Everything But The Girl return: “We wanted to come back with something modern”

Everything But The Girl, 2023. Credit: Edward Bishop

Everything But The Girl have returned with their first new music in 24 years. Check out ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ and details of the album ‘Fuse’ below, along with our exclusive interview with the iconic duo.

The indie-electronica duo of singer Tracey Thorn and multi-instrumentalist Ben Watt released 10 albums before they split in 2000, their last being 1999’s ‘Temperamental’. Their most successful album was 1996’s ‘Walking Wounded’, while they also scored top 10 singles with that album’s title track along with the likes of ‘Wrong’ and the Todd Terry remix of ‘Missing’.

Now, they’ve shared the first taster of their new 10-track album ‘Fuse’ with the modern dance sheen of the single ‘Nothing Left To Lose’.

“We’ve never been a particularly nostalgic band – we’ve always been known for making a different record every time,” Watt told NME. “Sometimes that’s meant going against the mainstream, but we just try to keep ourselves interested and keep things contemporary.

“We wanted to come back with something modern-sounding. We’re not out there on the heritage trail doing ‘best of’ tours or playing arenas. We just wanted to make a piece of work that would sound great now in 2023. That was the driver.”

Thorn explained how the song was the last track the pair wrote for the album and was born of their “confidence building”.

“We had it around with some different lyrics that were only about half what they are now,” said Thorn. “It was more vague and theoretical and I just couldn’t work out why it wasn’t working, then there was a moment where we realised that the music was so urgent, direct and emotional that the lyric needed to be that.

She continued: “From there I wrote it very quickly. It’s just a classic, desperate, yearning lyric about trying to connect with someone. I wrote the lyrics, came back and Ben told me he had these other lyrics, ‘Kiss me while the world decays, kiss me while the music plays’. We put them on the end because it was a killer line.”

The song’s video comes from director Charlie Di Placido – famed for his work with the likes of Kojey Radical and Jungle.

“We didn’t want to be in the video or to do a straight performance,” said Thorn. “We just really wanted something to dramatise the energy and emotion of the track. Choreography seemed the obvious way. I said that Jungle always make really good videos, we Googled them and reached out to Charlie. He was just really enthusiastic straight away.

“We wanted the dancing to capture the mood of the song and he just got it, so we let them get on with it. He had this brilliant idea to film it all in one take. We went down to the shoot and saw all the perfectionism and how much everyone put into it and just went, ‘Fuck guys! This is incredible!’”

Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl
Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl, pictured in 2000. CREDIT: Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

Since they parted ways, Tracey Thorn has enjoyed a solo career while also working as a writer, while Ben Watt became an international DJ, remixer, solo artist and label boss. Speaking of their decision to reunite last year, Watt said that they “didn’t really intend to make an album”.

“It wasn’t a pandemic album or a lockdown album – it just struck us that the time was right after 23 years of waiting,” he said. “It’s hard to put a finger on why. We didn’t go into the studio with any plans. We knew there was a bit of pressure because it was the first thing we’d done in ages, but we just wanted to be a bit playful and experimental to see what happens. There wasn’t a masterplan.”

Thorn agreed: “We deliberately didn’t tell anyone that we were dong something, because we were both thinking that it might come to nothing – and that’s fine. We’ve both been busy over the years with our own solo stuff, and it felt a bit perverse after so long to not even try.”

Finding themselves “back in each other’s company a lot” due to COVID putting a stop to their plans as individuals, they started writing again.

“It took on its own momentum once we started, and that surprised us slightly,” Thorn explained. “We’d both got so used to working separately that we wondered how it would be to compromise, but it actually worked really well. Having worked solo for so long, we both found it a bit of a relief to have to compromise or think, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t got an idea but the other person has’.

“The fun of it kicked in and we enjoyed the pleasure of bouncing ideas off someone else and getting something back then noticing that it improves the work.”

Looking ahead to ‘Fuse’, the pair remain tight-lipped about what else fans could expect from the upcoming record.

“We’re not even going to try and describe the whole album,” said Thorn. “We’ve been shying away from telling it to people in words before they’ve heard it. We just want it to land and for people to decide for themselves what kind of record it is.

“People will hear this single and assume the album is more electronic than acoustic, but there is a mixture of stuff on there.”

Everything But The Girl’s pioneering blend of pop, neo-soul, indie, drum ‘n’ bass, and trip-hop and more proved highly influential, and is often cited for helping to shape scenes that gave us the likes of The xx, Jungle, Daughter, fka Twigs and beyond.

Asked if she hears the band’s influence on much modern music, Thorn replied: “Yes, I do – perhaps even more so in very recent years. We’ve got kids in their 20s and it’s quite interesting to talk to them. We’ve noticed in the past few years that they’ve become more aware of hearing our older stuff while out and about or on playlists.

“That music has permeated into younger generations’ soundtrack, and probably because it has gone on to inspire a lot of other more modern stuff that they listen to. It sits quite happily next to contemporary music. It’s lovely to hear flickers of your influence throughout the years.”

Speaking of their hopes of reaching new audiences with their upcoming material, Thorn said: “You’re always trying to exist in the present. It’s lovely having a past and being respected for it – I don’t dismiss that at all, we’re grateful – but you’re living today. It’s exciting to feel like you’re making stuff that has a connection with what’s happening around you now.

“We live in the same world. We may be older and have made music in previous eras, but we are alive right now and subject to the inspiration that comes with that.”

Watt agreed: “You don’t have a right to an audience at any point in your career. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing it; you still have to come back with something that sounds great. Put everything else behind you and just focus on that.”

After a fake poster for Primavera Sound festival featuring Everything But The Girl did the rounds last year, hope remains that the duo might hit the road and plat some live shows this summer – however the pair sounded less sure themselves.

“That’s the big question that we haven’t addressed,” said Thorn. “At the moment, our answer is the same as it’s always been which is: we currently don’t have any plans.”

But do they have the hunger to make more music together as Everything But The Girl?

“We’re right in the middle of this album now,” Thorn replied. “We’re trying to allow ourselves to properly enjoy this moment. We don’t take anything for granted.

“I don’t want to already be thinking ahead to the next step. We’re really proud of what we’ve made, and that it’s generated so much excitement and enthusiasm. We’re telling ourselves to just be in this moment and enjoy it. There are no guarantees about what comes next.”

Everything But The Girl return with new album 'Fuse'
Everything But The Girl return with new album ‘Fuse’

Everything But The Girl release ‘Fuse’ on April 21. Check out the tracklist below:

‘Nothing Left To Lose’
‘Run A Red Light’
‘Caution To The Wind’
‘When You Mess Up’
‘Time And Time Again’
‘No One Knows We’re Dancing’
‘Interior Space’

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