Everything Everything's fourth album A Fever Dream stands in stark contrast to its predecessor Get To Heaven - out are the macro-zoomed views of society and in are the salient examinations of humanity's ceaseless fuckuppery. Out are rainbow-glazed pop hooks (mostly) and in are serpentine explorations of structure, dynamics, and texture. It's still very much Everything Everything, but it's a different side to a band we thought we knew.
We had a chat with the band's Jonathan Higgs to find out all about what makes each track tick.
Now's the time for real emotions. There's so much bullshit flying around and so many lies. So much falseness. I felt like it wasn't the right time to be secretive or cryptic; there's stuff that needs to be said in a straightforward way. We need to look seriously about a lot of things. The type of world we wanted to create was one that was easily approachable and true. We all wanted to make a really honest record, or at least one that felt like the music we wanted to hear ourselves.
It's kind of about the rise of the far-right. Obviously there's the reference in the title to when Hitler was put to power, but the song is also me being a bit... sarky: "...and they say it's a wave but it feels like a dribbling mouth." It's kind of... a bit crap, isn't it? Like it's not very scary, it's just idiots fearmongering but also completely flattening that fear at the same time. I'm also saying how everything is going off the rails, but it's also fun as well - it's taking something which should be (and is) in everyone's faces and pushing it into the background and going 'yeah, don't get too wrapped up in it, these are basement-dwelling idiots... it's not a thing and don't be afraid of it'. That's the idea but it's wrapped up in a very scary coat. We're playing both sides of it really, like bigging it up and tearing it down at the same time. It's undermining fear itself.
Not being able to cope is probably the best way of putting it; not being able to be what people expect you to be, or need you to be... not fitting in. It's much more personal than anything 'big' - it's much more on that personal level, where you realise you can't please everyone and that that's painful.
Aside from the obvious, it's about the modern, shallow way of not caring about consequences - you just want the thing you want. I felt that was one of the reasons we've been surprised by recent events in the world; people don't necessarily care about the fallout, they just want X to happen or they just want Y happen... and fuck the consequences. It's a recurring theme on the album and it feels like something that's being going around, certainly in this country (and a few others), but we're not necessarily damning that way of thinking, nor exulting it, but just saying 'this is a thing that happened, this is how people felt in 2016 and these are the results'.
All of the lyrics are purposely all-consuming. Lines like "I want disaster" and "I want it now" are part of this sense of surreal desires coming to the surface and not thinking about the end, or being held accountable for what happens.
Some of the lines were even more childish when I first wrote them. I feel like this is the appropriate way to respond to some of the things we're seeing coming out of America, and it's at the level they - he - might actually understand... if you're going to be ridiculous, I can be ridiculous back. It's pretty basic in its conceit... it's very much a nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah-type thing. One of these days someone will tell you no, and you're going to go fucking mental and I wish could see it. It takes the piss out of this supposedly scary rise of the Nazis and all this shit. I'm tired of it, I'm going to bed, fuck off - you don't scare me.
This is a bit more serious. It's about decision making and who gets to wield power in the world. We're asking questions about who gets to decide that, and why that should even be the case... "I'm a policeman and you're a criminal / we decided, we decided that's that." These things were laid down centuries before we were around, and we're asking why we should have power because of it. There's also an element of divine right in there, and towards the end we look at the idea of salvation. The idea that if I get destroyed will my soul still be able to get sucked out...? It gets quite surreal towards the end. Really it's about those big decisions and who gets to make them.
We made the decision very last minute to remove the band completely at the end and just have a cappella vocals, and then slowly bring the band back up. It's a completely studio thing to do... you can't really play that organically. It gives this amazing sense of being thrown of the edge of cliff... a bit like when Wile E. Coyote is still running in the air for a second and then he falls (he? She? I don't know what sex the coyote is). It's an intense way of building the narrative... it's probably the highest I've ever sung as well, and it's really difficult. I'm pleased with how we produced it in the end; it feels bold. A cappella is going to be tough live... but I haven't got to do anything else, so I should be able to pull it off. We'll see...
This is our pro-Brexit song. It might sound like an odd choice but it's me trying to describe why I think it all happened. It's that thing Michael Gove said - 'people are sick of the experts'. When I first heard that I just stopped and sat down, and I thought 'what the fuck is going on?' It felt like one of the most insane things I've ever heard, but the more I thought about it the more I knew we needed to talk about it. We can't ignore that, but we can't ignore it - it's been laughed at but I think it's one of the most important things anyone said during the whole Brexit process. When I sing "I don't need to run the numbers" that's me saying "I don't care what the experts say" - it's a bit like "Desire" in the sense that I'm just wanting something to happen. I don't believe in this idea myself but enough people did believe it that I want to talk about it and keep reminding people that it is a reality. It will happen again if we don't get our fingers out of our ears. So that's what the song's about, even though it comes from a side of the debate that I'm not on. The verses are showing the flaws in that mindset... how ridiculous the mindset of telling an expert what you want to hear is. I'm not going to say it's a bad thing, but I'm going to say it is a thing.
I wouldn't mind if it was co-opted... Team America is the best example of that. I'm not completely condemning it, and there's a romance to the idea of saying 'yes, let's just fuck everything up'. Part of me enjoys that. I think a lot of people do. I do, in a lot of ways, enjoy watching everything unravel and I enjoy watching people that were so secure become insecure.
This song is not about good vs. bad... it's about the country breathing in and out (something I touch on in "Long Knives"). We're watching history unfold and it's fascinating. It's certainly worth singing about. I don't feel a need to say 'oh, isn't this terrible... what a bad decision...'. How fucking boring. I'd rather say 'guess what happened in 2016!' because I'm a bard, not a politician. Who gives a crap what I actually think? It's the most boring thing in the world.
It's about a neighbourhood, distrust in society, distrust in your neighbours, division... it's based in the '70s in a 'peering over the garden hedge' kind of way, with people looking at neighbours and thinking 'ooh, they're nothing like me'. But I try to ram home that idea that yes, people are exactly the same.
There's this sense of the familiar has been turned into the unknown. The divisions that have erupted in our society between young and old, different classes, races, personal beliefs... every possible type of division has suddenly been split apart. I wanted to make a song that was about the fleeting sense of an enemy that's not and never was really there. That's behind a lot of it.
Alex worked on this one for a long time (it was called "Car Wash" for ages 'cause of the line about washing a car... we struggled a lot with the title). He put hours and hours and hours into refining it. He was listening to a lot of electronic stuff at the time, and he had all these synths he was putting in and every week I heard it it had changed completely even though I thought each one was really good... he was continuously refining it until it was unrecognisable from what we started with. Then we got the studio and started it all again anyway... but there was a great day when we said to Mike [Spearman, drums] 'just be free, just play jazz' - he was originally a jazz drummer, and he's never really played anything like that while he's been in the band, and he tends not to set himself free very often... we kind of forced him. [Our producer] James Ford was like 'the guys really want you to play jazz so I'm not stopping until you do'. Mike just improvised all over the middle eight and it was just very, very cool. It's one of my favourite moments, hearing him go 'off the grid'.
It's where the record dips under the wave. It's about how surreal everything has become. The main line of "Lord I see a fever dream before me now..." is this semi-religious mantra, like a proverb or a monk's chant, but the start is me being very simple and stating how I actually feel. "The fear and the fury make me feel good..." is about me enjoying it. I think people love being outraged and flicking on the caps lock. There's an unspoken enjoyment of it, I think. I've felt it myself. I've questioned it - why do I enjoy this? Why do I enjoy feeling enraged with everyone around me? Are other people feeling like this? The 'fever dream' isn't negative - it's more observing how surreal everything is. It's like a dream. I think it sounds that way too - you can get lost in it, but you're kept connected because it's so repetitive.
It's connected to "A Fever Dream". I'm distilling all of the hatred and loud rhetoric. There's a few references to Jo Cox in there; "Hey! They did Joanne," is me saying 'them lot over there, they killed her' and then them lot over there reply with 'I'm gonna fuck you up in Waitrose you posh bastard.' It's laying out the worst extremes of the divides we're seen erupt, but instead of talking about it from a distance I'm writing it from both sides - 'shave my head and call me monkey' and 'dance around it with your blackface on', really nasty stuff. It's about getting everything out of my system - let's have a fucking fight.
It's me saying 'yes I'm in my Ivory Tower, if that's what you want to believe, and I'm not coming down... fuck you all'. It's about giving in to what I've restrained from in the rest of the records. I don't agree with any of this shit, and you can see both sides are exaggerated to fuck... but this is what felt like in 2016 and 2017. This is what it felt like when walking down the street, or when Jo Cox was killed. I don't want to pretend it's reality but this is what it has felt like sometimes when you read stuff social media or in the newspapers.
"New Deep" is a complete palate cleanser. It's a soothing moment of introspection. Maybe that absolute hatred... maybe none of it's real. Maybe we're still in the dream and maybe it's gone now. Maybe I'm just a bit weird, and maybe all this stuff I'm angry about I shouldn't be angry about, and maybe I'm just imagining it all.
It wasn't going to be on the record at all, but Mike kept talking about this little demo I'd made - it was only two minutes long, there wasn't anything to it - but he wouldn't let it lie. We added some field recordings and piano, and we really liked it in the end. It felt like a good antidote to "Ivory Tower". It's a last moment of humanity after the madness. "New Deep" is the deepest moment of the dream, or maybe you're coming out, or maybe it's a new level. It's the shock of living through "Ivory Tower"... or even thinking about it too much.
"White Whale" is our 'let's have a hug song'. We try to do that with every record - we like to end on a positive note because we can (and do) get quite dark sometimes. "White Whale" is a human-to-human love song about how I often think about really nasty shit, and the person I love doesn't, and they try to make me feel better about things. I think it's partly me saying that I hope I can make you guys feel better about all this horrible shit that's going on. "Never tell me that we can't go further," is me saying 'don't say the relationship can't go on' but also 'I think we can all, as a society, can do better'. This is a low point but this is all there is. The white whale is unobtainable, and the love in the song is something I'm chasing and never quite getting to. I feel like the society we live in is a little bit like that - we always chase something amazing that we can't get, like a utopia that's different for everyone, and it ends up destroying us.
I used the white whale because it's a metaphor that everyone knows, and this is just my take on it. I wanted to write a love song that everyone would relate to, and here it is.