We head east to talk late-nights and lies with The 1975’s effusive frontman, Matty Healy.
Taken from the Fame Issue of Wonderland
“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]”.
The same “purity” is reflected in the album’s visual cues. The 1975 have long been characterised by the monochrome that seeps out of battered leather jackets and into press shots, videos and even live shows. A new album would need more than a J W Anderson coat. The answer came not, as I perhaps cynically suggest, from months of meetings with a Shoreditch creative agency but instead directly from Healy, “Me in my flat talking to my manager.” In June, the band’s social media disappeared and along with it the black and white which had defined them. The next day, The 1975’s Twitter and Instagram were back, this time in coloured neon, burning as bright as Kerouac’s “fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars”.
In spite of the marketing stunts, in spite of his celebratty behaviour and even in spite of the Kerouac references, I can’t help but like Matty Healy. “I’d be lying if I said that if it got destroyed I wouldn’t be cut up, do you know what I mean?” he tells me frankly. It feels like the confession of a friend after one too many glasses of Malbec. It’s a conflict that clearly plagues Matty Healy: on one hand the desire to continually tell the truth and on the other, the consequences. “The one thing I really struggled with is the duality between art and reality”, he explains, aware of his own aggrandising. “I have a big guilt complex about the catharsis of making music, because if I experience something that hurts me I immediately put it into a song or put it into my art to give it context. And it’s cathartic for me, but then I feel guilty because I feel like I’m trivialising it… I don’t want to share these things in the same way that people will put something on the Internet, or on Facebook.”
There’s an intoxicating thrill about watching someone over-share details of their private life to thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in a moment of heightened emotion. Interviewing Matty Healy, I experience the same feeling: at every twist of conversation, it feels as though he is on the brink of admitting something he shouldn’t. After four years, two albums, and god knows how many interviews, he still feels the need to confess. “I’m still writing in the same way I did when [I was 15 and] nobody was listening and that’s because there’s also a fear of that’s what made me successful”. Matty Healy pauses, looking at me steadily from beneath a mop of dirty curls. “If I came out with an album now that wasn’t as truthful as the first, it’s game over.”
All clothing by SAINT LAURENT
Photography: Daniyel Lowden
Fashion: Sam Carder
Make up: Athena Paginton using MAC COSMETICS
Hair: Kim Rance using L’OREAL PROFESSIONAL and WONDERFUL HAIR EXTENSIONS
Photographer’s assistant: Barney Frost
Fashion assistant: Mateusz Debicki
Words: Bryony Stone