Jonathan Higgs and Jeremy Pritchard discuss the band's new album...
Everything Everything

I'm going to sound like my granddad here, but didn't there used to be less news?

Aided and abetted by the altogether-too interesting times that we live in, the interconnected new world we travel deeper into every day offers us an infinite selection of 24 hour news channels, clickbait k-holes, seething comments sections, topical listicles, woke warnings and hot takes, all pouring untrammelled onto our screens of choice and keeping us more (often ill-)informed about the state of the world than any of our ancestors' generations would have felt comfortable with. Tap into the informational IV drip for too long and it's easy to become consumed by the constant feed, allowing it to impress upon you an almost wholly negative worldview based on what we are capable of doing to both one another and the planet we live on.

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It was kind of a warning in many ways...

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Everything Everything's last record, 2015’s ‘Get To Heaven’, was both a prophet and a product of this paranoid news cycle. Its laments to ISIS brides and damnations of broken political promises came across more like a series of increasingly depressing news bulletins feeding live into the listener’s brain than the lyrics of an eccentric pop band. “It was kind of a warning in many ways,” explains singer Jonathan Higgs, when asked how the band themselves view the album’s approach in retrospect. “It was very steeped in real events and there was all sorts of stuff coming over the horizon” adds bassist Jeremy Pritchard, acknowledging that the post-2015 world hasn’t seemed particularly open to heeding warnings from anyone.

“It’s been kind of the conclusion of a lot of things we were talking about on ‘Get To Heaven’,” Jonathon continues as he considers the wealth of subject matter that could have been available for a similarly themed follow-up, “Everything has reached fever pitch and all of your worst nightmares have come true! The television business man is leader of the free world; surely this is the apex of this ludicrous, self-regarding culture that we’ve lived in for the last ten years or so?”

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But ‘Fever Dream’, the band’s fourth release, is a long way from being just a pessimistic ‘told you so!’ sequel. For one thing their frontman has shed much of his previous Jonathan-Pie-with-falsetto guise in favour of something more personal this time round. “I did kind of give up on trying to keep up with it and comment on it,” Jonathan concedes, “I just don’t feel that I need to fulfil that role any more, it’s so covered everywhere now. Maybe not so much in pop music but, you know, should it be?” Jeremy explains that the band didn't want to just add their voices to the clamour again, “There’s so much comment around everything already, which in itself has become a kind of problem”.

So, while the themes and influences of ‘Fever Dream’ remain universal, this time the band elect to explore them on an individual, often internal level. “On this one we’re more sort of ‘In the bunker, you and me’,” Jonathan explains, “I want to talk about the way (2016) affected everyone on a personal scale: human to human, neighbour to neighbour, Englishman to Englishman. I always want to talk about the thing that isn’t absolutely everywhere, and no-one’s asking how these events have affected the average guy on the street. How’s his brain changed since 2015? What’s everyone feeling like, you know?”

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No-one’s asking how these events have affected the average guy on the street...

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The result of this switch of focus is a clutch of songs both more conversational and empathetic than anything the group have released before. Possibly too empathetic, some might say. On first listen ‘Run the Numbers’ comes across as the rarest of things: a pro-Brexit rant from a well-educated, ‘elite’ band. “Exactly!” exclaims Jonathan when pressed about the song’s anti-intellectualism, “And it purposely has holes in it. I say really quite stupid things like ‘Shut up professor; give me what I asked for’. I don’t need to run the numbers because I can feel it. I don’t care about the reality of it, I believe in this thing”.

This direct response to Michael Gove’s infamous assertion that ‘people have had enough of experts’ shows Everything Everything’s continuing compulsion to respond to the world's manifold lunacies. But despite Jonathan’s insistence that “rather than just saying ‘this is a bad idea’ we’re trying to embody it a bit more”, it might be best if they don’t try having any ‘personal conversations’ with the average Essex Wetherspoons guy just yet.

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On previous songs such as ‘No Reptiles’ and 'Blast Doors', Everything Everything provided a clear cut view of who was to blame for the world’s evils. On ‘Fever Dream’ they raise more complex questions about human nature and how any of us can unconsciously be guilty of compliance.

Sure, ‘Big Game’ sees the band trading straightforward playground insults with an alt-right troll, but overall there are far fewer easy targets to rail against. Instead the band challenge themselves and their listeners to consider their own prejudices, cannily scattering hate-speech throughout the album to see whether people notice and question it or not. Jonathan explains “I wanted to insert references through the album almost like people whispering in your ear. Just little bits, never dwelling on it for too long, and then I obviously retort with ‘I don’t think so’.”

Everything Everything have always liked to make audiences think, but could subliminally supporting a racist agenda be a step too far? “Well, that’s the line I kind of want to walk!” the singer argues “Obviously I don’t think it’s remotely close to that, but I want people to stop and maybe have a think about it rather than just saying ‘you are wrong for being racist’. There are different ways to do it, and that’s the way I choose to do it, dropping little turds here and there.”

'Fever Dream's study of small-scale demonisation of others is most clearly executed on the profoundly uncomfortable ‘Put Me Together’. The song is written from the point of view of a suburban curtain-twitcher observing the neighbours going about their mundane daily business, convinced that they're 'nothing like you and me' even though they're doing no more than washing the car and watching their children. It's never made clear whether the inferred difference is based on age, skin colour or even Brexit voting choice.

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I just wanted to sow seeds to highlight that it’s fucked!

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“It’s about any of those divisions," Jonathan explains, "It’s about a neighbour who isn’t really there, who's out in the garden doing these really prosaic things. They’re just boring, but there’s still this insistence that 'oh I don’t know about that, they’re nothing like me!' The way everyone’s suspicious of everyone, going ‘oh I bet they voted this way’ or ‘I bet they believe that’, 'I bet they’re pro-this and they’re anti-that'."

These are the imagined divisions that vultures like Nigel Farage and Paul Dacre encourage then exploit “as a rung to achieve greater powers for themselves,” as Jeremy puts it. "I just wanted to sow seeds to highlight that it’s fucked!" Jonathan shakes his head, "Everyone’s as boring as one another. So the song's as boring as I could make it while still being suspicious and dark”.

By dwelling on the mistrust and suspicion that lies in the human heart, Everything Everything could easily have ended up creating their most depressing record yet. In reality, however, their decision to focus on the fallibility of individuals highlights our desire to be more than we are. It’s the sound of the band tearing their eyes away from the horrors of the news and putting aside negative assumptions in order to honestly discuss the flawed nature of our society, our nation and ultimately our species. Homo sapiens to homo sapiens.

Jonathan points to closing track ‘White Whale’ and it's reassuring refrain of 'Never tell me that we can't go further' as the perfect encapsulation of the message they are trying to convey. “It’s sort of saying ‘Come on, we can do better than this! This isn’t as far as we get, we can do better in every way: I can do better, you can do better, we can do better… I think.”

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Words: Josh Gray

'A Fever Dream' is out on August 18th.

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