Bill Cummings 06/09/2010
We've always been a bit suspicious of the BBC's 'Sound of...' list that emerges at the start of every year, for usually choosing quite boringly obvious acts(Duffy? Florence?) with huge label backing and a stream of releases behind them that there's almost inevitability about their success, or worse still they are never heard of again! Four piece Everything Everything from Manchester via Nothumbria are that rare exception, a band from the list that excited us here at GIITTV towers long before their inclusion on the Beebs tip chart. Everything Everything's possess that almost indefinable ability to constantly surprise the listener with a unique brand of off-kilter future pop. Where the serrated edges of post punk guitar acts the Futureheads collide with twisting time signatures, lushious keyboard sweeps, and inrticate three part harmonies led by the crafty elastic 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!' he reveals that they're 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 with custard creams, Johnathan 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 Ur BF 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 this is their first for Geffin who courted them along with a few record labels last year '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 urban decay, avoiding Matrix stylee fights strewn across his path: 'There was a line up change so we thought we couldn't use the old video for the new campaign” he explains “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. We thought we'd 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 and the rest of it. In the future, I think we'll try and make the videos ourselves but with influence of the professionals.'
The re-release of debut singles is the bugbear of many music lovers, The Killers and The Kaiser Chiefs are two prime offenders of a long list of acts that constantly re-released old material once they became successful to cries of joy from their cash hungry major label homes and derision from loyal listeners. 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 apreciating 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 went in 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, 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 the high pitched tongue twister 'Schoolin' and the funky 'Photoshop Handsome' that's repeated refrain of 'come up with 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 kinds of disorientating angles, I wonder how intentional this element of surprise is? 'Surprising is defiantly a good word to describe it. That's kind of what it's about, 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.” He points out “I'd much rather surprise people and take people to a place they've been before but in a different way there's no point pretending that we don't all love a loud home chord musically speaking but get too 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, if 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 which is 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 ability to write songs that juxtapose light and shade at every corner '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 unbearing 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 be just one thing all the time? One thing can enhance the other thing. 'Dancing Queen' on the surface is 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 unexpected art pop shapes that contains haunting echoes of everyone from Talking Heads, to Hot Chip and Animal Collective but really sounding 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 clumsily wide of the mark 'That everyone is doing something different 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 ever done are new things. It's more likely that people will try not to do it if people expect it so much, than new bands don't want to do 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 to Manchester out of musical necessity 'It's much harder to start a band up there(Northumbria), 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 is always a really exciting way to do that.'
The world and his ex-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. A band in Newcastle called Mammal club who are pretty good. There's also 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 humour and soul these post millennial addictive pop tunes deliver a real punch now and promise much for the future. 'Man Alive' 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.
September 11th Bestival - Isle of White
September 28th Cluny - Newcastle
September 30th Acadmey 2 - Liverpool
October 1st Bodega - Nottingham
October 2nd King Tuts Wah Wah Hut - Glasgow
October 4th Talking Heads - Southampton
October 5th ARU - Cambridge
October 6th Scala - London
October 7th PLUG - Sheffield
October 9th Academy 2 - Oxford
October 10th Cockpit - Leeds
October 11th Thekla - Bristol
October 12th Deaf Institute - Manchester
Everything Everything - Man Alive - The Glitch Mob Album Mash Up by EverythingEverything