Matthew Healy is back in Music Week and in our October cover story, he has spoken about the press, the music business, new music and the magic of being part of the band.
He spoke of a sense of calm that descended on the group - completed by guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald and drummer and producer George Daniel - when the Covid pandemic forced them to pause just before the release of Notes On A Conditional Form in May 2020.
Of course, that was the second part of a two-album campaign that began with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, the record that made a case for The 1975 as the biggest band of a generation. All four of their previous albums have hit No.1 in the UK and their fifth, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, is only weeks away.
In our interview, in which he was joined by Dirty Hit boss and manager Jamie Oborne and agent Matt Bates, Healy talked about the toll making two albums and touring non-stop took on the band, before the conversation stretched in all manner of directions as usual.
Healy spoke at length about the new record, which was recorded live and features production from Jack Antonoff (marking the first time Healy and Daniel have drafted in another producer since their second record). It also counts Ilsey Juber and Jimmy Hogarth among a list of co-writers that’s longer than for any 1975 album yet, Healy painting a picture of friends dropping by the studio and getting involved organically.
After the genre-straddling, throw-everything-at-the-wall nature of the sprawling Notes…, Healy was careful to point out that stripping things back for Being Funny… is anything but a transparent bid for authenticity.
“Cliché is only ever trumped by quality,” he said. “We’re so post-everything I don’t think cliché is anything we need to worry about.”
Instead, they focused on their bond as band, or as Healy put it, “four individuals that create something bigger than themselves that becomes impenetrable”.
“You can have Logic [software], but you can’t just be in a band for 20 years,” Healy told us. “So we said, ‘Let’s just play.’”
As ever with Healy, that was far from the end of the conversation. Here, we present a selection of quotes from our interview. Read the full piece in the new issue of Music Week, out now.
On Being Funny In A Foreign Language…
“There were lots of ideas and I didn’t know where else to go, because I’d kind of been everywhere. I was trying to think of something new and then I just thought, ‘Well, what is a 1975 record?’ Take the frills away, what is the thing that connects? And it’s good lyrics and good songs, which are normally quite catchy. It was asking, ‘What are the benchmarks that make our identity?’ And then saying, ‘Let’s rip ’em off better than everyone else does.’”
On deciding to work with Jack Antonoff…
“It was like, ‘Well, what are we worried about?’” That people think we might be trying to be bigger? It’s like, ‘Listen to the album’. We’re not trying to do anything. I wanted to make something really live, catchy and now, and Jack does that in his fucking sleep. We were talking all the time anyway, so it just made sense.”
On having a hit single…
“If I started caring about that now it would fucking stink. I said this ages ago, everyone wants us to become a huge rock band and we want to become a small emo band. If we become Burial, I’m way happier with that than fucking Foo Fighters, do you know what I mean? I love the Foo Fighters, but I couldn’t do that. It’s funny, there’s something about me that is very poppy and the stuff that comes out is poppy, but the references never are.”
On the impact of success…
“If I won a fucking BRIT now I’d be like, ‘Oi, oi!! You fucking [what]!’ But I was this fever dreamy, suspicious… I couldn’t really grasp it. We became this new thing and people started using crazy words like ‘Radiohead’ and that’s where Notes… came from. I was like, ‘Fuuuck this, I don’t know how to react, I don’t know what to do.’”
On his relationship with Jamie Oborne…
“Jamie’s essentially always been a bit like my dad, or my older brother that I listen to. But like my relationship with everybody in my life, there’s been a tinge of woe about my drug addiction. I was a very difficult person to manage, not just from a creative perspective. People aren’t worried about me that much anymore and when you take that out of the equation, it’s meant that me and Jamie have been able to come onto more of a similar level. I’m just a bit more professional now, and that makes our relationship easier and better.”
On selling out…
“I’ve been offered all the wrong things for the right money. I’ve never taken [those offers], and it’s not that I’m proud of myself, but that part of me has been tested. I’m not particularly concerned about growing old as a band and continuing to put out records, because we’re not remotely commercially minded. Which inherently keeps us, I don’t want to say credible… We’re just four nerds who are obsessed with alternative music and pop culture, it’s no deeper than that. I’m not worried about us being like, ‘Oh shit, we need do a fucking remix with Marshmello.’”
On The 1975’s place in the industry…
“I don’t think about setting precedents, but we’ve never really been in anyone’s lane. I’m not saying we’re the fucking Premier League and everyone’s below us, but we’ve never been in anyone’s way and no one’s ever been in ours. The big, credible, new modern band is a very, very tiny genre. I mean traditional, big bands that are still exciting that aren’t legacy acts… Yeah, I can’t name many of them.”
On the untapped potential of catalogue…
“Say you make an album and you make four music videos, because they’re the singles. Then the album comes out and there’s a fan favourite, because there always is, that isn’t any of the singles. That song doesn’t have a video, so why can’t you make one? Not to be commercially minded, to be in service of fandom. Not to look at it as a way to exploit and get more views, but if everyone’s favourite song is [2013 1975 track] Fallingforyou, why isn’t there a video for it? We’ve bent time so much, it doesn’t matter.”
On being woke…
“Don’t mistake my progressivism for being totally woke all the time, because it is a bit self-serving, I’m an artist and I’m interested in art. Of course I want equality of opportunity and all of those things, I’m an old school progressive. But the thing I’m a bit annoyed about is, I don’t want to have to fucking say that. It’s implied, I’m bored of commenting on the morally obvious. Yeah, I’m anti-racist, yes I’m anti-fascist, yes I’m pro-women… Of course I am.”
PHOTO: Samuel Bradley
STUDIO PHOTO: Jordan Curtis Hughes