Everything Everything’s latest album has wowed the critics. Duncan Seaman spoke to them ahead of their Leeds Festival appearance.
Ever since their 2010 debut album Man Alive Everything Everything have found themselves in favour with music critics. But even by previous standards the reception to the art-rock group’s third full-length record, Get To Heaven, has been exceptional, with reviews describing it as “spectacular”, “fantastic” and “a masterpiece”.
For drummer Mike Spearman, the raft of superlatives that the Manchester-based four-piece are currently enjoying is heartening. “I don’t want to say we need good reviews but if you’re an out and out pop star you can get two-star reviews and still sell a shedload of records,” he says. “To be honest, we’ve always been pretty lucky with them but we were blown away this time.
“We were very happy with the reception critically but more importantly it’s more about normal people liking it and it seems to be just as warmly received in that regard too.”
The plaudits are even more gratifying given the album’s difficult gestation. “We always argue,” says Spearman, a former Leeds College of Music student, “but it’s just because we want it to be great.
“It was at times a tough year but it’s tricky – because we’re not a new band any more in a way your records have to get better, you don’t have the wind in your sails of being a new band, you have to let the album do that work for you. I think we did put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We wrote a lot of songs and rejected a lot of songs.
“We’re all pushing for the same thing which is to make a great album, it’s how we do that. Four people have four different opinions. In the end we all found a way onto the same page but getting there was sometimes a bit of a struggle. We don’t mind, we’re all good friends, if we fall out of a day it’s nothing major, it’s just a creative spat.”
The higher tempo of the songs on Get To Heaven was a reaction to its predecessor, Arc, which was a top five hit in 2013.
“We really enjoyed that record and we’re really proud of it but it’s quite downbeat in mood and literally tempo in the music sometimes,” Spearman reflects. “This one we just felt we wanted to up the energy a bit, up the tempo and make it more of a defiant record whereas Arc was slightly depressed, in a way.
“This one, especially coming from Jon [Higgs, the band’s frontman] and his lyrics, it was more that rather than passively sit and be down about some of the things going in the world at the moment – because it is a tumultuous time – it was more of an angry, defiant voice on this record.
“Our challenge – and this goes back to where we sometimes have arguments – was that we didn’t want to make a record that was unpleasant to listen to. Sometimes it’s dealing with unpleasant things but the way we package those things musically kind of sugared the pill.
“We wanted to make an uplifting, joyous record in some ways as well; combining that with some of the defiance was sometimes tricky but I think we got there in the end.
“I think it’s more subversive to do that. It’s not that hard to make an angry record that’s just distorted guitars and shouting, it’s more interesting to put that with some pop hooks and some brightness in the music. It took us a little while to find that but I’m happy with where we got to with it.”
Higgs recently admitted that in the midst of making the album he was battling depression. Spearman says the singer’s illness was “a difficulty, definitely” for the band. “When you’re touring you have a schedule and you have people around you, you’re all in the same boat, you’re working. There’s a reason why people do jobs – the devil makes work for idle hands – and that’s a difficulty for any band. You’re on tour and then all of a sudden you’re not on tour and it’s ‘Write a record from scratch’ and it’s ‘Well, all right’ and it hasn’t got any structure.
“Jon’s always struggled with depression but I think it’s one of those things where the circumstances didn’t help and certainly at the beginning of 2014 when we made the record that was coming through a lot in the music.
“At one point we had to look at that and deal with it and Jon’s in a much better place now. It’s one of those things that can happen and the dark clouds descend but it’s never reached anything too unhealthy so we’re grateful for that.”
Later this month Everything Everything are due to play at Leeds Festival. Spearman is looking forward to returning to familiar turf.
“I have a big place in my heart for Leeds,” he says. “I was only there for two years but it made a big impression on me. I think it’s the perfect student city and the perfect size. I live in Manchester now and that’s a great city as well, but Leeds is a bit more manageable somehow and even in two years I really grew to love it so I always go back to Leeds and have a lot of fondness for it.”
A UK tour will follow in November and includes a show at the Leadmill in Sheffield on the 16th.
“We’re just looking at how we’re going to do those shows with production and trying to make them look as spectacular as we possibly can,” says Spearman. “Obviously you never want to shy away from wearing ridiculous clothes and whatnot. From the sounds of it it’s looking like it’s going to be fairly ambitious.
“One reference point is Kanye West, so there you go,” he laughs.
Everything Everything will be playing on the NME/BBC Radio 1 stage at Leeds Festival on Sunday, August 30. For further details visit www.leedsfestival.com