Being in a band is an indulgent career in many ways. I'm sure I don't need to explain how or why. But we still live in the real world with its very real problems. In Everything Everything, we've always been relatively politicised, albeit in a more covert way on our first two albums. As we get a bit older, our music is increasingly a more barefaced reflection of that. We're slowly lifting the lid and getting braver.
Our last album, Get to Heaven, was a conundrum, really; some of our darkest lyrical content, balanced with some of our most colourful and bright and keening pop music. It was about the world we found ourselves in 2014. It couldn't be about anything else. We'd finished a solid year and a half of living in the touring bubble, and suddenly found ourselves at home all the time, in the real world, nudging up against the big 3-0, the age where you finally fully remove your adolescent head from your rear end and look at the world around you a bit more. I did. Jonathan definitely did. Jonathan writes all the words. He was watching a lot of rolling news, and getting increasingly affected by it. He wanted to reflect and exorcise the horror and confusion he felt as an observer. It felt like a particularly horrible year. In fact it continues to be a remarkably bad time for humanity, doesn't it? Maybe not, maybe it's just as bad as it ever was, but we're now at an age and in a position where it registers and resounds all the more.
Get to Heaven is in many ways our most straightforward and accessible album. But danger lurks very close to the surface. You don't have to unpick it as thoroughly as maybe our first two records demanded. There are demagogues, maniacs and charlatans, extremism, violence, abuses and distortions of power and influence. It's not all doom and gloom though - there is a lot of satire and silliness, fun(!) even, although it is harder to root out. One useful function of what we, or any artist can do, is to hold up the mirror occasionally, present a reflection on society, if that doesn't sound enormously pompous..! I think Get to Heaven was that, for us.
One event that really hit home was the murder of Alan Henning by the so-called Islamic State. He was a local man - we're based in Manchester, and Jonathan and I first met in Salford, where Alan came from. No murders are somehow less excusable than others, but something about his life really touched people. It was the same with aid worker David Haines. They had no agenda but compassion, they went to Syria on a purely humanitarian mission. Afterwards, I could feel the resentment, anger, and the basic desire for violent revenge rising up, which is exactly what these fascists want - to make us hate each other and become intolerant. It woke me up a little bit, to recognise how violence can fuel more violence. Shortly afterwards I had a run-in at a supermarket checkout with an educated middle-class man who I overheard calling a Muslim family 'fucking P*kis'.
Being in a band means there isn't always much we can do to help causes through our work. So if we're asked, we try to take the opportunities. What's going on in Syria at the moment is so obviously pertinent, so present. The politics are enormously complicated and we don't profess to know half enough about it. But at its core is the biggest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime, and human beings who simply want to survive, who want their children to be safe.
So, we and some other great musicians are doing a little gig this Friday 22nd to help raise money for Syria (we're DJing). It's being put on by Unicef Next Generation London, which is a group of young Londoners who put on events to raise awareness and money for the cause. It's a heavy subject, but we want everyone there to have a good time. And we will probably play more than one David Bowie song, too.
Everything Everything, who are playing at a Unicef Next Generation London Fundraiser on Friday 22 January in Loft Studios, to raise money for Unicef's Syria Campaign. To buy tickets for the event click here, or to donate directly to Unicef's work in Syria directly, please visit the Syria page