For: The Parklife Weekender

Returning for 2013 with second album ‘Arc’, Manchester’s Everything Everything have reclaimed the frenetic math-pop throne that defined their first album. Fiercely ambitious yet accessible, ‘Arc’ reached the Top 5 on its release this January and garnered praise for its intelligent, layered pop, culminating in a sell-out UK tour.

Following up the Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Man Alive’ was never going to be easy, but having traded the complex operatic rock of their debut for a more structured, clearly-defined method of songwriting, the band have transformed themselves into a more confident beast altogether. We caught up with Jeremy Pritchard from the band to discuss their recent time in America, the response to their recent second album, and what their adopted home of Manchester means to them.

You’ve just come back from an extensive period in America, right?

Yeah, and we did a couple of other shows in Moscow and Porto. We’ve been all over the last few months. We’ve been non-stop on the road for about four months, really. And now it’s got a little bit less hectic, it’s just more rhythmic. We’ll go away for three days, come back for four, until October sort of time really. It’s quite nice, that sort of pattern.

What was your experience like of being in America? You’ve been there before, haven’t you?

We’ve sort of dipped our toe before and we feel like we’re doing that again. The first album never got a release in the States. We got completely slaughtered by Pitchfork on that album and that kind of cost us a release in the US. If you were running an indie label that wants to put out a vaguely hyped British band in the States, then you probably need Pitchfork on your side. So we never found a home for it. We kind of went back with a clean slate really, which was kind of appealing, and did our own headline shows in L.A. and two in New York. All of which were unexpectedly amazing, actually. L.A. was a really rapturous reception, which we really hadn’t expected and then we did a smaller, secret warm-up show in Brooklyn and then we did a sold-out Bowery Ballroom. We had an amazing time.

The only thing we’ve had out so far there is an EP, a sort of amalgamation of both albums. We’ll get the second record out there at some point in the summer, we think. If we’d tried to do this before, two years ago, we wouldn’t have had the audience. I think actually, time and the internet have helped us find a fanbase there. It does take a little while but it does filter down eventually. It’s a big enough place to sustain a cult following, not that we quite have that yet; it’s easy to say when you’re only playing the coasts. We’d really like to tour America in the old-fashioned way, in the way that we toured the UK and Europe.

How do you feel about the second album now, a few months on, compared to this stage with the first album?

There were times when the record came out when I was whining to my girlfriend, saying “Oh, I don’t think it’s going to be that good”, which I don’t think is the case now. She says I was doing this on the first album as well and that actually I went through all the emotional peaks and troughs with the first record as I did with the second, I just don’t really remember it. Your relationships with the songs change all the time through a campaign period, the year and a half or two years that you’re working the record, before and afterwards. And that’s a good thing, because it keeps it a bit fresh. There’s the first time you’re hearing the songs, working them up, recording them, sitting on them for a bit, and then your relationship changes again when they come out and people hear them, or one goes to radio. Then you tour them for a bit and people are hearing the songs live for the first time but still haven’t got the record. Then the record comes out and you tour it again and people are hearing the songs with a degree of familiarity, but it’s still fresh. And that’s the best bit really, when it’s new but people know the songs and know the words. You do festivals, which are a kind of different environment anyway, and you see how the songs react in that situation. The songs go through many different lives really, and your relationship with them does the same. I think that’s what sustains you, that’s why The Rolling Stones still play ‘Satisfaction’. It’s not because they like the song, it’s because you feed off the energy from the audience. That’s what keeps you going. Obviously we’re not sick of the songs in the way they must be, by any means!

Do you think there’s more pressure on you for a second album than a first?

There was but only from ourselves, I have to stress that. We really didn’t get squeezed by anybody else, really. We were quite conscious of what we liked and didn’t like about ourselves, having toured ‘Man Alive’ for two and a half or three years. We were aware of what endured for us and what we wanted to leave behind. We concentrated on our strengths but Jon kept saying how sick he was of seeing crowds struggling to keep up vocally, and not having enough of a vocal connection because we’d been very clever-clever with the arrangements and the writing. Although there was as much emotion on this record as there is on this one, it’s just hidden in a way. It’s not given the space to breathe. So we though it had to be a bit more honest, a bit more bare-faced. The fact that we put ourselves on the cover of the record, just our faces in a very old-fashioned way, is not insignificant. It was a kind of ‘taking off of the mask’, kind of thing. That was the whole idea with this album. To just try to be a bit more heartfelt.

When you compare ‘Arc’ to ‘Man Alive’, it does certainly seem that way. At no stage in ‘Man Alive’ is it not a serious record but it’s frenetic and playful in a way that ‘Arc’ isn’t. Arc’s strength is in being a bit more considered.

Exactly. It’s just a maturing. Some people regard it as quite the sea change. I don’t, I think we matured a bit. We were less uptight and a bit more confident about who we were and what we were trying to do, and just a bit more content to allow ourselves to stay in one place for more than eight bars. Have some choruses. And just have people connect with it a bit more easily. There’s a greater challenge to writing considered songs than there is to playing a lot of notes. We never wanted to confine ourselves to the record collections of bedroom bass guitar players.

It’s sort of the difference between being a good writer, and a good writer with the ability to edit. It’s all well and good having a stream of ideas but being able to control and channel that is equally as important.

Exactly. Yeah. I think we got lucky as well because the attitude from people at the time [of the first album] and reviewers was “Thank god someone has come along with this number of ideas”. Also, I think you’re given a certain number of free chips on your first record. People review on the basis that it’s a debut album. You set yourself out a number of different paths to go down and we did. We said afterwards in interviews and to each other that it’s exciting, because we don’t know where we’re going to go next. We’ve done so many things in so many places for this first album that  we could go down any of these paths, or all of them, or a few of them. And we did go down a few of them, basically. It’s a distillation. And like you say, an ability to edit is definitely something we’ve learned to do. We’re much more conscious of structure and arrangement than we had been on ‘Man Alive’. I think we did a hell of a lot of stuff because we could and it was audacious and nobody else was doing it. That was reason enough for us, whereas the second time around we did just want to sustain an emotional involvement with the audience.

Is it still important for you being a Manchester band, at this stage in your careers? Does it still matter?

Yes, in that it’s where we live. We can kind of pick our hometown shoes now. We know the crowd and the promoters and the beat of the place. It was much more important to us when we first started, I think. We could get on the phone and call Rich Cheetham at [legendary Manchester venue] Night & Day and say “I’m in a band, can I have a gig?” and he’d say yes. It was that simple and we had a gig within four or five weeks of starting a band. That gave us an impetus and a kick up the arse that we had to write six songs, because we had a twenty-five minute slot. Having the infrastructure and the facilities in the city to get a gig immediately was invaluable for us. Culturally, it’s Britain’s second city – it’s either us or Glasgow – so there is enough in terms of media spotlight but it’s not the enormous mouth that London is. I think if we’d tried to do this in London, we’d have been swallowed up very quickly. Plus, just the normal pressures of living in London – the cost and the stress and the time, you know what it’s like.

I think it’s been something we’ve been lucky to benefit from but because we’re not indigineous to Manchester, we haven’t felt any kind of duty to the perceived norms of being a ‘Manc band’. And even our friends who are, like Dutch Uncles who are from Marple, they didn’t feel any of that either. When we put the band together at the end of 2007, Tony Wilson had just died and there was a real nagging need for the London-based media to stop talking about the period from the mid-eighties up to the early-nineties, basically. To leave the Hacienda period alone, move on from the Madchester thing. Oasis were always bigger than the city, I thought. The Stone Roses are a much bigger band in Manchester than Oasis were. Oasis are massive all over the world and, as a result, they have less regionalism I think.

To some extent, I think we feel that now in that we’ve spent a hell of a lot of time touring elsewhere whereas we played our first two years, fifty-odd shows, in Manchester. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, put it that way. It’s important to us on a personal level and a community level, and a musical level. We loved all of the Factory stuff and the music and the spirit of that, we just got sick of having to talk about it in every interview for the first few years and for the London press to assume that nothing else had really happened here in fifteen years, which just wasn’t the case. It’s as good as it’s ever been. It’s sort of the age of commissioning editors – they all got the train here in 1991 to go to the Hacienda, they all got the train here to see Oasis at Maine Road in 1996, and as far as they were concerned that’s as far as it had gone. Even bands like Doves and Elbow didn’t really shake that image from people’s minds, in the national press. I think that’s something that’s totally waned now, and hopefully it’s something we’ve helped to shove away. The most important thing in terms of a cultural legacy for us was the spirit. The spirit of those things – the Smiths, Joy Division, The Roses, The Hacienda, Factory ethos of being radicalist, and doing something new and doing it for yourself – was absolutely something that runs through the veins of the whole city and was definitely something we picked up and applied ourselves when we first started the band.

You’re playing as a part of a Now Wave-curated bill at Parklife. What’s it like doing stuff with Wes and Jon from Now Wave?

Now Wave started at roughly the same time that we did and they really had exactly the same idea. They had a policy where they never played anything older than a year and then they expanded to put on more bands. That was exactly the same thing that we were trying to do and exactly what other bands at the same time – Egyptian Hip Hop and Dutch Uncles – were trying to do.

How are you feeling about playing at Parklife this year. Does it feel like it’s an important thing to have in the city, it having started in the time you’ve been based here?

I’d say definitely. I’ve met so many people in America and Europe who say Manchester is the greatest music city in the world and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t regard it as that, so for it to have its own music festival is common sense, really. There have always been little all-dayers in the Northern Quarter where you involved twenty-odd little venues and I always loved going to those things, or someone would do an all-dayer at The Klondyke Bowls Club in Levenshulme, or the smaller DIY festivals, but something on a larger scale that can bring in international acts and celebrate what we have here and the appetite for music, which is unending… it’s a proper way of life, that’s what I say to people when they ask what it’s like to be in a band in Manchester. It’s not a pipedream.

When we first started a band, it was completely legitimate to not have any money and be in a band, and we did that well into our twenties before we started making any money. That was very common and we knew a lot of people doing that – it’s an established way of life here. To have a festival that reflects that and brings in other people to see that – bringing Nile Rodgers here last year, and he talks about Manchester a lot now, and his experiences of it and his relationship with Johnny Marr. I think people are really understanding that lifestyle on an international scale now and Parklife is part of that.

I’m really looking forward to being at Parklife too, especially as part of the Now Wave stage. It’s got a great line-up on our day, Wes and Jon have done an amazing job.