Music

Interview: The 1975

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Louis Browne & Jack Glasscock spoke to Matt Healy of rising indie-pop sensations The 1975 before their sellout Cardiff show.
(Photos: Louis Browne)

Hey! Has the tour been cool so far? Didn’t you smash up a guitar last night?
[Laughs] No, that was an accident! It was Adam’s guitar and he put it down with slightly too much vigour and it’s a hollow-body so it just snapped in half.

You’ve been to some mad places recently.  It must be surreal going to places you may never have been before and getting crazy receptions.  Where have you received the most surprising reaction?
Hong Kong I’d say for that, probably.  It was like all the surreal elements of last year, by the end, kind of became our reality.  So we went from genuinely being in awe, to kind of being like: “oh yeah of course that’s happening, of course we’re doing this fucking ridiculous thing”, it became a bit of a joke.  So we turned up in Hong Kong, it was this mad-dash trip to get there from the other side of the world. It was crazy, and we were all just kind of focused on the logistics of the situation.  Then when we got there we were on after Nile Rodgers and Chic on the main stage, second to top.  When I got there I was thinking “fucking hell, that can’t be right”.  But we played to a full crowd who knew every word; it was amazing.

What was it like going on after them? There must have been some huge pressure to follow their set?
Well yeah, when he’s playing like every hit from the 70s! You’ve got to remember he’s written like every single song, so he was playing everything from ‘Celebrate’ to ‘Get Down On It’. We’re thinking like, we’re following this – the best wedding band ever, but yeah it went down fine, it was cool.

I’ve heard you talk about how the band is a ‘personal endeavour’ for you guys. Is that why you have kept yourselves relatively detached from social media and limit what you give away about yourselves? Do you think that would almost juxtapose the intimacy of your music?
To a certain extent, yeah. I think the idea of that juxtaposition runs through everything we do: from the music being particularly colourful, and the visuals obviously all being in black and white, I think it’s kind of very, very honest. It’s uncompromising in its narrative, but then slightly detached from reality in the way it’s presented and the way that it’s consumed. Yeah, it’s all about a duality of ideas, but that’s not been a contrived marketing scheme or mind-set, it’s just an extension of the way I am. I did a big piece in the culture magazine for the Sunday Times the other week, and spoke for hours and it was actually like a kind of therapy session. We kind of figured out that’s the way I’ve always lived my life, you know, like I don’t sit on the fence very well and I’m not very good in the middle; I like an extreme polarity to everything.

 Talking about that extreme, your album is clearly a soundtrack to your formative years. Did you find solace in writing about these extremes: sex, girls, drugs etc?
Oh yeah of course. Well this is the thing, it’s funny now because as a band and as me, we’ve been defined as being really honest and kind of wearing our hearts on our sleeve to an extent, but that would be true if I’d written that album when people knew who we were. But they didn’t, so I wasn’t questioned with anything like that. I wasn’t questioned with ‘am I being too honest?’ – it could be a genuine form of expression, without the fear of kind of a reaction. Slightly different now, but yeah, for this first album, that’s the way it was. And then people embraced the band and embraced the album, and then thought ‘oh he’s so honest’, but actually all of that honesty came from a place of real insecurity and neurosis. It’s interesting, but yeah of course it is, it’s the only thing I do. Music drives me insane, the incessant presence of music in my life. It informs how I see the world; it drives me crazy.

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Is it something you worry about, going into the second album, having more time constraints, more pressure, and more expectation?  Do you this the change would a bad thing?
Well yeah, of course.  Your identity becomes totally conflicted when this kind of thing happens to you. Especially such a stratospheric rise like we’ve had; like a dramatic, quick rise. So yeah, you think about all of those kinds of things.  You think: ‘fuck, am I still going to be able to write a song?’
But, what I realised the other day, we were in Australia writing a song and I was like ‘our job is a job now’ – never treat it like or call it a ‘job’, but technically it is – but that means our job is writing a soundtrack to how cool our life is, you know.  I think if you look at it like that, everything else doesn’t really matter anymore.  I don’t really care.  I cared so much about reviews and critical acclaim and all this sort of thing and now I’ve realised that it doesn’t matter.

 It’s true that a lot of people will just assume you’ve shot to fame from nowhere, when in reality you’ve been together for 10 years. Is there anything about the speed in which you’ve had success that you regret? Do you almost wish certain elements of it had gone slower?
No I don’t resent anything, you know. What people have got to remember when bands are on the rise, and when artistic movements happen – I’m not saying we’re creating a movement – but maybe we’re at a time that’ll be remembered in ten years’ time. Nobody knows what we are yet; I don’t know what this is; I don’t know how it should’ve happened or anything. Like, all the reviews, they don’t know what it is. We’ve got to give it ten years to see what it actually was. So I don’t resent anything about it, I’m just enjoying making music.

So definition isn’t something you particularly worry about?  A lot of people refer to you as a ‘pop’ band, whereas other people refer to you as anything but a ‘pop’ band.  What do you think about genre?  Do you feel you don’t want to be pigeon-holed, or do you feel it’s something that comes with time?
I don’t care.  I really don’t.  Not that I don’t care about the question, it’s just simply not in my innate person to think like that.  It’s difficult with things like that because – I’ve said this a million times before – but we create in the same way that we consume.  We’re part of a generation that grew up with, I suppose you could say the internet, but what I mean is various different sources to consume all types of media, not consuming anything in a linear format; that kind of indifference and that lack of caring.  Now teenagers, kids of our generation, they’re not interested in tribalist attitudes towards anything.  Having a stoic adherence to one musical genre isn’t really part of the way kids do things nowadays.  We’re a band that are very, very representative of that and it’s kind of ironic because we came out and there was a certain amount of unexpectancy because there’s a massive polarity in our sound.  Each song sounds slightly different.  But now that unexpectancy has become expected.  So it’s odd; now everyone expects each song to sound different from the last.

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I heard the song that you ended the Zane Lowe ‘versus’ show the other day with. I think it was a remix that George produced and you sang on, and there was some rap elements to it as well. You talk about the polarity and multiplicity of your music, so is there any part of you that would want to surprise your fans and drop something completely different like that towards the end of the album?
Maybe… I mean it doesn’t really matter. I think what people are coming to learn as well is, people are scared of pop music. They’re scared of pop music and everything that comes along with it: the personalities; the agenda; the reason; the money. They’re getting freaked out by the idea of ‘pop’. The things that we’ve been criticised for, like being ‘too shiny’, and having all these ‘production techniques’ – people assume they come from being like, commercially-minded, but the reason our band is so slick is because we made it like that. We produce all of our records. We know exactly what we’re fucking doing. All reviews, all these kinds of things, they think they’ve got it all down. Maybe they have with a lot of bands, but with us, no one knows our band and our band’s potential and… I suppose, our band’s potential for downfall.
So to answer your question, yeah we were a band for years, and then by the end of that time we sort of became producers. That’s what we did – like making house music. And then we did ‘The 1975’. We went back to a band and produced it. And now, we’re going back to being more production-ey. Like, we did a remix for James Vincent McMorrow recently, and all those EPs we did in my bedroom, like ‘Sex’ and stuff.

Was it difficult then to protect the nuances of your sound while recording the ‘IV’ EP in a full studio and therefore a totally new creative environment?
No, if you’ve got a skeleton of something, you take the demo and if you’ve got Logic and ProTools running in the studio, it’s like Disneyland. You just turn it up and re-amp it all. We did a lot of re-amping and stuff like that. All of our pad sounds we put through vintage guitar amps in rooms, and then used the room to create a live version of something synthetic that we created at home. So you keep the organic element of the sound, but recapture it properly.  

Some bands try to maintain a ‘punk’ ethic, but you remain open minded about going and accomplishing everything you can. So all the opportunity was something you relished rather than resented?
Of course.  I’m making records for me; let’s not forget that.  I’m not a selfish person.  But, the reason that I make music is because it’s a formula, the idea of music, not because of the things that come around it – the cultural relevance et cetera. I don’t really care.  It’s about music and how I’m affected by it, the same way you would be food or sex or drugs.  It’s immediacy, the immediacy of emotion behind it.  So, yeah, I can’t really remember what your question was.

Obviously, a lot of your music so far has been shaped by your formative years and your lyrics seem to thrive off your experience. So, if you went back to your 16 or 17-year-old self, and there was this band called ‘The 1975’ about, would you listen to them? Do you think you could connect with them?
I’d be… Ahh it’s such a difficult question. I’d die! It’d be my favourite band ever. Of course I would. We are my favourite band. I mean, you have to be. Like, you can’t not be and if anyone says they’re not – like isn’t everyone bored of people who don’t want to be in their bands and they just slag their bands off and stuff? It’s hilarious when Noel Gallagher does it. I love that he hates so much about Oasis.
I’m not there yet, you know. The music is about a pursuit of joy, not a pursuit of ego. You can only be truly joyful if you’re putting yourself into it 100%, and putting myself into making a record is me at my most, I suppose, safe, because I’ll look for it everywhere else.

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