Everything Everything’s Jeremy Pritchard talks exluisvely to Josephine about cultural collaboration, her next album and “black box touring”.
Much like Josephine, the singer-songwriter who’s toured with Paloma Faith and who will perform as part of HOME’s opening weekend, Jeremy Pritchard of Everything Everything is more than just a musician. Last year saw Pritchard and his fellow Mercury Prize-nominated band members curate Chaos to Order at Central Library, a residency that brought the likes of Josie Long, Jesca Hoop, Shaun Keaveny and Josephine herself together to celebrate the reopening of the renovated building.
It made sense, then, to bring the pair back together – this time for an exclusive conversation at Chetham’s Library, the setting for our Manchester After Hours unplugged musical tour, and where, on 14 May, Josephine herself will perform. Six months after first working together, and both with new albums on the way, Josephine and Jeremy had much to talk about.
JP: So here we are in a library – the last time we worked together in any capacity was in a library, but in very different surroundings…
J: One very modern, one very old.
JP: Why did you want to be involved – why did you say yes?
J: Because it’s a great space. Because it’s a historic part of Manchester, a real landmark of Manchester and our library heritage. It’s a great thing – to be asked by Creative Tourist is a really nice little honour.
JP: The Manchester After Hours concept is about giving access to buildings you don’t normally get access to, at night. At the witching hour… is that attractive to you as well?
J: Just being somewhere like this, it’s not somewhere you’d get to see every day, you know? It’s not somewhere you get to pass through – it’s a working, active school, so you can’t just drop in at any point, so it being open after hours is a great thing.
JP: With our Chaos to Order brief we wanted to reflect the function of a library – and you then responded to that brief via the North West Film Archives. I wondered if, in any way, this particular venue is going to inform your performance?
J: Any performance I do, it’s always nice to see the space before you decide what you’re going to do. So I will curate the set to something that’s going to match what the event is actually all about – opening up a space that you don’t usually use, that’s historic. So we’ll see. It’s set writing time now, and hopefully new material will come about.
JP: Do you find it more worthwhile to play these kinds of spaces than traditional live music venues, what I call, ‘black box touring’ venues- a string of academies, say?
J: The job is inherently the same, but I always leave myself open to do all kinds of projects in all kinds of venues, and that’s the good thing about playing a largely acoustic act – you can go anywhere.
JP: I think you’re establishing a niche inside the wider cultural community, alongside the normal music industry – because you’re doing things like Celluloid History Songs at HOME, which previously fed into Chaos to Order. Is that something that you want to foster?
J: It is. There’s nothing worse than, as you say, black box touring, going from dark room to dark room. As much as I love writing songs and getting out there, there has to be variety, because there is so much more that musicians can actually do. Much of the time you end up doing that – the black box kind of touring – because you think it’s the only route through the music industry. And because you get 250 people in a room an the same time, and that means sales. It makes economic sense to do things in that way. But music is about more than that for me.
JP: Let me ask you about what’s coming next, because I know you’re working on an album at the moment. Are you in the middle of sessions, or are you writing?
J: We’re in the middle of everything! But coming to the end now. I had a lovely conversation with my manager, we’re eighty percent there now and will hopefully finish by the end of May – that’s the deadline – so we hope to have everything written and a producer in place to finish everything off. Almost there.
JP: So the bulk of the process for you is the writing, rather than the recording session at the end?
J: It is. Obviously it’s a bit different for me than it is for you – you’ve got your band members and you know what you each play! – but for me, I’ve got my songs and my acoustic guitar, so then I have to decide on the style and the instrumentation for the rest of this record. Once I’ve established my reference points for what I want it to sound like, and the songs are there, then that’s the brunt of the work complete.
JP: Have you been trying to work to certain internal briefs, for this album?
J: Not really. With Portrait [her critically acclaimed 2012 album] it was a case of, well, you’ve got twelve songs, go for it. Now I’m trying to think more cohesively about style. When I start to play a new song that’s not quite in the style, I think “leave that to one side. Leave it for now.”
JP: Is that in terms of sonics, or all of it?
J: It’s in terms of the mood of the songs that I’m writing as acoustic, because for me, if they don’t work in that way, they’re just not going to work, largely because a lot of the shows I play are acoustic and very stripped back, and I think if the song isn’t working for my voice, there’s no point – sometimes.
JP: Is it thematically consistent then? When you say mood, what does that mean?
J: I mean in terms of the styles, the styles of playing. What I’m trying to get at – let’s see if it happens – is a kind of British soul thing, but with California guitars. Whether that translates is a different matter. I’d really like to make something that bookends itself, and has a theme from start to end.
JP: Will you use this gig as a way to showcase or road test, for want of a better term, new songs?
J: Yes, whenever I have a show that’s unplugged, and is just about the artist with a guitar, I try to road test things. It’s a brilliant opportunity to do it. I have another… couple of weeks? So, yeah, I’ve got a lot of writing to do between now and then! Let’s see.