The 1975

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story / Matthew Stolarz

photos /Joshua Shultz

Grooming Tiffany Cole

Location Sunset Marquis Hotel

The 1975 are quite enough brooding sexuality and honest introspection to serve as an endless soundtrack to adolescent lives, including the recurring one that resurfaces throughout adulthood. Essentially an alt-rock band but chock full of all kinds of shoegaze-meets-R&B, the boys hit you deep and open up your broken heart. You may never feel the resolve, but you’ll revisit the pain, the bliss, and experience forever in a moment. Quite fitting that vocalist Matty Healy cites the John Hughes aesthetic as the band’s greatest influence. Despite having played together for nearly 10 years under a variety of names, their current moniker became cemented with their signing to independent label Dirty Hit, who released a string of EPs set to culminate in a full-length due out in September.

Despite the awkward angst present in much of the catalog, Healy assures me that he is not at all a somber person. “I’m not at all a macabre person to be around. I probably sound quite the opposite, but maybe that is bred from a certain amount of neurosis or insecurity, or who knows. When we started writing music it’s always been my only form of expression, so I suppose I get everything out in our music and I suppose a lot of it is me trying to figure myself out. So I suppose there is quite a serious element to a lot of the narrative of what we’re talking about [but] I’d hate people to think that I’m some kind of goth kid.”

And yet the lyrics speak volumes, with tales of abandonment, sexual frustration, mischief and longing, which clearly have to come from somewhere. It makes you wonder if a guy like Healy is just picking the wrong girls or if there’s a deeper issue. With all that isn’t right, does he have an ideal for what a relationship should be? “I suppose everybody does, right? And I think the realization that it’s a naïve thing to have is probably what a lot of the music’s about. I don’t really know man, relationships with me… I have a problem with needing to be constantly stimulated. I think that’s why I chose to be an artist, there’s nothing else I would ever be able to be. I’m all about pleasing myself I suppose. The main problem that I’ve had with relationships is that, because I’m so over aware of myself and I think when you’re a person like me, a lyricist or a songwriter, you have not a confidence but a certain amount of security in your own identity. And when you have a girlfriend or a partner that becomes an extension of your personality. And I’ve never been very good at that because I’m so controlling in regards the way people perceive me, both in the way that I do my band and the way that I am socially. I kind of emotionally manipulate people in order to make them like me to a certain extent. So, I don’t know, I think the idea of a relationship, whether it be platonic or sexual is something that I’ve always been obsessed with. Love, fear, sex, drugs… they’re all kind of derivatives of being in a relationship and I suppose all the songs are about being intoxicated by all four of those things.”

 

Beyond the music itself is a simple aesthetic choice, with nearly all album art, photos and videos being black and white, not unlike recent tour mates The Neighbourhood as well as a handful of other artists. Rather than limit the creativity of expression it seems to focus the attention on the points that really matter. This all seems to be part of that of the controlled environment of the band, and of Healy himself. “Well it’s all very new to me with regards to projecting a self image in the media, do you know what I mean? That’s never been something that I’ve been really used to or aware of needing to do. I grew up surrounded by the media as my parents are actors. I grew up living in a house with three walls, where there’s a certain amount of privacy but there’s also a limited amount of privacy, and I think that I just… especially with my band I mean, look at the aesthetic and the music and the fact that everything is done by us. I think there’s quite a lot of ambiguity to our band and our presence. Look at the way that everything’s in black and white. That’s partially a stylistic choice because [we] wanted it to be kind of almost noir, but I think that it’s also that we find a lot of solace in that. Because nobody likes being judged, no human beings like being fully exposed. I think we’re so exposed lyrically, and we’re so exposed musically and stylistically that when it comes to the way we put ourselves out there I think we find a lot of solace in everything being slightly detached from reality, do you know what I mean? If everything’s in black and white then you kind of get away with not being as exposed.”

Healy admits to never having desperation about getting famous and yet the last year has been all about radio hits, sold out shows and endless touring. The 1975 may have a clear vision of what they’re doing, but success often leads to more hands in the mix. As major labels and such get involved, how is a band supposed to keep their heads on straight and maintain authority over their domain? “By the time a major label got involved with us we were in an amazing situation because we’d already been turned down by like every major label in the world a year and a half ago. At that time we said ‘we just need time’ but no one wanted to invest. So after we took time and wrote all these songs, “Chocolate” went top 20 in the UK and everyone was like “Oh yeah, you’re awesome.” We went with Interscope and Polydor in the end, even though everything we do still goes through our label Dirty Hit, our best friend and manager’s label, so that’s like the nucleus of everything. And when it comes to Interscope and Polydor, we just said that we’d love to partner up with [them] and help take the 1975 as far as we can take it. But if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. We haven’t got like an A&R deal with any label, we’ve got a marketing deal and that means that everything that we do is controlled by us. The reason that people like our band is because everything is controlled by us. It’s that quote, you know? ‘A camel is a horse designed by committee.’ If you had the image of a horse in your head and you tried to explain it to eleven people they’re gonna give you a camel back. That’s not something that I’m interested in. I think one person’s vision, an individual’s vision is always going to be more concise and palatable and consumable and understandable than something that’s been compromised through committee and it’s just gone wishy washy.”

Undoubtedly the 1975 are doing things right, and it’s working for them. 10 years is a long time to be playing with your mates, but the amount of camaraderie and cohesion of their intentions cannot be over appreciated. Undoubtedly there have been some low points, as every band must suffer their broken vans, band fights and crap shows. But on a wave of such excitement and buzz, people are probably more curious about those activities that were worthwhile in bringing things to this point. “I think we’re quite lucky to be from families that didn’t kick us out when we were twenty. We were bumming around working and making music. I think it’s just through a lack of caring and through a lack of wanting to be validated on the internet. All teenagers care about now is validation of strangers. It’s so peculiar, the idea of follows and likes, etc. That human validation and the whole… accessibility is paramount nowadays. We’ve never really been interested in that so we just put up a black and white video of a song that we thought was a great song, and an email address of our manager and that was it. And it started catching up online and I think it’s because we juxtaposed the internet a little bit. I think it was at that moment where we thought ‘No, you can’t be a big band if everybody knows all about you.’ You can’t portray individualism in a band that’s supposed to be a unit, because it just gets shit. You know what I mean? I’m not even old school, I’m at 24 years old, but I fell in love with bands through buying CDs and then found out about other bands through t-shirts people were wearing. Not because I sat on Facebook all day or whatever. But I know the world’s different know and we do embrace that. I think everything that you embrace you have to counteract it a little bit. It’s refreshing to have nothing on the internet. When was the last time you looked up about something that you knew existed but there was nothing about it on the internet? It practically doesn’t happen, so when stuff like that happens it’s exciting to people, you know?”

It is true that nothing stays unknown for long though, particularly something this engaging. The single “Chocolate” with it’s cheeky sweetness and punchy, almost unintelligible delivery rose quickly up the UK charts, enticing a vast audience and fanning the flames of fame. But people are often quick to pile the expectations on any band, particularly in a country with such a notoriously dominant music press. So how does this weigh on The 1975, who may now be expected to carry the mantle of “the next big thing?” Healy has a rather sensible view of the matter, paired with an equal share of confident self awareness. “Everyone’s expressed about us being from Manchester. We couldn’t give less of a fuck about being from Manchester. We do not care at all. That is such a tribalist attitude towards music in Manchester and the music press, this kind of stoic adherence to Smiths and Oasis and Joy Division. And they’re all great, they’re all amazing bands, but other bands shouldn’t be [burdened] by that. We have quite a modernist outlook and we don’t like the idea of anybody being judged on where they’re from, for the positive or the negative. Our geographical location has never been a very inspiring thing for us whatsoever. I think that’s partially where the whole ‘creating our own little world’ thing comes from. Yeah, we are kind of from Manchester, but we’re more just from the UK. We’re more the reputation of what everybody’s like of our generation, the generation that creates in the same way that they consume, born of the idea that you can mix and match things a bit more.”

“I think that [for] certain bands’ identity, being where you’re from is very important. If you look at like Oasis and Stone Roses it was important that they were from Manchester because they were at the forefront of kind of a cultural revolution. We’re not in the position to judge whether we’re at the forefront of a cultural revolution, so the only bands that don’t get bagged in with a scene are the ones that start something. Now if we start something, that’s great. But I think that we’re very lucky because we’re not at risk of being lumped in with anybody else because you put the next song on and there’s such a stylistic and musical polarity in what we do. You could say we sounded like a million things but you couldn’t say we sounded like one thing.” And this diversity may be the key to longevity for The 1975, though it would be silly to even speculate on the specifics of what the distant future will hold, seeing as we have yet to hear the band’s debut. And what should we expect from this album? The band can write a hit single, catchy as all get out, but their facility in exploring atmosphere and mood is just as pronounced as any hook-making that takes place. So the album will likely have great singles, but it will be the deep cuts that pull it all together. Healy and the boys have a good system in place, a tried-and-true model that can deliver the goods. “I’ve been quoted as saying before ‘timeless music is created by people who are not thinking about time.’ That’s the truth of it really.”

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