Everything Everything’s debut Man Alive was something of a slow builder for most. Released to limited acclaim back in 2010, it simultaneously announced the Mancunians, and – over the course of the following couple of years – saw them climb to a level at which stadium support shows seemed a natural progression. Follow up Arc – released a couple of weeks into 2013 – seemed to almost instantaneously lift the four-piece to a daytime radio level. It’s been quite a road, and the unconventional, high-pitched pop-ballad songwriting of the record is not quite the logical progression we might have expected. Instead, Everything Everything returned as an inventive but notably more mainstream act.
For guitarist Alex Robertshaw, though, the move is simply the logical next step of their recent-ish lives (it’s actually been knocking about for nearly a year, under strict supervision), rather than a pointed change to previous output. “We produced the album with the same guy, David Kosten, so we were drawing on the same pool of knowledge production wise”, he explains, “but we did the drums slightly differently, on the first record we were going for quite a clinical sound, this one is an organic, live, physical sounding instrument like it should be. We did lots of tricks with electronics for the drums just to make the electronic side sound real as well. The songs are a bit slower this time around, though, and John [Higgs, singer] was listening to a lot of pop tracks, Rihanna and stuff, and a lot of those tracks are just a bit slower. You can make people move with a groove rhythm as well as being loud. Basically we were playing around with a new thing. I think it’s far more danceable, you can enjoy it more that way than Man Alive.”
Despite being fiercely inventive, however, Alex’s insists that Everything Everything’s easily identifiable sound is far from planned: “I think if you actively try to be something a bit indefinable and different, ultimately you will fail. We just tried to make sure we feel excited by it. It’s a gut feeling you have when you play music you like. It’s trying to retain that feeling, like the first time you hear music as a child. You’re always chasing that feeling.”
Perhaps it was the unique and divisive nature of the debut that made it a bit of a slow builder. Alex argues “The first album got some really good reviews but it took a really long time for it to connect with the public. It’s just grown and grown. When we recorded the second album, probably not far off this time last year, we were all concerned by the lead up time for singles, and bringing it out now. It seemed so long after Man Alive. We thought our fans wanted it right then. But then we realized, to some people we’re still very fresh, from the Snow Patrol and Muse tours. Inside the band it’s easy to forget that process takes time. We’ve been growing and growing and growing. There’s no rush!”
The Mancunian scene still holds a special place in British music culture, and while the Factory Records days might be long gone, bands like Hurts, Egyptian Hip Hop, Everything Everything and their good friends Delphic are doing the city proud. A semi-collaborative nature has eked into the scene, and Delphic and Everything Everything even spent a tipsy evening passing notes on each other’s early demos. “Delphic bought over quite a lot of their recordings and demos, and at that point ours were recorded on our phones. We had all these terrible sounding demos, and we all sat down and listened. Theirs were pristine, and we had ‘Cough Cough’ played really rough from the first time we’d rehearsed it. We compared notes, but we were at very different stages! We went for a curry and came back at bit pissed and got the music out. It’s a nice thing. There are so many really nice bands in Manchester. Everyone’s really supportive of each other. It’s not really a competition, everyone’s doing their own thing. Manchester’s really good at the moment, there are a lot of less traditional ‘Mancunian sounding’ acts. It’s nice to be part of that.”
Despite the positive vibes flowing around Manchester’s music scene, though, it’s politics – much like that of the rest of Europe – is becoming increasingly difficult, and in Arc, vocalist Jonathan Higgs hones in on a few of his pet hates. “For me personally”, Alex explains, “I didn’t buy into the whole political thing. Like everyone, John’s got concerns about the problems around us. It’s pretty obvious there’s something not right. I don’t think he’s preaching, he’s just got a problem with a lot of things. There’s a political angle in a lot of lyrics on the record. It’s more about John having comments and wanting to share them. We don’t know the answer. We’re just a band, we don’t want to become one of those bands that thinks they can change the world. We can’t. We’re a band.”
The arena step-ups have seen keyboard player Pete Mayhew bought in for larger shows, to free up John, and ideally create a more expressive take on the live production. “John sampling a whole song through a keyboard and singing at the same time for smaller shows was cool. For bigger stages, it’s nice for him to be able to concentrate on his singing, especially as a lot of the songs on the new record are quite hard to sing. We’re a lot more like a band then we were, with a keyboard player as well as a singer. We want to put on a better show, and John not being rooted to one space is part of that.”
Meanwhile, with the large gap between the writing and production of Arc and its release, new material is already on the horizon, with serious dedication to album number three expected as early as late Spring. “There’s been a bit of downtime, and we already have a few things knocking around. We’ll be thinking about new material again later this year, taking it more seriously. Now the album’s out, things should start coming in, too. It’s hard to get as many offers when the material isn’t available yet. It’s been a bit like a year off, so we can’t wait to get going.” They might point to a slow rise, but there’s no doubting Everything Everything are already firmly wedged on that mammoth list of Manchester success stories, no matter what album number three holds.
Everything Everything play Whelan’s, Dublin tonight. Arc is out now on Sony