Matt Healy, frontman with the Best Album winners, on the joy of long LP titles.
The year that The 1975 had a Number 1 LP on both sides of the Atlantic with the most unlikely title and now, perhaps best of all, they’ve won Q’s Best Album Award.
Operator? Yes, please put The 1975’ s Matt Healy through. He wants to tell us all about his extraordinary year…
Releasing Love Me, the first single off the new lp
“That was a big moment for us, because it was a nervy time. We’d locked ourselves away to do our second album [ I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It]. There wasn’t even a doorbell on the studio where we made the record! So the reaction of people on hearing our new stuff for the first time, seeing that we were a real band to be reckoned with, was quite exciting. We’d only just finished making the album when we released Love Me at the end of last year. We were tweaking the mix on the plane on our laptops when we flew to London for its premiere. We went from a very secluded, insular existence to us exposing ourselves to the world – it was very dramatic. I remember the first play on Radio 1: people were going, ‘What the fuck is this?’ I was in the studio when they played it and while there was a sense of excitement from Radio 1 staff, there was also relief too, because they’d really supported us. A lot of guitar bands have come out with cool first albums but they didn’t deliver on the second album, whereas our second album is way better than our first. So we were excited to ruffle feathers because we’d spent a year acquiring a different identity in private. It was important to get it out there. “What was difficult about putting Love Me out was that we’d made an album that’s defined by how different it is from song to song. With Love Me everyone said, ‘They’re a glam band now!’, so it was interesting to see what assumptions people were making without hearing the song in context. People thought we were going to be some sort of ’ 80s revival band, which I thought was funny because it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Playing with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
“Playing with the BBC Philharmonic [ for a special Radio 1 Live Lounge concert in Blackpool] in September was the live highlight. It was obviously a spectacle but it was so musically indulgent. I love what I do but singing and stuff isn’t my favourite thing – I’m much more comfortable writing the music. I’ve learned how to be a performer, how to be in The 1975, but writing is what I really like to do, so working with the classical arranger on my own music was special. I’d always wanted to write in that world, but when we got in the room to rehearse we were hit with the reality: 80 musicians playing stuff I’d written. It was almost like hearing someone doing a really good impression of you – your identity is in the music, yet it’s different. I really loved the harp part in Somebody Else and the strings in A Change Of Heart. The arranger, Sam Swallow, and I wanted to keep it true to the original but with little moments of embellishment. I would have freaked out if it was just loads of people jizzing all over the songs, but it was done so tastefully. “There’s quite an academic element to The 1975. Most bands come from the cultural side, as opposed to musical – they end up being a band first and become musical second – but we’re the other way around. Music was our obsession when we were younger. All the cultural importance of the band and being cool or whatever came later. So doing this show was like going back to the purity of just making music because
“a lot of bands have come out with cool first albums but they didn’t deliver on their second album, whereas our second album is way better than our first.”
when you’re writing classical music you’re not thinking about being cool. “When we got to the show, we were so nervous about it that it was over in a flash. We didn’t really have time to think about it and it’s very seldom that happens. It was awesome and it was so inspiring. There are some classical elements on the album and it’s something we want to move further into, so meeting people and working with the Philharmonic was a good way of looking at how we’ll immerse ourselves in that world.”
Getting to the top of the US album charts
“I thought getting a Number 1 album in America was an unrealistic ambition, but as it started getting closer it became the thing we wanted to achieve. It was a bit of shock when it happened, especially as it was Adele we knocked off the top – only for a week, but… And getting the record for the longest title, with I Like It When You Sleep…, to top the US charts was a nice bonus. If we were going to call it something like that we might as well get some kind of award for its stupidity. “There’s still a lot of work to do, but the Number 1 speaks of having a hardcore fanbase in America. It feels like we’ve embedded ourselves in the public consciousness there. I’ve heard that loads of famous people have been coming to our gigs in the US – I’m such a recluse now that I very rarely leave the tourbus – so I didn’t see any of it but apparently there was a Kardashian at our LA gig, and [ teen actor] Jaden Smith or someone like that, which is all quite good fun. I did go to Diplo’s house the other day – he wanted to meet me and George [ Daniel, drums] because he’s a fan of the album. It was fun to hang out and talk about music. “So, people have been reaching out to us but it’s not like Kanye is knocking on the door wanting to make a record. Plus, I don’t want to do anything predictable. I don’t want to get a bit famous, then put Rihanna on a track, but let’s see, if she wants to be on a track we’ll talk. It hasn’t gone to our heads, but it’s a nice validation.”
Discovering what The 1975 means
“Realising retrospectively what it takes to make an album like ours was great. We went through the mill to make that record. We thought it was fucking awful for 60 per cent of the time. We didn’t think we had any singles, so it really, really taught us what it takes to make a proper record, how much you need to put into it. We learnt who we were as a band making this album and what it is we want to achieve. It’s inspired us to start writing what will eventually be the third album straightaway, because I know you’re only as good as your last work. “All I want to do is keep cultivating the world of The 1975 to become a massive cultural movement – not only a band, because for our hardcore fans this is a culture. For one band to be the ambassadors for this new world of creating and consuming more than one type of music is really important to me. But it’s not a personal responsibility, it’s an artistic one. It’s difficult being a normal guy from the North of England, yet having to accept that what you do is really important to
people – almost as important as it is to me. There are kids who have been to 150 shows! I’d never go to anything like that, not even for my band. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking: ‘What am I doing? Am I being selfish doing this as there’s a lot of shit going on in the world?’ And I’ve realised I’m not. I’m providing a release for all these kids; this world of The 1975 is one they can see themselves in, feel connected to. It gives them a release from all the bullshit. Art, sex and religion are all just ways of losing yourself and what I’ve realised is that it’s partly my job to do that for all those people who love The 1975.”
Playing our first arena in America
“I’ve never tried to do anything apart from write songs about my middle-class emo life and it’s so funny how so many people have connected with it that we can fill up an arena in New York City. I never thought I’d be that cool or that relatable. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider. We’ve gone from being a band who played our songs Chocolate, Robbers and Sex to a label 10 years ago and them saying, ‘Nah’, to playing those same songs to 13,000 people in New York! It was very much a ‘I knew I was right!’ moment. To be fair, if I’d met me when I was 17, with a beard, talking the way that I do, I would be dubious about signing me too. Back then I was quite a weird, intense character who knew exactly what was going to happen over the next 10 years. It turns out I was right, but if I was running a business I don’t know how much money I would have invested in a 17- year-old Matt Healy, to be honest with you. “What’s next? I want to headline Glastonbury! Not next year, but soon. Straight up, and I’m going to do it as well. I never used to say stuff like this – I’m not a mental, insane narcissist – but there’s so much faux modesty in music now. It’s transpired that we get to play arenas all over the world, so why now would I not want to headline Glastonbury? Of all the young bands on their second albums at the moment, which one do you reckon is going to headline Glastonbury? I’m not being a dickhead, but who is it going to be? If you want a young guitar band to headline Glastonbury in the next few years, The 1975 are the only real option. There are loads of the bands I love around but Glastonbury always has the desire for guitar music and it always has a desire for young British bands. If Arctic Monkeys can do it on their second album, I can fucking do it, no problem. So let’s do this interview again in a couple of years… and your first question will be: ‘How did you feel about your second- fromtop slot at Glastonbury this year?’” laughs]
“of all the young bands at the moment, which one do you reckon will headline glastonbury? I’m not being a dickhead but The 1975 are the only option.”
Earning his stripes: The 1975’s Matt Healy. “Oh dear, I think my hair’s caught up in yours!”: (above) Matt Healy joined Radio 1’s Annie Mac for the debut of single Love Me (pictured inset).
The year of living famously: The 1975, Brixton Academy, London, March, 2016.
“Love us!”: with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, New York, February, 2016. Things are looking up: the band at the US album launch for I Like It When You Sleep…, New York, 2016.