Living In The Seventies
Manchester quartet The 1975 will headline a Splendour In The Grass sideshow at Capitol on Thursday, July 24. BOB GORDON checks in with vocalist/guitarist, Matthew Healy.
It’s all going on for The 1975, but rest assured they aren’t partying like it’s 1999.
There simply isn’t the time. As vocalist/guitarist, Matthew Healy, picks up the phone in Atlanta, Georgia, in the middle of the band’s US tour, he’s pondering the fact that the following day they’re flying to Glasgow for 24 hours, then returning Stateside to resume their tour.
“It is unusual,” he says, “but we’re kind of used to it now because we’re so busy. And the reason that we’re busy is obviously testament to the relationships we’ve had with certain people and how popular we’ve become, which is mainly with our fans.
“The show in Glasgow we’re going back for is a Radio 1 show (Big Weekend), anybody from the UK knows that Radio 1 is such a massive institution. The country’s so small that Radio 1 is it. If you’re championed by Radio 1, that’s kind of the way it goes. For example, with this festival you can see how much people are willing to honour their relationships with Radio 1 because this festival is the most insane line-up I’ve ever heard. All of the acts are pretty much on tour at the moment – there’s us; One Direction are opening the stage on Saturday; Kings Of Leon are opening our stage on Sunday; then there’s Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry… it’s a fucking huge show. It’s testament that in the UK the BBC is a massive deal, and we respect and care about it.
“We have done that before, flown home to do a show. But it’s only a flight, you know what I mean? I’ve only got to go and play the guitar. It’s not like I’ve got to go and sit and do some hard work or something.”
Indeed. However it’s indicative of how, since The 1975 issued their self-titled debut late last year following four EP releases, how the cards are falling their way. Still, there’s challenges along the way, and the iconic Coachella festival was one of them.
“Coachella was alright, to be honest, we were pretty shit,” Healy says openly. “We weren’t very good, and it was hard work. It was so hot, I mean you’re from Australia, so you’re only going to sympathise to a certain extent (laughs), but it’s desert heat. I think it was just loads of other things, we’d just played the Royal Albert Hall, which was poetic with what it stood for and was beautiful and was just the best show ever. We had our huge production. We’re very much fans of our black and white aesthetic. We don’t have any coloured lights or anything, it’s a very dark show, very kind of Nine Inch Nails-esque, and that gets totally stripped away when you’re on at 12 o’clock in the afternoon.
“Coachella was good for our band; we needed it. It was a weird way to start off our tour, though. I can’t believe that I had a life before this tour. It’s been two months now and I think it’s like 50 shows. It’s insane, I can’t believe how many shows we’ve done and how big they’ve been. Like we played to 5,000 people in Columbus, Ohio. It’s just fucking weird; I don’t know how any of that shit happens. It’s quite perplexing, but very humbling.”
Unlike many of the Britpop bands that exploded in the UK and struggled in the US back in the day, The 1975 are finding that in the States their profile is beginning to equate what it is at home.
“It is to a certain extent,” Healy notes. “That’s the thing, it wasn’t at all when we left. Like our vision of the gap in the size of the band, the polarity in how big we were, was massive when we got to the US. But then we realised that we were actually playing fucking big shows that were selling out. All of these things are just a testament to the power of the internet aren’t they? This kind of homogenised teenage world now where everything is accessible.
“We’ve never done a show in America that hasn’t been sold out. How fucking mental is that, for just a band? It’s so crazy how the internet just dictates people’s careers now. It’s amazing.”
Yet while the internet and social media, especially, means that many potentially successful modern bands have to suffer the ignominy of
growing up very much in public, with a decade as unknown Manchester youngsters behind them, The 1975 have dodged that bullet.
“It’s mental, the idea of exposure. It’s weird with us, you can break down our band in lots of different ways. You can look at the fact that when we came out we’d already been a band for 10 years. We’d gotten it wrong a million times. We’d been the band that wasn’t good enough to get signed. We’d been the band without good enough songs and we’d been the band willing to compromise anything to further our lives, working in call centres and that kind of thing.
“When we made the decision to sign to our manager’s label, a label that was set up just for us to sign a small record deal, we were gonna do it ourselves, because we were so focussed. What you were saying, the idea of growing up in public, for us we weren’t the band that got signed at 18, with one single. It took ages for people to get involved. It was a very controlled thing, we had everything ready. We had the album there, our aesthetic was there, we did it properly. And I think that because we came out like that, we didn’t have a lot of the growing pains that a lot of bands have because we didn’t have to wait. We could release four EPs then a debut album. It wasn’t a problem.
“And I think we’ve just kind of embraced the fact that with the internet it’s all about accessibility. It’s paramount. If you have a world that is dictated by accessibility, you should have things that are accessible, and it shouldn’t be your personalities. Record companies get concerned that people aren’t investing in their bands and it’s because they’ve got one song and you want to put every band member on Twitter, telling them where they are, trying to have some personal relationship.
“What they’ve got to remember is that kids want rock stars. Kids think that they wanna know all these people, but if you put somebody on Twitter telling you they’re at the fucking chip shop, they’re not as much of a pantheon are they? Like Michael Jackson was, or Robert Plant back in the times.”
While Healy certainly sounds confident, he also comes across as someone who’s pursuing life in a popular rock band with a good stream of common sense. The 1975 are singular and forever on message.
“We’re like a line-up, four boys in a guitar-based band,” he says, plainly. “It’s quite digestible, and it makes sense for now.
“For our egos, we don’t want to be rock stars, but for our fans? We certainly fucking do.”