Between the United States having a president with one of the lowest approval ratings in history, the United Kingdom panicking as it prepares to leave Europe and the rise of terrorist attacks and global threats, it’s an understatement to say that the world is in a state of flux. Artists all over take this chaos and spin it for their own personal inspiration, but every perspective provides unique output.
Jonathan Higgs, singer-guitarist in progressive alt-pop band Everything Everything, is among countless artists with a visceral reaction to the state of the world. That being said, the new Everything Everything record, A Fever Dream, does not constantly spew political ideologies or curse the names of anyone in particular. Instead, Higgs wanted to start a dialogue and find understanding. The Manchester band, whose 2010 debut album, Man Alive, was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize, is older and wiser now.
“I’m trying to say less about what I think and the things that have happened,” Higgs said. “I’m trying to say more things on the way we’ve been affected man to man. Why do we scream at each other now? Why do I hate the neighbors? Why do I want to go online and unleash my fury?”
Brexit, in particular is something that has put the band from Manchester in a deep state of worry and apprehension. Needless to say, Higgs, bassist Jeremy Pritchard, drummer Michael Spearman and guitarist Alex Robertshaw don’t like the vote that will send the U.K. hurtling out of the European Union. But they choose not to express that explicitly.
“I think that’s just preaching to the converted,” Higgs said. “I want to talk to everybody. I think it’s more interesting to talk about the way that we’ve all been affected by the events rather than the events themselves. I could write six songs about the bomb that went off in Manchester, but I’d rather write about how that changed our community, what the feeling around that was, what people were saying to each other, what will happen now.”
Despite the dark subject and the pessimism it brings, Everything Everything isn’t the type of band to make an album equally as depressing. It’s a bit too obvious. So instead, the four band members opt to take a satirical approach. Satire can be emotionally ambiguous. It can be interpreted as a comedy, strike people with sadness or be interpreted as an insult. All of these reactions and more can be extrapolated from the same piece of art. This vast range of emotion is why Higgs chooses to make satire his main lyrical tool.
“When I speak in a song, you never quite know if I’m being serious or not,” he said. “I’ll say something that’s so absurd that you kind of scoff and you’re like, ‘What?’ That’s the moment when you can hit someone really hard, when they’re reeling from a joke or from being pulled out of a song. For a few seconds, you’ve got them in a different mindset. That’s why I think comedy and satire can affect you more than a sad story sometimes. I love giving people the sensation where they don’t really know what the fuck I just said.”
Higgs doesn’t want the new Everything Everything album to sound outdated like some ’80s albums screaming at Reagan. Instead, he wants A Fever Dream to give a sense of comradery to the listener. He wants them to know that he, too, is thinking, “What the fuck is even going on?”
Follow writer Michael Massaro at Twitter.com/michaelcmassaro.