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Jonathan Higgs of Everything Everything: ‘I did a test to see if AI could write lyrics’

Renowned for their fusion of dystopian concepts with songs that blur the boundaries between experimentation and art-pop accessibility, Manchester foursome Everything Everything released their seventh studio album Mountainhead on March 1 – and they will soon be coming to Cambridge to perform tracks from it.

Introduced by the lead single Cold Reactor, the new record – the follow-up to 2022’s Raw Data Feel – sees the art rock band continuing to move forward and experiment, an approach that has resulted in five Ivor Novello and two Mercury Prize nominations, a run of five consecutive top 10 albums, and major headline shows.

Everything Everything. Picture: Steve Gullick
Everything Everything. Picture: Steve Gullick

Frontman Jonathan Higgs, speaking to the Cambridge Independent from his home studio in Stockport, says of the concept behind Mountainhead: “Well, it is one big simple idea; it’s a world where there must be a mountain being built at all times and everybody is obsessed with doing this, even though some people don’t really know why they’re doing it...

“And in order to make it bigger, they have to keep digging a huge hole, and everyone has to live in the hole and it’s s**t, so that’s the idea – everyone lives in a pit and everyone makes a mountain.”

Mountainhead also continues Everything Everything’s exploration of AI – something they addressed years before it became a dominant part of the modern cultural mindset.

That was particularly realised in the quartet’s previous long-playing effort, Raw Data Feel, for which they created an AI program and fed it selected information, including LinkedIn’s terms and conditions and the old English poem, Beowulf.

“It was sort of an experiment that I did by-the-by really,” explains Jonathan, a founding member of the group, which formed in 2007, “and then it ended up becoming a bit of the story of the album.

“But I did a little experiment to see if AI could write lyrics, because I thought maybe it could, judging by what I’d been seeing, and so I tried to get it to do that and then I picked out the best ones – but it was very much what we were doing then.

“I think it’s so widespread now that we’re not particularly interested in it anymore, but at the time it was new.”

The new album was produced by Kaines & Tom AD – the duo comprising Everything Everything lead guitarist Alex Robertshaw and regular Everything Everything studio engineer Tom Fuller.

The cover of Everything Everything’s new album, Mountainhead
The cover of Everything Everything’s new album, Mountainhead

Sessions took place primarily at Eve Studios in Stockport and Ludwick House in Shropshire. On how it differs sonically from the band’s previous work, Jonathan says: “This is the second time Alex, our guitarist, has produced our album, so if anything it should sound somewhat like the previous one.

“But yeah, we’ve been concentrating on trying to make decisions then and there when it comes to production.

“In the past, it was very easy to write a song using just MIDI [Musical Instrument Digital Interface], computer language, and then you can change the sound an infinite number of times, between the playing of the part and the finished article – so this time we tried to avoid that by trying to do everything in an analogue way.

“You make the sound then and there in the room, you record that sound, and that’s the sound done – it’s not got any of this endless editability which makes for a lot of extra dithering. We wanted to just be very secure in what we were doing.”

Can the Cambridge audience expect to hear many of the songs off the 14-track Mountainhead when the band play the Junction in April?

“Yes, we’ll be playing probably half of it,” replies Jonathan, who expresses particular affection for track five on the album, R U Happy?, “something like that – we haven’t quite decided, but we like to do that.

“We don’t like to completely flood it with just new stuff but we’re always excited to play the new record.”

That said, the group will be playing plenty of tunes from their extensive back catalogue, including songs that the singer says tend to get a good reaction such as Breadwinner and Blast Doors – and No Reptiles, which Jonathan describes as “usually the big song of the night”.

Everything Everything. Picture: Steve Gullick
Everything Everything. Picture: Steve Gullick

Everything Everything will be appearing at the Cambridge Junction (J1) on Tuesday, 2 April. Tickets, priced £31.50, are available from junction.co.uk. For more on the band, go to everything-everything.co.uk.

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