When the COVID-19 lockdowns first began, the sudden isolation and uncertainty caused a lot of stress for everyone. But for the members of English band Everything Everything there was an added stressor even on top of all that.
“It happened literally as soon as lockdown began in this country; the first day,” singer-guitarist Jonathan Higgs said over a video call earlier this month. “We were like, ‘We can’t leave the house, we have to make this album and all these videos ourselves—what are we gonna do?’ Then we got this call that’s like, ‘Yeah, your studio’s on fire, mate.'”
Aside from losing some sentimental items, things didn’t turn out that bad. All of Everything Everything’s property was insured and the band had enough surviving equipment to record Re-Animator, its fifth studio album (and first since 2017’s A Fever Dream) scheduled for release on Sept. 11.
Horror fans may recognize that title from the 1985 movie of the same name, or from H. P. Lovecraft’s short story on which the movie was loosely based. If so, don’t get too excited because it’s not actually based on either. In fact, Higgs hadn’t actually seen all of the movie when he first used the name.
“I think I heard the title when I was a kid, and I never forgot it because it’s an awesome title. I always use horror titles as titles for songs,” Higgs said. “A demo I made for this record, I called it ‘Re-Animator’ just because it suited what I was talking about. Then we were trying to find a name for a record and it just came to me. So I had to quickly watch the film. I was like, if it’s really shit I don’t think we should call it this, or if it’s really racist or something. But I watched it and really liked it.”
While the album may not be as Lovecraftian as its name suggests, and while it doesn’t involve bringing back the dead, it is more than just a cool name. The focus of Everything Everything members—including keyboardist Alex Robertshaw, bassist Jeremy Pritchard and drummer Michael Spearman—was to re-animate themselves in a way; to go back to basics and write songs that were, at their core, good without any of the post-production they usually add.
“We had a discussion early on, me and Alex [Robertshaw]. We should make sure all the songs on this record sound good without any of the crap we always put on top,” Higgs said. “Good; just guitar and voice, good; just piano and voice. It had to move you, excite you, do all the things a full band would do, but with no production. And if those songs are good, then we’ll add the production.”
The new album also marks a shift in the band’s lyrical content. Everything Everything has been exploring social justice themes for years, well before all the issues the band explored came to the forefront, but now that they’re more common in the music industry and even traditionally apolitical artists have become political, the members shifted to a more introspective perspective.
“Every one of our records since the third one feels like, ‘I talk about it, then two years later everyone is talking about it,'” Higgs said. “It keeps happening. And I’m not going to go back and keep talking about the stuff I talked about on Get to Heaven. I have no desire to add my voice to a million other voices all talking about Trump and all this shit. No, I’m past it, I’m done with it. And I just made my record about being done with it.”
In the end, the album’s title turned out to be apt in even small ways Everything Everything couldn’t have foreseen. Take the studio fire, for example. While it did ruin a lot of equipment and instruments, some of those ruined instruments looked, in the judgment of the band, “pretty cool.” Those burned-up instruments are featured in the music video for “Violent Sun” as one last hurrah before they go. Not all of them made the cut, of course. Some were so burned-up they couldn’t be held, and even the ones they use came with risk—Pritchard essentially tattooed his fingers with the soot-covered sharp edges of a bass—but the effect is indeed very cool.
The other theme of the video is, obviously, running. Which, according to Higgs, is a literal nod to the theme of the song.
“We wanted to create that feeling of desperately running,” he said. “So when it came to the video it was like, well, let’s desperately run. It seems the obvious thing to do. So that’s literally what we did, because that’s what the song feels like. And all the lyrics tie into this feeling of desperately running toward something, or away from something, but not stopping. You don’t know if you’re happy or sad. You’ve just got to keep going while everything’s just crashing in around you.”
If there’s any feeling nearly everyone can relate to in 2020, it’s that one.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.