Everything Everything lead vocalist Jonathan Higgs thinks that the thread running all the way through the Manchester quartet’s catalog is the urge to encapsulate the effect on humanity of living in this time. “That’s really what all our albums are about,” Higgs tells Apple Music. “It’s a varying degree of looking inward and outward, observing how it feels to be alive in this place in this time. This one is very much looking outward for the most part.” “This one” is Mountainhead, Everything Everything’s seventh record and another astounding leap forward from one of the UK’s most inventive bands. It mixes pulsing synths and gleaming guitar licks, euphoric electro grooves and art-rock dynamism—music where the strange and the soothing seamlessly overlap. The album pairs a dystopian concept about a society which has built a huge mountain and its people live in the shadowed pit it has created at the bottom (a “Mountainhead” is someone who believes the mountain must continue to grow taller no matter the cost) with some of their most rhapsodic pop hooks yet. It’s all been created with the confidence that there is an audience for this sound. “It always feels like we’ve got a lot of goodwill from the last thing we did, so a lot of people are waiting for the next thing we do,” says Higgs. “I think people really liked the last record [2022’s Raw Data Feel] and this one’s better.” This is the sound of Everything Everything on the crest of a wave, confidently hitting new peaks seven albums into their career. Allow Higgs to guide you on a journey to the top of Mountainhead, track by track. “Wild Guess” “This was a little demo we made on tour with Foals back in 2017 or something. I put a vocal on it but it was all sung an octave up from what you hear, which was ridiculous. We happened to rediscover it and were like, ‘Remember how ridiculous this song was? Maybe it’s fine to do it now.’ There was just something about the confidence of that big fat solo beginning the record, no vocal for ages and it’s not very nicely played. It’s the same recording Alex [Robertshaw, guitarist and keyboardist] did backstage into his laptop all those years ago. It just felt like this was a good way to start a record, basically, like, ‘Fuck you. Here’s your big fat solo that sounds awful and you’re going to have to wait for your vocal.’” “The End of the Contender” “This is vaguely about Ronnie Pickering [ex-boxer who went viral in 2015 for a road rage incident] and people of his ilk, but it’s also about the creep of capitalism and how it’s seeping into everything. I’ve tried to put a reference to money or electricity on every song, so he talks a lot about it in that song—whoever ‘he’ is. Obviously, ‘It’s all about the Benjamins’ is quite a cheeky thing to sing in the chorus, but I don’t think I’m going to get sued for it.” “Cold Reactor” “This is setting out the stall of the record. It really hinges on the human element of it and the desperation of it. The ‘I haven’t left the house’ line, somebody being quite isolated and communicating through screens and emojis, felt very relatable. There’s a sad longing for connection that you can’t quite get to that runs through it and because it has this rushing feeling of everything coming to a point, it really emphasizes the desperation of it. It was a question of getting the right sort of heartbreaking-versus-hopeful tone and trying to get across a lot of exposition in the verses in quite a short time. It feels like a film script in terms of its simplicity.” “Buddy, Come Over” “This is about cancel culture a little bit, it’s got this dark-side- and underworld-type feeling to it. There’s a line, ‘Make me a website so I can completely ruin my life’ and that made the guys laugh quite a lot. Sometimes when that happens, we’re just like, ‘Yeah, let’s go down this path.’ It fell together quite easily, it was more like a really fun one to play live, like, ‘What can we play that feels good in the moment rather than trying to get all these tracks on the go.’” “R U Happy?” “This is about the effect of isolation, living in cities, living now and asking the question, ‘Are you happy? Does all this stuff make you happy?’ in the simplest way I could, which is to literally say, ‘Are you happy?’ over and over again. There’s definitely a through line of being an animal and the ‘dance in a skeleton way’ line was me saying if there’s a skeleton there, you’re dead but if there’s a skeleton there, you’re alive as well, talking about being alive and trying not to be sad all the time.” “The Mad Stone” “This is more about the religious element to the idea [of the album]. It’s more like a spiritual song in its presentation and its content. It sounds like an argument between two or three people who really believe in this idea of the mountain and people who are very doubtful about it. The thing on top of the mountain [in the chorus] is this big mirror that reflects you over and over again into infinity—that’s the more magical element of what might be at the top of the mountain. I was trying to come up with a metaphor for an idea of something that would be an actual goal that someone might want to get to, but it’s also really obviously selfish and self-aggrandizing. It took an afternoon of singing it to get the chorus right, getting it so it just didn’t sound silly—being understood and not sound like I’m mumbling.” “TV Dog” “This was a demo that Alex had made that he called ‘Coney Island’ and we all thought it sounded like a New York string quartet. Coupled with that title, it opened up a few little avenues on the record, some strings that appear on other songs. I had about twice as many lyrics and we were like, ‘Is this song going to develop into a bigger thing? Are we going to bring the drums in?’ and then we were like, ‘The most poignant thing you can do is just hear it for a minute and a half, a couple of good lines and then it’s gone.’ Alex went down to a cathedral and recorded loads of ambience in there and put that all over the track in the background, so you get this sense of it being in a huge space.” “Canary” “If some of the other songs feel like you’re on the mountain, this one’s very much in the pit, it’s being in the dark. It’s the canary in a coal mine, a warning song that just so happens to fit very well with the larger concept. It’s the darkest underbelly of the album and the imagery is the most fucked up. It feels like a warning about something bad that’s coming, which tends to be where I often find myself as a character in my songs—as a warning character. This was a big production number for Alex, I think he wanted it to be a bit Björk or something.” “Don’t Ask Me to Beg” “I started with layering up vocals, I was trying to make a kind of choir thing. I was listening to Massive Attack, even though they don’t really use choirs. We tried different rhythmic schemes for ages to try and get it sounding less white-boy funk and cool. It took us ages working on the drums, actually, and then trying to rerecord all of those cluster vocals. I think we just gave up in the end and used the demo ones, so no one knows how to sing those parts. If we have to do it live, we’re going to struggle!” “Enter the Mirror” “This is about a friend of mine who was struggling and I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it through. It’s a song about singing to him as if he was gone and remembering our childhood. I haven’t really worked out what it means yet. I think I wanted to say that we’re both the same deep down, even though there’s two of us. But there’s also the mirror on top of the mountain, which might be like you find yourself if you go into it. I don’t know, I’m still a bit too close to that song to even fully say.” “Your Money, My Summer” “This was another demo from around the same time as ‘Wild Guess,’ something that we thought was just a bit too silly to do something with back then and now, I guess we didn’t. In the past, we would have had a litany of reasons why we wouldn’t do that and now it was like, ‘This is good.’ It’s definitely the most relaxed track of ours you’ll ever find. You won’t find us playing like that anywhere else, a sort of Chili Peppers rhythm section. We would usually run a mile from that stuff but we were just like, ‘Why are we running?’ It’s an example of us being relaxed with each other.” “Dagger’s Edge” “This was an older demo. It always had that feeling of being a song of two halves. I think I wrote the second half and Alex wrote the first. We’d binned it because we thought it was too silly. It does sound pretty lighthearted in the first bit, but then the tone changes. I’m taking the piss out of somebody and saying a lot of ridiculous things and then suddenly just turn into this really desperate old wise man on a mountain. No other band could do that and I really believe that that’s very much our thing—a song that sounds like Dr. Dre and I’m taking the piss out of a guy, calling him those ridiculous names, and then suddenly, a harpsichord comes in and it’s turned into a really existential thing about everyone turning into bacon.” “City Song” “This is another one that’s got that New York strings thing going on. I wrote the demo and it was much more hip-hoppy. It’s got a hip-hop speed, but, stylistically, that’s been shed. I was trying to do like a David Byrne-style lyric, the sadness of mundanity or trying to make mundane things special. I think there was also some elements of the Mark Fisher book Capitalist Realism, where he was talking about how impersonal it can be to work for a big company where no one really knows each other. I wanted to get across that feeling of isolation, but also no one really knowing who you are and no one knowing each other, living under the lights of the city and it all being very anonymous.” “The Witness” “I’ve barely listened back to this because it makes me quite emotional. It was about witnessing somebody go through a weird transition, thinking that it might be a kind of religious experience. It was written on guitars but Alex swapped out the guitars for synths because it sounded like a Radiohead-type song, two guitars picking and a sad guy with a falsetto. It was just like, ‘People would like it but this is really music from 25 years ago that we could do standing on our heads.’ It’s what we were trained to do, we’re good at it, but it wasn’t pushing us in any direction. So we swapped out the guitars for synths and we made a few other weird changes.”

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