IT'S fair to say that Man Alive, the debut from Everything Everything, was one of the more remarkable albums to grace the Top 20 in 2010. Impressively ambitious and complex, it cast the Mancunian (sm) art-pop band as sonic Heston Blumenthals: fusing together wildly disparate ideas to create something original. Certainly, MY KZ UR BF (My Keys, Your Boyfriend) can potentially claim to be the most danceable song ever to contain references to Faraday cages. Critics pulled no plaudits with five-and-four-star reviews, and the group scooped Mercury and Ivor Novello nominations.
Take That’s Howard Donald raved about them; Karen Gillan – aka Doctor Who assistant Amy Pond – declared them her “favourite new band”; and they’re poised to support Muse on a European tour. The question is: how did a band that seemed so hard to like end up so easy to love?
“We occasionally find ourselves asking: how did we get here?,” laughs bassist Jeremy Pritchard in agreement. “We’re not naturally very glamorous people but we increasingly find ourselves in situations with people who are and think: ‘this is weird and wrong’.”
For the Tories to say that there was no political or social motivation for the riots is wrong. There’s just this sense of the abandoned, younger, poorer people who feel completely underrepresented and disenfranchised by authority, and a real anger and hatred towards the police, in particular their treatment of younger, poorer minorities
“We were at the Q Awards a year ago, slightly pissed. And we were going to go over and say hello to Chris Martin because we’ve got a lot of mutual friends and we know he likes us. As we were doing so, Noel Gallagher accosted us and said: ‘oh, I’ve seen you boys on telly. I like it. Have you met Bono?’ And he was literally sat next to Bono and we just met three of the most famous musicians in the world in the space of a minute and a half.”
Did they receive the fabled ‘Bono talk’?
“No,” says singer and lyricist Jonathan Higgs. “We had a short conversation about the fact that it is sometimes dark in a room even though it’s light outside. There’s no metaphors or anything in that. It’s literally the topic.”
The roll-call of surreal moments continues. “Actually, we heard that Julian Casablancas was writing with a producer in LA and they were swapping mixtapes of stuff they were into,” beams Jeremy. “And the mixtape he gave this producer was just the whole of Man Alive. When we hear about things like that, they mean more to us than any award. We know that Alan Johnson, the Labour MP, is into the band. That felt worthy – he’s a good bloke. He’s a proper old leftie and we kind of have that sensibility.”
Indeed, the metabolism of Arc - Everything Everything’s forthcoming second album - buzzes with political energy. While touring Man Alive in 2010, the Coalition was sworn into power. A year later, Jonathan watched the summer riots leave Manchester smoldering from his city centre apartment.
“You can’t ignore stuff like that even if you’ve only got the mildest sense of social conscience,” explains Jeremy, who would probably make a sterling addition to the Question Time panel.
“For most people of our age, it was the first obvious pure expression of anger and unfairness that we can remember. It was the first time that people in this country stood up and said ‘this isn’t fucking fair’.
“And if you’re going to keep cutting benefits and at the same time, society is trying to convince me that by buying these shoes it will make my life better and I don’t have money, then I’m just going to smash a window and take it with my bare hands.
“For the Tories to say there was no political or social motivation for the riots is wrong. There’s just this sense of the abandoned, younger, poorer people who feel completely underrepresented and disenfranchised by authority, and a real anger and hatred towards the police, in particular their treatment of younger, poorer minorities.”
Everything Everything - Cough CoughThis sense of urgency filters into 'Cough Cough', which this week became the first Everything Everything single to clatter into the Top 40; the sound of a group baring their teeth and audibly taking a step up to the next level. It’s a track so adept at the angular/clever pop thing that you half-expect Foals are fantasising about rolling them up in a carpet before hurling them into a flooded quarry.
One of the aims of Arc was to make a less frantic-sounding album than their debut, says Jonathan. “It’s much more focused and clear than Man Alive. It’s a less desperate sounding record. It’s easier to analyse and isn’t as elitist and abstract.”
When they emerged in 2009, Everything Everything seemed like the wildcards of the ‘New Manchester’, a scene that included Delphic and Hurts, their fellow course mates in the University of Salford’s music department. Eschewing the obvious, their literate, densely-packed lyrics initially sounded like Wikipedia having a breakdown (perhaps not so much XTC as WTF).
“I think you end up branded an ‘intelligent rock band’ when you don’t write straightforward love songs or about being drunk in da club,” notes Jeremy, reasonably.
“The only thing that worries me about that tag is it somehow seems arrogant or exclusionist in some way, and we never wanted to be that.”
Fantastically, it wasn’t so much the kitchen sink they were including in songs, so much as the whole of Homebase. It’s an approach which, coupled with Jonathan’s falsetto, proved divisive – epitomised by Everything Everything’s entertaining spat with The Courteeners, who they accused of being backward and fixated on Oasis.
“We were young and lashing out at what we thought was a retrogressive streak in the city which I have to say has lessened enormously in the last three years,” remembers Jeremy.
“Two nights ago, I saw Liam Fray (Courteeners frontman) in town and he came up to me and said: ‘I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot. I really like your band’. We shook hands and had a chat and it was all good.”
Others were more instantly receptive. Elbow, ever a reliable barometer of good taste, are paid-up members of the Everything Everything fanclub.
“I met Guy Garvey through my girlfriend Katie who is best friends with his girlfriend (award-winning author Emma Unsworth),” elaborates Jeremy.
“When I was at school in Kent, their first album was the one that made me think Manchester must be such a great city to live in. I was terrified to go round to his house for dinner. I was like: ‘I used to write your lyrics on my exercise books at school, mate!”
Before recording of Arc started in January, produced by David Kosten (who also helmed their first album), the band consulted their peers for advice.
“We had a couple of evenings where Delphic played us their new record and we played them ours, and we would do it one demo at a time” recalls Jeremy. “It was fun in a friendly rivals sort of way. You know, ‘you play your trump card and we’ll lay down ours…’”
Although the album is finished, the release date is held back until January due to the X Factor effectively cock-blocking the Christmas charts. From coming up on the inside track in 2010, the weight of expectation is now on their shoulders. With the NME already branding the quartet the “saviors of indie”, there’s a feeling the hype machine will arrive knocking on the door, asking why it was never invited to the party in the first place.
“I think second album curses only happen when you’re very successful on your first record and have to rush your second,” dismisses Jonathan.
“We’re not Mumford,” adds Jeremy, which as statements go, is the kind of recommendation that should be emblazoned on the CD sticker.
“To be honest, we suffered second album syndrome on our first album – we felt pressured, paranoid and didn’t have the best time interpersonally. This was a lot easier. I guess we did things the wrong way around.”
Which, he concludes, “is appropriate for our contrary band”.
'Cough Cough' (RCA) is out now. The album, Arc, follows in January 2013.
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