he tried to sell himself to America and buggered it up back home as a result.

Would Everything Everything ever ‘sell out’ or adapt yourselves to stay in the game?

JH: It’s hard to know. I don’t know if we could. There have been times when we’ve tried to make things work which we knew were a bit dodgy and we’ve basically just left them.
MS: Even if it’s unspoken we just end up leaving it off the setlist.

Surely selling out is better than a job in Asda?

JH: It is but if you’re singing “I love McDonalds” every night whilst someone’s slackening their belt in the shadows, I’d probably rather go and chop wood somewhere. Chopping wood is sweet
MS: We would’ve made good whittlers.
JH: Chopping wood is sweet. You just chop wood in the summer and then burn it in the winter.

You’ve been out on the road quite a lot this year. Is touring all shagging, boozing and taken drugs like we’re led to believe?

JH: Well I shag Michael nearly every night but then we have to get a room with just one single bed in it. Let’s be honest, that’s not quite true – we get a double bed. [Laughter]. No, this is true, we do have to get a double bed so we actually share beds quite a lot with each other. Or at least twin beds.
MS: Top to tail.
JH: We do drink an awful lot, but a kind of amount where everyone’s a bit pissed but no-one’s really going crazy. In terms of shagging, we’ve all got girlfriends. We shag each other occasionally but you know. And drugs are harder to get hold of than you’d think actually. Unless you’re in Ibiza, but then the whole place is so crazy you don’t really need to be on drugs.
MS: Touring’s boring. You turn up at a venue, do your soundcheck, play your gig, get as pissed as you can then back to the hotel.

Who’s got the worst tour habits?

JH: Alex [Robertshaw – guitar] tends to moan continuously about how crap he feels. Then he eats a massive McDonalds or Burger King and he’ll go “guys I feel amazing, fucking amazing.” Then about twenty minutes later he just crashes off it and then lets us know about it with updates throughout the day.
MS: He never just feels alright. It’s always amazing or “I’m going to.....end it”.

Any horrendous cock-ups on stage?

JH: We’ve had some technology breakdowns. Like in Ibiza.
MS: In Ibiza, my click track went and I had to have the click in a monitor. So the audience could just hear “dit do do do dit do do do” which must have sounded so shit.
JH: They probably fucking loved it in Ibiza. It was probably better than our show.

Lastly, and apropos of nothing in particular: what’s the most embarrassing thing in your record collection?

JH: I saw David Gray’s White Ladder in Jeremy’s [Pritchard – bass] CDs. And I’m not letting that one go.
MS: There you go, we have a winner.

Thanks to Sarah at Anorak PR

1 comment:

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