Mercury Nominated: Everything Everything

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Everything Everything’s album ‘Man Alive’ was nominated for the Mercury music prize of 2011 yesterday. Here I represent an interiew I conducted with lead singer/songwriter Jonathan in September last year. Enjoy.

We’ve always been a bit suspicious of the BBC’s new acts list for often choosing quite boringly obvious acts with huge label backing that there’s almost inevitability about their success, oe worse still they are never heard of again! Everything Everything from Manchester via Northumbria are that rare exception, band from the list that excited us here at GIITTV. Everything Everything’s constantly surprise the listener with off kilter future pop, where serrated edges of post punk guitar acts like the Futureheads collide with twisting time signatures, dappling keyboard lines, three part harmonies led by the crafty tongue twisting falsetto of singer Jonathan’s frankly ‘bonkers lyrics’ about everything from high-school massacres to R&B lotharios musing on their lot in a post-apocalyptic wilderness.

Catching Everything Everything lead vocalist and guitarist Jonathan through a mobile phone at some dingy service station in transit to this year’s underage festival, he admits to feeling a ‘bit old for it, but it should be fun!’ they’re also going ‘to shoot a video for their single after MY KZ Ur BF while we’re there, and various promo thingies’ Sadly despite my best attempts to bribe him, Jonathan keeps the releases identity closely guarded secret! This isn’t the first time that this highly addictive song with a text speak title My KZ has been released mind you in fact its their fifth release in total “The very first single we released was Suffragette Suffragette on a small subsidiary of XL way back in 2008, then Photoshop Handsome then My KZ, then My Kz again!” but their first for Geffin who courted them along with a few record labels ‘essentially it was a long running thing, we’d been courted for a while by them, with grapes, salads, scotch eggs, Chinese, mini scotch eggs!’ Their recent single, My KZ Ur BF originally had a self made video too, but with the re-release comes a new plush video full of technical trickery, as Jonathan finds his way around ‘There was a line up change so we thought we couldn’t use the old video for the new campaign, so we thought we’d see what we could do with a much bigger budget and all the trappings of a major label and all the rest of it. See how it went and try it out because we’d always made them ourselves up until then, we couldn’t have possibly done some of the effects before all the camera movements from the rest of it. I think we’ll try and make the videos ourselves but with influence of the professionals.’

Re-releasing debut singles are the bugbear of many music lovers, The Killers and The Kaiser Chiefs are two prime examples of acts that constantly re-released old material once they became successful to cries of derision. But there’s a balance for every act that finds success first time round, there’s a vast majority that’s ignored because their face or sound doesn’t fit or they simply don’t have the backing at the time, Jonathan is practical about releasing My KZ again ‘My KZ, did really well at the radio first time round, but people wouldn’t play it because we were weren’t on a label or anything.”

Their debut long player ‘Man Alive’ was released last week but considering their timeline as an act how long has it been in gestation? ‘About half of its old and half old and new stuff, there’s some things we wrong and recorded on the day in the studio and some things that are about four or five years old, but its a strange mixture.’ Jonathan notes ‘The ones that made it on there were the ones that we thought were the best, a good song we did bits of reworking here and there, but if something really good its really good, we didn’t care how old it was if its a good song it goes on the album.’


Recorded for the most part in Wales, near in this little tiny converted farm-house ‘it was pretty haunted.’ Jonathan laughs ‘We did bits and pieces ourselves we just added two or three things, but the vast majority was done with a producer called David Cox who did the Bat for Lashes album.’ From the bizarre RNB pop of My Kz Ur Bf to dog whistle tongue twister of the funky ‘Schoolin’ and ‘Photoshop Handsome’ that’s repeated refrain of ‘Gotta come back something organic’ is ladled with irony, to the disco rock of ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ with its unexpected chorus ‘Whose gonna sit on your face when I’m gone?’ Everything Everything are coming at you from all kind of off kilter angles, I wonder how intentional this was? ‘Surprising is defiantly a good word to describe it. That’s kind of what there’s no point in just being able to predict every note or every lyric and every moment of a song you might as well not listen to it you certainly might as well not create it and put lots of time or effort into it. I’d much rather surprise people and take people to a place they’ve been before in a different way there’s no point pretending that we don’t all love a loud home chord musically speaking but get to it in a slightly new way so its much more pleasing when you do get there.’

But how does the song writing process work in Everything Eeverything are they pieces of music melded together like a jigsaw in the studio or do they emerge fully formed?“Sometimes that seems like the natural way it should sound. I tend to write on a laptop or a guitar and move it to a laptop. You get a lot of freedom that way you don’t have to stick to what you can play, you can kind of think it and then you can play it, but sometimes you can’t to do that you’re a guitarist or a pianist you’ve got to be musically good to do that, but I kind of cheat. So it tends to end up in kind of impossible demos, so I give it to the band and they can’t do that but what they can play is what we end up with a sound kind of made real.”

But why’s their debut long player called Man Alive ‘’We liked how Man alive has a small meaning and a big meaning at the same time.’ Notes Jonathan and says that goes for a lot of the album’s ‘barking lyrics’ that distil their indefinable ability to catch you off guard at every corner ‘Certainly yeah, in some ways if you’ve got a opportunity to write lyrics you might as well make them as good as you possibly can and try and make them as surprising as the music because there’s so many lyrical clichés probably more than musical ones.’ The pinnacle and contrast of the words and music is at the heart of most great pop music, and I venture that ‘Man Alive’ is the point where EE’s wit collides with the un bearing of their souls, unconsciously setting Jonathan up to create his own musical genre, who needs the NME eh?! ‘It’s wit-soul(laughs), yeah I think again if you have the opportunity to be light and dark in art why not? Why not be both why not be just one thing all the time, one thing can enhance the other thing. Dancing queen on the surface is on the surface a really happy tune but its a really sad.’

Unlike so many of their contemporaries Everything Everything aren’t in love with their influences they aren’t even trying to emulate any of them, rather like a different but no less imaginative art rockers Wild Beasts they are picking up the shiny fragments of 2010 and melding them into slick art pop shapes that contains haunting echoes of Talking Heads, Hot Chip, Animal Collective but sounds like none of them ‘I don’t think any of us have ever been part of a big movement or big sort of genre, we’re a bit too young for Britpop and didn’t like much after that so I guess we’ve always been a bit of outsiders in terms of what’s going on. We try and take influences from anywhere we don’t really care if its cool or really mainstream or really weird, just if there’s something good that you can take from it, then just go for it I reackon!’

Some parts of the music media are rather lazily trying to squeeze Everything Everything into a regional box alongside other Manchester acts like Egyptian Hip Hop, Delphic, but Jonathan knows that what defines these bands are their differences thus claims of a new ‘musical genre’ from Manchester are rather clumsy ‘That would be what connects bands in Manchester at the moment, not necessarily what people expect from that city. Although you shouldn’t because what Manchester has always usually done are new things. It’s more likely that people will try not to do it if people expect it so much that new bands don’t want to it (unless they do)!’
It seems bizarre that Everything Everything would be even be considered to be part of a new Manchester anyway, With a distinct North Eastern Twang Jonathan isn’t your typical Lancastrian indeed meeting his band mates at school and university they hail from Nothumbria, Guernsey and Kent respectively, but Jonathan moved out of musical necessity ‘It’s much harder to start a band up there, there’s far fewer venues, there’s just so much more opportunities to do it in Manchester or Liverpool. It’s not so much a joke thing, in Manchester being in a band is much more of a real thing to do.’

Everything Everything have claimed a (perhaps unexpectedly for a indie band) love for RNB alerted to the way that the likes of by their playful use of rhythms and vocals that blasted from their Radios in the mid nineties: ‘We enjoy listening to RNB, most importantly the vocals. That’s probably the biggest influence they’ve had on us.” He points out, before noting that ‘So many bands lay out their melodies and its all very predictable and stuff, but there’s so much more playful and rhythmic things you can do with vocals, a group of vocalists like Destiny’s child or multiple people singing together that’s intricate or dexterous its always really exciting way to do that.’ The world and his wife might be tipping EE for big things but Jonathan picked out some new acts for GIITTV readers to look out for too, you lucky buggers ‘I’ve been listening to this band called Clock Opera who did a remix for us which we really liked. Band in Newcastle called Mammal club who are pretty good. There’s a band in Scotland called ‘babe’ (said in a high-pitched squeal) who haven’t even played a show yet, one of them used to be in a band we loved so we’re following them trying to get them to play a show with us.’

Whilst Everything Everything’s ‘Man Alive’ isn’t the flawless finished product that some publications and banner ads would suggest, it’s a bold, promising debut that’s playful sound is full of imagination and melody, it puts much of the output of most guitar bands to shame, brimful of post millennial slinky art pop shapes deliver a real punch now and promise much for the future, it will have you dancing and singing dementedly to their crafty lyrics on their UK tour this October , “We’re on the album trail, for the rest of the next sixteen years.” Laughs Jonathan in the immediate short term you can catch them at Bestival and on tour this September and October.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.