Earlier this year Everything Everything released their second album ‘Arc’, which went Top 5 in the UK. Following on from an excellent sold out show in Whelans, EE are back in Ireland with a date in The Academy. Despite dodgy phone lines, Vanessa Monaghan caught up with bassist Jeremy Pritchard, to chat about success, university music courses and the reinvention of the Manchester scene.
Since the release of Everything Everything’s début album, ‘Man Alive’, the band’s sound has changed, grown up. The complex rhythms and break neck lyrical delivery have evolved into something much more accessible. Jeremy has recently posted pictures of his Dad’s band on Instagram hinting at a musical background. “In my case yes, the others less so. Alex’s brothers and sisters are all very high achieving individuals and are all very musical, but I don’t think the parents were.” Jeremy explains how Mike’s parents “were completely unmusical”, while Jonathan’s Mum “played guitar and sang a bit but his Dad is completely tone-deaf.”
Speaking about his own family, he says,“Both my parents are extremely musical, my Dad especially.” He then says something that would make any Dad smile. “He’s the kind of musician I wish I was really, naturally gifted and effortless, actually talented rather than the studied way that I approached it.” Jeremy wasn’t the first in the Pritchard household to release music, with his then teenage Dad releasing an album. “He played upright bass in various jazz bands when he was young and when I was a kid as well. Very occasionally, about every fifteen years he gets together with his mates from school and plays in a bluegrass band. That’s what that picture was of. It’s 40 years since the release of their only LP so they were getting together for some fun. ‘Steamboat’, proper bluegrass name!”
Jeremy met Jonathan Higgs while in university studying music and music production, he can now see the advantages and disadvantages of studying a course like that. “One thing we always end up saying is that it brought us together in the first place … and it taught us coöperation.” As with any degree, you still have deadlines, which meant the students had to get together to rehearse to get stuff done. “The actual idea of the graft and coöperation and taking it seriously, living it, living music as a lifestyle, that helped.”
As for the subject matter of the course, Jeremy isn’t too sure about how much he actually learned and makes a very valid point. “I felt, I had already covered a lot just by planning in bands at school. A lot of it I felt was irrelevant in a way, the essential problem with any arts course is that you can’t teach originality, you can’t teach talent, you can’t teach taste. In a way, I feel what me and Jonathan were doing at the time, was independent of the course. The fact that we occasionally submitted work from the bands that we played in together, to the course, was coincidental almost. We weren’t saying “ok here’s what we learned in today’s lecture, let’s apply it to the song we’re writing.” It was never as studied as that and I think if you do go about music that way, really, it smells wrong.”
Pritchard can see the benefits and the pitfalls. “There’s nothing better for a musician than to be playing all the time, but for any arts course you have to apply a pinch of salt to what you’re learning. It should still be of your own mind, going down your own route and there are a lot of people on the course that I think thought they were owed a living because they were technically gifted.”
He relays the story of when Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor hit the charts. “There was consternation from my fellow students. I think they’ve become really adept players, but at the time they captured something in the imagination of people their age and were flying into a really great career with fairly rudimentary skills. There were people around us saying they didn’t deserve it because they hadn’t put the time in studying scales. I was really opposed to that idea. These are the things you can’t learn when you’re studying music, that extra thing that makes pop music so special. I was very aware of that and Jon was very aware of that. It was good for us to have some distance from the degree before we started the band, then we finally put the line up together for this new band, the band that became Everything Everything.”
In an interview with Paul Lester in the Guardian, Jeremy has been quoted as saying that you said that you wanted “to avoid cliche, or the cliches expected of white men with guitars from Manchester.” Alongside Everything Everything and people like Delphic, Has the slate been wiped clean?
“I think that’s partly because of us, Delphic, Dutch Uncles, Egyptian Hip Hop and suddenly there seemed to be this glut of bands around four years ago, that seemed to have a fairly disperate new set of ideas and that helped to brush off the cob webs of the attitudes of the London based press, really.” Jeremy describes how the press version of events, “that nothing really had happened here since Oasis really hung over the city like a cloud.” But not if you were actually living or playing there. “Things were always developing and moving on, it was just difficult to get people outside the local area to notice that. So we all kind of railed against this preconception, partly because time has passed and partly because there was this new set of bands, of which we were one. I think that it has started to wane, I think it’s also partly because of the age of commissioning editors in London. They all came up here in 90 to 91 to the Hacienda and they came up again to see oasis at Maine Road in 96 and that’s their version of the city and it’s quite hard to change..”
Pritchard also thinks it could be to do with aging music journalists. “I think it’s particularly to do with broadsheets, I think if you speak to blogs, the NME or The Fly or music magazines, a lot of them are my age or younger. The thing about that whole saying bands with guitars in Manchester is that there lots of versions of .. it could The Smiths, it could be Joy Division, it could be Oasis, there are all completely different acts, with a different approach and different attitudes.”
Everything Everything second album ‘Arc’ achieved chart success, entering the UK Top 5. Did your expectations of what a second album should be meet up with the reality ?
“I think creativity, we came to where we wanted us to be, so on the whole I think it’s a good record and I’m really proud of it, even though we toured it to death and continue to tour it to death, I still respect and enjoy it, which is hard to do sometimes”, says Jeremy. He opens up to GP and gives a very honest answer. “Professionally and personally I would have liked for it to have sold more and for it to have had big singles as well. There’s no point in denying we enjoy being on the radio and we always want more of that. The caveat is we never really adjust what we do to accommodate it, we just hope it happens anyway. We were very pleasantly surprised when that did happen with ‘Cough Cough’ and ‘Kemosabe’ especially.”
EE also suffer the affliction of being considered an established band by many media outlets, who once the album is released, want to move on to the ‘next big thing’. “The first two singles from the album, we thought that they were going to be quite low level bridging songs from the first record to the second, the album would come out and there would be two or three big singles for radio would happen.” The opposite happened. “The first two singles were hugely successful on radio and then the album came out at what felt like half way through the process, not the beginning of the process as far as radio is concerned. It was quite unusual and totally unexpected. Keeping the momentum this far into the campaign almost a year after the first single came out and went to radio, it’s quite (hard).”
One big difference with Everything Everything since the first album is that the band have adopted an extra keyboard player for live shows, giving singer and frontman, Jonathan, an extra freedom. “From a technical point of view, (in terms of the rig) it’s made it more secure so it’s freed him up as a performer so its easier to make a connection with the audience”, explains Jeremy. “We used to say that the four of us could do it all with one pair of hands each, and we could and we still can but in the end it’s important to be able to communicate the songs more clearly not have this physical barrier between you and the audience. It’s more important for Jon and for all of us, so we swallowed our pride and now Peter comes with us and plays keys. It’s been a Godsend.”
Everything Everything play The Academy on October 8. ‘Arc’ is out now.