“I’m on tour all the time,” Matty Healy sighs theatrically. “I’m always training myself in certain ways, so I can buy into the idea of [cult Jack Kerouac novel] On The Road. After three years, it’s a bit tiring”. Since the release of The 1975’s breakout single “Sex” in late 2012, the band have rarely had a day off. By the September 2013 release of their self- titled debut album, their efforts earned them a No.1 spot in the UK album chart. The following year, The 1975 played 195 shows in 29 countries,a stint for which they were awarded NME’s Hardest Working Band. Tiring, it seems, is an understatement.
The name 1975 is taken from an annotation “1 June, The 1975” that they’d spotted in a Kerouac book – and if The 1975 embodied On the Road, then frontman Matty Healy was the novel’s protagonist, Dean Moriarty, constantly in search of his next great adventure. He needn’t have bothered: adventure seemed to find him. Salivating gossip columnists linked the frontman to not one but two of Harry Styles’ ex- girlfriends, videos were published showing him doing bong hits with fans and rumours emerged concerning a melt-down in Boston which ended with Healy being physically dragged off stage by bandmate George Daniel.
It was only when it came to writing the ludicrously titled follow- up album I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It that Healy was finally able to draw breath. “It was this whole, massive journey which didn’t really have any room for retrospect or hindsight”, Healy tells me over coffee. “When we came off tour after two full years, the silence was deafening. It was really difficult to adjust.”
It was as if, once off the road, Healy could see past the haze of years of late nights and red wine hangovers to the person he had become. “When we stopped touring and now it was like ‘Right, now it’s time to make the record’, the reality of it, of actually having to do it and focus on it in the way that we were focusing on touring, kind of bred this fear within me and George. And,” he continues,“that was remedied by saying: ‘Well, fuck it, all of our favourite records… are a distillation of the previous one.’”
The 1975 are often categorised as “indie rock”, a label cemented by the band’s look. But today, although Healy’s hair is tousled and in need of a wash and his fingernails are half coated with chipped black nail varnish, in place of his signature leather jacket is a brown striped J W Anderson coat. It’s an unexpected curveball which hints at a new, more mature sound. At 19 tracks long, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It is hard to categorise. “UGH!”, “She’s American”, “A Change of Heart”, “Paris” and “Love Me” seem to slot neatly into the pop canon, but look beneath the bubble-gum sheen and there’s an undeniable sincerity. From Healy’s recent depression in “The Ballad of Me and My Brain” to “Nana”, about the death of his Grandma to the post-natal depression that defined the start of his life in “She Lays Me Down”, no life experience escapes narration. “I think with this record it’s the first time that we’ve delved into direct sentimentality”, Healy declares. “We’ve been morose and introspective and guilty and sad, but we’ve not been – I’ve not been – heartbroken in an inarguable way…. so there’s a purity to [that]”.