News Column

The 1975 keep it real

October 17, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 17--U.K. pop-rock band The 1975 sing about what they know and, coincidentally, that pertains to several rock music tropes: sex, drugs and heartache.

Lead by lead singer and guitarist Matthew Healy, the quartet from Manchester, England have kept a buzz going in the States for the past year, releasing four EPs and spawning several hits, including "Sex," "Chocolate" and "The City."

The group will hit the stage as part of 96.5 The Buzz's Halloweenie Roast concert with The Colourist, Portugal. The Man and The Naked and Famous.

Here's St. Joe Live's conversation with Healy, prior to the show:

SJL: How are you doing?

MH: Yeah, man. I'm doing fine. I'm heading to Kansas City right now.

SJL: You guys went through a lot of name changes before settling on The 1975, was there a reason why you guys tried different titles and waited to see which one fit?

MH: Kind of. I mean, we were just playing around. I mean, nobody knew about our band so it didn't really matter. It was just because we were constantly evolving as people. I always say we did one tour where we changed our name every night so by the end of it, it didn't matter what name it was. It became a bit of a joke.

We were called Drive Like I Do for awhile and then The 1975 was the first time we got a name that we really, really felt (was right).

SJL: I remember hearing the song "Sex" when you were The Slowdown [Note: Coincidentally, The Slowdown is the name of a band in Kansas City] and you just released it without any contact information or anything. Did you expect anybody to pick the song up?

MH: I don't really know. We just wanted to juxtapose the Internet a little bit, I suppose. We just wanted to not bombard people with stuff. We had this song and we just wanted to make a little video for it and we just put it out there.

We had a manager at the time and we were just getting better. We weren't really focusing on anything apart from just playing shows and that's just being a better band. Then all these labels started (showing) up based on that and it was all whatever. It was all a bit, it just didn't work. They had no confidence and they gave us no confidence back.

SJL: It seemed like for a minute that you guys were gone and then you came back as The 1975. Was that when the confidence really hit and you found the label you really wanted?

MH: Yeah, that was it. That was when we signed to our manager's label that we should have done ages ago instead of (messing) around and talking to all of those major labels. It was never going to work, so we just thought "Let's just step away and actually make a record and let's just do it ourselves." And it did and it worked.

SJL: Just looking back at your history, you started out wanting to play punk music and now, you're a rock band that's exploring these pop and ambient elements too. How did it go from punk to what it is now?

MH: I don't know. I think it kind of evolved like you do as a person, as a teenager. You go through every different type of loads of music. We just embrace all of them. I've always just loved music, like heavy music, and I think the album's just a reflection of our love for everything. We don't really harbor ourselves with stylistic, kind of predetermined ideas or anything like that. There's no point. We just make music ... with who we are and what we're about.

So I don't know how it evolved. I think it just evolved in the same way you grow up. You know?

SJL: With all the different genres you've come to explore, is it easy figure out if all four of you are on the same page with a certain sound or the certain way a song is going?

MH: We share the same musical vocabulary because we've been exposed to music at the same time and we've created music at the same time, so there's never any conflicting ideas.

I mean, I suppose with me and (drummer George Daniel), we're an extension of one another. So there's never been a time where we've disagreed on whether a song is good or not or whether we should carry on and work on it. It's a very subconscious understanding, a very mutual understanding. It's just one of things. You've been together for 10 years and growing up in the same room, you kind of become one-in-the-same.

SJL: Especially with your songwriting, songs like "Sex" and "Chocolate" and "Robbers," they have this distinctive, poppy sound to them that people, just hearing the music, might think that it's an uplifting song. But your lyrics focus on isolation and toxic relationships. Is that a balance you like to keep?

MH: Yeah, it's kind of a perfect juxtaposition. I think that idea is very apparent in the synergy between our aesthetic and our music, as well. The way everything is black and white and kind of at odds with each other. I always say my ideal song would sound like "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston, but convey the message and conviction of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen. If I ever achieve a song like that, I'll be very, very proud of myself and until then, I'm kind of striving for that.

SJL: One of the things I noticed about writing is it includes a lot of quotes and it seems to mainly be from a female perspective. Are those quotes you've heard in real life or at least, how you remember them?

MH: It's all very conversational. I'm not necessarily too good with retrospect when it comes to writing. I'm a lot better with embracing something that I just did then copying it verbatim. The line "I'm not going to stop you love/If we doing anything/Then we might as well just (expletive)" I actually said that and then an hour later, wrote it down. Then it became kind of the defining line in the song.

I think it's all very conversation. I'm very obsessed with situations. The protagonist is every one of the songs is me. All of the negative aspects and personalities discussed on the record, whether it's from a female perspective or not, it's always about me.

SJL: So there's someone out there that was in that situation with you that, when they hear that song, they would be like "Oh yeah, I remember that'"?

MH: Oh yea. There's lots of that on the record.

SJL: You've said your band members, they keep you honest. They've been with through these situations, so there's not any chance...

MH: I can't really embellish things too far. I can't really lie because it was just be us four and they'd be like "What are you lying for? Why are you lying?"

SJL: Are you tempted to include fictional things and then you draw yourself back from that?

MH: I think the idea of fiction is good if it's used metaphorically, if it's used a symbolic idea. I think that's fine. But for me ... like "Robbers" is fictional. It's these two bank robbers. But the idea is very, very real. The idea of kind of being, I don't know, there's a lot locked up in "Robbers."

The idea of fiction, I find it a lot harder to really (write) because I'm not really talking about how I feel or I'm not talking about real life.

SJL: With this band, you've condensed so much of your lives and your band members and your friends into four EPs and one album. With all of this great stuff that's going on, all of these sold out shows ... do those experiences, will they help influence the next album?

MH: I'm sure they will. I think from now on, my life's going to be bookended ... I think this whole process is going to definitely inform the next album.

SJL: You've been writing for the next album, is that right?

MH: That's what I'm doing now. Like, right now. I stopped to talk to you and I'm about to work on some recording.

SJL: It's always a continuing process.

MH: Yeah, it's all we do. It's all we want to do.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug.

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