Illustrated as Brits “with a gift for heart-on-sleeve theatrics”, THE 1975 entered 2013 with a near perfect pop track and the skill to write songs that were too bold to be categorized as singles. Take “Sex” for example; whether it’s pacing and carnal or despondently sensual, the three-minute song is still painted with a brush that bands together reflection and the kind of intricacy that tints the VHS cover of a John Hughes’ film. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly fuels such a natural shuffle of feelings but after nine SXSW showcases and more than a dozen festivals, it’s clear it’s an original trait that hasn’t shown any signs of drowning in its own romantic oblivion (or any chart-heavy radio show).
For the Manchester-based four-piece, The 1975 (out now on Universal/Vagrant) is the beginning of a departure into a bigger chapter as they’re taking on learning curves day-by-day and even exploring other outlets, like writing music for film (“We will and we are, and that’s something we’re really excited about”). Before their debut in Toronto, we caught up with frontman Matthew Healy and briefly discussed the band’s ascension and what ultimately lies ahead.
What is the hardest part about adjusting to change?
I have never been very good with change anyway, so for me, it’s the fact that in order to really, really embrace where I am, I have to neglect a lot of elements in my life. If I stay too sentimentally tied to something, or unfortunately sometimes someone, I find myself not being able to move forward. That’s the same with everyone. I left a lot behind when I came on the road this year and it’s all kind of gone now. But now there’s nothing behind me and everything ahead of me – that’s life on the road and it’s interesting.
I understand tonight is your first time in Toronto, and undoubtedly you’ll be experiencing many more firsts. What is the most rewarding aspect about bringing your music to new places?
I think Chris Martin has an amazing analogy that explains this. If you throw a party and 50 people show up, that’s a good feeling. Now imagine doing that every night for a ton of people – that’s genuinely how it feels for us because there’s been no agenda with this. There’s been no purpose aside from us making music and having fun. It’s really been embraced and that’s all it is. We go to different cities without any expectations and we don’t want to make a night at any of these cities seem like New Years Eve because then we’d be disappointed. We’re just excited for the difference of culture we get to experience everyday. It’s a very uncommon thing to be able to do and it’s great.
“I had this existential crisis when we had the No. 1 album because I thought, “God, I’m still not happy”. Well I was happy, but I thought all of these things were going to make me happy, you know? That album is an extension of my identity and the next album will be the same.”
Would you say the blatant honesty the band presents is an important factor in how quickly audiences have connected with your music?
I’d like to think so, and I hope so. That is a nice thing for you to say, so thank you. There’s this level of humanity that’s born of the fact that I was never questioned when I first started writing lyrics. I think people really like our band because it’s real. We’ve been together for ten years, making music for the right reasons. We’re like four brothers who are just going around the world now. With our album, it’s very self-deprecating, it’s very introspective, it’s me looking at myself, which obviously provokes people to be introspective themselves. People like honesty; you can sometimes even negate what you’re talking about by being so honest and you can put across bad aspects of your personality, but people will still like you because you’re being so honest about it.
Have you ever had any trouble putting emotions or an experience into a song?
I’ve had trouble with regards to delivering it without crying and being able to stay in the mindset to be able to work it out. Quite recently actually I wrote a song about my grandmother who died, who I was very close with. It was very difficult… for the first time, I felt like I had to push myself to actually finish a song. But it’s a genuine form of creative expression for me, and like I said before, it’s because it was born from a time when I wasn’t questioned at all. Like, “Am I being too honest? Is this consumable?”.
On your debut, you’ve got some super upbeat catchy songs, like “Sex” and “Settle Down”, and then you’ve got other songs like “Robbers” or “Woman” that barely sound like they were written by the same band. How would you explain the diversity that’s presented?
I think we’ve become defined by being indefinable. We create the same way we consume and it’s generational. The fact no one consumes media in a linear form anymore influences people to be a lot more ambiguous stylistically. There’s a massive stylistic polarity in our music – it flirts with loads of different genres – but that’s because that’s the way that we are as people, and that’s why we’re so honest. We’ve never been harboured with any questions and we’ve always been able to do exactly what we want. It would be difficult for me to explain how much music rules my life, my brain… it almost drives me crazy. It’s so innate and because we’ve been together for ten years, our musical and stylistic vocabularies are one in the same so you have this uncompromising, constantly evolving sound. We all know what we’re doing, we’re all good musicians, and we can all play each others instruments.
And that contributes to writing together because you understand everyone’s perspectives.
Exactly. It creates sort of an “auto-correct” situation and it avoids a scenario where one person holds all the authority because they’re seen as having a greater skill set compared to the rest of the band. For us, it’s a good dynamic.
How do you think the creative process will change for you now that you’ve been forced to embrace the instability that comes along with being on tour for most of the year?
It’s difficult to find the time to be as creative as you’d like to be but I don’t think you can use that as an excuse because you have to prepare for that. My life has changed dramatically but my mind hasn’t and that disappointed me for a while. I had this existential crisis when we had the No. 1 album in the UK because I thought, “God, I’m still not happy”. Well I was happy, but I thought all of these things were going to make me happy, you know? That album is an extension of my identity and the next album will be the same.
Do you think the pressure of releasing a follow-up may prove to be difficult given the success you’ve had this year? When some bands reach a certain level of popularity, they tend to find it more difficult to maintain the same honesty that launched their career.
Not musically, but maybe when it comes to my personal life. It would really depend on how much of a public figure I become. That’s something I am slightly wary of because you can’t lead a truly honest life if you’re stuck in the public eye. I know that because my parents are famous in the UK – I know what it’s like and I’m very aware of it. We just need to be true to ourselves and make sure everything we do is a distillation of what preceded it, and we’ll be fine.