Everything Everything: Tales From The Arc Side

With ‘Arc’, Everything Everything are getting emotional.

It’s not every day that you discover that a bone fide Top 40 hit was, in part, written on the lavatory. But when Jonathan Higgs, Everything Everything’s lead singer and lyricist, got a tickle in his throat whilst in the bathroom, the result turned out to be the chart bothering ‘Cough Cough’.

“I was actually in the toilet at home,” he chuckles over coffee in a swish London hotel, “and my girlfriend said, ‘do you want…’ something, and I went ‘cough cough yeah’, and thought, hey, there’s actually a bit of a beat to that. And just got my phone out and started riffing.”

Despite providing them with their biggest hit to date, it’s fair to say that not everyone in the band was convinced that the fruits of his latrine lyricism were the ideal way to introduce second record, ‘Arc’. “We came back with that song thinking it was ridiculous.” guitarist Alex Robertshaw confesses, “I remember driving around Manchester with Michael [Spearman, the band’s drummer], saying, is it a good idea to release this first? We weren’t sure.” Jonathan starts laughing, “It must have been a slow week.”

Their self-deprecation is, of course, nonsense, but with ‘Arc’ representing a bit of an about turn for the foursome, it’s easy to see why they might not have been anticipating the reaction. Despite widespread critical acclaim for their debut, ‘Man Alive’, nominations for the Mercury and Ivor Novello awards, that was a slow burner; it took a while to sink in and to love.  Whereas ‘Arc’, is far more, for want of a better word, accessible.

And it seems that was a deliberate move by the band. “I could write a million words in exactly the same vein as ‘Man Alive’, and never get any closer to anyone,” Jonathan considers, “Everyone just thinking ‘what the hell is going on here? I like it, but I don’t know why.’ I thought, I can keep doing that forever, and no one will ever know me. I want to make a connection. ‘Man Alive’ was easier to write, lyrically, because it’s just straight out my brain, lots of cryptic stuff that’s personal to me, in jokes and puns, which there’s still a lot of on ‘Arc’, but there’s also more that everyone can understand.”
Whether that’s an attempt to shrug off the ‘intellectual band’ tag that Everything Everything have found themselves landed with, it’s hard to say. They will admit that it’s not something that they set out to be labelled as, though. “It’s not that we want that to be our calling card, necessarily… at all.” Jonathan tells us, “An emotional connection is the most valuable; not a soppy made up one, but a true one. I think the first time around, I think I was too afraid to do that, for fear of it not working, or looking stupid, lots of things really.”
‘A tiny little gig, fifty people and Howard Donald.’
It’d be safe to suggest that ‘Arc’ is born out of a spurt of confidence, then. “It’s all the experience we’ve had, doing a record, touring it, seeing the reaction,” Jonathan agrees. “Two, three years is a long time, especially when you’re going on stage every night. You change, your confidence changes. It’d be sad if it went down.”
Perhaps some of that new found confidence comes from having fans who are proper celebrities, too. Rumour has it that when Julian Casablancas was swapping mixtapes with a producer to show what he was in to, his tape was just the entirety of ‘Man Alive’. And the band readily confess to having an unlikely champion, in the form of one Take That-er, Mr Howard Donald.
“He came when we played at The Garage in London. A tiny little gig in an upstairs room, fifty people and Howard Donald,” Alex laughs. “He had to leave before the lights came on, in case he got mobbed. Or people started beating him up.” Jonathan continues, “He didn’t want to take the spotlight from us, is what he said, which is very nice.” “Every now and then he sends us an email out of the blue,” Alex interjects, excitedly, “Just saying, still listening. Can’t wait for the new album.” Which, they confess, they’ve yet to send him. Poor Howard.
Considering the patronage of a member of Manchester’s most famous boyband, we ask whether they feel they’ve benefitted from the association with the city, despite none of them actually hailing from there. “It’s a massive boost,” Jonathan considers, “Coming up as a band from there, immediately the press’ ears pick up because of the word ‘Manchester’.” Whether their adopted hometown can take some of the credit for the attention that ‘Man Alive’ received is debatable, but it’s not something that particularly bothers the band anyway. “We look at the critical acclaim that we got, and just ignore it.” Jonathan tells us, “Because if we made the same record again, we’d bore the hell out of our fans, and ourselves, and probably the critics. We’d like to revert to our eccentricities later on, after people have made more of a connection to us. That’s when we’ll get weird again.”

It’s back to that accessibility chestnut again; the band are making no secret of the fact that ‘Arc’ is intended to be an easier listen. As Jonathan describes it himself, it’s “less skittish, distracted, and skatterbrained.” There are more obvious themes, it doesn’t take much in the way of delving to realise that the recession and riots of 2011 are a clear reference point. “It comes out in the lyrics,’ Jonathan agrees, “That feeling of bubbling tension, discontent, malcontent, everybody not really knowing what to do. And there’s going to be another seven years of it, and the sweet portion of my life is going to be during a kind of shit time, during the recession. I think everyone’s a bit angry about that.”
There’s no worry, then, that in their haste to lose the highbrow reputation, they’re dumbing down. The main difference, as Alex points out, is that they’ve allowed each song the room to be itself, rather than try to cover too much ground with each track. “We realised that our last record can be quite confusing,” he admits, “We were lucky that some people got it, slowly but surely, but we knew what the best points were of the last record. And we like to think we elaborated on those.”
He looks at his bandmate and laughs. “Jon wrote better lyrics this time. Less cryptic, less entirely revolving around him.” If Jonathan is insulted, he’s not showing it, as he interjects. “The melodies of each song are really strong, the structures are strong; the songs should be able to translate into other mediums, not just rely on those particular sounds, or my voice, they should be able to be passed around as songs, rather than one tiny thing, with a ‘don’t know how we did that’. Strong,” he pauses momentarily. “That’s the keyword.”

Everything Everything’s new album ‘Arc’ is out now via RCA.

Taken from the February 2013 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.