Everything Everything: Rejecting technology and writing in a post-Brexit world

Art-pop provocateurs Everything Everything make powerfully political music for our times – but not always from the perspective you’d expect

If Jonathan Higgs had his way, Everything Everything would be marching onstage at Alexandra Palace next March dressed as alt-right skinheads, firmly in (goose)step with the times. “I always want things to be really extreme and the guys always talk me out of it,” he says. “I literally posed the idea of us dressing as far-right twats for this record, going, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’, all shave our heads,” he chuckles. “Left to my own devices I’d push the satire so far that people wouldn’t be able to see what the real message was.”

There he goes again, thinking one confrontational step ahead of politics and pop culture. Manchester’s maximalist future-pop pioneers Everything Everything foresaw the rise of Trump’s circus on 2015’s ‘Get To Heaven’ and, since their 2010 debut album ‘Man Alive’, have embodied what Radiohead might sound like if they were still cramming 15 head-spinning melodies on top of each other in each song. Now, with their dark, inventive fourth album ‘A Fever Dream’, they’re looking beyond Brexit and Trump to the everyday nightmares to follow, and we’re all left playing catch-up again. So, to get you up to speed, here’s everything you need to know about Everything Everything in 2017. Everything? Everything.

They’re a living art project

EE have concocted uniforms for each stage of their career. The sci-fi Trump look has given way to a more sombre, postmodern aesthetic, with the band pictured wearing unsettling masks of their own faces. Are they suggesting that Everything Everything might be mere characters you play? “Exactly,” Higgs says. “We thought about performing in them but you can’t sing and can barely even see. On ‘Get To Heaven’ I was supposed to be a crazed dictator rising through the chaos that was coming. I had this stupid haircut and these big robes, and the other guys were my minions in my cult. Then, lo and behold, that did kind of happen, so I stopped doing it. The world has become the cartoon that I was warning about… You can’t really satirise [it] so let’s be quite sober in our clothing and let the music do the talking.”

They do unblinkered politics

While ‘Get To Heaven’ thrust EE to the forefront of the new wave of political pop as they tried to fathom the rise of ISIS terrorism, UKIP and Trump, Higgs considers singing to the left-wing, pro-EU choir “a pointless form of expression” that “bores me more than I can describe”. “There are quite a lot of people that think something different,” he argues. “Why don’t we try to put the whole conflict into our art? With ‘Get To Heaven’, for the whole record I was trying to sympathise or empathise with f**king ISIS, who I despise, but I still tried to make a record about why it’s happening and what to do about it. It’s the same with Brexit – of course I’ve got my views and they’re the ones you imagine, but it’s so much bigger than that and art’s a place to explore these things rather than just churn out the same old s**t that everybody knows.”

So while ‘Big Game’ attacks Trump in the sort of playground language he might understand, ‘Run The Numbers’ attempts to delve inside the mind of the Brexiteer. “Within that song there’s a lot of sarcasm about that mindset,” he explains. “‘Less of your lip, Professor, tell me what I want’. But there is an understanding in it. The other thing I say is ‘I don’t want your cake, I never ate it anyway’ – the things that people are up in arms about in London, a lot of people in Britain never saw the benefits of that anyway, so to lose it won’t mean s**t to them.” Art-pop’s Nostradamus, Higgs predicts that Brexit will cause 50 years of misery and simmering resentment, however it pans out. “The new class war will be over that,” he says. “It’s a symbol of loads of things that are wrong and the least of them is being part of the EU.”

They’re rejecting technology

On previous albums Higgs would bring “insane laptop creations” to the band. For ‘A Fever Dream’ they returned to the Warp records and guitar music of their youth and, while stretching themselves technically, aspired to pop perfection over gimmickry. “We’ve talked about trying to write everything on guitar or piano and building it up rather than sitting down with a laptop and searching for the right snare then getting a stupid synth. ‘The Bends’ by Radiohead – all those songs were on acoustic guitar, just perfect, and then they made them better.”

Higgs did, however, recently reject Reddit. “I was becoming just like [the trolls],” he confesses. “I was becoming a neckbeard, very intolerant and completely out of control. I found myself repellent. I’d get very angry; interacting for hours with people who had very different views would grind me down. I was getting addicted to it and looking at too much dark s**t, the usual horrible images and videos, people having a very small amount of respect for human life, dodgy sex stuff.”

They’re all about the little guy

Rather than retread the arguments that make David Dimbleby lose the will to live on Question Time, ‘A Fever Dream’ finds Higgs zooming in on the damage the Brexit vote has done to UK society. “The country I thought I lived in isn’t the one I live in at all,” he says. “That illusion of cohesion has been ripped apart. The division between old and young, between classes, between cities, between Britain and Europe, between races, every type of divide has been rent asunder by this frankly irrelevant question that’s been posed and answered wrongly, as it were. There was this idea that multiculturalism and PC culture was working, then suddenly it’s like masses of people rejected it all along. It reveals this huge chasm between the idea of a country and the reality of it.”

Everything Everything play NME and Zig-Zag’s CineJam in Manchester on December 12

To win tickets to NME and Zig-Zag present CineJam, go here: NME.com/win