Everything Everything: 'We'd rather be considered too clever than too stupid'
They may have been branded too smart for their own good, but the English indie rockers are certainly not complaining about their success so far, says Edwin Gilson
Manchester band Everything Everything are certified futurists. In fact their 2010 debut album, Man Alive, which bassist and songwriter Jeremy Pritchard says was "the result of trying to defy all expectations", was so forward-thinking that it led some commentators to label the group too clever for their own good.
It's an accusation that Pritchard, who brings his band to Belfast's Limelight 1 next week, laughs off: "I'd rather be too clever than too... stupid!"
Given Everything Everything's advanced sound, which relies heavily on computer samples and beats as well as guitars, it may come as a surprise that their follow-up record Arc, released earlier this year, is all about the terror the future has in store for us all.
"Yeah, Arc has some pretty strong apocalyptic ideas behind it," says Pritchard, laughing no longer. "On the one hand our band is completely in that technological world, but on the other hand we know it's going too far and there's a risk attached. People's means of sociability are getting more perverted by the second and their privacy is diminishing, which alarms me."
Hyperbolic yet prophetic lyrics such as: "And that eureka moment hits you like a cop car/and you wake up just head and shoulders in a glass jar", as heard on Arc's lead single Cough Cough (about the "current economic situation"), are just typical of frontman Jonathan Higgs' mind-set, explains Pritchard.
"It's just the way he thinks; he shifts frequently from the microcosmic to the macrocosmic," he says. "Within one line he'll be talking about events in his own life and the state of the whole of mankind at the same time. He has a fascination with lyrical dexterity but also American R'n'B. It's quite difficult to keep up with at times!"
Higgs' singing style is just as varied, ranging from falsetto to bass pitches, again often in the same line. Such innovative technique is partly why Everything Everything's debut was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.
"We were never really entertaining the idea that we might win until about 10 seconds before Jools Holland read out the results," remembers Pritchard. "It was then I realised I really wanted to win the thing, and for about five seconds after PJ Harvey took the award I was quite disappointed."
Three years on from that album's release, Pritchard today has come to realise its flaws, and again the 'too clever' remarks come to the fore.
"We were really uptight about not wanting to sound like anyone else and not stay in the same place for more than 12 bars," he reflects. "In the end, though, that in itself became a cliché. With Arc we were trying to take that mask off."
Due to his band's constant push for individuality, many critics have presumed Pritchard and co harbour a deep-lying disdain for all the music that has come out of their native Manchester through the ages. Not so, reveals the bassist.
"We're not railing against Manchester's heritage at all; we're railing against the way it's been perceived. The London press just got the train up here to go to the Hacienda and see Oasis and bracketed all those Manchester bands into one group, which is so unfair."
So will the next Everything Everything album propel them into the mainstream, like the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses before them?
"We're just lucky to sustain ourselves as a band," ponders Pritchard. "Hopefully the alternative and the mainstream will collide in a perfect storm. We just want to be more ... straightforward."
Then, horrified at his own apparently reductive words, Pritchard corrects himself: "No, not more straightforward, that's not the aim! More honest is a better term. We want to let people in our world. It's still pretty unlikely we'll produce radio-friendly hits, though."