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Interview: The 1975

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It wouldn't be difficult to argue that The 1975 are currently one of the most exciting bands in the country. With an emotive and conviction-filled approach to indie-pop the band have managed to achieve phenomenal success, garnering a number one début and a wondrously in-demand sell-out tour. 

In conversation, front-man Matt Healy unveils his thought processes, insecurities and attitudes towards music, conveying the true passion, craftsmanship and belief behind The 1975.

Where were you when you first heard the album had gone in at number one? 

Matt: When we heard we were number one, to be honest with you it was weird because I thought finding out about the number one record would be like when I used to listen to the countdown; so I used to think I’d know nothing about it and then I’d listen to the countdown and we’d come in at number one. It’s not quite like that because there’s a lot of mathematics involved.

Numbers bore me so much; I find it really, really difficult to even engage, even if it’s like 'you’ve won £10 million', I find it really boring. So basically what I’m trying to say is that by the time we got to Sunday we kind of knew we were going to get number one so opposed to be it some sort of 90-minute win, like a goal in the 91st minute it was more like winning 2-0 on aggregate. We were at iTunes Festival and we spent the whole week thinking 'fucking hell we’re gonna get a number one album' and when it hit me I didn’t feel any different.

I had this big existential crisis; then I thought that those aren’t the important things. Like statistical, material achievements, they’re actually quite brittle and they don’t really last - they don’t have much substance. What really has substance is the kind of human connection with somebody at your show; somebody tells you an amazing story about how your music has affected their life. That’s what this year has been defined by, for me.

You have said that these landmarks take you further away from being genuinely happy. Do you perhaps fear that the more successful you become, the less meaningful your music is to the people who hear it?

Maybe so, but the one thing I have realised is that - it sounds like a bit of a philosophy teacher thing to say, a bit of a kind of stoned student thing to say - what I’ve really realised is that there’s certain things that you have control over and certain things that you don’t.

In my life now I don’t really have enough time to phone my mum, to see my girlfriend, to wash my clothes; if I spent loads of time worrying about stuff that I don’t have control over...

Once I’ve made a record and it’s the statement that I wanna make and it looks and it smells the way that I want it to do, that’s all I can do. Music and art is so subjective and that’s what’s amazing about it, and that’s what can make and break artists. And I think you could worry about it but I think all that really happens is that people say stupid shit; for example now people say stuff about Coldplay being boring. They’re not boring, they’re incredible. And I’m sure that you’ve heard it all before and it’s been around for a long time, but they’re fucking Coldplay and that’s what they do.

You played to a packed Festival Republic tent at Reading and then another crowd about three times the size of the tent trying to watch from outside. I know you said when you got the number one album it didn’t really feel so momentous, do you reckon that show was a real 'we made it' moment?

That was. We would stop and I would stare out in to the crowd and the cheer would die down, and then it would come back again after every song. We’d get a double cheer, it was like fucking homecoming, it was like everyone in that tent had all been away in a war or something. It was like a celebration of everything that had happened.

Those two shows were the visual representation of how far our band has come. It just blows your mind. It totally blows your fucking mind. It was before the album came out and they knew all the words off it, so it was just fucking mental.

You also played quite a few smaller festivals this year such as Y Not where you took a low slot subbing the second stage, and now you would be big enough to headline the whole thing. Did it get strange playing under bands that were smaller than you?

No, it felt right, because they’re not smaller than us. It’s so weird for us to be an established band. To go from 10 years of doing anything a certain way and then having that not only changed but reversed for eight months. We were playing above Dinosaur Jr. in Jersey, I went to see that band about six times only about five years ago. It’s totally mental. With Reading and Leeds we got booked by Festival Republic and we said “yeah we’re gonna do that slot, that’s the slot we want” and then they came back to us and said “no, no your profile is too big you can’t do that slot”; they said Radio 1, they offered us third on main stage but we said “nah man” because we want to do those shows, we can’t get too big too quickly because it’s bullshit.

How important would you say image is to you as a band?

Very important. Aesthetically it’s very important because it’s one of the main qualities of our identity. It’s all kinds of little things that build us up and make us The 1975, not just the music it’s the synergy between the aesthetic and the sound.

It’s juxtaposed, it’s life-affirming sounding pop music with an aesthetic that is more dour and like you said kind of leans on noir aspects and is detached from reality. It’s all part of who we are, it’s an extension of our personalities. Because that’s how we are, we don’t want to be so exposed, so the more you stylise something the less exposed you are as a person. One of the things I’ve started saying now when people ask “what’s your favourite tune”; my perfect song would sound like ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ by Whitney Houston but would convey the message and have the conviction of ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen, that would be my perfect song and I think that idea if you translate that to the image of everything, it’s that juxtaposition of music that makes you feel really, really good at face value but also provokes you to be more introspective when you look in to it. That’s perfect and that’s what you get through the imagery as well if you look at something you’re not expecting after learning the music.

A lot of people have been arguing that guitar and indie music is in ill health. How would you comment on the current state of guitar music?

I wouldn’t because I think it’s boring and I think it’s a problem that feeds itself. Because if everyone keeps thinking about music as being so defined and so tribal and so categorised then the subjectivity of it is kind of irrelevant. Everyone is like “what’s happening to guitar music” well it’s under evolution, there’s always going to be a counteraction. And guitar music isn’t dead because two of the biggest selling records of the year have been by us and the fucking Arctic Monkeys. What do you want guitar music to be? If you call us a guitar band you might as well call us a microphone band because we use them, we use them more. I just like the idea of if you woke up one morning and all genres were gone, you could look at your record collection in such a pure way, like unharboured by any weird connotations and it would be brilliant and you would be truly original as you would exposed to nothing.

I mean a lot of people who complain about the state of guitar music will either complain that guitar music is boring or derivative but then when another band comes along those same sort of people will say that’s not “proper” guitar music or that’s not how a guitar is supposed to sound. And then you wonder what do they really want?

Well it’s like Manchester; the bands that everyone properly loves in Manchester, the reason they got big is because they were prided on being forward-thinking and they were changing a formula a little bit and it was interesting. But now they don’t want that, they want you to be the same as the first one; they’ve gone in the opposite direction. Now they want the same music, they have a retrogressive attitude. Everyone can fuck off, I can’t really be arsed with any of it to be honest.


First published by The Edge

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