Jonathan Higgs of Everything Everything – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In - “I think COVID-19 has closed more doors than its opened, and made society more insular and selfish.” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, October 19th, 2020  

Jonathan Higgs of Everything Everything – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“I think COVID-19 has closed more doors than it's opened, and made society more insular and selfish.”

Jun 10, 2020 Web Exclusive
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We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Jonathan Higgs, frontman for British art-rockers Everything Everything

We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people). 

We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in. 

Everything Everything are releasing a new album, Re-Animator, on August 21 via Infinity Industries/AWAL. The album was recorded last December at RAK studios in London with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, David Byrne). Prior to that there was a year of writing and demoing. A press release points out that for this album the band wanted to focus “on harmonies and melodies over synths and programming.” 

In terms of lyrical themes, the album tackles “wonderment at the wider world despite the horror of its politics; existentialism and the prolonged, if fading, youthfulness of being in a touring band; and the ominous threat of climate change. All things which contribute to a sense of one door closing while another awaits.” 

Higgs also became interested in the theory of the bicameral mind, as put together by psychologist Julian Jaynes. The press release explains the theory: “It argues that early in human evolution, the two sides of the brain were next to each other but functioned independently. In essence, one side would hear the other sending instructions via a disembodied voice—a zombie-like state of pre-consciousness.” 

Higgs further expounds: “This idea of the divided self captivated me. Jaynes attributes this to the origin of gods, people ascribing deity status to this voice they could hear in their head. All this blew my mind, and I started thinking of ways I could make this a central concept. It really touched me. So across the whole record there are millions or references to this theory—to having a split brain, two selves, hearing voices.” 

In April the band shared the album’s “In Birdsong,” via a video for the track that was one of our Songs of the Week. Then when the album was announced they shared “Arch Enemy,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they also shared a strange video for “Arch Enemy” directed by Higgs. 

The band also features Jeremy Pritchard (bass), Michael Spearman (drums), and Alex Robertshaw (guitar). Their last full-length was 2017’s Mercury Prize-nominated A Fever Dream, although they released the Deeper Sea EP in 2018. 

Read on as Higgs reflects on his COVID-19 experience so far. Higgs also submitted a photo of himself under quarantine. 

Where are spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension? 

I’m at home in Stockport with one other person and it’s both brought us together and completely torn us apart.  

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far? 

Yes.  

What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home? 

The daily routine has been mostly centered around improving my house (badly) and working on videos for our album campaign. All of our plans changed when lockdown started and we had just embarked on a new series of single releases, so I’ve been working on videos for those. I’ve spent loads of time outdoors, I’m lucky enough to live near some very special outdoor spaces and I’ve got very sunburned. Lockdown life isn’t actually very different to normal home life for me, when I come off tour I spend lots of time indoors and I don’t go “out on the town” or anything like that at all. We haven’t toured n a year anyway since we’ve been writing this new record, so it’s not a big adjustment. 

What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term? 

Yes all our live income has disappeared in a puff of smoke. In a cough of germs. No festivals, no touring, no promotional live appearances—the areas where we tend to actually make our living. We decided not to postpone our album as we felt people would appreciate music during this time, and there was no point in delaying it. We’re lucky to be so self-sufficient as a band, with my video skills and Alex’s music production meaning we can create everything we usually would. Obviously we can’t create a safe environment for a gig during a pandemic and that will have long term effects for us, but we’re confident we can make it through the worst period and will survive as a band. We’re keenly aware that huge numbers of people have lost their jobs so we’ll continue to be thankful that we can continue doing ours even if it is a bit different. 

Do you trust the government and our leaders to effectively deal with the pandemic? What most concerns you about the response of elected leaders at home and abroad? 

Not at all, in fact it’s not even an opinion—we literally have the worst response going—officially! I’m distrusting at the best of times and I don’t have an ounce of respect for this current administration. The response has been far too muddled and the Cummings incident made a mockery of the lockdown rules—symptomatic of the self-interest and elitism that plagues the whole Westminster shitshow. I’m so tired of it. 

How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump? 

I don’t think it will change anything. Trump didn’t get to be president based on anything real, so reality won’t stop him getting a second term. I put money on him winning the first time and I will again. I don’t want him to, just to be clear. 

Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful? 

As the weeks have worn on the news has become so repetitive that I’ve stopped taking it in. I think we all consume far too much news, to be honest. I think a lot of it is bullshit, and a lot of it is detrimental to our brains. That’s not to say “it’s all lies” or anything like that but I think we should ask ourselves why we need a daily list of all the worst things happening in the world, and which we need to be anxious about. The modern world is full of anxieties and meaningless crap, and social media is a reflection of it. I think we could all benefit from less. Twitter is full of shit, Facebook is where ideas go to die, Instagram is a monument to the worst aspects of status-anxiety and corporate blood-sucking a future historian could ever hope to study. I occasionally trust the community on Reddit, but there is a massive amount of crap on there too.  

What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home? 

The sheer number of people that have realized that they can live their lives without leaving the house will definitely speed up some of the things that we used to call “futuristic.” The cynic in me would say this is the real beginning of the information/industrial revolution, and that automation, universal basic income, prescribed social gatherings etc. are the future starting right now. People will all work from home, relationships will move online only, social phobias will skyrocket, Amazon owns everything etc., etc. I don’t think people will accept all of this right away and I have great faith in the human spirit and the rejection of faceless modernity, but I think COVID-19 has closed more doors than it's opened, and made society more insular and selfish.  

If you have school-aged kids, how have you been dealing with homeschooling and how are your kids adjusting to life at home and away from friends? 

I don’t have kids but I’m uncle to nine. I think most of them are doing fine, though they are all quite young and those that are school age are somewhat “off-grid” type hippies anyway.  

Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to in order to convince them to stay inside? 

Yes my parents are at risk, but not hugely. They are taking it seriously and doing a lot of gardening. 

What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time? 

Well the streaming platforms could pay musicians more than the joke amount they do, but that’s not really a pandemic thing.  

What is the best way fans can support artists financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight? 

We have an album you can pre-order in various different formats including colored vinyl which is quite cool. There’s a load of new merch too.  

Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine? 

I’ve not listened to a single podcast and very little music, it’s weird, I’ve actually quit all my inputs during this time and instead been thinking a lot, and creating a lot. I’ve tried to disconnect from everything instead of trying to pretend it’s still the same. My life is usually a string of distractions, like games and videos and stuff. I’ve reversed all that just as everyone else has picked it up, I’m not sure why. This lifestyle that society has had to adjust to is really my normal life; wasted time, staying indoors, drinking, etc.—I don’t really want to do it anymore.  

Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting? 

Yes we’ve done a few and will certainly be doing more. It’s a challenge yes. During lockdown we all made green screens at home so we could make videos that appear to be us together. It’s getting more difficult to keep things from getting repetitive.  

Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home? 

Yes I’m trying to meditate and change my brain.  

Has the quarantine been a fertile creative time (are you writing or recording new music, for example) or have you found it hard to focus on creative endeavors? 

Extremely creative. Due to the fact I had to make these videos without much time, or help, or equipment—or band! It forced innovation and I think that’s where I am best suited as a creative person. It’s been a great way to escape and to feel useful, a stark contrast to my usual bumming around lifestyle.  

Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper? 

I never understood toilet-paper-gate—the shops around me didn’t sell out at any point, I didn’t buy extra, I didn’t panic buy anything at all. It was all an illusion, we have masses of stockpiled toilet paper in this country. It was very odd that people created a shortage of bog roll. I guess I’m more thorough when I shop now because I hate all the queuing and I don’t want to make repeat journeys.  

www.everything-everything.co.uk

www.facebook.com/EverythingEverythinguk/

www.twitter.com/E_E_

www.instagram.com/e_e_/ 

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