Things are set to blow up this year for Mancunian four-piece The 1975; with recent backing from Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe, and garnering glowing reviews for their alternative and eclectic sound, it is without a doubt the band’s time to step up to the spotlight. The 1975 cannot really be put into the proverbial box when it comes to defining their genre of music; however there is a distinct shift towards the indie-rock end of the spectrum, with a subtle note of melancholic nostalgia and a general feel good vibe to their latest EP, Music For Cars. Between releasing three EPs, a debut album, two tours within the space of less than six months, with a third one to follow shortly, it’s been without a doubt a hectic past year for the band; I managed to catch up with lead singer Matt Healey before the band’s gig at the legendary venue King Tut’s on the 27th January:
Guardian: After numerous name changes (The Slowdown, The Big Sleep, Drive Like I Do), what was the decision behind settling on The 1975?
Matt Healey: I went to Majorca when I was nineteen, and I befriended this artist who lived out there. He gave me loads of beat poetry, Kerouac literature and I found a suicide page in one of the books. It was dated the 1st of June The 1975. And that really stuck with me, the use of the word ‘the’ preceding a date and I never really thought about it until we came to naming the band and I was thinking of things I liked the sound of and that was it.
We didn’t like the name The Slowdown, nearly got sued when we were called The Big Sleep. When it came to changing the name, everyone acted like it was a bit of a big deal. But it wasn’t really a big deal because no one really knew who we were, and we just wanted to have a fresh start. It was January 2012 when we were in the studio as The 1975 for the first time.
G: Your new EP Music for Cars is set to be released on March 4th; how does this coincide with the release of your debut album?
MH: You’ve got to release a certain amount of material before you put an album out, that’s just the way it goes. We wanted to create a really solid foundation for people to understand what we were doing; I think people make the common misconception that our material is worked kind of chronologically, whereas in reality the majority of the stuff on the EPs has been written after the album. The album was pretty much there at the beginning of last year, so we took singles off it; ‘The City’, ‘Sex’ and ‘Chocolate’, and then wrote EPs around them to kind of take a part of the story and embellish it even further. We didn’t want to be one of those bands that put out an EP that has a single on it, a remix, and acoustic or a live version on it. We are very proud of our EPs; we see our EPs as our first album really, and our debut album is a follow up to that.
G: How is the album coming along? How would you describe its sound and what it means for the band?
MH: I wouldn’t know where to start. I’d like to say if you listened to the EPs you’d probably have a good idea, but you wouldn’t. It’s kind of based on 80’s movie soundtrack. My main inspiration as a songwriter is probably […the work of] John Hughes, movies like Pretty In Pink, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, movies that I grew up with. And that’s where I first fell in love with music; music through film. It’s our soundtrack to our movie. Everybody has an idealistic vision of their past, and I think you tend to see your memories in this hazy, cinematic way, and I think that’s the way we tried to write our songs. We don’t take ourselves very seriously as people, but as a project some of our music can be quite serious, and I think there are serious elements to this record. It’s a very personally geared album. There’s a song called ‘Girls’ on the record which is very fun, it’s a good time album.
G: You mentioned in an interview with When The Gramophone Rings that the album is a ‘soundtrack to our formative years’- what were your influences and what was the kind of music that you grew up listening to?
MH: Music has been the only expression I’ve ever had as a person, I don’t really orientate in any other way; everything’s really musically-minded for me, and I suppose I’m very lucky that this has started happening because I don’t have anything else that I’m good at. The first music I fell in love with was soul music, black American music, that’s where a lot of our sound comes from, artists like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Donnie Hathaway. George (Daniel, drummer) is a big fan of hip hop which is where a lot of the drums come from. Bands that were peaking in the eighties were a big inspiration for us; Michael Jackson in ‘Bad Era’, Peter Gabriel in ‘So’, Paul Simon on ‘Graceland’, its where all of these major albums came into their own. We wanted to make a really ambitious album, that kind of took into account everything we’d been inspired by.
G: You have been championed recently by Radio 1 DJ’s Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens- how is the band feeling about its rapidly growing popularity?
MH: We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and we’ve got so used to doing it for ourselves, that the expectation of validation from a mainstream radio outlet like that wasn’t really a reality for us. We never really assumed it would happen. I think the one thing it has done is [that it has] catalysed the progression in the knowledge of ourselves as people, we’ve come to terms with who we are and what we’re doing and what our purpose is as band. I don’t think that would’ve happened without direct responses from people who were in to the music. It’s a very exciting time, it’s just hard for us because, on the one hand, we’re so used to being a tiny band, and on the other hand, so conditioned not to get excited about prospects in the music industry because it’s a form of naivety. We’re just very privileged and very humbled to be here now.
G: How do you feel social media such as Facebook and Instagram influences the broadcasting of your music and identity to a prospective audience?
MH: George does all the Instagram. I think it was how were defined initially, because we took a very minimalist approach to social networking; we just put a couple of songs out on YouTube. We live in a world where, especially in the music industry, accessibility is paramount, and that’s what people care about. We wanted to reverse that and be a bit refreshing. We do have a Twitter and we do have a Facebook, but there’s not a lot of personal affinity with that. It’s very much the voice of the band as a band. We don’t tweet about ourselves as individuals because I don’t think our personalities as individuals are relevant to what we’re doing musically.
G: How was it playing Radio 1’s Future Festival with up and coming acts such as A$AP Rocky and Mallory Knox?
MH: I was so excited to meet him (A$AP). I actually got to meet him in my hotel two days later and we had a little chat and hung out for a bit which was amazing. It was an honour and a privilege, such a clichéd thing to say, but people don’t really know how much shit we’ve been through, and how much we’ve been through as a band. To have people that you’ve listened to and respected for years validating your presence by putting you as one of the bands at that festival, it was amazing. It was only a couple of weeks ago, and we’re already a bigger band because of it.
“Music For Cars” EP Available March 4th
UK Tour begins May 4th, tickets on sale now. (Glasgow date: 27th May, Oran Mor)