One year ago, The 1975 were yet another relatively unknown Manchester four piece. Last month, their debut album went straight to number one in the Official UK charts. Frontman Matt Healy is keen to explain that this seemingly meteoric rise to success is actually the product of years of work and carefully planned timing.
Photo: The Telegraph
In 2011, the song ‘Sex’ was released onto the web by a band called The Slowdown and began creating some viral stir. This was the first offering by the lineup we now know as The 1975. However, evidence and promotion of this promising track soon began to disappear and I was keen to understand the reasoning behind this unusual decision to effectively take a backwards step. Healy explains that the decision was simple: “‘Sex’ attracted a lot of major label interest and we got a bit disillusioned with it, so we sacked it off, did our own thing and came back as The 1975.”
He goes onto describe how the band had been touring for years, playing under different names to avoid the attention from big record producers. They had even played The Waterfront before, although Healy could not remember under which alias they had performed.
This answer gives away a lot about the attitude of the band – they aren’t desperate for commercial success. They’ve always wanted to write and play music on their own terms. Healy mentions that they never even intended to release an album, but when they were finally comfortable with their style and identity as The 1975, the timing seemed right to go ahead and record one.
Healy refreshingly refuses to let the number one album credential affect his view on the band’s motivations or goals. He asserts that “statistics aren’t the important element of the band, it’s the validation on a human level that matters.” He seems more enthused by the recent discovery that “kids are walking around with 1975 neck tattoos.”
Healy is obviously keen to dispel any conceptions of the band as an overnight or undeserving success; just another landfill indie band. He divulges an animated account of how the band have, for over ten years, “been developing their stylistic and musical vocabulary together.” He goes on to talk about their shared influences: “black-American music from Motown through to soul, to 80’s pop and 90’s r’n’b.” He maintains that the band are “actually an r’n’b and soul band who’ve embraced a lot of elements of indie music.”
One physical marker of indie success that Healy is happy to accept is that The 1975 are the first act to sell out Brixton Academy before releasing a debut album, which is a huge accomplishment.
Another success that Healy celebrates is his band’s support slot for The Rolling Stones this summer. He seems entirely humbled when describing watching Jagger dance to ‘Chocolate’ on the side of the stage during the Hyde Park gig. He also explains incredulously how amazed he was to find that The Rolling Stones still rehearse before a live gig, even after fifty years.
With Healy’s focus on prioritising music and fans over statistical success, I can’t help but think that, if they make it that far, The 1975 will similarly be rehearsing hard before every live gig for the next fifty years.
I couldn’t resist slipping in one personal question at the end, about Healy’s mother, who rather unbelievably is Denise Welch of Loose Women fame. Healy laughs and tells me he has indeed met the rest of the infamous panel. If he can survive that, then Brixton Academy should be child’s play.