Following the release of their second album 'Arc' last week, Everything Everything's Michael Spearman took some time out to talk to Skiddle.
Date published: 21st Jan 2013
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 7 days, you’ll know that last Monday saw Manchester based quartet Everything Everything release their much anticipated sophomore Arc. The album managed to score the week's highest new chart entry, securing an impressive top 5 slot. And here was us thinking second albums were meant to be ‘difficult’.
Since the boys are firmly back on the radar after disappearing for a while to record the album, we saw fit to collar them for a little chat about their new offerings. Drummer Michael Spearman kindly took time out from the frenzy that was release week to sit down and answer our burning questions. Taking us through the new album, he talks indecipherable lyrics, walking the commercial tightrope, Manchester’s creative tranquility and the sad demise of those boiler suits.
Happy New Year! Firstly can I thank you for giving us something to look forward to in the dreary old month of January with the release of Arc last week! It’s a perfect way to kick-start the year. So are you ready for the onslaught that inevitably comes with the release of a new record? Happy New Year! Yeah, we’re really excited to be up-and-running again. We were itching to get the album out there and it’s a great relief that it is now. It’s really fun to be in the charts trying to fend off big-hitters like Rihanna and Calvin Harris.
It definitely feels that Arc in a sense is more of an ‘album’. With no disrespect to Man Alive it seems to be easier to listen to - there’s more direct expression and flow. Was this something you were conscious of when writing and making the album; making it more accessible in a way? That was definitely a conscious decision. We’re very proud of Man Alive and what it did for us, but to listen to it all the way through is probably a bit much for most people and we realised that. We’ve grown-up a little bit as people and as a band and rather than throwing everything we have at every song we wanted to be a little more restrained and focused with Arc. Lyrically it’s clearer and more honest too.
At the same time it’s still very much in keeping with Man Alive’s angular and multifarious nature. How difficult was it to find a bit more direction with this album but still retain that hint of chaos and indecipherability that won you so many fans to begin with? The chaos comes very naturally to us… for example, 'Cough Cough' initially had two additional sections and didn’t stay still for a moment but eventually we found a good balance between energy and form. We’re much tougher on ourselves these days about songs having proper sections because we increasingly feel that traditional song structure is valid. We know that even when we try to stick to the ‘straight and narrow’ it will probably end up coming out a little strange anyway.
Many comments have been made about the difficulty people have in deciphering your lyrics, it’s a bit of an Everything Everything trademark by now. Whilst you’ve made it slightly easier on this album, I’d definitely say there’s still a few hazy areas! Is that part of the fun when coming up with new lyrics? I think part of the reason that it’s hard to decipher the lyrics sometimes is because Jon often uses words and phrases that are less familiar for the ear to quickly pick up on. He’s not trying to catch anyone out, he just enjoys being playful with words and finding new ways to express sentiments and ideas that have probably been said many times before.
Stand out tracks for me include the emotive and melodic ‘Armourland’ and the stark and lucid ‘The House Is Dust’. It’s a definite shift from what we’ve become to expect from you, did you relish the opportunity of somewhat smoother and delicate song craft? I think we definitely relished the challenge of it. We forced ourselves to write ‘strong’ songs that would sound just as good on an acoustic guitar as they do on loads of synths. For that we concentrated on the fundamentals of melody, harmony and rhythm. We certainly feel that this album is a step up in terms of songwriting for us.
There’s a hefty 13 tracks on the album. Obviously you’re proud of each of them, but which one would you say was a stand out track? The track that perhaps pushed most boundaries for you as a band and marked the depart from the first album? We kind of see it as 12 and a half tracks because one track is very short. It sort of serves as a ‘breather’ at that point on the album. I think we all have different ideas of what the stand out track is. For me I think 'The Peaks' was a bit of a turning point for us because it’s so simple, which doesn’t come naturally to us. The despair of that song going into the more hopeful 'Don’t Try' is probably my favourite little moment on the album.
You’ve been praised in the past as flying the flag for intelligent music and acting as trail blazers for the likes of Django Django and Alt-j. You’ve also proved that intelligent music needn’t be uncommercial. Striking that balance between making meaningful and thoughtful music and making it attractive enough to sell records without giving any of yourself up in the process must be hard? Especially when people are so quick to chastise bands for “selling out”? I don’t think we really view our music as intelligent and certainly I don’t think we’re more intelligent than the next band. Hopefully our music could be described as interesting though - maybe even ambitious. We really enjoy walking that tightrope between what we deem interesting and what we deem commercial. I don’t think it’s that fun or difficult to make really esoteric music that not many people will hear, although obviously there is a place for that. The exciting thing for us is maybe being slightly subversive by squeezing multi-layered ideas into a three and a half minute song that could be on the Radio 1 A-list.
This new year also sees new album releases from fellow Manchester dwellers Dutch Uncles and Delphic. You’re all very supportive of each other, attending eachother’s gigs etc. There’s a definite camaraderie between bands in the city isn’t there? Do you think being able to set yourselves apart from the London brigade a little and do your own thing up here has helped you hone your sound and keep focused on your own work rather than concerning yourself with the London hype constantly? We feel very lucky and proud to be a Manchester band. Bands in London often get swallowed up by hype and expectation, whereas in Manchester we feel there’s less ‘noise’ to cut through and more time to develop. It’s a great musical city with good opportunities for bands at every level. There is a sense of solidarity too I think. We do hang out with Delphic and Dutch Uncles in particular and have all played tours together. I guess it’s kind of strength in numbers.
And finally, the boiler suits have gone. With you set to embark on your biggest venues to date next month, can we expect perhaps some sequinned little numbers to replace them?! We do have some new stage clothes but unfortunately they aren’t sequined… I guess it’s not too late to sew them on…
...and it just so happens you’re in luck Michael, I’m a dab hand with a needle and thread!