The record, set for release on March 1, 2024, takes place in a world where society has created a huge mountain by digging a pit at its foot, and aspires to climb to the mythical mirror at its peak. All the while trying to escape a gigantic golden snake called Creddahornis who lives at the bottom of the pit.
“A ‘Mountainhead’ is one who believes the mountain must grow no matter the cost, and no matter how terrible it is to dwell in the great pit,” Higgs explained. “The taller the mountain, the deeper the hole.”
Written and recorded quickly and produced in Stockport by the band’s guitarist Alex Robertshaw, the synthetic pop album was intended to have no plug-ins and effects in reaction to last year’s ‘Raw Data Feel’, for which the band used AI technology to generate lyrics, song titles and artwork.
“It wasn’t a big journey and struggle,” Higgs told NME of the new album. “We wanted to make it quickly to get back on track timing-wise because we’d been in a weird place in terms of the pandemic. We kept putting out albums at the wrong time and missing the festival season. We really needed to get back on schedule and we have these ideas we’d been working on during the touring of ‘Raw Data Feel’ so we just did what we do and put the record together quite quickly.”
What’s behind the cover image this time?
“We came across that partly by accident. I’d just grown my hair back after having a skinhead for a few years and I bleached it and then I thought it could tie into the record if we all did it because we’re supposedly living underground. We had this idea that we were kind of albino or that we hadn’t seen the sun, ever. We found these Japanese cardboard box worker outfits, and it all came together.”
The fundamental metaphor appears to be that of a capitalist society where the wealth disparity has reached an inhumane crisis point.
“It’s one of the many things. There’s a growing sense of questioning what it is that we’re trying to achieve. Sometimes it seems to fly in the face of common sense, particularly the idiocy of Liz Truss’s mantra. I was just watching it go by and thinking what actually is this culture? What is this society? What are we trying to do here? Just grow with seemingly no limit and no forethought, when everything around you seems to be going the opposite way, telling you the opposite thing.
“I read this book Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher which is a sort of diatribe about late-stage capitalism… I wanted something core and large for the centre of it because it controls all of our lives and we forget how we got here and why we’re even in the system. It has always been this and will always be. Increasingly as I get older I think about what life would be like without it. It’s not just capitalism, it’s more the endless attempt to expand that humans do. They have a tendency to spread out and consume everything and then move on.”
Jonathan Higgs performs live with Everything Everything. CREDIT: Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns/Getty
Are all the songs linked by the concept?
“Probably two-thirds of them are and there’s maybe a third that aren’t. We never go the whole hog with concept albums, I think it gets a bit tiresome. There’s things that will occur in our lives that don’t have anything to do with it. The whole thing about having a concept that spreads across multiple songs is that you vaguely fall within the shadow of that idea, and in this case, it’s life from within this world. None of it is baked beans reality.”
Is the recurring image of the “hellkite priest” intended to add a religious aspect to it?
“It is, yeah. It’s the idea of people encouraging this world. It is like a religion and a hellkite priest will be someone who’s very into it and tries to manipulate others into following this mantra. I was actually thinking about the likes of… not quite Andrew Tate but that sort of figure. The crypto wankers who think that money is all you should ever need – you don’t need to be a human as long as you can get money.”
You’re talking about celebrities and influencers as these sorts of figures as well?
“Yeah, exactly. The whole of our culture holds up success in how much money you’ve made, rather than almost anything else. It seems like that being weird is completely forgotten.”
What do you mean by the symbolism of the mirror at the top of the mountain?
“The idea is purposefully framed as a rumour, so the people who want to get to the top don’t know if it’s true or not. It may not even be there, but I wanted something that essentially means that when you’ve got it all, what have you really got? You’re just looking back at yourself, it’s just a big monument to the self. And it keeps on going and keeps repeating, which is a kind of individualistic prize. There you are, there’s nothing else there. But it’s also like what have we got collectively at the top of our mountain? Really it’s just another story about us, which is all we ever had or will ever have. If we conquer the universe, what will we put in the middle of it? it’ll probably just be a big statue of a man and a woman holding hands.”
There’s a golden snake at the bottom of the pit representing the fear of the common man – where did idea that come from?
“There was a toy snake in my house when I was growing up that lost an eye. It was still knocking around when my nephew picked it up a few years ago. For some reason when he was about four, he named it Creddahornis. I’ve always thought that was an amazing name. It represents the animal within us. That’s supposedly the thing that these mountainheads want to get away from, humanity knowing their animal-ness. That’s the propellor at the bottom of the hole. You’ve got to get away from Creddahornis, you’ve got to climb this mountain and get away from being a human. That’s something that appears a lot in our songs, this conflict between history and modern life. The whole thing fascinates me and it always has, where you draw the line between animal and man.”
Among a colourful array of images, what’s the “enormous high-born moth” in opener ‘Wild Guess’?
“A dark master, basically. It’s not necessarily anyone in particular, but I like to play with the idea of hereditary power and monarchy because it’s something I find pretty repellent that we still have. It’s a byword for injustice in my book. It’s being ruled by dark forces.”
Eating away at the fabric of society?
Who’s ‘End Of The Contender’ about?
“Do you remember the viral video about Ronnie Pickering? About 10 years ago there was a cyclist with a camera on his head and he got in some kind of road rage thing with an older chap who started to rage again and again, ‘Do you know who I am? I’m Ronnie Pickering’. It was pretty funny and I laughed along with everybody else, but the more I thought about it and looked into this guy, because other people have, it had a different feel to me. He was an amateur boxer in the ’70s and there probably was a time when everyone knew who Ronnie Pickering was. And then he was just a man out of time.
“I think that’s a huge thing that’s happened over the last 15 years, since MeToo, cancel culture, whatever you want to call it has come in, there’s a whole generation of people, particularly men, who just don’t know what the hell’s going on and a lot of them are quite angry about it. It’s what caused Brexit, it’s what caused Trump, it’s one of these things that has become a bit of a joke, but it’s real. [Pickering] struck me as… I wouldn’t say a sympathetic character, but I felt as though he represented something to me in the way he was ridiculed for demanding for people to know who he was. It seemed like a perfect nugget to describe what’s occurred in this small subsection of our society.”
Alex Robertshaw and Jonathan Higgs perform live with Everything Everything. CREDIT: Lorne Thomson/Redferns/Getty
Are we all mountainheads now?
“Yeah, unfortunately, apart from people who try to get off the grid or try to destroy everything. Obviously a lot of it is great, of course it is. I’m glad I can go to hospital when I’ve got a lump in my head, but there’s a lot of bad stuff about it. Which is why it’s interesting to think about, it’s not very clear-cut at all. Also I enjoy playing a role within the record. You don’t really know if I’m in support of it or against it because I’m not really talking about it in emotional terms. I’m actually talking about it in factual terms. This is what’s happening. I’m not saying, ‘Look how bad this thing is’, which I found much more interesting to do.”
The final song, ‘The Witness’, seems to predict this system will end in apocalypse.
“We usually end up that way. Haha!”
Is that our inevitable course?
“Yes, but I couldn’t tell you and it wouldn’t happen all over the place. But I can’t see much good in the future right now. That song is really about seeing somebody go through a very intense psychological [event] and seeing it almost like a religious experience. So it’s got this flavour of holiness. That’s a song I haven’t done much analysing of because it makes me a bit emotional to listen back to it, just because of certain circumstances around the time we recorded it. I’ll answer that in a couple of years, probably.”
Everything Everything’s ‘Mountainhead’ is out on March 1, 2024, and is available to pre-save/pre-order here. The band will embark on a UK headline tour in the spring – you can find ticket information here.
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