Shelley Marsden meets Matt Healy, singer of Manchester four-piece The 1975
“It’s a love letter to every slightly prudish, seventeen year old girl who can’t make her mind up”, says The 1975’s Matt Healy about the latest single, Sex.
The handsome, floppy-haired frontman, whose band has just stormed a ‘Live Lounge’ session at Radio 1, explains: “It was me trying to figure stuff out in a song, but now I’ve come to learn that it’s really questioning what a relationship means at a young age. What does a boyfriend actually mean when you’re 17?
“Young people connect with that track because they see themselves right now, and older people see the maturity to the way that feeling’s been captured, and they remember feeling that way. I think it’s quite a romantic song.”
Sex entered the UK charts last week at 31, and last single Chocolate, a top 20 hit, is still there somewhere. They toured with Muse, Northern Ireland’s Two Door Cinema Club, played support to The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in July and the new album is looking like a likely candidate to reach number one. This, from a band most people didn’t know six months ago.
The eponymous debut album has just been released, ten years since The 1975 met as 14 year olds in a classroom in Wilmslow, Manchester. The result is a bold, brash collection of memories, overheard conversations and snapshots in time, from a group that are practically joined at the hip (Matt has said in the past: “Our musical vocabulary is 100% the same because we grew up listening and playing music together. We can’t live without one another, we can’t work without one another.”)
Matt, 24, says this fairly new recognition of their music is interesting (to be precise, he talks of “that process of validation, that qualification of humanity”- he’s an eloquent and thoughtful young chap). What he’s happiest about, however, is that he and band-mates Adam Hann (guitar), George Daniel (drums) and Ross MacDonald (bass) have made the album they wanted to: “We did this because we like making music, the four of us, in a room together.”
Their previous three EPs (Facedown, Sex, Music For Cars and IV) were “snapshots of what we were at a certain time, but not necessary our identity on a plate”, he says, while the album presents a more honest vision of the band.
Direct, emotional, poetic and with a sensitive swagger, The 1975’s songs don’t tend to fall neatly into categories. Their sound comes closest to classic 80s pop, but it dabbles in electronica, rock dancefloor R&B, hip-hop and reflects what musical magpies these young guys were growing up.
The songs are salutations to youth and romance; something confirmed when Matt says his aim was to make a record that sounds like a John Hughes (Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club) movie soundtrack.
The singer says: “They’re romantic, and I’m definitely an overly-romantic person, especially in how I perceive my history and adolescence; that’s amplified by how much I care about the things that make me who I am, the issues that everybody cares about.”
The album, which the lads took off to Liverpool to make, was co-produced by Arctic Monkeys man Mike Crossey, but Matt says any comparisons to the indie band par excellence are pretty redundant.
“They’re an important band but we couldn’t be further apart. We’re not an indie band, we’re not inspired by melancholic indie music. We love the melancholy of Leonard Cohen maybe, but not of White Lies, you know what I mean? We’re inspired by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston and Prince.
“The lyrical similarities come about, perhaps, because me and Alex Turner are both guys from the north of England who have dabbled in drugs and love and sex and fear. We didn’t go with Mike because of his track record. We went with him because he was the first producer to say he wanted to make a career-defining record with us.”
The first album Matt ever bought was Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, followed by Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, then Love Man by Otis Redding. He remembers the Fleetwood Mac moment: “I got it from a shop called The One Shop in Stocksfield on tape, because my mum had just won fifty quid on a scratch card and said I could buy whatever I want. I bought Rumours cause I’d seen the CD cover at home.”
Matt is the son of Loose Women’s Denise Welch and her ex-husband Tim Healy (Auf Wiedersien, Pet). Though he generally detests discussing them in interviews, he alludes to how his upbringing with two actor parents might have prepared him for the fame that looks sure to be coming his way.
He says: “Maybe your sense of identity is slightly amplified because of the media, but because I’ve lived with the media I don’t care about it. I know what it provides; all it’s done is inspired me to be more my own person. I love my parents dearly, but by the time they were embraced by the mainstream TV, I was already a kid in a punk band. Growing up, they were just jobbing actors. I used to spend my time backstage at theatres and in green rooms at the BBC. I’m not the son of Angelina Jolie, you know?!”
For the full interview, see this week’s Irish World newspaper (issue 14 Sept 2013).
The 1975 tour Ireland and the UK from Sept 30. For all live dates see http://the1975.com.