“I’m gonna have a massage, work on my neck,” sighs The 1975‘s frontman Matt Healy over the phone. He’s backstage at Brixton Academy, preparing for the third of five sold out nights at the venue, but is suffering a “fucked up” neck following the first two gigs. A result of too much headbanging? The weight of his ever-active brain crushing down on the rest of his body? Nope, just “too much frontman hair flicking” he explains.
On the night of the first Brixton show, it was announced that the band’s second album ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’ had gone straight in at Number One. Two days later, they’d achieved the same feat in America, where they sold as many copies of this album as their debut sold in 26 weeks. Quite the impressive achievements.
Congratulations on the Number One. How does it feel topping the charts in the UK and the US?
Matty: “I know right?! It is very exciting. It feels very surreal in the truest sense because I can’t picture a kid in Kentucky sitting there, listening to the album, so it’s still a weird thing for me. It’s humbling and I suppose it means that I was right or that the things that I believed in in the record did actually translate, which obviously makes me quite proud. I really believed in that record.”
The video for ‘The Sound’ showcased some of the hate people have for The 1975. Do you feel like you’ve won people over?
“That was more just referencing the culture that surrounds our band and that divisive conversation. I’ve not been on some kind of redemption. I’m not about to rise from the ashes. I’ve never really paid that much attention to what was said about me. I suppose people have the right to their opinions don’t they?”
How did you celebrate the news?
“I didn’t really, in a party sense. We were very focused on the [Brixton] shows and it’s a really, really long set. I’ve been spending time with my brother, as well, who I haven’t seen for a while. He’s 15. I actually ended up just going back to my house and playing FIFA with him until 2 o’clock in the morning. And then I was in bed. I slept under a towel cos I didn’t have another duvet. The night that my album went to Number One I slept under a towel.”
Only 15 other artists have had a Number One in the UK and US simultaneously, including The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin and more. How does it feel to be part of that club?
“I suppose what it means is we’re definitely part of history now. That’s something, isn’t it? That’s an achievement that came out of nowhere. I don’t really know. I think it’s… yeah… I mean… yeah. What can I say? It’s amazing. Number One album in America is a statistic that you hold up to superstars. It’s a weird thing to think about and try and understand.”
Are you going to be the biggest band in the world now?
“Probably. For a bit. I dunno, maybe. I know that we have the potential to be. Let’s hope? We’re giving it a go. We’re obviously giving it a go, aren’t we?”
You spoke before the album charted about how cool it would be for it to go to Number One because it’s not your typical Number One album. Is it proof that bands don’t need to conform or play it safe to succeed?
“I suppose it has to represent that a little bit, regardless of whether I want it to or not. It’s got a weird title, it’s particularly long, it’s from a band that hasn’t had much chart success from their singles. It’s not on paper something that a lot of people would run away from, but I think it’s a testament to how I feel we put so much love into it and I really have been feeling so much love coming back from it in a way that I’ve never really felt before. I feel really understood for the first time. I feel like I’ve had a career of being quite misunderstood. That record is really drenched in my identity, it’s kind of everything that I am. So for it to be so accepted makes me feel quite accepted.”
Do you not want it to represent bands doing something interesting then?
“No, I do, I think so. I just don’t want to provoke ambivalence in people. That’s like the worst thing that you can do. I think there’s a lot of bands that do that, whether that’s through playing it safe or just not being good enough. I think I’ve spoken about my desire for more depth in the context of pop music, and when I say pop music I mean pop music roundabout where we sit culturally, in the charts. I don’t want everything to be particularly earnest, but you should just believe everything that you hear. That’s what I’d like! I’d like to turn on the radio and believe everybody. Instead of understanding that it’s not a form of expression. It’s not somebody truly expressing themselves. It’s an idea, it’s a model, it’s something that’s been designed to… I dunno. It’s just boring. I just want to believe everybody. Fucking hell, I sound like I’m trying to be James Brown or some shit, but you know what I mean. It sounds like a pretentious thing to say when I’m using words like belief and truth, but I just want there to be loads of conviction. And you can do that in proper pop music. There is it in drips and drabs.”
You’ve played two of your five Brixton shows so far. How’s it been playing such a long set?
“Oh, you know what, it was quite hard. I’ve never done a set that long. Physically, it was hard. Emotionally, it was quite cathartic. I felt like I was really, really getting out what I wanted to do on stage. Obviously there were fears of being slightly indulgent and it is quite a long set, but then again, it speaks of this record. There’s a lot of EP stuff on there and a lot of stuff from the new record. I was worried about it being a bit indulgent, but then I realised I’m not indulging. I’m doing it because I know that we need to express who we are as a band and we should do that to our fans. Obviously we’re not going to do that at fucking Reading or anything, that’d be mental. But we’ll always keep it quite long.”
The production in the show makes it feel even more intimate, because it’s such a big production in a small venue. Was that the intention?
“That’s what I like about. That’s why we wanted to do that kind of thing – so it felt kind of maximalist and intimate. Is that a word, maximalist? It is now. I wanted it to be like Close Encounters, where there’s this really imposing presence, like really big thing in front of you that’s almost quite alien. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much, it was the band that we are now and we were very strict about wanting it to represent the record. I think that there’s so much attention to the detail in the record and so much love in the record, that we wanted it to be powerful really live. And I think, especially for our fans on those two nights, that’s what we managed to achieve. It was quite powerful for us.”
How are the shows going to change for festivals and future bigger gigs?
“I always have to take those things as they come. I don’t want to go to a festival and see one of my favourite bands play all of the B-sides. I just wouldn’t want that. It just doesn’t fit the environment – when you’re at a festival, you’re there to enjoy yourself. So we’ll do the set you’d expect, I imagine – the big ‘here we are, look how many songs you know’ kind of set. I’m looking forward to getting that big, that’ll be a good thing, getting festival headliner big. I’m looking forward to that shit. If we got to headline Glastonbury or something like that, that’d be the one. But that’s a long way off.”
Do you see yourselves headlining any of the other major festivals in the next couple of years?
“If the kind of acceptance and excitement of this record continues, then why not? I don’t really know. I’d be up for it and I’d definitely rise to the challenge, whether it be appropriate or not. I like seeing sets of bands who are almost like the underdogs. Not underdogs, but you know when Kings Of Leon headlined Glastonbury on ‘Because Of The Times’ and everyone was like, ‘Hmm I dunno’ and they came out and they were just fucking amazing? I like the idea of that. Foals have got a headline set coming up somewhere [it’s Reading & Leeds]. They can sometimes be the defining moments.”
With the Number Ones sorted, what’s your next goal for the band?
“That’s such an obvious but funny question to ask, just because it’s something we’ve been talking about it all day. I think I might have touched on when the first album came out I had this whole ridiculous existential crisis where I was like, ‘Oh fuck, I’m never gonna be happy ever, ever, ever, because this didn’t make me happy’. That’s not happened this time because we’ve got the experience of it and stuff like that, but we have seen the pursuit of the Number One, not in a commercial sense, but to kind of really do this record justice. The desire to get the Number One, which we felt like we could get, was our goal really. Across the board, that was what we wanted and now we’ve achieved that what do I want to do [laughs]? I’ll just channel those things into loads of things. I’ll go mental on a music video or I’ll go mental on something in the next couple of weeks and that’ll be my next thing. Just not as big a statistical achievement as being up there with the fucking Beatles or whatever it is.”