With a sprawling second album boasting 17 songs and 16-word-long-title (the aptly named I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it) you couldn’t miss The 1975 even if you tried. And you probably wouldn’t want to. The UK-based pop band—lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Matty Healy, lead guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald, and drummer George Daniel—have garnered international attention with their latest release, oozing a myriad of influences from rock to ‘80s pop in an intransigent but cohesive track-listing.
Subsequent interviews led writers to note frontman Healy is also quite chatty and unfiltered: a journalist’s dream. But is it truly that surprising given he created a 75-minute record? Nevertheless, Healy took some time to discuss the intricacies of the album, his views on recent releases and his portrayal in the media.
Did you have any preconceived notions of how the album would be received?
No, I didn’t really. I mean, I don’t know. You must be lying if you say you didn’t think about how it’d be received. I wasn’t worried about how it was going to be perceived and I certainly didn’t think it was going to be, well, what it turned out to be, our kind of most commercial statement so far. Because I feel like we kind of ran in the other direction any time we felt a preconception of what our second album should be, we ran in the other direction. Not just to be doing it, but because we just found it to be boring.
Thinking of my preconceptions of how people would perceive it, that was a thing that we had to get away from. The one thing that we had to avoid, or the one thing that we did avoid, is when we realized that the only chance to make a record we were really, really proud of that we really wanted to make, was to forget about all of those things and just going back to the purity of making music and the reason we started doing it: because we love actually making music and not for other reasons.
You’ve spoken previously about what you refer to as “Easter eggs” within the album. Whether it was references to older songs within the lyrics or how you paralleled your music videos like “A Change Of Heart” and “Robbers.” What made you decide to do that?
I think that it’s just part of who I am, a part of my relationship at the moment with, let’s call it art without being pretentious. When I say art I mean like music, film, those art forms and the way that I’ve grown up and consumed that. It’s really formed the way that I view them as an artist, without sounding like a dick. I think that it’s making the audience members personally addressed. That’s when I find art most potent: when I’ve heard something or seen something and thought, “Shit, they’re talking to me.”
You’ve got to remember that I couldn’t get signed. Well I didn’t get signed to a major, but we ended up on distribution of the majors (labels). I was like 23 and I had everything in my head and nobody wanted to sign me. We had written all the EPs, we had written all this stuff. I had the whole world of The 1975 in my mind and it was just kind of bursting to get out. And I think that because it’s always kind of been my whole life I find it very easy to kind of cultivate this world and not only have a musical paradigm but a visual paradigm. I suppose you could say it’s the marketing of the band but it’s not really. It’s just me playing with it, whether it be the visual, or the this or the that.
In regards to the Easter eggs, it comes from such like video games. When I was younger the early format of video games, it might sound like I’m digressing slightly, but there’s a game called Ecco the Dolphin that is one of my favorite games ever. It was on the Mega Drive and we were a bit younger and everything was 2D. It wasn’t like the video games you have now that just have maps of open world. And I remember on Ecco the Dolphin I would play the same level, I would play the game all the time, and this one time I jumped at one particular time on one particular level and it took me to a secret level and it fucking blew my mind. It was like a world within a world, and I knew that there was a creative process behind it because it was a program and that’s what programmers used to do. They used to hide things in the game for people who played the game all the time so you would only find that if you were a proper gamer.
And that’s what I like about The 1975. I like that if you listen to “A Change Of Heart” and you can just take it as a song but if you’re a massive you’ll hear the jokes and you’ll also know that I’m talking to you specifically because you know that only you or somebody who knows the band as well as you will get that. You feel part of the gang and it’s all about being part of the gang.
Articles have mentioned frequently that you’re quite open and frank, not only lyrically but in your interviews as well. Do you feel like people or the media ever misconstrue or misperceive you just because you’re so open?
Totally. I mean, I leave myself open to be accused of being pretentious and stuff like that. But what people don’t get is that I am pretentious. That’s the thing, I know. Like, anything people accuse me of I normally know. You know what I mean? I’m not lying to anybody about the way that I am. Like, I fucking care about The 1975. I really care about it because it’s the one thing that I’ve created, the one thing that I’ve done in my life that’s made other people really, really happy. And also the one thing in my life that’s made me really happy and I’m really passionate about it. And if you’re really, really passionate about something you think about it a lot. Then I think about all these things on one level and then it goes to another level and then it goes to another level. Of course I’m going to come across pretentious when I’m talking about the strenuosity of a pop band. But that’s what I do. Fuck off (laughs). I’m not bothered.
Of course there’s times when I feel misrepresented. But then again, it’s not that I feel like… I don’t know. I suppose I feel like I’ve got more stuff going on in the world regardless of how filtered I come across, which I am. But there’s obviously certain qualifications that goes on within these things but I do hold myself to my own standards. And I don’t really have anything to be scared of because I’m not truly pretentious in a way that I’m ignorant of things: I’m not a bad person, I’m not bigoted, I’m not racist, I’m not a misogynist. So I don’t really have to be scared of being unfiltered because I don’t believe that I could say anything honest that would be that offensive to anybody.
Speaking of music and how passionate you are, you’ve been quoted saying, “No one’s asking you to inspire a revolution, but inspire something.” Are there any current musicians you feel are doing that?
Yeah I think there’s a lot of music at the moment, especially over the past year and a half. I mean, I think that people like Max Martin who as a producer just completely defines music. What he’s just done with Taylor Swift and The Weeknd and now what he’s doing with the new Ariana Grande song and…who did “Levels?” Was that Joe Jonas? One of the Jonas’?
Yeah, Nick Jonas I think.
Nick Jonas! Anyway Max Martin, whether it be with the Backstreet Boys or other artists, is probably one of the best pop-producers in the world. You’ve also got all of the people who worked on Views along with Drake himself. I think if you’re looking at contemporary pop music you’re looking at one of the best contemporary pop-albums I’ve heard in so long.
I think there’s a true subculture in music that’s coming from the UK at the moment. The grime theme with Skepta, and Boy Better Know, and Jme and you know just all that kind of crew because I grew up loving grime. I remember when Dizzee Rascal did Boy in da Corner. Grime in the UK has been a massive part of the UK for a long time but America is only just starting to notice it.
Lastly, you’ve mentioned in other interviews that you’re a fan of John Hughes and his films and have drawn inspiration from him. If The 1975 could have had a song featured in one of his films, what song would it be and which of his movies?
Hmm, well it depends. You could put “Fallingforyou” in Sixteen Candles. You could put “Love Me” in Weird Science, which I think would be the one I would do. I wouldn’t go for the typical you know, trying to replace “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” in The Breakfast Club, you know what I mean? I think that Weird Science is a massive influence, like the Oingo Boingo and stuff like that. The people that wrote the soundtrack to that movie really inspired, I don’t know what to call it, I guess the demeanor of “Love Me.” It’s kind of quite like that noise, that ooohoooh! It’s almost quite Halloween-y and joke-spooky. But Weird Science is definitely the inspiration for that.
You can catch The 1975 performing at Shadow Of The City Festival at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park, NJ on June 18. The 1975’s second album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, is available now. For more information, visit the1975.com and shadowofthe.city.