Everything Everything: Not just another indie band

Palatinate Issue #727
indigo chats to the lead singer and guitarist of the genre-defying four-piece at the Newcastle leg of the NME Awards Tour

       Art rock? Convoluted indie? Math pop? You decide. This toe-tappingly jittery and anti-conventional four piece became sick of recycled and stagnant indie, so decided to do something about it.

        After being scouted by Radio 1’s Zane Lowe in their unsigned beginnings, the Manchester-based band site being tipped on BBC’s Sound of 2010 list as their biggest boost to success, despite at the the time having only a handful of singles in their blossoming discography.

        “It was so early on when we got it, it felt like we were the youngest there. Everyone else had albums ready to go!” guitarist Alex Robertshaw tells me as I make myself at home amongst the PS3 controllers and coffee cups in their haven of a tour bus. “Although I think in the UK you can still succeed if you’re not on that list. It’s important abroad, people seem to look at it first to see what’s new over here,” lead singer Jonathan Higgs explains. His suprisingly low-pitched speaking voice only highlights his extensive vocal range, a talent which plays a prominent part in the band’s sound.

        Having been described as ‘genre-defying’ and similar terms in the media since they formed in 2007, their jaunty sound seems fresh and new in comparison with a lot of recent indie bands due to their irregular song structures and fusion of diverse influences. But how do they go about maintaining this different approach? “You gotta keep writing and listening to a lot of music and trying to find new things. If something we write or a demo doesn’t excite us then we change it, and that’s the way we’ve always worked. It’s hard to define how you try and make things “new”... It’s not really as conscious as you might think!” Jonathan tells me modestly.

        Could this be the beginning of some sort of post-indie movement in NME’s history? The magazine itself had refreshingly branched out from the expectations of a line-up awash with guitar bands on this year’s Awards Tour, with Magnetic Man and Crystal Castles unusually starring on the same bill as The Vaccines and Everything Everything for the tour.

        “It’s really good that it’s this diverse. I was in two minds when I first saw the line-up!” Alex admits. “It certainly divides crowds, there’ll be people who will come to see The Vaccines who just will never ‘get’ Magnetic Man. But I think we’re quite lucky as we straddle quite a lot of audiences. But those same people who came along thinking “I want guitars!” may come away thinking “that was actually really good... I never would’ve gone to that!"

        “Indie’s had to develop, it’s not really holding the torch anymore which is good. It means there’ll be more of a variety of music from now on,” says Jonathan. “When indie decides to become fashionable again it’ll have to change itself a little bit which is always good. Stagnation is just so boring. No one enjoys that.

Photo: Dan Jeffries
        Whilst being helped along their way by Chew Lips and Bat For Lashes producer David Kosten, the band take pride in the amount of artistic freedom they have had on their debut album Man Alive. On the transition from their few 7” releases in their emerging days to being signed by Universal-owned record label Geffen, Alex explains “You can create a story as you’re going from standalone singles to creating a whole album. It’s a good cross-section of what we sound like.”

        The availability of technology is a key aspect of their chirpy and at times Nintendo-reminiscent tunes (see Photoshop Handsome and Qwerty Finger) “The way we write, it tends to start on a laptop, which for a so-called indie band might not be that normal. But there’s nothing to hold you back, you don’t have to think “oh I can’t make that sound on a guitar”. With a laptop you have free reign, you can even have an oboe!” Jonathan optimistically desribes. “To be defined by what your musical abilities are is sad."

        So with their quirky lyrics and upbeat ditties, will Everything Everything ever turn into a serious band? “A misconception that we’re trying to avoid is that we are this chipper band. There is a lot of serious stuff on the album and the next single will be much more serious. Although it won’t get half as much airtime because it’s not as radio friendly.” Jonathan tells me, somewhat wisened to the ways of mass media. Although with their catchy songs still having an edge with harmonising and perfectly unexpected breaks, this band is anything but a take two of The Hoosiers.

        “Funnily enough both of the re-releases are the most politically-minded on the album,” says Jonathan, “I like that some teenager could listen to MY KZ UR BF and be all “oh your boyfriend, what’s all that about?” and then think about the lyrics and realise that something interesting’s going on... Sneaking in there..."

        His theory seemed to prove true, as the general ‘first-time drunk’ swarm at the O2 Academy that evening showed, exciteably moshing to even Leave The Engine Room- by far the slowest song of the album.

Man Alive is out now on Geffen.

Photo: Dan Jeffries