One can only imagine what must be going through Matthew Healy’s head right now. Just over a year ago few people had heard of The 1975 (we were even puzzled when we received their first vague press release) yet the last six months has seen them pack out festival tents the world over, conquer America with fellow monochrome enthusiasts The Neighbourhood, and support The Rolling-bloody Stones at Hyde Park, all whilst repeatedly featuring on the Radio 1 A-list and building an army of fans (in every sense of the word). Needless to say, this certain Manchester quartet are one of the most important bands in Britain at the moment.
We’ve been fortunate enough to follow The 1975 on every step of this amazing journey so far, from conducting their first ever face to face interview up in Liverpool in November 2012, to catching up in New York just last month, with interviews around the UK fitting in between the chaos. These past experiences over the last 10 months have steadily allowed us to enter the mindset of Britain’s newest musical icons, trying to grasp how it feels to be on a constant upward trajectory, from humble beginnings in North West England to imminent world domination. With that in mind, we felt it was right to catch up with Matty in the days before arguably the biggest week of their lives, as their debut album is finally released, for perhaps our most in depth conversation to date.
When we speak to Healy, he tells us The 1975 are currently in London practicing for some forthcoming session dates to coincide with the album’s release. The idea that a band who have relentlessly played pretty much every festival so far this summer still has to practice is somewhat perplexing, especially after an acclaimed performance at Reading and Leeds last weekend, yet it becomes clear from the offset that the frontman is somewhat oblivious to how big his band actually are. “Last weekend was just insane man” he tells us, “kids were passing out, people were crying, I didn’t understand, but it just felt like everything we’d built up this year came into fruition in that tent at Reading”.
Then again, Healy’s naivety when it comes to The 1975’s popularity (especially among teenagers) is to be somewhat expected, considering they have been thrown into the big-time in a matter of months after focusing on making music that will get them there for the last decade. That is of course, what is remarkable about this band’s story, as they embody the complete opposite of the ‘overnight success’ some have labeled them. Whether it was under ‘Drive Like I Do’, ‘The Big Sleep’, or ‘The Slowdown’, the core elements of The 1975 have been bubbling under the surface for the last 10 years, awaiting the break that finally hit in 2013, and the pandemonium that has since ensued. “We were just making records in my bedroom, and now it’s turned into this” says Healy with genuine surprise in his voice, “I’m just lost in the whole experience to be honest. I just have to embrace living in the moment really, and I’m so concentrated on what’s happening right now and releasing material that I don’t really know how to feel about it all”.
There are of course elements from these past bands on their 16-track debut album, as the likes of ‘Robbers’, ‘Sex’, and ‘Chocolate’ stem back years (though have been subtly reworked to fit The 1975’s aesthetic) and sit comfortably alongside new, more experimental material. Finally giving these songs a ‘home’ on the record must be a somewhat cathartic? “I’ve lived with some of those songs for so long, that it’s almost like dropping your kids off for the first day of school” he replies, laughing slightly, “ but I also feel like I’ve completely finished them now, so there’s an element of me that just wants to move on into new material, I guess that’s why most of the EP’s were written after the album”.
When we talked in Brighton back in March, Healy and I discussed the process behind this string of EP’s that were released before the debut, a move that he deemed necessary to provide context to the band’s broad sound, rather than just building up with singles alone. After listening to the album last week, and its seamless mix of accessible ‘hits’ with more experimental pursuits, his logic made perfect sense, and naturally he stands by it: “We wouldn’t have been able to release the album without putting out the EP’s first, as we wanted to make sure we could express ourselves properly before dropping this long, ambitious debut record on people. In all honesty though, this record really spans our entire lives together, which is why I’m excited to see how people embrace it”.
In the wake of this perhaps uncommon release method, it felt right to ask whether The 1975 would be adopting a similar style when it comes to future material, or at least what their plans were once the album is released “We’re not resting on our laurels, but we’ve basically put out two 14 track albums in the last eight months, so I think we can back the fuck off for a bit, and then just make music for fun, not because we have to”. Nevertheless, after Matty details their rigorous tour schedule, which will see them play all over the world non-stop until August 2014, one could question whether they would have time to work on new material anyway, “You’d be surprised what we can do on our own in the back of a van with a laptop… wait a sec that sounds a bit seedy doesn’t it?”
Being constantly on tour is no doubt going to change your creative mindset though. Are you prepared for that? There’s a pause, “Having so much material on the album really allowed us to push ourselves experimentally already” he says confidently. “I don’t think the way I write will change, I just think the next record will creatively be the same as the debut, just more dramatized”. I question him on whether there’s more drama in his life nowadays to draw from lyrically, especially considering how little time he’s spent at home so far this year. “I’ve found myself becoming a lot more sombre when it comes to writing, but lyrically it’s still very much of the moment, and the struggle of holding onto stuff”.
At that point my phone buzzes with yet another retweet from a fan of the band (the tweet in question was a link to our album review from the week before). Do you realise that any time we reference you on twitter it nearly breaks my phone? I tell him they temporarily broke our website when you linked to us on your Facebook page. That wouldn’t have happened a year ago. He laughs. You are aware of the fact you’re now an icon to some?
“An icon?!” he replies, “How weird is that. I don’t really feel comfortable being a desired form of intellectuality to people, because I’m really not. I don’t want kids to be overly impressed by people like me who just have a vaguely varied vocabulary, I want to tell them to ‘go listen to Hitchens’ or something instead”. It becomes clear that modesty aside, Healy genuinely hasn’t changed his personality since we first met last November, and simply doesn’t pay attention to outside opinions “To be honest mate I’m more interested in watching dog videos than reading bullshit or listening to what other people have to say about us”.
Despite not listening to other people, anyone would no doubt relish the opportunity to give themselves advice before a series of life-changing events, a question that Healy ponders over for more than a minute “What would I tell myself? Don’t worry as much. I didn’t used to worry in the early days, but then again just think I wasn’t acclimatised to everything in my life dramatically changing over a month and a half… Actually, forget that, I should have just told myself to shut the fuck up”.
Regardless of wooing festival crowds, September will undeniably see The 1975 prove themselves with their biggest UK tour to date, which includes a headline gig at The Brixton Academy in January, no doubt a step up from their London debut at the Barfly in Camden less than a year ago. It becomes apparent that despite the ‘worry’ that he mentioned before, prestigious shows like this no longer phase Healy, and instead almost intrigue him.
“It’s gonna be interesting, because the last tour that we did in the UK was sold out before Chocolate went on the radio, but this one is going to be the first time those people have seen us, so by the time we get to Brixton we’re going to see a real spread of people who have embraced us at different times, which is amazing”.
If anything, it’s clear after speaking for 45 minutes that no matter the size of a crowd they can draw at a festival, the number of plays each single gets on Radio 1, or how many 15 year old girls use his face as their twitter profile picture, Healy remains unchanged by the buzz around him, which is perhaps the best state to be in when so many are hedging their bets on The 1975’s success. Even after the album is released next week, their momentum shows no sign of slowing down, which is what makes their bright future such an exciting prospect. Even if the man at the centre of it all doesn’t quite realise yet.