- Mon, 2012-11-05 20:33
An Everything Everything poster put up before their sold-out Village Underground show in London. Two London Underground tubes converted into offices - our interview location. Everything Everything live.
The first I Like Music interview with Everything Everything took place before the running order of their debut album Man Alive had even been decided. The subsequent release of that record went on to cement the four-piece as one of the most exciting new indie bands of 2010, coupling intricate composition and jagged guitars with swathes of harmony laden melody to glorious effect.
Nearly three years later and we've interviewed them along the way, featured their Guest Edit on the site (their playlist leaps from Rihanna to Philip Glass) and crossed our fingers for imminent news of a second album. A few months ago that arrived with the release of new single Cough Cough and a string of November tour dates, warming them up for the January 2013 release of new album Arc.
Sitting on a Henry The Hoover in the cramped train operator's cab of a London Underground tube (aka the Village Underground offices, see pic above) I chatted to front-man Jonathan about the difficulties they faced creating Man Alive, taking a simple, more refined approach with Arc and wanting to make music people can truly relate to.
ILM: Cough Cough entered the UK Top 40 singles chart at 37. Your first ever entry into the UK chart! Were you pleased?
Jonathan: We were very surprised! Haha! I didn't think we'd be in the Top 40 because we never had been. The closest before was 121, [shouts] 121! Haha. We didn't think this single was A-List material or anything like that. It went in at A-List on Radio 1, got in the charts. So, sea change for us.
ILM: How have the recent shows been? You've been playing new material...
Jonathan: Amazing. When everyone knew Man Alive it was like, "oh, we can't surprise anyone anymore," and I missed that. Now we have a few months of surprises in our pockets! We've only done a handful with the new set up too, which is new guy Pete on keyboards...
ILM: Ooo, cool. Where's Pete from?
Jonathan: Pete is keyboard tech for Peter Gabriel! Now we've got his skills! It frees me up to do much more stuff. I can be more of a front man instead of standing behind the keyboard.
Answering the telephone and driving at the same time, Jonathan is clearly destined for a tube driving career. Plus, our favourite switch in the room. Who knew every tube had a kneespace heater?
ILM: Following the success of Man Alive, there's now huge anticipation for your second album; Arc. When it comes to making music, you've always spoken about 'stepping outside your comfort zone.' How did you begin to do that for this record?
Jonathan: It sounds crazy, but stepping out of our comfort zone this time around was us trying to be a normal band. Try and be a simpler band. Try and make a bigger connection. Not cluster-fucking everything with loads of ideas. It's hard for us to restrain ourselves. Most bands will write a song, play it properly and it's done. But there's four of us, always overthinking things and filling them with crap. Man Alive was a bit like that. Scatter brained and all over the place. This time, we all made a really concious effort to beat that out of ourselves.
Jonathan: Well, I went through everything again and again to try and make people actually understand what I was talking about. I don't sing as fast or as high. I think Man Alive was a little bit elitist in that way. Not that we were trying to exclude anybody, I just think I came across as a gabbling mad man. I was afraid of being observed. Now it's much more obvious what I'm saying, I'm less afraid of it. Musically it's a bit more like that as well. I think the path we're on... the third record is just going to be classic tunes. Songwriters songs, no funny business. That's where I'm heading.
ILM: Are there any tracks in particular that you feel really achieve that on Arc?
Jonathan: There's a completely orchestral track with sort of Eleanor Rigby, Viva La Vida type strings. That's very restrained songwriting, very tuneful and not ridiculously high and fast. For me, I actually think that's the touchstone song of the record. It's called Duet. It was written as a duet but I just took on both parts myself! We all wondered what we were doing with that song. Is this us? Are we allowed to do this? Can we allow ourselves to just play a good song as it should be and not cover it with crap. I for one am really proud of it, I think it's the best thing we've ever done.
A photo of the band taken during our second interview at the end of 2010.
ILM: Where did the title come from? Arc.
Jonathan: It's a word that I've always really liked. It appears a couple of times on Man Alive actually. We thought it was a good title for this because it's quite vague, but it does conjure up quite a nice... feeling. A broad stroke sort of image. An arc, like a rainbow. Also lyrically, the album flits between my personal trials and tribulations, the arc of my life, my character arc, and also, on a really big scale, the ups and downs of human life on earth. Whether we're on the crest of a wave right now, or whether we're heading down, or whether we're at the bottom of something. Thinking about things across all of time. Not just a bit of time, all time, somewhere I can never be because I'm here now...
ILM: Woah. What have you been reading?!
Jonathan: I read, actually, a book about Futurology by Ray Kurzweil about the singularity. All this amazing stuff that he's thought about. The idea that technology is moving exponentially up, until this curve basically goes vertical and there's this point where technology starts to make itself. Once we reach that point, no one can tell what's going to happen because there's no reason it would continue at that same pace. Also when humans fuse with technology; the singularity. I like the thought of this curve, this arc coming up. It just seemed to work in my head.
ILM: You once told us Man Alive contained a lot of 'garish youthfulness'. Like your aims with the songs, the themes and thoughts behind Arc seem a lot more grown up, a lot more grandiose...
Jonathan: Sort of, although there's always been this dichotomy between my personal life and I guess, just reeeaally big... stuff, often on a scale too big for most people to actually bother thinking about. I love thinking about the distant, distant future and the distant, distant past. All I think about really is the dawn of man and the end of man. I guess that is grandiose! There are also some really personal moments on the record though...
ILM: Could you tell us about one of those moments?
Jonathan: There's a song that I don't even use my full voice for, I kind of sing it like a little kid. I recorded it when I was a bit depressed on the tour bus, straight into the laptop. Jeremy and Micky were getting on the bus so I was quickly singing in a really, really quiet voice. I listened back to it and the way I sung it was exactly how I was feeling, this really tiny little voice. That's on there. So, it's not just full of big ideas, it's not a proggy record in that sense. It leaps from the small to the big. If it was all big I don't think anyone would end up feeling moved by it.
A photo from the band's instagram during Arc rehearsals. A still from the Cough Cough single video.
ILM: So it's about translating those big ideas, the things that inspire and move you, into music that inspires and moves your audience...
Jonathan: Yeah. That's what we try to do. I think we were less successfull on Man Alive with that. I don't think many people could get that close to it. I think they knew I was being emotional about something but I don't think they had a clue what or how they were going to feel about it. I don't know. I never heard the record without knowing I made every moment of it, but I get the feeling that people just couldn't get close enough to it. And I was upset by that. Well, not upset exactly, but I've come to want that. I want people to get close to it. I think people will be able to get a lot closer to Arc.
ILM: Why do you want that? What will it give you?
Jonathan: Makes me feel less alone I guess. When I really get an artist, or when I did when I was a teenager, I would listen and think "I know for certain what that feeling is and I feel it too." That is, I think, the best thing in any kind of art. Really relating.
ILM: Have you listened to anything that has done that for you recently?
Jonathan: I'm quite out of touch with modern music to be honest. I tend to rely on the other guys to provide a soundscape. I find myself getting disappointed more and more with modern books, films, music. I only read non-fiction now. I only really like watching the news...despite the fact that I'm writing a film! I just want facts now! I feel like I've had enough fantasy in my life, I just want to know stuff and I'll put that into my own work.
ILM: You're writing a film! Script and music?
Jonathan: Both, both. Yeah. I think I want to use an all male choir. But I might write it in Latin so I don't have to put stupid English into it!
ILM: Can you write in Latin?
Jonathan: No! I'll use google or something. I don't know! I like people singing in Latin. When people do stuff in modern English in a classical way it always sounds crap to me...
Everything Everything 2012 photo. Arc album cover. Cough Cough single cover.
ILM: With those other projects, Cough Cough entering the chart, sold out tour dates, support dates for Muse and the hugely anticipated release of Arc, it seems things are set to get even bigger for Everything Everything in 2013 and beyond. How do you feel about that? As a band, how much control do you want to have over your growth?
Jonathan: I feel like we're more in control now than we were last time round when no one was interested! Honestly, we used to worry so much about the way things would be percieved, whether we were selling out if we did this or that. Now we're so much more relaxed about things, so much more confident about things. The industry is what it is. You can take it or leave it. Take the bits you like, try not to give any of yourself up in the process and trust that people will understand why you've got to do some things that are shamelessly commercial and why sometimes, you can be singing about the opposite at the same time. It's not a particularly easy path for any band. I actually respect bands that I used to think were full of shit a lot more than I did.
ILM: I suppose it's about balance. And making a living!
Jonathan: Yeah! Because I know what a JOKE it is to try and make a living out of this. To try and make any of it work in a cohesive way, to try and make anyone understand what you're trying to say. You're doing something that is effectively pointless and yet, most people would say it's one of the most important things there is. There's no real use for it. It's a fucking crazy job. It's really weird. But I take it as it comes now. I just think, if we think it's the right thing to do, we'll do it. If someone wants to talk crap on the internet then go ahead. I'm not bothered. I know what I'm up to, I guess. I feel much more confident than I did.
ILM: On a far, FAR smaller scale, I used to feel a similar way about running I Like Music. Not being able to interview or feature all the amazing music we get sent, chosing this over that, worrying about each decision. But you have to just take it as it comes...
Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. You can't do everything. That's exactly what we realised. That we can't be everyone's band. You can't please the Pitchfork's and the Graham Norton's of the world. Just do what's fucking good for you and sod the rest. Obviously don't be a dick to everyone, but understand that there will always be people who aren't going to like what you're doing. Even if you're Radiohead or The Beatles, you can't win. So don't try and win... because you'll just end up a shit band.
Everything Everything release their second album Arc on 14 January 2013. Pre-order the album via the Eveything Everything Official online Store
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