Music Interview: Everything Everything

SOME bands are easy to categorise, others simply defy convention.

Everything Everything are definitely the latter.

On their genre-busting debut album Man Alive art-rock instincts wrestle with slick R&B production values, lithe funk grapples with wiry post-punk, and sweet choirboy vocals air thoughts no chorister ever should.

Somewhere in the mix there's even a nod to Electric Counterpoint, minimalist composer Steve Reich's 1987 collaboration with jazz guitarist Pat Metheny.

Being hard to pigeonhole is not the point of the four-piece, says drummer Michael Spearman, but avoiding cliche is an abiding theme of their work.

"We like to evade pigeon-holing. When our singer Jon (Higgs] writes songs he tries to sort of wriggle out of what he thinks people might say it sounds like. We constantly say, 'It sounds too much like this' and change things.

"I guess we have our own sound. We like things that are fresh to our ears.

"In reviews people have said, 'It sounds like this and this' then another has said, 'It sounds like this and this'. There's no theme, no two reviews are the same. That's really nice, actually."

Judging by the diversity of their songs, they couldn't have chosen a more apt name for their band.

"It's not really to do with that but I suppose it fits in," says Michael. "The name came about to try to make something that sounds hopeful and melancholic at the same time.

"Everything Everything could be a great optimistic statement about hope for the future in a vague way or it could be (a statement about] information overload depression anxiety. We like the double meaning to it."

The band are based in Manchester but, explains Michael, none of them are originally from the North West.

"We are from all over. Jon and I met at school (in Newcastle]. He went to Salford University and met the bass player (Jeremy Pritchard] there. I went to Leeds Music College. Alex (Robertshaw, the guitarist] we poached from another band (Operahouse]. He's from Guersey. We're from all corners of Britain."

Manchester's reputation as a breeding ground for musical talent was a definite pull for the band.

"It's a chicken and egg thing," says Michael. "Jon and Jeremy going to Salford University came about because of Manchester traditionally having a lot of modern music going on. They decided to stay because there are so many venues. It does feel like there are a lot of opportunities in Manchester.

"I do have friends in bands in Newcastle and they have difficulty getting gigs in London. Manchester, being in the middle (of the country] made sense (geographically] as well."

Do Everything Everything make music for the head, the heart or the feet?

"That's a good question," says Michael. "We are quite greedy as a band. We always want to fulfil all three of those, really.

"We make music that's interesting for the ears – that's for the head.

"Jon's lyrics are very personal to him. He is very clear he wants lyrics to have meaning and be worthwhile, not for sound or just for the sake of having lyrics – that's for the heart.

"I feel, as the drummer, that dancing is extremely important. It's pretty intrinsic to a lot of the music that we like. That feeds it way in there too – that's for the feet."

Though lyrics are very much Jon's preserve, their musical accompaniment is a collective effort.

"At the moment we are writing some new songs," says Michael. "Jon starts with the germ of an idea, that will either come from the guitar or maybe a piano. He will he make a demo on his laptop and bring it into the rehearsal room where we take it apart and try to make it playable for four human beings.

"We find along the way quite a few changes as we arrange it for a four-piece. With demos on a laptop, it's hard to get the shape of a song. It's the details that the other three of us contribute to."

Man Alive was released at the end of August, to widespread praise. Michael says the band was "pleasantly surprised" by the reception.

"We've always tried to be ambitious and fit a lot of ideas into songs and still make them danceable," he says. "We thought maybe a lot of critics would see that as over-reaching or not focused enough.

"Although some of the reviews have said it's not perfect we are really happy that people have understood it and given it a chance. If you hear it once it's hard to digest.

"We're glad people have got the themes. One of the influences is American R&B in terms of danceability, lots of the vocals have come from that too. We are surprised how many people have picked up on that."

The album debuted in the top 20. Michael is hopeful that it won't be a one week flash in the pan. "Hopefully it will hang around the charts a little bit. We are not a pop band but we try to make what we think is pop music."

Buoyed by their successful appearance at Leeds Festival last month ("one of the highlights of the whole festival season for us"), Everything Everything are very much looking forward to returning to the city on their forthcoming tour.

The band feel a "connection to the North of England" and the lineage of ambitious bands such as Field Music, says Michael. "I feel that Jon's writing and our band sounds like it's from the North. It's hard to put your finger on it but it feels at home there."

Leeds venue the Cockpit is also a place where Michael feels at home.

"It's a great venue," he says. "The support that night is a new band we like a lot (Clock Opera]. It's the only show they are doing on the tour. It's nice to see bands that we don't normally see and check out their sets and maybe nick some ideas!"

Oct 10, The Cockpit, Swinegate, Leeds, 7pm, 9. Tel: 0113 2441573.