Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we fucking love THE 1975. Ever since we drunkenly stumbled upon The City on music telly one late Saturday night last September, we’ve been smitten with the Manchester art-rockers.
Since then, the band have exploded. Two small UK tours were followed by a European jaunt with Two Door Cinema Club and then a whirlwind trip to America, where they played something like 30 shows in 11 days. Do the maths. That’s a crazy schedule.
Now they’ve returned home as hot property, thanks to their Top 20 hit Chocolate, and things don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. This weekend, the band return to the Cockpit as part of Live At Leeds, ahead of another European visit and a bigger UK tour, which calls at Sheffield Queens Club on May 23.
Another US tour, with The Neighbourhood (also at Live At Leeds), follows in June, before festival season kicks in. They’re pretty much playing every festival known to man. There’s every chance you’ll catch The 1975 at some point this summer.
We caught up with frontman Matt Healy just before their homecoming show at Manchester’s Deaf Institute back in February. We had a note book full of questions and everything, but the interview kind of went out the window and we ended up having a nice chat over beers, really.
You’ve spent most of this year on the road. You getting used to it by now?
It’s weird you know, coz it’s like we’ve had nearly three years off, we’ve just been writing for so long and at our own pace, kind of to our own agenda. It’s been difficult and we all got ill on the first tour, as you do, but the January tour and throughout, we’ve just got better – that inspires you for each show. It’s been amazing. It’s home now, the road. It seems right.
It’s a romantic lifestyle, I suppose?
Yeah, to a degree. When you’re tired or a bit down, I think the fact that we created this job for ourselves, you’ve always got that in the back of your mind. You’re kind of thinking ‘I can’t really complain, can I?’ Because this is what I want to be doing. And it is hard work. It is hard work living out of a bag and a van, not getting to see your girl or your family.
Or your dog…
Yeah, the dog. Ah, fucking hell, yeah. But it’s what we do.
So what’s been the defining moment of the tours so far?
I think the first tour in December where we played Manchester and people sang Sex louder than I could hear it – the whole song. That was remarkable. Emotional. Me and George actually cried at that gig. I know it sounds a bit lame coz there was only like a 150 people or whatever, but we came off stage and we were so emotional because we’d never had that immediacy of emotion. That’s the one thing that had always been lacking in our band coz we’d never put music out. We didn’t know what it was like to be, not validated by the industry, which was something we’d always chased, but being validated by your fans. It’s really important.
It must be such a buzz seeing people singing your songs back to you.
That happened in my head and now everybody knows about it. It’s cool.
Milk has been a staple track in your live setlist, which is kinda strange as it’s an un-named hidden track on the Sex EP.
Yeah, it’s a really interesting song, that. It’s meant to be really fast-paced. It’s meant to be about a cocaine addiction a friend of mine had. And it’s supposed to be like doing coke – it’s meant to be over as soon as it’s finished. I like that song. It’s got a certain energy.
Your live songs are so atmospheric and have that huge lift, the worst thing is to play something delicate that means so much to you and there’s this murmur of people talking over it.
Yeah, it’s really hard with songs like Woman, for example. We’ve played that a couple of times when the audience has been really attentive, but it’s difficult coz you’ve got to take into consideration that this is someone’s night out.
At the end of the day, we’re just four blokes stood in front of 100 people…
We can control perceptions and be as enigmatic as we want, but at the end of the day, we’re still there to let people have a good time, so we can’t come out and play Woman and be like ‘oh, please listen’, so we don’t. We’ve picked the songs that say a lot about us.
And introduce the new album?
Yeah, it’s difficult to do that coz it sounds like four different bands on one record, you know. Sonically and personally. It’s difficult to translate. The thing with our band, because the amount of material, is we want people to get to know the band like they would get to know a person. The longer you know them, the more you know about them, and the more rewarding the relationship is. Once we’ve got a room full of people like that, then the live shows are limitless, and I’m really looking forward to that stage.
We’re very fortunate in that as people we don’t need to do anymore growing up, but as a band, we’re still very much in our infancy. The progression of our identity has been catalysed so much more in the past four months since we released records than it ever has been being a band, so we’re still discovering ourselves, elements of what we want to achieve and how we want to be perceived. Things change us every day, which is why we’ve gone back and worked on the songs that bit more. The album sounds totally different now than it did in October.
Has playing live had an effect on the way you want the songs to sound on the album, then?
Yeah, definitely. It’s the immediacy of emotion that we’re wanting to capture. This is people who really love what we do, so yeah, it’s affected how we look at our music. We’re all just perfectionists. We’re a bit mental, really. Totally OCD.
Are you still writing stuff as you tour, then?
Yeah, we don’t really stop. We’ve always had ambitions as a band, but being embraced by the mainstream was something, especially last year, we kind of lost love of the idea of and we weren’t really that bothered. We were just so into writing for ourselves, knowing that eventually people would accept it and now there’s this perpetual cycle of writing that is borne of our desire to better ourselves – a pursuit of excellence in what we do because it’s our only form of expression.
People ask me if we’re worried about the hype or if it gets to us, and I think the best thing about our band is that there’s not been much attention-seeking, there’s not been any element where we’ve pushed ourselves upon people, so the fact that this whole thing has snowballed, has really cemented our identity, meaning if you like these songs, if you like what we’re doing, then we can fucking do this. Like this is what we do.
Coz it’s your job.
Yeah, and it’s only our job coz we’re fucking useless at anything else. So the fact that we get to do this is just great because if you like The City, if you like Sex, if you like Chocolate, great, coz we’ve got loads more of them.
Ross (bassist) was saying that things got a bit emotional when you heard Robbers back for the first time…
That was a big moment. I mean, that’s what we chase, that emotional connection. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but if I don’t dance uncontrollably, or really get choked up, then I feel like we’re not getting there with the song.
It’s either got to make you smile coz it’s so much fun, or it’s got to make you think about something that makes you really emotional, well, for us, or we’re not priding ourselves on our conviction. So yeah, when we did Robbers, because the bare bones of that song goes back to when we were 19, it was an amazing experience to hear it back and we were all in the studio and it felt like it defined us. It felt like everything we’d done as a band had led up to that one moment.
This whole thing, this album, is the most romantic endeavour of our adult lives. It’s so romantic in the way it sounds and the way it’s been produced and the thoughts that had been put into it. Robbers is quite a dramatic song, I mean I didn’t start crying when I heard the new version of Sex, but there’s something about that song as well.
You’ve gone from a thousand-odd fans on Facebook back in January to nearly 50,000 now. Do you pay much attention to that kind of thing?
Not at first, but if I’m honest, that’s borne out of not wanting to be judged. I don’t deal with it very well. I deal with not responding to it quite well, but no-one likes being judged. So I was a bit like, whatever, I don’t give a fuck, at first. There were websites being really nice, and I didn’t really care, and now if they’re being really nice, I’m like, okay, let’s have a little look at that. So yeah, everyone gets pissed and Googles themselves at three o’clock in the morning, right?
Your peers are already releasing their debut albums, but yours isn’t due out til September 9. That’s ages away!
Part of the reason our live set isn’t inspired by the album is because a lot of people’s perceptions of the band stops at Sex and Chocolate, but we’re a totally diffierent band, in my eyes. So we have to be careful with our pacing of things. There’s tracks on the album that if we released it tomorrow, it would be like an explosion because people wouldn’t understand it. There’s a lot of relevance in the chronological order of our material and its something we’ve really thought about, because I can play parts of the album you wouldn’t believe were there until we’ve release the next EP and the imagery that goes with the album, until we release the first song off the album. It all needs to be perfect, you know.
If these other bands are managing to acquire that same wealth of understanding from their audiences and they’re managing to release their album in February when they came out the same time as us, good on them. But we’ve not done that yet. We’re making it perfect.
Is that a control thing? Do they have less control over stuff than you do?
I imagine so if they’re on a major label. The thing with our EPs is that none of the material has been subject to compromise or to committee. There’s that Sir Alec Issigonis quote: “a camel is a horse designed by committee”. A single perception is always going to be more precise than something that’s been diluted by committee. The EPs aren’t just stuff that wasn’t good enough to go on the album, its music that has been written around specific parts of the album that are the lead tracks, the Sexes, the Chocolates. The wealth of the material is what sets us apart. That’s where the best bits of our band are. I almost see these last three EPs as being our first album – it’s 14 tracks in six months that have all been a labour of love.
The band’s styling and imagery – it’s so striking. It sets you apart from a lot of the bands who are around now. Who’s the creative driving force behind that?
When we first released Sex ages ago, the fact that it was so straight up, so blunt, and we knew the video was going to be a performance video, the black and white stemmed from almost wanting to detach it from reality a little. Now our music is laden with such classic pop sensibilities, we try and achieve a life-affirming sound, it’s essential that we juxtapose that with an aesthetic that’s maybe a bit more dour because our songs can be totally misconstrued with the wrong imagery, you know. You could put Chocolate in like a Los Angeles setting, with loads of colours or something like that – it’s just not right.
George takes care of all our Instagram stuff. Its important to us coz we’re lovers of fashion and film, and we wanted it to be an asset of what we were doing because we want to create this little world, you know.
Do you think that style is just as important as the music?
Yeah, it’s like creating a brand, almost. The whole 1975 thing plastered on images and the way we’ve got our Tumblr set up, it’s visually striking and we were aware that we needed to provide a lot of imagery with the name.
You don’t think of a stone when you hear Mick Jagger, you don’t think of the colour pink when you listen to Pink Floyd, but The 1975 – any year – is a familiar sound, so we knew we wanted to provide a lot of imagery so when they hear the band name, they automatically get that Pavlovian reaction, turning everything black and white makes them remember the imagery and everything about the band. We just wanted to do everything right, you know.
So has nothing just fallen into place by chance? Has it all been well-planned?
It’s not a contrived process. It’s the same way as our music. It’s not like we had to discuss our musical influences, we just already knew it coz we’ve all grown up together and it’s not like we searched actively for a visual identity, we just all agreed, simply and quickly what looked good, what looked right. And there’s no conflicting opinions about anything coz we all trust each other’s input. This band was fully formed before anyone else got involved and we’re humbled that people are embracing it. There’s no massive marketing team behind us.
We’ve picked up from first hearing you that you rate John Hughes as a big inspiration. What’s your favourite film of his?
Ah, god, My favourite will be Pretty In Pink. It’s because I was so in love with Molly Ringwald when I was about seven. And I remember there was swearing in that movie and a bit of sex, I think. I just love those movies, man. You know what, actually, no. Weird Science is the one that I watch the most. And Some Kind Of Wonderful. What was the song in that? She Loves Me by Stephen Duffy. That’s my favourite song in a John Hughes movie. And Brilliant Mind by Furniture.
You watch stuff as a child that’s been spilled over from the years, down to TV, so like The Pink Panther, I loved that, but John Hughes movies – Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Some Kind Of Wonderful – they were massive for me. And 16 Candles. Is that with Phoebe Cates? We wrote a song years ago called Phoebe Cates. I love her.
>>THE 1975 are playing at Live At Leeds (Cockpit 7pm) on Saturday. Their new EP, IV, is out on May 20.
JUST ANNOUNCED >> The band have revealed a September tour, which calls in at Leeds University Union’s Stylus on Monday, September 23. Tickets on sale this Friday (May 3). Pre-order the album HERE before 5pm tomorrow (April 30) and get your hands on tickets before general sale.