- Words Jamie Wilde
- Photography Phil Jenkins
With their new album 'RE-ANIMATOR,' Everything Everything re-connect with a sense of innocence and celebrate the things in life that really matter.
Ten years on from the release of their debut album ‘Man Alive,’ Everything Everything have re-connected with a vivid sense of innocence and wonder that epitomised their first album. With ‘RE-ANIMATOR,’ the twice Mercury Prize-nominated band’s fifth studio album, Everything Everything exhibit what it means to feel alive. In these unprecedented times, that message has become more poignant than ever.
The Mancunian four-piece have long defined their musical aesthetic in defiance of the clichés expected of white men with guitars. Frontman Jonathan Higgs’ characteristic soprano-like vocals are a key facet to the band’s eclectic style and they’ve been widely critically acclaimed with albums such as ‘Get to Heaven’ and ‘A Fever Dream’ for their boldly expressive views on the state of the world we live in.
However, after chatting to Higgs over a good-old-fashioned Zoom call, he, as well as the rest of the band, felt it was essential to make a different kind of record this time around. Rather than venture into another politically motivated album project, the band was keen to “get back to what really matters” and the pandemic, in some ways, presented them with the perfect opportunity to do so.
Life and death, humanity and explorations of consciousness are all major themes divulged within ‘RE-ANIMATOR’ and they’re tied together by a mind-blowing, yet complicated psychological theory based on the human mind (more on that later). What’s more, the band didn’t opt for a run of the mill album release – oh no. Just when you thought you’d seen it all, in fittingly cutting edge style, they decided to hold a world-first virtual reality album release event where fans, for a small ticket fee, could join the band in another dimension.
For those still in this dimension for now, however, you can read below for more on our chat with Everything Everything frontman Jonathan Higgs as he tells us all about the album as well as 3D video modelling programmes, God, and GoPros.
Everything Everything also gave us an exclusive look behind the scenes of the music video for the album track “Big Climb.”
It’s been ten years since the release of your debut album, how much has changed for the band now compared to then?
We’ve definitely all grown up a lot since then. I feel that musically we’ve all come on a long way as well. We put out all our ideas into the first record like it was gonna be the only one we’d ever make. We had a lot to prove to ourselves and to the people around us – we didn’t like being a ‘Manchester band,’ you know. We defined ourselves by being lots of things that we didn’t want to be.
I think we’ve calmed down a bit more over the years and relaxed more into making music that makes us happy rather than trying to prove stuff all the time.
Like your debut showcases, have you more recently re-connected with a sense of innocence and wonder in your creative process?
Yeah, definitely. I got so consumed by politics and conflict with ‘Get to Heaven’ and ‘A Fever Dream’ and I think that we all felt that we wanted something different this time and not always be the band that has to talk about this stuff. Everyone talks about it now; when we started I don’t think it was at quite the same level but with Brexit and everything now everyone’s paying attention. I’m fucking sick of it, personally. I’m not gonna give my life commenting on how shit everything is all the time, I want to do some other stuff you know.
Right now, and for this record, I just wanted to step above it all and talk about things that affect everyone. I want to talk about what it means to be a human being and feeling alive and stuff like that.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic catalysed your creative capabilities as a band?
The pandemic meant that we couldn’t do any of the stuff we had planned. We had this record that was pre-pandemic on our hands, then the world completely changed and we couldn’t promote it in any way so we had to do it all ourselves. We’d just changed record labels with the view to doing more ourselves anyway so it kind of all came together.
Everyone has stepped up to the plate. Alex (guitars, keyboards) has done loads of mixing and production work and the other two guys – Jeremy (bass) and Michael (drums) – have just been awesome throughout the whole thing. It’s amazing how much we’ve worked together rather than falling apart.
How did you go about making your extraordinary homemade videos for “Arch Enemy” and “In Birdsong?”
With the pandemic, we couldn’t have any help, we couldn’t even get together to film each other, we couldn’t do anything. So we had to make something completely from scratch and that’s where I randomly, and magically, had started to use this 3D modelling programme a few weeks before lockdown that was gonna help me to make all these videos.
The idea was essentially just to piss around with the music videos for both these tracks and for them to be fun videos that people could watch. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing with this programme – I was just sort of finding my way through it as I went along. I think that when you’re really naïve with a new tool you can sometimes do things that you can’t really repeat or wouldn’t think of ten years down the line when you’re a professional, like in music. I wish I could write a song like I’ve never written a song before but I can’t do it now. But with the “In Birdsong” video, at the end of it I just stood back and thought ‘how the hell have I done this?’ you know. I still don’t know how I got there but I think that’s the really cool thing about not learning stuff.
How did your burnt out instruments in the “Violent Sun” music video sound?
Haha. Yeah, so the studio, essentially the room below the one I’m in now, burnt down at the start of lockdown – it still smells of barbecue to be honest. It burnt up a great deal of our equipment that we didn’t use for touring, luckily. All the touring stuff was in the room I’m in now.
So, we were fishing around for ideas for the video for “Violent Sun” and originally I wanted it to be just running, but then we thought ‘hmmm, we should probably have something else in it’. Then eventually we thought why not just use these guitars and stuff that could just about hold together? We kind of thought it suited the song in a way – something about destruction versus creativity resonated, you know. It looked quite cool and it wasn’t just us with our shiny guitars for once. It had some meaning and reality behind it because that was our reality at the time – we were a bit fucked. We all had Go Pros on our heads to film each other, there was no crew, nothing. We couldn’t because of social distancing. It was essentially a snapshot of our lives at that time.
Your fifth studio album ‘RE-ANIMATOR’ has just been released. What was the inspiration behind the name of the record?
There’s a lot of stuff on the record about being alive and dead, conscious and unconscious, you know. I’m interested in where you draw the line between animals. Different levels of consciousness are really interesting to me and there’s this idea that you can go through your life in a kind of zombie-ish state – I’ve certainly been like that for long stretches of time where I’m not really living, I’m just sort of going through the motions. Then something will happen that brings me out of it like seeing somebody get run over, your friend having a baby daughter or reaching a milestone birthday and then you suddenly go, ‘fuck,’ you know. And you’re back and you’re alive again. I call those moments re-animator moments, or things that come into your life to re-animate you – it makes you alive again.
I wanted the album to be one of those things for someone out there, you know. Or even for me to bring my life back into focus about the things that really matter. It’s like what we talked about earlier about getting away from squabbles and politics and the things that you’re not really gonna be talking about on your deathbed. Fuck all that stuff, it doesn’t matter. You’re gonna be thinking about your child, you’re gonna be thinking about that sunny day when you were twelve and playing on the river. That’s what the Re-Animator message is, to get back to what really matters.
I’ve heard that you had a slightly unusual method for recording the album…
We recorded the album in like a two-week blast. Usually, we take a lot longer than that because we’re quite anal when it comes to recording and being a bit too perfectionist. But for Re-Animator we prepared well and just sort of went in and played each song twice, maybe. It was crazy because I would usually do like nineteen takes on my vocals, you know. But our producer was like ‘no, you’ve got it,’ and I guess he was showing us that we are a good band which sounds ridiculous but you easily get anxious about what you’re doing sometimes. We learned to just leave the mistakes in; it doesn’t have to be perfect at all.
What kind of themes were explored in ‘RE-ANIMATOR’?
There’s a big theme that runs along the backbone of the album which is this psychological theory that I came across that was written in the ‘70s by this guy called Julian Jaynes. It’s this idea called the bicameral mind where Jaynes thought that in the very distant past the two sides of our brain were separate and one side would speak to the other side and you would hear a voice in your head. It would tell you what to do that day, and you would call that voice God and you would accept it. That was how we were for hundreds of thousands of years where people were not we would call conscious and were instead following orders. I kind of think of it like when I’m playing guitar on stage and I’m not thinking, then as soon as I think about what I’m doing I fuck it up. There’s ways that we’re unconscious all the time that we don’t really consider like our brains aren’t switched on like they are when I’m talking to you right now.
Then there came a time when both sides of the brain came together and the voice that we used to hear became our own inner voice, and that was how consciousness began. After hearing this theory, I was mind-blown, literally. Well, not literally. But it just fascinated me so much thinking about all the elements of it. I do believe that we’re unconscious a lot of the time. I do believe that people hear voices in their heads all the time. Consciousness in itself is a fascinating thing, you know. Where is it? What is it? All this crazy shit, it was like a religious experience – like reading the Bible. I really wanted to use this theory, even though it’s not really a pop music thing, for people to get this feeling, you know. I don’t care if they know about the theory, I just want them to get this sense of awe. So the whole album has lots of songs on it that relate to this theory in a subtle way like hearing voices, becoming your own God, having a divided self, a huge amount of it relates to this bicameral mind theory.
Do you have a favourite line or lyric on the album?
In “In Birdsong,” I really like the line “I’m vapour in your love” which is the conclusion I come to in the end of that song. It’s me trying to say that after all is said and done, the power of someone’s love is like a nuke going off – it’s all we have and it’s the most powerful thing we have. Love matters.
With your new album, you’re set to unveil the first-ever album release show held in virtual reality. Are you excited?
Yeah, I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a total blind date really. We’ve been designing it for a while now and I’ve had a little run around inside the staging area and stuff and it’s hilarious. I think it’s what people need. I mean people need a gig but it’s the best we can do right now to get together a lot of people in one place, have a laugh and listen to this new record.
What can fans expect from the virtual reality album release?
I think the main emotion you will feel visiting it is gonna be amusement. It’s not some really serious, awful 3D thing, it’s gonna be dead funny I think. It’s like playing a big multiplayer game together.
Do you think virtual reality experiences can become a popular way to perform and release music in years to come?
God, I hope it’s not the future of everything, it’s just what we have to do right now. I don’t think it will be the future in my lifetime, quite frankly. People need physical proximity to one another. It’s not gonna change because we’ve got technology in order to change it. People do spend a lot of time on their phones, sure. But they do spend more time next to each other, and they always have and they always will – it’s just what we do.
Do you feel that music and technology are more dependable on one another now than ever before?
Yes, well… yeah. Technology is all we can do at the moment. We literally can’t do anything else but I think that’s just changed in the last few hours here I think pubs have opened again or whatever. We couldn’t have done this lockdown twenty years ago in the same way. I think it would’ve been a lot more difficult for people and the economy would’ve been hit much harder than it already has. The same goes for music. Twenty or thirty years ago you would only have the radio I guess, and the radio has been very helpful to me actually during this period – probably more than ever in my life, I think – and that’s a hundred-year-old technology. So I don’t know! I think we cracked it with the radio. That’s all we needed all along.
How badly have you missed going to gigs and playing live on stage to your fans?
I’ve missed it a lot. Last year was a writing year and this was gonna be a live year, that’s kind of how we do it. Now it’s just another writing year, and it’s already September and I haven’t done anything this year except pull my hair out [points to his head], fret and be anxious and make videos and worry. I miss it all so much, yeah. The bass vibrations, the crowd chattering, pre-gig, I miss it all.
When and where can we next see you perform in the flesh?
In the UK and Ireland, we’re touring in March next year. Obviously, it’s still a bit of a finger crossed situation but I’d love it to happen. Let’s just hope it happens is all I can say.