SPOOK: Hi Matt. How’s your day been?
Matt Healy: Good, just started. There’s loads of people outside, so I can’t really do much. I mean, it’s nice. It symbolises… loads of things. Positive things. But it’s weird for us. If you’re fucking, you know, a huge pop artist like Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber then fair enough, but it’s bizarre for us.
I think people get excited about… bands full of boys.
Boy bands, you can say it. Boy bands.
It makes me feel weird.
I know what you mean. What qualifies a boy band, though? If it’s hysteria and a female-led population of fans and being surrounded in hotels by those fans and doing sell-out shows, then we’re a boy band. But we write all of our own music and we have a lot more of an alternative perspective. It’s something that’s been born because of the way we look. There must’ve been a gap in the market for four boys with guitars, regardless of what they sounded like.
Well, I think there always will be.
Yeah, I know. It’s interesting, we’ve become this kind of leather-clad, new-wave boy band. I’m into it, it’s cool.
I heard that The 1975 used to be sort of punk-pop, and I wondered if the move into pop music was a conscious one?
I think that we made a conscious decision to become more pop, which in turn is less pop. Because pop-punk, by the end, was so pop-y, culturally and musically. But, yeah we got rid of the punk ethos. We just grew up, man. You don’t still listen to Taking Back Sunday every day, do you?
Not every day.
[Laughs] I think what really happened is that, as the primary songwriter at the time… how do I explain it? I grew up on black music; soul music, Otis Redding, Michael Jackson. When I was, like, 16/17 we realised we didn’t have to be alternative, we don’t need to only embrace rock bands. Why don’t we play funk music, or soul music, and see what happens when we try and do that? And that’s kind of where the album came from.
It seems like sort of a new thing, bands and artists feeling comfortable enough to just express themselves, to not be fenced in by a genre. It’s nice.
Yeah, I think it is. I think it’s a difficult thing to do. You have to pull from a lot of polarising elements of music, or else you just become a pastiche. It’s highlighting what’s happening now and highlighting what’s happened before.
That’s why we embraced the whole soundtrack thing. We weren’t inspired by one particular band, we were inspired by one particular song. I say we’re inspired by Talking Heads, but really we’re inspired by “Once In A Lifetime”; I say we’re inspired by Michael Jackson, but really we’re inspired by “I Want You Back”.
You guys are quite a visual band aren’t you? Your aesthetic is so well carved-out and a lot of your video work kind of seems to hold the same importance as the music itself.
Yeah, absolutely. A lot of people aren’t in control. And for a lot of people, it isn’t an essential part of their being, to express themselves, to articulate themselves correctly. Like there’s no point for me to do any of this unless I’m going to execute it perfectly, because why would I do that? It’s completely pointless. It doesn’t stop with the music for us. Our visual identity, our whole aesthetic, and the correlation and the juxtaposition between that and the music is very important to us.
I promised my 15-year-old cousin that I’d ask you this. She wanted to know why the video for ‘Girls‘ was in colour?
It was born of the video before it, which was born of the video before that. There was the original video for ‘Sex’, which was black and white and got us a certain amount of popularity amongst our first hardcore cult following, when we were very esoteric and no-one knew who we were. Then when we put ‘Sex’ out as a single, and we thought “let’s do another video for it”, an album version of the video, and when we made it it looked better in colour, so we put it out and our fans then went fucking nuts. [Laughs] It started with anger, then it became bartering, and then it became that we were being compromised. It was, “oh my god, they’re completely conforming to a major label now”, which for us was so far from the truth that we thought, “this is interesting. This is the first bit of conflict that we’ve had from our fans”. So, we made a video about it. So, the “Girls” video was about a band who didn’t want to make a colour video, who didn’t want to be a pop band.
We kind of touched on this earlier, but I want to go back to it. How are you coping with this? The amount of attention you’re getting?
I mean, day to day, I’m fine. I’m not like, a walking nervous breakdown. Ideologically, I don’t know, I guess I’m pretty fucked up. Like, I don’t really know what to think. I can deal with it, I’m content, but I don’t know what to make of it. Because where all of my music comes from is a place that – obviously there’s ego and there’s being a bit of a show off – but it comes from quite a humble, self-aware, self-deprecating place; which is why all these teenagers love the ideas that are in the music and they flock the hotel. But I’m still quite neurotic, as everybody is. So, when you’re really, really objectified and you don’t have time off or time away from that and you’re on tour for two and half years, and every time you get up there’s constant reminders of your projected personality…
It’s like I’ve said before, it’s this disconnect between art and reality. Where does it stop? Where do you let shit hurt you? When does it stop becoming material to work with? Like, at one point, everything’s just material. “Oh, I’m a bad person” – I can write about it. “Oh, she broke my heart” – I can write about it. It’s all those things wrapped up, but then there’s also an element of – because you’re a person who’s not the biggest fan of yourself anyway – you start thinking, “well, get over yourself, what are you getting upset about? Everything’s fucking brilliant”.
Yeah, I guess it would come in waves…
Yeah, it does.
Have you had any time to start writing the next record?
Yeah, we need to have finished writing it by, like, April.
And is it going in the same direction; does it have a similar vibe?
I think there’s this kind of ironic expectancy for the next record. Because our first record, each song sounded different from the last, I think there’s an expectance for the unexpected, you know? I think that the continuity of our band comes from the fact that we’re always playing a certain way, and all the ideas come from the same place. It’ll have the same ethos. It’ll have the vibe, like you said.
Okay. If you had to guess, what do you think the most played song on your iPod would be?
It would definitely be a demo from the new record, because I mostly use my iPod for writing lyrics. Besides that, at the moment it would be My Bloody Valentine, MBV. That would be the record I’ve listened to the most over the last six months.
And if you could be responsible for having written any song, what would it be?
‘Isn’t She Lovely‘, maybe?
Would you take out the crying baby parts?
Well, no, it’s about his daughter, isn’t it?
Yeah, but, you know. It’s a bit jarring, don’t you think?
[Laughs] Yeah. I just love a perfect cadence in a song. No! Wait, I’ll say that today. I’ll say something else tomorrow, but I’ll say that today.
And, lastly, do you have a favourite song or record of 2014?
‘You Guessed It‘ by OG Maco. Have you heard it?
No, I don’t think so.
You should listen to it, it’ll change your life. [Laughs] It’s the most intense piece of music I’ve ever heard in my life. I can’t explain what it is. It’s just the most aggressive, incredible piece of music. It’s crazy. You should listen to it.
Alright, I will. Well, thanks for having us.
Thank you. Nice to meet you.
All photos by Daniel Luxford for SPOOK Magazine.