“We like the idea of music that’s very hopeful and lyrics that are very dark, we think we’ve pulled that off” - hmv.com talks to Everything Everything
Manchester foursome Everything Everything are only eight years and three albums into their career, but they’ve already carved out a reputation as one of the most respected and experimental bands out there. Their ability to slip from genre to genre, from big hook to weird tempo shift and has won them a dedicated fanbase and a slew of award nominations.
Now they’re back with third album Get To Heaven, a brighter and shinier record with a lot of big choruses, but some seriously punchy and quite dark lyrics, trying to make sense of an ever more confusing world.
To find out all about the recording of Get To Heaven, getting more political and not cracking America, we sat down with bassist Jeremy Pritchard and drummer Michael Spearman...
When did you finish the album?
Jeremy: “We finished it in January, so not long in the grand scheme of things, we were working right up until the deadline and ever since we’ve doing all the bits that go with it, sorting videos, getting our new stage aesthetic right. We were quite conscious of the six-month wait we had on Arc and we didn’t want to kick our heels for anything like that long this time.”
How long did it take start to finish?
Michael: “It’s probably longer. It felt longer, but I think that’s mostly because we were just writing and recording and there were no gigs whatsoever. It was a solid year of writing and recording.”
Jeremy: “No live shows made a big difference. Last time we’d have writing and recording sessions that would last a couple of months then we’d go on tour and road test songs. We even did a big arena tour with Snow Patrol in the middle of all that. It meant we’d tested two thirds of it live and there was no flailing around in the dark. There was plenty of flailing this time.”
Did you decide this time that you didn’t want to carry on touring?
Jeremy: “There wasn’t some big moment where we told management and our label that all touring must stop, but we knew that it’s easy to outstay your welcome if you just keep playing the same songs over and over again.”
If you spend a full year writing and getting stuff down, did you end up with a lot of material?
Jeremy: “We did actually, I think we probably ended up with about 30 songs, about half of those fell by the wayside. I feel a lot more confident about the songs we chose this time, we were really unsure on Arc, I still don’t know if we picked the right songs, it’s a much more concise record.”
You worked with Stuart Price, but he wasn’t there for most of the recording right?
Michael: “He was there at the end and we were constantly sending him tapes.”
How come you ended up working like that? Were you dead keen to work with him and dead keen not to go to Los Angeles?
Michael: “I think it was a blessing in disguise. We’d done the last album in the same studio as our first with the same producer, who is now our friend. We felt like needed new input and someone with new ideas. So it was nice to have our space, we’d send stuff to him and he’d send stuff to us. We’d reject a lot of it, but you chip away and you get it right.”
Was that a bit weird? A bit like getting your coursework graded every night?
Jeremy: “A bit. It wasn’t so much that we thought it was bad, more that we didn’t want to waste his time."
Michael: “We were a bit nervous initially, but we realised quite quickly that we could push back and we wouldn’t offend him. We’re used to being honest with each other and I think we didn’t want to piss off this big shot producer initially, but he was even better at taking rejection than we ever are. We got a working pattern down quite quickly.”
Was he would you had in mind from the start?
Jeremy: “No, we had others in mind, it either didn’t work because we met them and didn’t get on or schedules wouldn’t work. He was suggested to us and we thought we’d take the meeting to appease everybody, but he was very impressive, he came to us in the studio and he was so able to engage with the songs immediately. He’s full of energy and enthusiasm, which is something we do need from time to time.”
Michael: “He’s made a lot of big records with a lot of pressure, so we must have felt a bit like a fun side project.”
Do you think you’ll produce it yourselves next time?
Jeremy: “I think it’s a fair reflection of our albums that we’re credited as co-producers, I don’t feel like we ever had over control totally to anybody else, but we also need to have an executive in the room and some to organise.”
Michael: “It’d be very hard for one of us to take charge without really pissing the others off, I think we’ll always need someone above us.”
You’re known for creating these intricate, multi-layered pop songs, is it the producer’s role to stop you adding too much?
Jeremy: “That is something we are getting better at, experienced producers are great for that, Stuart did that a couple of times.”
Did you have a goal for the album at the outset?
Jeremy: “We’d talked a lot about making it more like what we do live. We learned on tour that about half of Arc really didn’t stand up when we played it live. We wanted the best of both worlds, the calmer songwriting that we found on Arc, but getting back to the tempo and drive of Man Alive. Arc is a slow record, we wanted a faster record that could live for two years on the road.”
Michael: “We always set ourselves some strange goal, we just need something to kick off our ideas.”
Jeremy. “A weird, arbitrary set of goal posts.”
Is songwriting more or less than democratic now than when you started?
Michael: “Sometimes Jonathan will just write something and we’ll leave it alone, because it’s good.”
Jeremy: “But that’s probably because we feel confident enough to do that now, it doesn’t matter if we don’t have any input, it doesn’t affect our standing in the band. We feel equally comfortable pulling something apart completely if it’s not working.”
Are lyrics just left to Jonathan (Higgs - Singer)?
Jeremy: "They are, but we do step in and make suggestions. We can make him step back and, in some cases, leave something in he’s wavering about.”
From everything you’ve said so far, this is an angrier record and more inspired by current events, is that new territory?
Jeremy: “It’s not actually, but what is new is the directness and the willingness to discuss it. I was crying out for that all the way through Arc, everything was cloaked in metaphor and I was saying ‘I know what these songs are about, but we’ve got to spell it out for people’. Those themes are all over the first two albums, but they’re mixed in with bits from Jonathan’s personal life, this is much more direct album.”
Michael: “No it’s not overly specific, but it’s about confusion and not knowing what stance to take on so many things, it’s trying to crystalise that emotion.”
Bands stay away from politics because they think they’ll put people off or they don’t feel like they know enough to comment, did you have those same thoughts?
Michael: “A couple of times. It’s not because it’s political, we’re not afraid of that.”
Jeremy: “There were a couple of moments that were just too strong.”
Michael: “Those moments could have come across as preachy and we really didn’t want that. It’s an emotional record, just not one about a relationship. A lot is from the point of view of characters too, we like the idea of music that’s very hopeful and lyrics that are very dark, we think we’ve pulled that off. It’s not interesting to make a record that’s just angry and heavy, there are lots of those. It’s equally not interesting to make a record that’s just happy, you have to combine these things.”
Where did the title come from?
Jeremy: “It’s a title from one of the songs, but it wasn't the first thing we thought of. A couple of the initial titles were really quite violent and we didn’t want to put people off at the front gate. It sums everything up nicely because it’s multi-layered, it’s the notion of transcendence, of trying to live a good life and then it’s also talking about extremists and those who commit horrendous acts to try and get to a higher plane.”
Tell us about the cover because there’s a lot going on…
Jeremy: “It’s quite violent and shovy, but also very bright and colourful. It’s a nice juxtaposition.”
Has it fed into your new touring aesthetic?
Jeremy: “We always seem to try and go against what we’ve done before. We toured last time in navy blue and grey, so this time we’re in blood red, orange and hot pink. It’s always absolute chaos getting all that together, but I’m glad we do it, I like that we spend a lot of time and energy creating a place and then we leave it with each record and move on to the next place.”
Your album is out right in the middle of festival season, are you going straight out into them?
Jeremy: “I think we’ll probably do two, less intensive festival summers and then focus more on touring.”
Michael: “We’ll spend a bit more time trying to get to new places and not to miss anywhere.”
Will you put much of a focus on America this time?
Jeremy: “No, we will go there, but we could probably fill a medium sized venue in New York and one in Los Angeles and not much in between. It’s not that it’s not an ambition, but we’re a hard sell. I bet in 20 years when we’ve f***ed this off, they’ll love us as a cult act and we can get back together and headline Coachella.”
Michael: “I’ll put it in my diary.”
There’s always been a perception with you guys that you’ve got a big hit in you, but you’ll always turn at the last second, do you think that’s fair?
Jeremy: “I really don’t know if we do. It’d have to come out on our terms, they always come out a bit weird, we don’t ever deliberately subvert what we do, you can tell when a band’s trying to over-experiment, I know there’s a perception we do that, but we never have.”
Everything Everything’s new album Get To Heaven is out on Monday (June 22nd). The band will sign copies and perform live in hmv Manchester on Monday, click here for more details.