Formed in 2007, Everything Everything released their debut album, ‘Man Alive’, in 2010 to great acclaim. Released almost three years to the day later, the band return this week with the follow-up, ‘Arc’.
In between albums, the band have toured extensively, and recently supported Muse on their recent arena tour, and they’ll be playing their own headline dates around the UK in February.
Ahead of the album release, CMU’s Andy Malt caught up with Everything Everything drummer Michael Spearman to ask a few questions.
AM: When did you start working on ‘Arc’?
MS: We started sketching ideas for it way back in spring 2011, in between touring ‘Man Alive’. We rejected most of the early songs after a while, but they were useful in terms of getting back into the flow of writing again.
AM: How long did it take to complete?
MS: To write, record, and mix, probably about a year and a half. We didn’t want to rush it and had learnt lessons from ‘Man Alive’ about how to write songs.
AM: Did your approach to writing and recording change this time around?
MS: We recorded together live as much as we could this time and trusted ourselves more with that. The sound itself is more live too, with more room reverb and a few rougher edges that we felt more confident in keeping rather than ironing them all out completely. There are some great little moments of ambience and space on this album, which we really enjoyed.
This time we were tougher on ourselves, I think. Ruthlessly taking songs apart and putting them back together again takes time but is worth it in the end. It meant the recording process was far more pleasurable this time around because the hard work of writing was already taken care of. We’re all a little more mature and comfortable with each other, so don’t get offended if we’re challenged to make a part better. We’re all working towards the same goal, which is to make the song the best it can possibly be
AM: Your songs often play with very complex rhythms, both in the instrumental parts and the delivery of the vocals. Is there a particular process you go through when writing?
MS: Jon [Higgs] will demo a song on his computer and bring it in to the rest of us once he is either happy with it or needs some opinions on which direction it should take. Together we try playing the parts, evolving them and experimenting with the arrangement as we go. Sometimes sections get re-written or changed a lot, but other times the demos don’t change much at all.
There’s always a degree of translation that happens from the programmed parts on the demo to how we’ll play them live, and with that comes a discussion about how we might want it to sound when we come to record it. With ‘Cough Cough’ the demo was pretty dense with ideas and had two more sections in it. We all felt that it was too confusing, so it became more streamlined, and we worked on how best to order the sections so that they flowed well and the chorus felt like a chorus.
Actually, the original genesis of ‘Cough Cough’ was simply Jon coughing in the rhythm that you hear on the track, and – despite going via the denser demo – that simple idea was more effective once the streamlining had taken place.
AM: You worked with David Kosten again on this album. Did you consider other producers?
MS: We were open minded to the idea because we try and be open minded in general, but in the end David just understands us so well as a band and as individuals that it just felt natural to record with him again. With ‘Man Alive’ we realized that writing songs in the studio can be stressful so with the songs already 90% written this time we were able to concentrate on the sonics more, which is David’s huge strength.
AM: You recently supported Muse on their European tour. What was that like, did you have to tailor your songs for arenas (or even the Muse audience)?
MS: We didn’t tailor the songs but we certainly considered which songs would work best in that environment. It’s difficult to get subtlety across in big spaces, especially when you’re the support band. We played our more ‘vibrant’ songs and were very pleased that Muse’s crowd was very generous to us.
AM: It’s more than two years since the release of your debut, in which time you’ve switched labels. How has the music industry changed since 2010 and how do you feel about its future?
MS: I think it’s getting increasingly difficult for bands to exist now, especially less commercial bands. Traditionally with a major label the big pop acts help to bankroll the smaller, more experimental acts, but with the rise in illegal downloading that trickle down system is no longer so viable. This basically means that fewer interesting bands are being signed and no one wants to take risks anymore at record companies. If people don’t stop stealing music then in a few years the UK music scene will be very boring and baron indeed.
AM: You were featured in the BBC’s Sound Of 2010 longlist. With the results of this year’s poll recently announced, do you think it helps or hinders artists? What was your experience?
MS: For us it was a purely positive thing. For a band like us the exposure is very welcome and we’re still extremely grateful for it since, especially abroad, the BBC list is very highly regarded.
AM: Do you think it’s actually possible to predict what the public are going to like?
MS: I guess to some extent there is a kind of ‘chicken and egg’ scenario with it because the BBC normally supports the artists on the list but nothing can make the public like an artist, it can only help them to be seen.
AM: Of course your debut album also received several other awards, including a Mercury nomination and The Guardian’s First Album Award. Is such recognition important to you, do you have any hopes or expectations in that area for the new record?
MS: I don’t think we’ve thought about it, which was also the case for ‘Man Alive’. Nominations are an incredibly pleasant surprise if and when they come along but they’re not why we make music. I think it’s natural for any band to want to be liked, especially by people you respect, but really we just want make the best music that we can make and hopefully contribute a tiny something in that way.