When it comes to long-standing Manchester art-rock faves Everything Everything, things are rarely simple. It takes around ten minutes for Dork's chat with frontman Jonathan Higgs to turn a bit 'existential'.
"To think that maybe some people aren't conscious in their lives, or they exist in a comatose state of lowered consciousness or heightened consciousness? That's really interesting," he ruminates.
Of course, this isn't an off-the-cuff rumination. The band's fifth outing was led, in part, by Jonathan's deep dive into hefty 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by American researcher in psychology and all-round clever-clogs, Julian Jaynes.
Everything Everything aren't strangers to such bulky ideas, throughout their career they've given everything a go, distilling grand ideas of science and politics, into left-field guitar pop that will do all it can to dance around your expectation.
For their fifth outing, 'Re-Animator', the grand ideas are still there, but this time Jonathan is taking a step back from anything too politically charged, instead opting for the more universal and relatable "talking about the human experience."
"I'm a bit sick of the Western view of everything and the squabbles we have in the politics," he confesses. "It's around me all the time, and I'm bored of it. I've heard everyone's opinion on it so many times, I didn't feel like throwing my hat into the ring. I did it all before it happened. I don't care what you think about Brexit, I don't care about Trump, I don't care about all these things anymore. I just want to celebrate the good things."
This decision, while fuelled by the incessant stream of news and opinion, fact and fiction, is still littered with the knowledge that "you can't just do songs about that stuff and not expect people to go, 'What the hell are you talking about? This is not for music', or whatever."
"There's always a challenge to try and get lofty ideas into hook-laden pop songs," Jonathan continues. "To enjoy it without knowing all that stuff. The bicameral mind thing is quite complex and quite sciency and very un-pop music, but I think there's so much in it that was relatable to, you know, hearing a voice and calling it God. Or hearing a voice, and it's your own voice, and calling that God. Or you know, finding your inner inspiration or having a divided self. Sometimes feeling as though you don't know who you are, or you are contradictory, or you believe two things at once that can't possibly live together."
It's this essence that lives deep inside the sound of Everything Everything. They're all about juxtaposing the righteous with the arty - a pressure cooker of a creative space. Everything stems from an idea that speaks to Jonathan, in this case, "particularly the following a voice, following a path."
"Making your own path is quite a universal anxiety for people who don't, especially in these days where politics is so rampantly turned up. It's like, 'Oh if you don't follow this identity, then you must be that identity', and I think a lot of people, deep down, they don't feel like either. They feel a bit stretched, sort of on show; [like] they'll be revealed and exposed by their true feelings, and just go along with one that they're supposed to be part of, the tribe they're supposed to be part of, but they don't really believe it."
More rumination on the horizon, Jonathan ponders: "Is it better to be black or white, or is grey, okay? Sometimes you see people who're being grey in their arcs succeeding. It's just all questions, isn't it? I don't really like coming down on one side of it. I just like throwing the questions in the air.
"That theory I thought was really cool - the miracle of life and consciousness, and thinking about how we came to be, and what separates us from the animals or from being like living dead - it's hard, walking a tightrope, and if you start to think about it, you fail and fall off. So when you are doing it, you're actually going unconscious, and I think it's fascinating that we live so much of our lives in an unconscious state. And if we try to engage our brains, we suddenly fail. That's really interesting."
'Re-Animator', in itself, is an album that soaks up the sun. It has an aurora of hope that knows there's a new day coming. The "human experience" Jonathan mentions, is the force of a mind opened, asking others to join in and understand what he's found.
"I've got lots of nieces and nephews, and a couple of members of the band have had babies, so that's changed the way we all feel about the world in a lot of ways," he says. "The new dads have specifically said to me, 'Can we be a bit more positive with the record because we don't want to keep making 'end of the world' music?'"
"I just felt less bound by everything that's gone on. Like I say, 'Get To Heaven' and 'A Fever Dream' were kind of like warning records, and the stuff I talked about sort of happened after. It felt very depressing to make another list of things that I think will happen and then watch them all happen. I said my piece on all that stuff; this constant misery drains you over time."
When Dork last caught up with Jonathan, and drummer Michael Spearman, on a golf cart in the warms of Latitude last year, writing for the album was already well on its way. The band were trying to figure out how to make the process more challenging, since not only is this the year of their fifth album, but it's also been ten years since they emerged with the glitching, art-pop exposè 'Man Alive'.
Musing on how they've decidedly changed over the last decade, Jonathan says: "It's been easy easier and easier as time goes on. We get more confident, we get better at what we do, and we get more leeway to do it, and more encouragement to do it from fans and critics. This stuff we try, we get a good reaction to. We never get people saying, 'Oh, they've made that album again' and we never get people saying, 'I'm so sick of them never changing'. So that's, I think, all you can hope for after 10 years.
"We certainly feel confident about ourselves; that's probably why we're able to do this so much. I mean, the next record we're already thinking about obviously because we haven't got any shows."
To keep the cogs turning, it's all about that forward motion, and for Everything Everything that looks like being cynics about themselves. "We're quite critical of ourselves, maybe a bit too much," Jon chuckles. "If we hear ourselves repeating, we will just slap it down. We throw a lot of demos away. We chuck things out if they sound too like the bands that we love, or we think they're a bit lazy or it just feels too like us."
Of course, when you're so focused on being deliberately outrageous, when you really want to subvert expectation, what do you do? You, er, go normal.
"Yeah, well, putting it last is like the final, final insult, after all that." Jonathan nods to the album's closing track, and latest single, 'Violent Sun'. By Everything Everything's standards, it's justifiably upbeat and positive. It's the synth-airiness of The Horrors mixed with the tarmac-driving direction of a latter-day Kings of Leon.
"It's a song that I've wanted to write for a long time," Jon admits. "I want to write something that gives you that feeling of like relentless energy, and it's supposed to give you the feeling of time running out, and desperateness, in a relatable way like it's the last song of the night.
"You know, the night's about to end, but you feel so good, and it's booming in your ears. It doesn't that sound like us, which is what I like about it so much. It sounds like another band, and that's exactly what I want from us on every album. I don't believe in consistency. I like it when people go, what the hell is this? Or, why do they sound like this now? I love that feeling."
It's impossible to chat to a band these days without the pandemic cropping up, more-so when, despite being completed well in advance, it feels like this new album is eerily on-topic.
"Everything on the record feels somehow tied to the events of the pandemic," he muses, "even though it was written before. You can't help but contextualise it against that. It does feel particularly significant putting 'Violent Sun' at the end of the record. Like, 'Okay, off you go. You've got a new start, you've got a new chance to make something happen now in this new world'."
Which is what the world waits for with bated breath; for the lights on this darkened floor to come on, so we can feel the urgency of change.
Taken from the September issue of Dork. Everything Everything's album 'Re-Animator' is out 11th September.
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