Everything Everything exclusive interview: Making order from the chaos

Polly Checkland Harding

We spoke to Everything Everything about their six day residency at Central Library, desert island discs and a teenage Jesus Christ…

Everything Everything’s bassist, Jeremy Pritchard, is talking fast even before we get to the interview room. For the next forty minutes there are only rare moments when he isn’t filling the silence with ideas. Lead singer Jonathan Higgs, on the other hand, settles himself into a chair and thinks: about religion, the unexpected, and what it would be like to sleep on the large, oval table we’re sat around, as it turns out. They’re a good pairing: one is energy, tumult, and the other, more structured. There’s a strong sense of not knowing what to expect from them – which is much like the programme for their six day residency next month at Manchester’s Central Library, where this interview takes place.

Things are revealed in flashes. “I’m not going to give anything away, but you could walk into the building and immediately encounter something that you didn’t expect to,” Pritchard tells me. “The stairwells, the lifts, or anywhere. We’ll try to use every space in the building.” The line-up for Chaos to Order spans music, theatre, poetry, computer programming and a fair bit in between; it also infiltrates vital spaces in the library. “It’s worth having a look at the programme, but it’s also worth wandering in and being open to what’s going on because there are things happening that aren’t scheduled,” Pritchard says. “I’d like it that people didn’t know what to expect, even if they did,” adds Higgs, laughing.

For though you might have heard of Emma Jane Unsworth, seen a Quarantine theatre piece, or know the music of Everything Everything themselves, there are twists to their performances that will be unpredictable. It’s hard to say how Quarantine’s “choir of words” will sound, in what Pritchard calls the “unwieldy” acoustics of the Reading Room. “You get a very particular feeling when people talk in unison, and there’s a really strange resonance to it,” he points out. “It only really happens in church.” The connection between a library and a place of worship is one noticed by Higgs, but voiced by Pritchard. “It’s seen as anachronistic, but it’s still a place where people go. And it’s a church because we live in the information age now – information is the new religion.”

“I’d like it that people didn’t know what to expect, even if they did”

It’s the way in which a library orders information that has fascinated them most, however, and formed the basis of their work. “We spent a lot of time walking around the building, thinking about what libraries are for, and what they do, and what they’ve always done,” says Higgs, “and we kind of thought, it’s still a place where you have a huge mess, a tangle of ideas and information, yet this is the place that makes it ordered.” Pritchard is excited about the contradictions this entails – and how the artists they are collaborating with have individually responded. “We’ve been glad of the fact that we can turn to artists who are full of ideas themselves, and say ‘whaddya got?’ Because that’s inspiring in itself,” he says.

The response, while not fully revealed yet, looks very promising. There will be immersive storytelling, self-generative music made from specially developed software, and brand new extracts from Unsworth’s new novel – the mysterious follow up to the wild and hilarious Animals – as well as Everything Everything’s own involvement. “We’ll be working on stuff in the building. Like a zoo,” Higgs says. The things they’ll be working on are “not entirely disconnected from the new material, but we don’t have to think in terms of ‘songs’ and ‘album’,” he adds. “We can think more about ideas…we can explore them for much longer, with much more detail.”

“We’ll be in and out the whole time,” says Pritchard. “I’m going to be here for the whole lot. I might bring a sleeping bag.” This is when the bit about kipping on the table comes up. “I’ve been imagining sleeping on this table since we got in here,” Higgs admits. “Where would I do it, would I sleep at this end, you could try to go that way…all sorts.” It’s a tough decision; the table is so big you could skate across it.

Things get even more bizarre towards the end of our interview. My fault, probably, for asking two slightly less sensible questions. The first is what book and what record they’d choose for a desert island. “I’d probably take Windows 95 for Dummies,” says Higgs, immediately. I suggest he could make his own computer, out of bamboo – at which point he changes his mind. “Actually no – I’d take a survival handbook, obviously.” Pritchard looks worried. “Mine are going to be so crap now,” he says. “One record – I don’t know. Something with zest, like Abbey Road. I’ll have Abbey Road and the complete Philip Larkin.” He shakes his head. “That’s fucking teatime, isn’t it?”

The final question I ask them is who, hypothetically, alive or dead, they would have chosen to be involved in the residency. “Jesus Christ,” says Pritchard. “Teenage Christ,” adds Higgs, “because nobody knows what he was up to.” I point out that this would definitely pull in the punters, which gives Pritchard another idea. “A set – a DJ set! Oh god. We were so close to getting to the end of this without mentioning teenage Christ, the DJ…” We were indeed. Let’s be very clear: the teenage Christ will not be featuring. Instead, Everything Everything will shape a multi-faceted line-up, across six days, moving from chaos to order. Instead of order to chaos, as it was in this case.

Chaos to Order is produced by Brighter Sound in partnership with Manchester Central Library and Creative Tourist. Funded by Arts Council England, Manchester City Council, Central Library Development Trust, Zochonis Trust and AGMA.

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