ABOVE: EVERYTHING EVERYTHING, PHOTOGRAPHED ON THE WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGE, NEW YORK CITY, MARCH 2013. PHOTO BY THEA GOLDBERG
Formed in late 2007, the math-rock maestros behind UK-based rock quartet Everything Everything slowly gained a loyal indie following until 2010, when they signed with Geffen records and released their debut LP Man Alive. That year, they were also chosen as part of the BBC’s Sound of 2010.
More recently, the band has released their sophomore album, Arc, which shot to number five on the UK charts. The driving drums, intricate guitar lines, and unique vocals of songs like “Cough Cough” and “Kemosabe” have helped the band cross the pond and break into the American music consciousness. Tonight, they make a stop at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, the second of two US dates. We quizzed lead singer Jonathan Higgs on the Everything Everything sound, their writing style, and how they’re really just a group of geeks.
ALEX ERIKSON: You guys formed in 2007. Tell me about how the band initially got started.
JONATHAN HIGGS: I knew a couple of guys from school and university, so I convinced them all to move into the same house in Manchester and start a band. The first show was about six weeks after our first rehearsal, as we were very hungry to get started.
ERIKSON: What’s your band dynamic like? Take me through a typical band rehearsal.
HIGGS: Usually, if we were working on new material it will first take shape on a laptop before we get together. I will often throw together a loose outline of a new song and then we all listen to it, and work out what’s going on. Rehearsing and writing is a fairly long process, as we like to pull things apart and try different approaches until we are satisfied and excited by the results.
ERIKSON: Who writes the songs? Is it more of a collaborative effort—do you split up the tasks?
HIGGS: I do the first part, a melody, a chord sequence, a rhythmic idea—or the beginnings of a structure. The next stage is to try to play the original idea, I copy the demo. Then when we’ve established just what has been written, we start to restructure, to try out other sections or changes in feel or arrangement. By the end of the process, it’s been pretty evenly shared out, and we all pitch in ideas, regardless of what instruments we play. At some point I will write the lyrics, and this can often inform the style of playing for the song—to enhance the meaning.
ERIKSON: You have a pretty unique sound. What are some of your biggest influences? Who did you listen to as kids?
HIGGS: All sorts, but I guess we all meet in the middle with a shared passion for stuff like Radiohead, The Beatles, Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk, King Crimson, Dr Dre. We’re a kind of Venn diagram of different specialist interests: math-rock, jazz, electronica, American R&B.
ERIKSON: How do you see your music fitting into the current music scene?
HIGGS: I never really know. We’re probably the worst people to judge it. But I think that, within this new-ish movement of British bands like Foals, Wild Beasts, us, and Alt-J—all of whom have had a level of success in the mainstream that would’ve been unimaginable five years ago—we have our own place. I’m constantly surprised by the relatively mainstream context in which we find ourselves presented. But we’re comfortable with it, too.
ERIKSON: Everything Everything started to see success in 2010, the year you were signed to Geffen Records and released Man Alive, which debuted at number 17 on the UK charts. Tell me what that was like.
HIGGS: It was great to be in the top 20. And we learned a lot and toured a lot. All of that new experience went into the process of making Arc. Not in a “touring record” way, just in the sense that we’d been through the whole process once from start to finish. We knew more about what to expect, second time round.
ERIKSON: What’s next for Everything Everything?
HIGGS: This year, we’re really enjoying playing lots of shows all over the world in support of the album. Soon it’ll be festival season, which is always a lot of fun, if a little hectic at times.
ERIKSON: Is it tough to not let success go to your heads?
HIGGS: We’re not very cool. We’re geeks about all sorts of things, especially music. Sometimes we have to tell ourselves to take a step back and not overthink things. We’re much more at ease with trusting our intuition these days.