It’s a few hours before The 1975 are due to perform their 5pm slot on the Sunday of BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Exeter, and I’ve been given five minutes with Matty Healy, the band’s frontman.
This makes me nervous, because A. The 1975 are pretty big, B. Matty Healy seems far too cool for a student publication, and C. I’m admittedly a big The 1975 fan. Along with my friend Tom, I saw the band a few times when they were starting out, around five or six years ago. One of these occasions was when they supported One Night Only at the O2 Academy in Birmingham, when they were called Big Sleep. As we were queuing outside the venue we saw Healy unloading his van and sparked up a conversation, about how we’d seen him before and how we liked his music. We took a picture with him, him in a tye-dye t shirt, sandwiched in between our two sweaty pubescent faces.
It was pretty cool at the time, but fast forward five years, and Matty is sat on a sofa across from me. This time he’s still as cool as ever, swapping the colourful tye-dye t-shirt for black from head to toe. This time around though his band is now undeniably a whole lot bigger – blowing up with their self-titled first album which debuted at number 8 on the UK Albums Chart, and following it up with their sophomore effort I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It, released in February of this year, which went on to secure a number one spot in the UK Albums Chart.
I begin the interview by saying, ‘I wanted to start by showing you this picture from outside the O2 Academy in Birmingham’… ‘OH YEAH’ he replies ‘I remember this tour’ – I’m happy its not a wasted exercise. I continue my explanation, ‘I saw you when you were supporting One Night Only’, he replies ‘that’s right’. I suppose I used the photo as a way of proving to him that I do actually care about The 1975’s music, in turn hoping that his responses to my questions would be more genuine, and he wouldn’t dismiss me as a student journo trying to land a name. I don’t tell him this though, and claim that the point of showing him the picture was to ask the question, ‘you’ve come so far [since then], so how does it feel to be certifiably massive?’
He replies fairly modestly, “Oh well I mean its difficult to be objective about how big you are, because you still do the same thing. It’s still the same four people, its still the same, it’s just on a bus not in a van. [About the photo] I remember that vividly, I remember that t-shirt. I remember that whole time, so I mean, yeah I suppose overwhelming at times but its such small evolutions to where it happens. It’s like if you took me when I was 18 and tried to get me to understand it now, I’d freak out, you know?”
“It’s still the same four people…it’s just on a bus not in a van”
He continues his answer in typical Matty Healy style, articulate, declamatory and naturally lyrical, “It’s like taking someone from the 1800s and putting them in Piccadilly Gardens and saying ‘understand that context’. But I think you slowly get used to it, and I think that I’ve been slowly getting used to it. But I don’t take it for granted, I’m still very proud and amazed that its grown in the way that it has.”
I move onto ask him about the second album, “I feel that you could’ve played it safe, you could’ve sort of cashed in a bit, but I feel like you made something completely different, something that is in a way a lot more introspective than your debut album, so what was that process for you and how conscious was that?”
He responds immediately, addressing his age and his experience, “It wasn’t particularly conscious, I mean, I don’t think I know, or I would’ve known how to make any other kind of record. I think that its different from the first record because I’m so much older than I was, I may have been like twenty three/twenty four when things started to happen. So that [first] album comprised of songs that I wrote when I was 18, and, I don’t know, the introspection and the self awareness I think just comes from experience”
“The conscious effort to subvert any kind of pre conception of what a second album should be didn’t really exist either. We just wanted it to be pure, and to be fun, and do it for the right reasons, and writing songs like that, about the things that they’re about, felt like it was us being truthful.”
I jump in by saying that “I sort of felt that with the EPs released prior to the first album…”
He replies, “Well, yeah I think that even though it may be our most commercial statement thus far, because of how its done, its still I think a lot more akin to our EPs. It has that kind of sonic experimentation that the EPs were founded on.”
I ask if he sees himself doing more than that in the future, and he clarifies my question asking “Do I see the records coming more and more left field as we go on?”, “Yeah experimenting more” I reply.
His first answer is unsure, “Well, yeah, I mean, I really don’t know.” then going on to explain that “I just go where my heart takes me at the time and I try not to think about what kind of record I’m gonna make, or even really try and think about what record I’m making. I just try to think about the song at the time and once its done, its done. So I’m not really sure, but I think that I suppose the bigger we are, the more license we have to be creative. So, I think we’ll just keep going making records like the last one.”
Articulate, Declamatory and naturally lyrical
I reach back to his earlier statement about his writing when young – “you said you’ve written loads of songs since you were 18, and you’ve got a fair amount of unreleased material, I remember a song called Ghosts, which I think you had when you were Big Sleep, do you think we might see things like that in the future?”
Here his response is immediate and sure, “No I don’t think so, probably not. I mean its just about belief for me – like all the songs that I really, really believe in, or songs that I believe myself, we’ve already kind of re-used. Like Ghosts, to be honest with you, was kind of like a product of us being frustrated with wanting to get attention because people weren’t giving us attention, so we wrote this big chorus that didn’t really mean anything. I feel like with Ghosts we were like trying to be Kings of Leon, or trying to be some shit that we weren’t, so it just doesn’t ring true with me, and that why I’ve left it. But the gospel element of that song has been reintroduced massively on this album.”
At this point the publicity manager tries to tell me that time is up and get Matty away for his other press duties, but I ask for one more, to which she says he needs to have pictures done, but he cooly responds ‘One more its fine’, and allows me to ask my final question. I feel like showing the picture has paid off.
“You said that when writing a second album, it sort of helped you a lot with personal stuff, and you put yourself into that album, and then along with the emotional investment from the fanbase, do you now feel confident in your identity as The 1975?”
Again, his response is definite, “Yes, yes I do. I feel I have a lot of conviction because I was really honest with myself, and therefore honest in the music. And that has reciprocated, and yeah the emotional investment that I felt with the first album, has just been cultivated and extended because of this album, so I’m in a very comfortable place creatively.”
I thank him for taking the time on camera, and then again more sincerely after. He says “Cool, nice to meet you. Mate, would you like another picture?” without me asking for one. We then attempt to pose like in the first one, its a shame Tom couldn’t be there to be on the other side, but maybe we’ll meet him outside a place he’s playing again someday.
For more great content on the Big Weekend, check out XTV, Xpression and Pearshaped!