Everything Everything on “A Fever Dream”

A New Age

Nov 27, 2017 Photography by Andrew Whitton Issue #62 - Julien Baker
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"Is there something wrong with all of this, or is there something wrong with me?" Those are the sole lyrics to "New Deep," the penultimate track on Everything Everything's fourth album. As gentle piano anchors a sparse, airy soundscape, frontman Jonathan Higgs sings the lines over and over in his inimitable falsetto, voice and message front and center. It's but a two-minute blip on an otherwise exuberant record, but it's one that reflects Higgs' headspace when writing A Fever Dream, the band's most politically charged album to date.

"There is a sensation that the old rules don't apply anymore," says Higgs. "It feels like we are at the end of some kind of age and a new one is about to begin, and in the meantime lots of awful things are popping up.... Certainty's gone and everything feels like a strange dream."

Hence, A Fever Dream. Higgs and guitarist Alex Robertshaw wrote much of the album while on tour supporting the band's 2015 album, Get to Heaven. It was very much a true collaboration, the two passing headphones back and forth, working out songs on the tour bus with the rush of the road out the window and naming rough tracks after the cities where they were written. Sonically, A Fever Dream finds the band-which also includes bassist Jeremy Pritchard and drummer Michael Spearman-reaching back to embrace childhood loves of both noisy guitar and electronic music.

But it's the lyrical content that sets A Fever Dream apart. With lyrics like "I'm the richest/I'm the best of the apes," or "The corridors of power are echoing with something for everyone/Nothing there for you and there's nothing there for me," A Fever Dream features distinct comment on the state of our world in the age of phenomena like Donald Trump and Brexit. Higgs says that he was "more into [American politics] than your average Englishman" during the run up to the 2016 U.S. election, exemplified by an addiction to Reddit, and A Fever Dream was very much borne of that obsession.

"I was kind of embroiled in the whole culture of it, being online and seeing how many social laws break down in that frontier of Internet communication," says Higgs. "It's not normal, and if you get too used to it, you're not really operating in a normal sphere of human society.... It drove me insane after a while."

At the same time, with Higgs wanting some "tenderness" on the album, A Fever Dream also features some of the most poignant songwriting of the band's career. "Put Me Together" is an affecting portrait of a shared but complicated life. And the album closes with "White Whale," a song of love and hope.

"We try to end our records with a positive note, even if it's just in the last two bars," says Higgs. "This was just a very simple song that I wrote. I thought, 'Why not just be honest? I love my girlfriend. I never sing about that.' I always thought it was a bit lame for bands to do. But I thought, 'Let's do it, and talk about how I feel.' But it also translates into a wider plea to my fellow man, ending the album saying 'Never tell me we can't go further.' Don't tell me this is as good as we can get. We can do better than this. This is not the peak of our existence, this thing that's happening now."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Fall 2017 Issue (October/November 2017), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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