[Interview] Matt Healy of The 1975 talks influences, origins and headlining Glastonbury
The 1975 started out in a very mysterious way. Music appeared online last year but we didn't really knew much about them and who they were. It's safe to say that's changed now and the Manchester band are making ever growing waves now. Their recent single "Chocolate" can be heard on the radio on a daily basis and good on them. Producing their own music in a bedroom, they've gained a loyal following in a remarkably short time. They've just wrapped up their second headline tour, and are set to play SXSW later this month. Ahead of their headline show at Manchester's Deaf Institute, I caught up with Matt Healy of the band. As I arrived I walk into the back and find him and his girlfriend enjoying a cigarette and a drink on a sofa. He seemed relaxed and calm about the night that lay ahead. I sit down, light a cig, take a sip of my drink and if you make the jump, you can enjoy the chat that took place.
SKOAShey: So, let's start simple, what made you guys want to start out as a band, you all started recording together quite young didn't you?
Matt Healy: Yeah, well me personally, my Dad's friends were in quite big bands, my Dad used to knock about with Dire Straights and things like that in the 80's. So I knew a lot of that crowd when I was a kid, so I suppose that was the first thing that I wanted to do, we just started playing in punk bands when we were 13/14.
MH: Yeah man, like pop-punk, kind of like Lagwagon kind of stuff, and we just started doing that. We always knew that that was what we wanted to do, but we also knew that we'd want to be the best of what we could of envisioned.
SKOA: Didn't you all actually learn to play instruments together too?
MH: One thing led to another, yeah, and the line-up was just kind of an organic evolution as oppose to a contrived arrangement. We met at high school and it went from there.
SKOA: So with your Dad being so into music, what influences do you have from him and as a band as a whole?
MH: Well, I think one of the main reasons our band is so groove orientated is because our influences are from R and B and Soul. My Mum was big into Motown like Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Kim Weston and stuff like that while my Dad was massively into the Stones, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, so that all played a part.
SKOA: I heard a pretty cool story about how the band name came about actually, would you like to go into that a bit more?
MH: That's right, yeah, I met an artist on Holiday. It sounds a bit more bohemian, idealistic than maybe it was but I met him and ended up leaving with a book that must of been treated almost like a diary by a previous owner, so when I read it there was all these mad scribblings and notes, and the person had dated it "the 1st of June The 1975". Then when it came to naming the band it just seemed like quite an appropriate title, you know.
SKOA: So you said the band was an organic evolution, but is it similar when you're writing music? What comes first the riffs, the lyrics?
MH: It's very different, there's a perpetual motion of writing with us because of our origins and the way we learned music together. We've got this sort of unspoken musical vocabulary you know, that we all really understand, so, it's quite easy now as it's the only thing we really know how to do. It's what we do for fun. It's not taxing at all, it's something people have started embracing that we were already doing.
SKOA: How do you find the time though, as you guys seemed to have toured non-stop the past 6 months, when and where do you go about writing new music as you've released a fair bit haven't you. On the road?
MH: Yeah, yeah, all those EP's were recorded on a laptop in my bedroom.
SKOA: That seems to be a growing thing with people just locking themselves away in a bedroom and recording their own stuff…
MH: Yeah, well if you can do it, and you can produce your own records then there's none better to do it, cause you've lived it and you understand it.
SKOA: Talking about producing your own records, how was it working on the latest stuff with Mike Crossey?
MH: Yeah, well it was amazing, I mean initially, Mike was really kind of tentative in his approach and he really understood how, kind of, unsettling it can be when you depart from a certain way of thinking or in this instance, a certain way of producing records, so, he made sure he wasn't steamrolling over anything we did.
SKOA: So he didn't just take the reins and direct it at all?
MH: No, not at all. He approached us and said he wanted to go on a co-production level, erm, and that's what we did, and I think his technical understanding really kind of vitalised the creative process. We then came straight out of the studio and recorded Music For Cars back at home.
SKOA: Yeah, I heard you've already got stuff in the pipeline for a second album too?!
MH: Yeah, we're always creating. The first album was written before those EP's. So everything that we've written since August has, I suppose, been geared towards a second album.
SKOA: What can we actually expect from the full-length release then?
MH: (laughs) Fuck Knows?! Fuck knows man. I don't know man,
SKOA: I've heard Music For Cars and that's great, is it a mix of the EP's or a different sound all together?
MH: Thanks man. But yeah, the album, it's sort of like a soundtrack to a John Hughes movie, that kind of the vibe of what we've gone for. I wouldn't wanna say that it's 80's influenced, but it is in the way that we want to have parallel with artists that were peaking at that time, like Michael Jackson, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel.
SKOA: I read actually that if you could go back to any decade you'd personally want to go to the 80's?
MH: Very much so, yeah. I think some of the best records were made then. Bad by Michael Jackson, So by Peter Gabriel. Yeah, massively, but I can't tell you what to expect from the record, cause I don't even really know what it is yet.
SKOA: So you've finished recording it? Just got to mix and clean it up?
MH: Pretty much man, just little bits to finish off and add.
SKOA: Ok, so obviously the past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for you, Radio One and numerous others picking you guys up and playing your tracks, have you found it weird at all hearing yourselves not he radio?
MH: Yeah, a little bit. No, actually, yeah, definitely. It's a very humbling experience you know, like, that people are embracing what we do. We didn't have any aspirations for it being accepted by the mainstream media in the way that it has been. So, I think it's kind of been like a catalyst in the progression of the understanding of ourselves really and the understanding of the band cause we've never had an emotional response. We've never really gone through any sort of process of qualification or validation as a band. It's been, yeah, it's been quite interesting.
SKOA: Any weird instances of getting star-struck over the recent months meeting anyone? I saw you were pretty hyped to meet A$AP?
(laughs) Yeah, I was. I was with her (points to his girlfriend Gemma sat next to him on the sofa quietly smoking a cigarette) and we were at a hotel in London. And he was staying at our hotel, and erm, yeah, we got to meet him and he was amazing.
Gemma: I didn't know who he was!
MH: Yeah, yeah, (laughing) she didn't know who he was. He was really chilled out, he was really nice. Very attentive, wasn't he? (looking at Gemma) He recognised me from the Futures Festival so that as quite a big deal. Yeah man, but when you meet people that you really idolise or look up to. It's great when you can feel a certain level of mutual respect.
SKOA: I thought they always said don't meet your heroes?
MH: No, no, DO meet your heroes, if you can! People just say that cause most people can't do it!
SKOA: So you exchanged emails with A$AP, any plans to reach out for a collaboration?
MH: He's got mine. I've got his, I might send him an email, I dunno man. A lot of my mates have done remixes of his tracks. Like Bear//Face and stuff like that.
SKOA: Well speaking of collaborations, if you could work with anyone in the world who would it be?
MH: Erm, Mike Skinner, or Michael Jackson if he was still here. Erm, loads of people. You know what, I'd like to see who wants to collaborate with me?! That'd be a more interesting to find out wouldn't it.
SKOA: I'm sure there are plenty of people wanting that now…
SKOA: What's it been like on the road doing you headline shows?
Remarkable really. It's only the second time we've gone out and done a headline tour so it's pretty crazy.
SKOA: I saw you play Soundcontrol was it late last year, which was a mad show!
Yeah man that was, there was people hanging off the speakers, and banisters. It was great. It's been amazing man. You like, if you throw a party when your'e 14 years old and 50 people come, that's an amazing feeling, but if you're doing that every night around the country it's a mad feeling.
SKOA: Favourite City to play?
Nah, I wouldn't wanna ostracise anybody, it's quite difficult. (laughs) I don't know. I really enjoyed Brighton, I love Brighton. Love playing Manchester obviously, cause it's Manchester. Aldershot was the favourite of the tour actually, funnily enough, just for loads of reasons, but yeah. It's been a really, I keep saying this, but it is a really humbling experience. We've never had a direct emotional response from out fans.
SKOA: You excited to head out to SXSW? DO you have a lot of showcases lined up?
Yeah man. We've got Huw Stephens, Fader Fort. We've got like 2 shows a day for a week. One day we have 4 I think and then we go on another tour. We're also going on tour with Two Door Cinema Club next week in Europe.
SKOA: So any more plans for festivals this Summer?
Yeah, we're doing all of the festivals (I look at him with a kind of "really?!" face) (Matt nods) Yeah. I really wanna do a show at my School actually.
SKOA: Where'd you go to School actually?
I went to school in Wilmslow. Yeah, well I went to a private school originally but then I got kicked out.
SKOA: What did you do?!
I threw a protractor at somebody, and it got them between the eyes. It wasn't really as violent as it sounds.
SKOA: Could of been a lot worse!
MH: Yeah, but I also kind of really resented the whole thing because it was so silly. I thought the whole thing was a farce. Not school. But the school I was at. (raises voice) King's School in Macclesfield, there you go. I hate it.
SKOA: You're all from different places as a band though are you not?
MH: Yeah, well Ross is from Macclesfield, that's where I originally went to school. [Adam] Hann lives in Handforth near Cheadle, George lives in Wilmslow, and I've just kind of floated about. My parents moved to like, a small village outside elf Macclesfield and we just used to live 5 miles away from each other so we could just hook up and mess around.
SKOA: Back to SXSW, is there anyone you're particularly excited to check out while your'e over there?
MH: I don't know who's playing at SXSW actually. (then a conversation ensued that I can't divulge the information for as it's not announced yet!)
SKOA: There's some great UK bands breaking through at the moment, if you could name one as your favourite who'd it be?
MH: My band, by a million miles!
SKOA: Other than your band?!
MH: Before these records came out, and I think it's a testament to the way they were produced, our heads were so buried in house music, and dance music, and R and B. I mean, I like a lot of the usual suspects that are around that are there with us at the moment. Like PEACE, Palma Violets and stuff. I just think that the whole psychedelic, white boy grunge thing is really cool. It's not really where my heart is at though, you know? I think they're cool. A guy I'm really liking at the moment is this amazing DJ called Tourist who we've just got to do loads of remixes on our stuff. Bear//Face. There's loads of cool stuff coming out of the UK but I'm the worst person to tell you about it, because my head is so buried in The 1975.
SKOA: Someone on Twitter was wondering how you know Little Comets, I assume it's being label mates and stuff on Dirty Hit?
MH: Yeah, we know Little Comets really well. Very good friends of ours. They took us out on the road when we were in our very embryonic stages of our old band and just let us open up for them and we started getting sort of fans off the back of that. It was all a bit weird. Then they helped us produce "Sex" the song, and "You".
SKOA: Speaking of "You", I really like "Me" from the new EP, I read you said it's kind of a response to "You"?
MH: Thanks man. It kind of is. I think that's my favourite actually. (Matt looks to Gemma and says "Do you like that one?")
Gemma: I've not been heard it yet, you keep forgetting to send it to me!
SKOA: Finally then, where do you see yourselves in a few years time?
MH: Oh, fucking hell man! Erm, dead?
SKOA: Other than dead, cause we don't' want that just yet hey!?
MH: Headlining Glastonbury?! Now we've started, you might as well reach for the sky and the mountain tops innit. I don't know, man. I just want people to feel about our records the same way records made me feel you know. I want our record to be, you know like, antiquated soundtrack to someone's memories. Something that makes someone feel like genuinely emotional, the same way I feel when I hear "Only You" by Yazoo. Like it actually can make me feel physically sick. If we're in a position as a band that we can connect with people at that level then that's all we care about. And that I can buy fags and a sandwich.
SKOA: Tin of beans?
MH: That too, yeah.
SKOA: Cool man well thanks a lot and good luck tonight and with the coming months, seems like it's going to be a crazy busy year!
MH: Cool man, pleasure to meet you. Thanks a lot. It should be good.
The show that I witnessed afterwards was top notch. Playing a lot of material from the new EPalongwith all their previous fan favourites the room was bouncing from start to finish. Little did I know that two days later I'd be meeting up with Matt again when I took a trip down to London to do the Radio One review show. We got to talk a bit more about their album and from what I heard, it's going to launch them even further up the music rankings and radio playlists.
Their new EP, Music For Carswas released yesterday, and you can stream it in full below. Not only that, the band have just announced two HUGE shows for later this year. They'll play Manchester's The Ritz on September the 21st following a night at London's Shepherds Bush Empire on the 20th. Huge news for the band! Tickets are available over here.
Photo courtesy of Richard Manning Photography.