“The next year is definitely going to be intense, and we’re never going to have another year like it. It’s gonna be awesome…” Matt Healy, The 1975.
Amidst the terraced houses of an affluent South Liverpool suburb lies The Motor Museum, the studio where Arctic Monkeys and Oasis recorded their first singles, Foals crafted both their critically acclaimed albums, and an unmentionably long list of acts put their signature sounds to record, all at the hands of Mike Crossey. Needless to say it is a bonafide (albeit anonymous) piece of musical history, which over the last six weeks has been home to The 1975 as they record their debut album.
A regular reader of the site will know that we are predicting big things for the Manchester four piece, and with the blogosphere in a frenzy and attention from Radio 1, it’s clear we’re not the only ones that are hedging our bets on their success. Their amalgamation of the visceral and the prolific is what makes them unique, combining surging indie-rock with atmospheric allure to great effect, learning from the mistakes of predecessors in their field (The Big Pink spring to mind).
We caught up with singer Matt Healy in Liverpool on a tense penultimate day of album sessions, with the group also readying the release of their second EP, Sex.
“If you’ve got a song then you’ve got a song. If you cant dress it up in a relevant form then you’re not a very good songwriter…”
You’ve gone by many names in the past, but your first EP “Facedown” was the first taste people got of “The 1975” as a finished product, how long was it in the making?
It was a very important time for us when we came to making it. “The City” and “Antichrist” go back quite far, and the blueprints of those songs were there long before Facedown. George and I wrote the other two tracks specifically for the EP, and that was a relatively quick process, because we knew exactly what we wanted.
Mike Crossey has produced some seminal albums in the past, how was it working with him?
We spoke to a few producers before making the album, and as we had produced “Facedown” ourselves and with the help of people like “Little Comets”, our main concern was that we wanted to produce our own album. However we weren’t naïve in the fact that there are people who have sold millions of records and are much better at doing it than us, so Mike approached us on a co-production level. He’s really shown us the ropes, but because of the way our band works a lot of the material was already there anyway.
Yeah it was a totally different approach, and although the majority of the songs have been finished as “The 1975” this album has been five years in the making, formed through the many different incarnations of the band. I think the best albums are ones where every track could be a potential single. Both our EP’s center around a lead track whilst showcasing a wider body of work, whereas we feel the album is lead track after lead track, with all the alternative moments captured in an accessible way.
You mentioned your EP’s showcasing a wide body of work, which in a way has opened you up to criticism; with some claiming you are yet to find your own niche. Do you feel the album refutes those claims?
The fact of the matter is that I don’t really stick to one genre when I listen to music, so I’ve always found it difficult to write music in that way. We write this music for ourselves, and the fact that it’s being accepted is really humbling. I think that this album is drenched in our identity and it’s everything that we are. It does span a lot of genres and depth, but it’s still a coherent piece of work and everything that makes our band our band, personally I would say it’s an ambitious debut record.
Has the album turned out differently to how you thought it would sound before going into the studio?
Yeah but it always does. One of the best things about the recording process is the natural way a track changes and running with that to turn it into something fresh. This recording process has been really fun, as we’ve had a lot of these songs for a while, and to record them in a completely different mindset with a completely different outlook has been really interesting.
“The album is a soundtrack to our formative years. We want people to connect with it…”
So do you still find the old songs relevant to where you are now?
I think if you’ve got a song then you’ve got a song, and if you cant dress it up in a relevant form then you’re not a very good songwriter. In a way that’s what is good about producing your own record, as you can take a standard song which has a good melody, and use it as a foundation to build a new sound around it.
There album isn’t a haberdashery of past singles and old stuff, it has been focused down into a collective piece of work. There’s tracks on there that people would have heard live, and older tracks that we’ve reworked. This album is a soundtrack to our formative years, so it would be dishonest to not put songs on there that we wrote when we were 21, as we want people to connect to it in the same way that we do.
In a debut you have got to provide a context of sorts and show where you’ve come from before you show where you’re going…
That’s a good point, and I think that’s evident with the opening track, which is a nod to facedown in this beautiful atmospheric part that George wrote. I would say the album definitely starts quite heavy before it lightens up as well.
Do you get annoyed with the constant comparisons to other bands?
We don’t really sound like anybody else, and that’s not me being facetious. To be honest I would like it if we did sound like another band, as I used to find it difficult to describe our sound to other people. We’ve never been able to fit into a genre, which is perhaps why we can’t write in one.
I would say that’s a good thing though, as once you get confined to a genre you are immediately limited in your writing style.
Yeah, and that will never happen to us, as this album is mental. Sonically it’s pretty experimental, and goes from glitchy R&B to big 80’s powerpop to mid 90’s soul, but it’s done in our way obviously.
“If you play good music in a room in Southampton or New York City people will respond to it in the same way…”
There’s no denying there’s a lot of attention on you at the moment, but with the album not getting released until at least spring next year are you worried that the hype may die down by the time it actually comes out?
I stop myself from reading any blogs or reviews of our music as you can go mental from constantly caring what people think. We’ve got another EP and single out early next year before the album as well so hopefully the hype shouldn’t die down too much. We’ve got a lot of stuff in the pipeline next year as well with festivals and some American dates.
I’d like there to be an element of surprise. I want the album to have the same impact that albums used to have on me. I’m only 23 so I’m hardly “old school”, but I remember going to HMV and buying a CD and not being able to get it online. I cant control the way people consume music nowadays, but I hope our album doesn’t leak.
You mentioned heading over to America to play next year, are you nervous about making an impact over there?
I’m looking forward to it as I just turn into Oliver Twist over there and become unnecessarily English. Everyone has this idea that America is a completely different place, but if you play good music in a room in Southampton or New York City people will respond to it in the same way, and I cant wait.
So the next year is going to be huge for you, would you say are you prepared? (If you can prepare for such a thing)
Well we’ve got a headline tour coming up in the winter with some of the dates sold out, and considering we’ve never actually headlined a gig that’s mental. The next year is definitely going to be intense, and we’re never going to have another year like it which I’m really looking forward to, it’s gonna be awesome.
The 1975 will release their second EP “Sex” on Nov 19th through Dirty Hit Records