Ahead of the 2020 BRITs nominations on Saturday (January 11), here we revisit our in-depth discussion with The 1975's manager and Dirty Hit label boss Jamie Oborne on the band's winning album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships...
Eclectic, ambitious and bursting with ideas, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships became The 1975’s third consecutive chart-topper. Here, manager and label boss Jamie Oborne tells the story behind the sprawling LP that confirmed Matthew Healy as the voice of a generation – from the band’s terror at self-producing to their experiment in “psychedelic trap”…
A BRIEF INQUIRY INTO ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS
SALES: 95,405 (OCC)
PEAK CHART POSITION: No.1
JAMIE OBORNE (FOUNDER, DIRTY HIT/ALL ON RED MANAGEMENT): “Matthew [Healy] is a force of nature as an artist, and not only is George [Daniel] one of the best drummers in the world, he’s also one of the best producers. When you put them together they become a couple of the best songwriters in the world. It’s a crazy alignment of stars.
They have always had such a laser focus on what they want to do sonically that it was only natural that they ended up producing themselves. They were somewhat terrified of doing it completely alone, to be honest. But I think that’s a healthy fear, it’s a fear that spurs them on artistically.
George is an absolute sonic genius. We’ve worked with some of the greatest mixers in the world on this record, and all of them have been completely floored by his production.
We had our long-term friend and collaborator [engineer] Jonathan Gilmore, who helped us really pull it together on the last furlong when it became very stressful. They felt the weight of I Like It When You Sleep… and they wanted to better it. It was a difficult record to make but every 1975 record has been a difficult record to make.
The mood was up and down – some days great, some days awful, some days average. The record took a year to make. Every Friday I’d be with them in Angelic Studios [in Northamptonshire], and we then went to LA for two months to finish it.
People see it as a document of the times. They relate to Matthew’s struggles and observations about life. I hear a lot of life in that record and it was a beautiful thing to watch a songwriter I adore arriving at a very rich place. It was scary for him, but ultimately he’s producing his best work.
Matthew’s struggles have been well-documented. At his lowest, I was spending a lot of time with him because I was worried about him. I remember one day at his house in East London, I went round there to sit and work just to make sure he stayed out of trouble.
We were in his living room and he was doing his Matthew thing of pacing around like a panther, looking for stimulation. He grabs his acoustic guitar, sits as close as you can be to someone without touching and plays me a new song called I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes). Part of my brain saw the apocalypse, and part of my brain saw this song that is going to connect with millions of people. That was one of those moments where I was just like, ‘Fuck, they’re really going to do something special’.
It’s always a very rich and creatively progressive state when they’re making a record. They never actually stop making records. I Couldn’t Be More In Love was actually a track that came at the end of the I Like It When You Sleep… sessions. Whilst that record was being mastered, Matthew had already written one of the best songs on the most recent album. It’s a good example of how productive their flow is.
I’ve heard Matthew talk about Love It If We Made It a lot in interviews and he always reflects back that media outlets want to censor that song. But all it contains is quotes that said media outlets have emblazoned across the front of their newspapers or stuck on TV broadcasts. He’s not actually expressing an opinion, he’s just reflecting the world and that’s what the power is in that song. We have a British band who have written this generation’s Sign O’ The Times.
Matthew’s like a musical encyclopedia. I wouldn’t know where to start with references, there’s UK garage, American R&B and everything in between. There’s a psychedelic trap song on the album, I Like America And America Likes Me, and it sounds more relevant than some of the revered [current] hip-hop artists. We’ve got four white kids from Manchester dropping a track that sounds more relevant than most of the [artists] in that genre.
Of course they should win best album – how could they not? All we care about is albums. Matthew and I, George, the rest of the boys, the artists on Dirty Hit, my staff, we are all the same, we want to make great albums. We’re in the digital landscape, things are still shaking out, but cool people are still going to consume albums – it’s about connecting to human expression.”