With a top 20 album under their belts and currently in the middle of their first headline tour since the release of said album, Manchester’s Everything Everything played Leeds Cockpit last Sunday (review here). I managed to have a chat with frontman Jonathan Higgs after the show. Here’s how it all went down…
Critics have said your music is difficult to categorise, how would you describe your style?
We think of it as pop primarily but I think it’s a little bit more interesting. We try not to make it sound like a lot of things you’ve heard before, we don’t try but it tends to come out a bit like that. We’re not really interested in copying certain genres or anything, so I guess you’d say it’s unpredictable and sort of surprising.
Do you have any particular influences?
We were all into the same stuff that everyone when they’re 15 was into like Nirvana and all that kind of stuff. That was kind of the start of it, that’s where I picked up guitar. Obviously Radiohead is the big one and we’re all big Beatles fans, but we also like a lot of American r&b like Destiny’s Child and R Kelly. People might think it’s a bit silly but we think there’s stuff in there that’s actually really good.
There are ways you can influenced and not just make shit pop with the sort of rhythm they have and chord dexterity. But obviously we’re not Beyoncé, so when we do it people are like, “what’s this new music?” and we’re just like trying to do what Destiny’s Child are doing.
How did it feel having your debut album in the top 20 of the UK Top 40 album charts?
It was in the top 10 for one day! We didn’t know what to expect at all. We heard scary stories from friends of ours, from people in bands. Even getting an album out is hard enough, then it gets released and no-one notices, then it doesn’t chart. We were well prepared for that because we’ve seen it happen all around us and we’re not the most bankable band, we’re not like a dead cert.
It’s a big gamble signing us and promoting us. You just don’t know, the public could just go, “it’s shit, what the hell’s he on about?” then goes to 300 and never gets seen again. But a lot of people seem to go for it, and enough people certainly to get it into the charts at that place. Even for a couple of weeks it was amazing for us. So yeah, surprising and really gratifying. It took us ages to get there and it was always unsure.
You’re all from different parts of the UK, how did you get together?
Originally there was three of us from the same school near Newcastle, one of those guys isn’t in the band any more. The other member, the fourth member is from Kent. So that makes two of us from Newcastle and two of us from the south. So it sounds like we’re from all over the place when really it was three of us to begin with and now it’s like two of us and two others.
We live in Manchester and we use the Manchester facilities; the venues, the ability of that city to have bands in its womb. Basically just live there and the city will allow you to be in a band.
I came out of uni in Manchester and thought there’s no point going home, this is the best place to be in a band. I thought I’ll start my band here and it seemed to work. I think if we did it in London we’d have been swallowed up in a week or two. We’ve got this thing that we’re a ‘Manchester band’, we’re not, we’re a band.
Do you want to be a part of the legacy of ‘Manchester bands’?
They did what they thought was good, what they thought was new at the time and they lived in the Manchester area. We’re doing the same but any more than that you can’t put yourself up on any kind of pedestal and I think they were good. We’re just doing what we can. We’d love to be associated with them.
You’ve got good reviews for your debut album ‘Man Alive’, but Pitchfork only gave you 3.8. Do you think they just didn’t get it?
It’s annoying because we were really going for a 3.9. I’d much rather get a 3 than a 5 or something mediocre. I’d rather someone hates it or they really love it. If you just got 5, 5, 5, 5 you might as well have just made sort of wholemeal bread and just given it out.
But if someone goes “that’s so shit, I hate what you’re doing there”, I’m like “sweet!” It’s far better to have aroused an emotion, so I’ll take that and put it with all the good ones.
I think we got three bad reviews and one of those was a 3 out of 5, we counted that as a bad review. We did get one zero which was great, it was a blog. That was my favourite one until Pitchfork.
We get sent them all the time, the label send us them. We sort of stopped reading them a little while ago. They’re all the same for a start and most of them are really high praise and you’ll just get a big head about it.
You signed to Geffen for the release of your first album, did it feel like there was more pressure to sell records as it’s a major label?
It’s kind of an illusion the whole thing, Geffen is a massive American label – Geffen UK is actually what we’re on. They’re a new label in this country but they’re called Geffen and they have the same logo and the same name as the one in America, but actually they’re brand new.
They’re under Universal in the same way that Geffen are, to the outsider it sounds like we’ve signed to Geffen, actually we’ve signed to this new label and they’re a small label. They’re just starting and learning at the same rate we are about the industry these days because no-one knows what the fuck is going on.
So they’re like, “What shall we do guys?” To an outsider it looks like “here’s a million pounds, we’re gonna fuck those teenagers in the arse until they buy your album because we’re Geffen!”
Actually it’s not at all, they’re a very young label and we’re one of their first signings. We’re learning so it’s kind of cool, there’s no pressure really. We often find ourselves in a position of more power than they are, if we say, “oh we don’t really want to do that, is it cool if we do this?” they’re like “OK!” because they haven’t done it before and they’re not the huge monster sitting on piles of cash that everyone thinks.
You had a pretty busy summer of festival shows and going to Japan, what was the particular highlight?
The highlight of the summer was probably Reading and Leeds, they both had massive turn outs, like 6,000 people came to see us. In the few days just before the album came out we really felt like something was happening, the album’s on massive billboards outside of the tent and there’s 6,000 people here. No-one even knows the album and they’re all here.
Glastonbury was surreal as fuck, Japan was really strange. They kind of run into each other in my mind. We went all over Europe we’ve been all over the place. We met Rolf [Harris] (Australian personality) on the way to Bestival. He was introduced to us by some guy who knew us from Twitter who later turned out to be his MC. He was like, “Rolf, do you want to meet Everything Everything?”, and Rolf said, “Everything Everything hello!” [in an Australian accent]
Then he went up on the ferry tannoy and started singing ‘Two Little Boys’ and halfway he said, “come on Everything Everything, join in!” and were like “Aaah! This is the most fucking strange thing.” We’re on a ferry, Rolf is singing to us and giving us a shout out. That was definitely a highlight.
Are there plans to release any more singles from the album?
There’s one coming out in January and we’re talking maybe a fourth one later in the year. We are releasing ‘Photoshop Handsome’ once again, but the mix from the album has sort of been superheroed recently for radio and it sounds amazing. We’ve got a new video for it we made ourselves that we’re really proud of.
Making it yourself? Did you fund it as well?
[The label] paid for it but hardly. They were like “Guys what do you need? Fuckin’ fifty grand?’ And we were just like, “no, we don’t need very much money just let us do it. It won’t cost you as much as Bublé‘a or whatever.”
Looking around at the gig tonight the age range is quite mixed, there’s a lot more ‘older’ fans than I’d have thought.
People have said this a lot, that it’s one of the most diverse crowds they’ve ever seen. It’s really strange for us because we get young people and really quite old people, and everywhere in between from all walks of life. It’s really strange and it’s hard to put it in any category.
That isn’t new, it’s always been like that. The old guys were onto us from day one, the first fans we really had were the ‘old guys’. We even started calling them Oldman, like Gary Oldman. Just say ‘Oh, Oldman’s turned up’, not specific to any guys but if a troop of old guys come then Oldman’s here.
What do Everything Everything have planned for the future?
We’ve got a big more gigging then we have some writing time. We’re going to Iceland to do a bit of writing, hopefully some recording and rehearsing. We’ve got some special shows coming up as well at the end of the year. A live collaboration that we’re not allowed to talk about, but it’s going to be a big deal for us when it happens.
Into the new year obviously we’ve got the new single and the new video. The single will hopefully go to radio about halfway through November. The video should be all over, it’s kind of crazy. You’ll understand when you see it, it’s going to be one of those things people say, “have you seen this?”, hopefully. We’re even making a ‘Making Of’ documentary little thing about it, just because of the way it was made and it’s unusual.
Any thoughts on a new album then?
There are distant thoughts, obviously we’re going to be touring this one’s ass off. It’s very hard to predict the future when you’re in the band, we can usually see about two months ahead of us at the most.
We’re doing some writing in November so that’ll be the first of the writing sessions for the new album. It could be 2012 before it comes out, we don’t actually know. [Geffen] don’t want it to be shit or rushed because that’s the worst thing you can do, just come up with a mediocre second effort.
There’s a lot of work to be done on this album yet, it’s out but Photoshop is undoubtedly going to be another big boost for us. We’ve got to work this album now it’s out, we may be bored of it but lots of people haven’t heard it so onwards with ‘Man Alive’!