The Big Read – The 1975: “I could never let heroin be part of my identity. Junkies are losers”

When Matty, George, Ross and Adam set out to make ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’, it set them on a course of discovery and introspection that would change their lives. Dan Stubbs heads to LA to hear how friendship, addiction and two weeks with a noble horse has resulted in The 1975 making not one but two new albums that might just change the world, too.

There are many types of online relationship. On Tinder, we swipe right or left on people we think we might want to have sex with. On Twitter, we argue with eggs. On Instagram, we pretend to be happy. On Facebook, we connect with old school friends and find some of them have become bigots. Likes and retweets give us a dopamine hit, and most of us are addicts. The bigger your audience, the easier the hit.

The average Twitter user has 707 followers. Matty Healy has 800,000 (he’s @Truman_Black if you want to add a few more). And if you have nearly a million followers, your relationship with the internet is different than yours or mine. If you’re famous, the internet is a place where you’re written about and stanned over, and it’s a place where you can get a supersized dose of that dopamine at the push of a button. Yesterday, Matty tweeted “I love being in the 1975 so much it really is great” and received 80,000 likes, 16,000 retweets and 1300 comments within 24 hours.  But does the dopamine taste as good when you’re shooting fish in a barrel?

“I’ve removed my self esteem from it, I think,” says Matty. We’re in Los Angeles, in a studio complex that exists on the boundary between having and not having a phone signal. Then he checks himself.

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“Hold up. No, of course I haven’t. Trying to not let your self esteem be based on it is something you have to work on.”

Matty’s position, you might think, gives him a strange standpoint from which to enter into a project with the title ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’, which happens to be the new album from The 1975, out at the end of November. But this is Matty Healy. He hasn’t just thought about it, he’s explored the subject, pulled it apart, deconstructed it and made his own conclusions. And these are some the things he’s decided.

1: The internet is a slot machine.

“Understand that the internet is an attention economy,” says Matty. “Become aware that the thing on Twitter where you scroll and it waits to update is a slot machine technique, an addiction-based mechanism. We’re not in 2004, it doesn’t need to do that. It’s there to keep you excited and to keep you off Facebook. And Facebook has an infinite scrolling feed to keep you off Twitter. And YouTube does automated videos at the end to keep you off Netflix. And Netflix lets you skip the intro to so you don’t get bored and then plays another fucking thing. In the real world they’re vying for your money, online they’re vying for your attention. So these things we enjoy on the internet, you can analyse them as being little dopamine hits, put there by somebody who knows what they’re doing. I suppose getting a bit pissed off with it is probably a good start.”

2: Old people don’t get it

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“The internet  lets people down, because everyone is going to get caught out by it no matter how much of a stone cold legend you are,” says Matty. “A good example is Graham Coxon – and it’s not because he slags me off. Graham Coxon is a stone cold legend. He’s probably my favourite guitarist of all time. Probably. He’s a stone cold legend he’s a fucking genius and he’s amazing, but the guy sits there slagging off younger bands, and for a younger generation who weren’t there when he was the coolest person in the world, it’s going to degrade [him]. You have to play it cool. I’m not having a go at Graham Coxon – we can use him as an example for loads of different people. I’m sure Graham Coxon does have self awareness but it’s like, dude, you’re making people crazy. Don’t be the guy on Twitter. And that’s the problem with old people on the internet – they don’t get it.”

3: Strange things happen on the internet

“The internet, in its early form, was supposed to be able to connect you to the kind of people you already knew,” says Matty. “There were a lot of cypher punks who saw it as this utopian, digital, unmonitored transfer zone, but most people just thought, ‘I’m going to be able to stay in touch with my Grandad’, or ‘I’m going to be able to send Greg from work this thing’. Not: ‘I’m going to be able to get into an argument about fucking FGM with a Ugandan politician’, which you can do now. Anything that’s absurd and mental as you want to do, you can engage with it on the internet.”

4: The internet is making us depressed

“When text messaging first came about, it was still a one-to-one negotiation: I propose an idea or something to you, you exchange back to me,” says Matty. “When you get to 2010/2011, this new model of communication that exists is that you put something out there into the world and then you wait for a reaction. Now, if you look at the depression rates amongst young men, the correlation between these two things is very measurably concise, and amongst young women it’s insane. I’m not necessarily an empiricist, I believe in nuance and subtext and context, but I think that if there’s evidence like that, I mean – I’m sure we could really map depression on to the sale of avocados, too – but I do feel like that’s got something to do with it and it kind of freaks me out.”

5: The internet makes us mean

“When kids are being mean, they’re trying it out,” says Matty. “If you’re a kid and you go up to someone in the playground and say, ‘You’re fat’, you see their face change and you see them get their feelings hurt, and you go, ‘Oh this isn’t a nice feeling, I don’t like this.’ If the first time you do that is on YouTube or on somewhere where you go, ‘You’re a cunt,’ and there’s no consequence, you go, ‘I quite like this, this is good because it makes me feel good and it doesn’t do any visible harm.’”

6: Rock music isn’t coming back because of the internet, but that’s fine

“Is anything in a cyclical cycle anymore?” posits Matty. “I don’t think it is. You’ve got the cycles of culture and if they’re big they’re really obvious, but as the internet gets faster the circles get smaller. Now we can reference something from like 2010 that’s nostalgic. It doesn’t work anymore to think that these things happen.”

7: We’ve migrated our IRL relationships onto the internet

“The maintenance of my life, my relationship with my mum, my brother, all my close relationships, are mediated by how much Wi-Fi I have,” says Matty. “If you got rid of everybody’s phones, everybody’s relationships would deteriorate. There’s this idea that we look down on any kind of discourse  that we have online, that it’s this inauthentic version of communication, when actually it’s the primary driver of our relationships.”

1975
Photo Credit: Danny North

Some months ago, Matty was fostering a very meaningful real-life relationship. Favor, his counterpart in the friendship, has sparkling white teeth, big muscles and lives in Barbados. He also has four legs and hooves – he’s the horse that helped Matty Healy kick his addiction to heroin during a stint in rehab.

“One of my therapists there asked did I want to do equine therapy,” Matty explains. “And I thought, because I’m a very cynical English person who doesn’t believe in energy and vibes and is a sceptic at heart, I thought, fucking hell, what am I going to do? Stand next to a horse for two weeks?”

“So I’m stood there, and the first day, to be honest, I am stood next to a horse, and I’m thinking, ‘What a fucking dickhead I am, stood with a horse thinking that I’m going to have a profound moment’. Then three days in, my therapist takes me into this round pen and tells me, ‘Breathe,’ shows me this thing where I’m spinning a rope near the horse, and he basically teaches me how to get the horse to trust me in about five minutes. And when it happened, and the horse came up to me and put his thing next to me, and he was just with me for the whole day, feeling safer with me than not, it was the most profound experience I’ve ever had, because I just got it. In that time, and probably if I went back now, I cared a million times more in a human way about the approval of that horse than I did anybody else.”

“I thought, hold on, this thing wants to be with me. He has the ability to destroy whatever he wants and the desire to hurt nothing. He’s so strong, so independent, so graceful, so elegant, so generous with his time, so understanding of my fragility… there were so many human qualities that I envied in this horse. I’m not as good with other people as he is; I’m not as strong as he is, I’m not as forgiving as he is, I’m not as elegant as he is.”

“And he had great hair. I mean, you can get a mangy horse, but Favor was good looking.”

Did you try and take him home with you?

“Oh man. I was on a massive horse kick when I got back, I was like, ‘I’m moving to the country! I’m getting a horse!’ Then our manager was like, ‘You’ve got an interview,’ and I was like, ‘OK. Maybe later.”

1975
Photo Credit: Danny North

We’re still in LA, in the nosebleeds of the Hollywood Hills, in a residential studio with a rolling vista of the city, a swimming pool and a gym. There’s an electric car charging in the driveway, and a giant metal gate keeps the world at bay. It’s the kind of cocoon-like place in which you suspect Matty feels most at home, surrounded by his bandmates and with a mammoth of supply of weed to pick at.

I’m greeted with a hug by Matty, who immediately takes me on the tour: an annex where No Rome, the Filipino studio whiz signed to the band’s label Dirty Hit, is working on his own album; a room where the finishing touches are being applied to ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’; the wood panelled studio where Matty has been tinkering with The 1975’s next album, ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’, which is planned for a spring 2019 release. The band have moved in for the foreseeable future, taking stacks of guitars and gear with them. On the wall, there’s a perplexing but probably profound drawing of a stick man inside a box with the word ‘SELF’ written outside of it.

Matty’s grown-out blond ‘do has given him frosted tips, like a renegade ’90s boyband member. He has on pale blue slacks, lilac Converse and a vintage Beastie Boys T-shirt held together with a row of about 100 safety pins across his back. The look is every bit the all-American kid next door. But more than that, he looks happy and healthy.

The same can be said for drummer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and production wizard George Daniel who, should another He-Man film ever be made, could be a shoo-in for the lead role. Guitarist Adam Hann looks disgustingly healthy too; the only one who doesn’t, presumably, is bassist Ross Macdonald, who hasn’t yet surfaced after a big night out.

It’s partly the sunshine, partly the diet and partly the lifestyle – the band have been learning to surf in Malibu (“Shakalaka!” says Matty) and are visited by a personal trainer who puts them through their paces every morning.

“I’ve learned that working out makes you feel good,” says Matty, who doesn’t strike you as a person whose favourite lesson was PE. “It pays for your sins of smoking weed or drinking full-fat Coke, and it clears the bats from my head after I’ve woken up.”

“All the commas in my life used to be drugs or cigarettes – get in the car have a cig, get out of the car have a cig, after dinner have a cig, before food have a cig, have a chat to you have a cig. And you can start doing that with drugs as well.”

It is worth noting that Matty is smoking a cig and drinking a full-fat Coke as he says this. But the healthy glow is undeniable. The last time I sat down with him was almost a year ago, in October 2017, was different. Hair: jet black, messy, like a squally storm cloud. Back then, Matty alluded to problems with the making of what was, at the time, supposed be the concluding part in a trilogy of albums that began with their 2013 debut, with an implied question mark hanging over The 1975’s existence beyond those three works.

“It’s a myth that people make music to be happy,” Matty said back then, in the West London offices of Dirty Hit. “Like, what’s even the point in happiness? It doesn’t serve anything you know? A good analogy is people working in the early days of radioactive material, exposing themselves to lethal levels of radiation in order to achieve a goal. Happiness isn’t involved in it. My creative pursuit doesn’t elicit that much happiness because a lot of the time it’s about the darker side of me. And that’s not a depressing thought, I think a lot of the time that’s the way it should be, if you’re really really challenging yourself. But yeah, it’s fucking torture.”

In 2016’s ‘I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’, The 1975 delivered an album that stunned their even their harshest critics into silence. A record of grand scale and proud pomposity, it earned them a Mercury nomination, NME’s Album Of The Year and generated a tour that redefined the parameters of a contemporary pop show, a visual and emotional feast that changed and grew as it travelled, and took Matty and co to arenas worldwide, from New York’s Madison Square Garden to London’s The O2.

‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ is an album that made the band’s dreams come true, from their first headline festival slot, at Latitude 2017, to the fulfilment of their hope of becoming the modern-day equivalent of a John Hughes soundtrack band: ‘Love Me’, the itchy, postmodern, fame-is-funky single, was used in the opening shots of Love Simon, the acclaimed 2018 teen rom-com. I tell Matty I watched it on the plane over and thought of how excited he must have been. “And it had the shot as well!” he says. “The crane shot outside of the front of the high school! All these bands that are like The 1975 or are The 1975, we’ve gotta all agree that our dream is for our song to be in the opening sequence of a teen movie. Because that’s what you… in the early days that’s what I used to dream of. Our first album is an ode to just that fucking moment.”

Though their debut had given them a committed fanbase, ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ gave the band their first real experiences of the absolute absurdity of megastardom. Matty talks about “walking off stage at Latitude then going home alone and watching Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway that you pre-recorded on your thing.” I admit I’m a little surprised he’s a Saturday Night Takeaway fan. Does he sympathise with Ant’s recent substance use issues? “Oh, massively man,” says Matty. “I used to know him – I played his little brother, baby Edward, in Byker Grove. My mum [actor Denise Welch] played… was it Ant’s mum or Dec’s mum? And I was the baby in, like, one episode or something. So I love him and I send all my love to him. I think he’s a fucking legend.”

The album also created big expectations for the group’s next, not least because in its early stages Matty was in the press talking up his desire to make something as big and important as Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ or The Smiths’ ‘The Queen Is Dead’. But last October, things clearly weren’t going to plan. And it’s since emerged that all was not well with Matty, who has spoken about using heroin and opiates.

One of Matty’s defining characteristics is an overwhelming desire to underplay any rock clichés he may fall prey to. It was surprising to hear he’d started taking heroin, but perhaps more surprising he went public about it, too. I ask if it was, perhaps, him testing out his own mortality.

“Like, let’s see if I’m a badass? Yeah, probably a bit of that, that I could do it and get away with it. That’s probably what I thought. But it was more to do with the fact that I was always going to do it. Drugs have always been a real personal thing.”

1975
Photo Credit: Danny North

So you had to take it to the extreme?

“No, not that. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of sedation. Since I was a child. I used to dream about sleeping heavier. I used to love being in a bath, there’s like a weight to it. I don’t know, it sounds kind of fucked up. Dreams have always been this horrendous thing for me. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to sort my dreams out.”

I read that all your dreams take place in one location, in a bleak housing estate. 

“Yeah it’s this one place. I’ve never really related to people when they have all of these different dreams, like they have different films, I have the same one – the estate. [He checks himself]. God, I get so paranoid about how I sound, I hate stuff like, I know some people do have synesthesia [the condition where music and speech triggers colours in the mind], but I know a lot of people [who say they do] don’t, and people basically use mental quirks to be more interesting. I find it really boring.”

Likewise, you’ve always seemed very aware of the cliché of being a rock star. And this is fairly clichéd rock star stuff…

“Oh man. When I was a kid, I loved early American emo like American Football and Sunny Day Real Estate. I never looked up to people like Pete Doherty – I thought he was a dickhead in a hat, a plonker. But I definitely was victim to a lot of things that people are victim to at 19, like reading William Burroughs, watching Dig!, listening to Brian Jonestown Massacre, becoming a bit of a smackhead. It’s so boring and clichéd and I could just never let it be part of my identity because I think junkies are fucking losers. My desire to be sedated has always been incredibly personal. Like, doing drugs by myself? Yes please.”

So it’s been a source of some self-loathing?

“At the time, I justified it to be worth it because there was so much going on in my head all the time and [heroin] was the only way I knew that I could just stop it. I could go to bed and, sweet, just let something happen on the TV instead of everything being so quick, man. But again, saying shit like that is along the lines of people trying to be interesting by being a bit mad. I just couldn’t be arsed with the fucking noise man. Someone like Jim Carrey said something about Philip Seymour Hoffman when he died, and he just said sometimes there’s just too much noise around some people.”

Noise from other people? Like, the noise that comes with being famous?

“Yeah, it’s the external noise, plus the internal noise, because I overthink about everything, and I think that’s partially what makes me a good artist because I am my own biggest critic – that’s why everything is so curated in The 1975 – but it’s just, man it’s, like fucking…”

Was it cathartic to reveal you’d been to rehab, or was part of you embarrassed? 

“Not really cathartic, no. It’s been really difficult but it’s been really a principled stand on telling the truth. I’ve had to apply honesty really diligently in my life and – oh god, it’s so hard not to sound wanky – I don’t have, like, sets of lyrics. Like, when I write it can’t not be a reflection of the truth, do you know what I mean? And then I start writing something and it’s good and I start worrying about it maybe fetishising drugs or something and I think, Well, if it’s the truth, just finish it and… I don’t know man, this is why I still struggle with it. I don’t think that I’m like fucking William Burroughs, I don’t think that I’m ever going to be William Burroughs or any of those stone cold legends to any of my fans but I do see them getting tattoos of my lyrics all the time, and I do see the influence I have, so the idea that by me talking about using that fucking drug and that bullshit world anybody could be like, ‘Oh well, Matty did it so maybe it’s alright’, it makes me feel fucking ill.”

You worry about people copying you?

“Oh mate I’d… it’s bullshit man, and it’s hard in writing. I haven’t done an interview yet where people can see me talking like this about it, not messing about. I don’t think it’s cool, I think it’s like a fucking cop-out, a cultural cop-out. It’s like going on The X Factor for ‘cool’ people.”

What changed this time? What made you decide to go to rehab?

“Every time I would come off stage, I used to feel like… no, let’s not talk about coming off stage like I’m not a human being. I struggled with change my whole life, so big stuff to small stuff, for example, going from one place to another, going from inside to outside has always had a profound psychological effect on me and I just find that when I do shows or when I go through a long period of doing something that the immediate drop off afterwards, so let’s say from 10,000 people to the hotel room, I never really embrace that. I thought well fuck it you’ve got time now, learn how to do that. Get zen with it. Meditate. Work with the horses. Eat well. Be really good.”

Is rehab hard? People hear Bahamas and they think: holiday.

“Yeah it’s very hard. Being in rehab is hard. Coming off drugs is hard. Watch a movie where someone comes off drugs, do you know what I mean?”

I mean, I’m thinking of Renton in Trainspotting.

“Yeah but I was in Barbados with Favor. I was good.”

Was it a celebrity rehab place?

“No I was the only person there. Well, there was another person there in another bit, but it had just opened. It was like solitary, it was intense.”

Doesn’t being alone make it more difficult?

“No, I was fine on my own. I could talk to my family, nurses were coming in every hour – absolute legends.”

And it was a physical withdrawal?

“Oh yeah, big time, yeah. That’s par for the course. Getting clean, detoxing, is fucking grim, but staying clean is fucking harder. It’s benzos man, fucking Xanax and Diazepam. I would come off heroin 10 times a year instead of coming off benzos once. It’s fucking massive over here [in the States] and it’s fucking horrendous. Come off benzos and tell me you’re going to go back on it. Jesus Christ it’s awful.”

That’s what contributed to Lil Peep’s death, right?

“I’m not surprised people die, because even when you’re in a nursing facility with people looking after you, you feel like you’re actually going to die. It’s a long swim from Barbados, if I was doing that in Stevenage, where one of the suggestions was, I’d have been back in London in two days.”

But it’s worked, right? In another interview, you mentioned you take drug tests in front of the rest of the band to prove you’re staying clean. Knowing how well you all get on, is that necessary?

“Sometimes, right, what happens with addiction is that it makes you lie. If you left £50 out and your housemate nicked it, even if he apologises his heart out you’d suspect him the next time that £50 went missing. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your mate and it doesn’t mean that you don’t trust them, but you don’t believe them. Now, if you’re as close as we are, like brothers, you can’t have that. So the only logical discourse is to put everyone’s minds at ease. I’d rather remind everybody of the situation we’re in once every two weeks or whatever just to have their minds at ease, do you know what I mean?”

So it’s not a case of them presenting you with a piss pot and you doing it under duress?

“Not at all, it’s me doing it because if you’re real about it then what’s the problem? What is it to me to do a wee? Right? When this is everything to all of us, it means we can just forget about it watch a movie, right?”

I’m reminded of what Matty told me they got up to last night: watching Paddington 2. Again.

“I don’t want them to have to ask me, because of course they’re going to worry about it because they’re good people. I would worry about them – I worry about them because of other things – but I don’t want them to have to have the obligation of just thinking about fucking heroin all the time. Dude, we couldn’t be closer. Like I didn’t pay for rehab. We just didn’t even talk about me paying for it. And it was fucking expensive!”

1975
Photo Credit: Danny North

The process of making ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ began, in earnest, in Northampton, in a studio Matty had scoped out on a now-abandoned attempt to work with Skepta, a collaboration first mooted when they met at the NME Awards in 2016. Northampton, bringing to mind shoe factories and motorway service stations, feels a world away from this LA idyll, but the band settled in there for six months and Matty found the beauty in the place.

“It’s near where all the Spice Girls live and shit like that, it’s well nice, proper countryside, dogs everywhere, horses,” he says. “Very, very kind of Heathcliff vibes.”

Perfect conditions for a man who loves poetry, then? Matty mocks ambling through the countryside singing ‘TooTimeTooTimeTooTime’, an insanely catchy track from the new album co-written with George and No Rome. “Oh yeah, just like Byron, me,” he laughs.

If you’ve been following the band’s campaign, you’ll know that the songs they’ve put out so far create a picture of an utterly unknowable album: ‘TooTime…’ is bouncy piano house, ‘Give Yourself A Try’ is fuzzed-up pop and ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, released last week, is glitchy neo-jazz. There seems to be no theme; where ‘TooTime’ is wilful fluff (“I’m at a point in my life where I love anything that just makes me feel good,” says Matty), another pre-release track, ‘Love It If We Made It’ is a towering and ingenious protest song. It casts no opinion on anything, but simply describes images and soundbites of the modern world: “Poison me daddy… A beach of drowning three-year-olds…

It’s been jokingly described as a Millennial ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, but it’s an important song, too, a snapshot of a fucked-up world and a protest song for a generation that piles on the opinionated in virtual pitchfork-wielding mobs. “I wanted it to be loud and outward but objective, and you can’t really call me out on anything in it,” says Matty. “But I couldn’t get that song played on the radio because there are two words in it that are too raw for radio. One of them was a direct quote from the sitting President of the United States: ‘I moved on her like a bitch’.”

“We’ve heard the President say that, we know this,” says Matty. “This happened. I’m not saying that the police are inherently racist. I’m saying that this happened. So we can talk about the American prison system being a business, whether you’re for or against it, but it is. And if you scream that, it’s alarming. Why is it alarming? Maybe because it’s not a good idea. You can’t scream ‘Creme Egg!’ and provoke a reaction, but you can scream the truth and it’ll maybe reveal a bit more.”

The words ‘Creme Egg’ just appeared in your head?

“Well, I just thought… I was just thinking of something banal, OK?!”

For anyone trying to piece together an idea of the album, know that the tracks so far are merely the tip of the iceberg.

“It’s a bit of a… what’s a good word for curveball? It’s the least kind of on-the-nose, sticky record that I’ve ever done, there’s no theme, there’s no gags. In fact, no, there are shitloads of gags, but it’s not like so self-aware and so ‘am I a rockstar or am I a dickhead or am I an egomaniac?’ this time. It’s just really honest. But it’s not weird, because what would be a weird 1975 record is if we brought out something like that Arctic Monkeys record that was very different for them but has a consistent sound. I don’t know how to do that, that’s a skill I do not have.”

So, how do you call time on an album like that?

“We got to a point where we actually found a quite nice palette for the whole record, like a nice narrative at one point, so I was quite happy to go, ‘OK, that’s it’, and since then we’ve been happy, so the stuff I have been working on is new stuff for the fourth one.”

Ah: the fourth one. Matty says it’s such early stages that “you know as much about it as I do at this point”, but fans can expect to hear songs from it on the band’s tour in early 2019. The overarching plan, says Matty, is to eventually package both albums together as the semi-mythical ‘Music For Cars’, which was initially supposed to be the title of album three and is recycled from an early EP. Confused yet? So’s Matty. “I suppose if I haven’t 100 percent figured it out, no one else is going to,” he says.

Towards the end of the interview, and apropos of nothing, Matty says, “I hope it gets good reviews”. I laugh it off a bit, but he’s serious. “No, I do hope it does.”

Then we go inside, and Matty rolls a giant joint and starts playing some of the most remarkable songs I’ve heard in years, bopping along as they blast out. A Cole Porter-like jazz song sounds like a standard and has the killer lyric “I fight crime online sometimes”; a new wave pop song is outwardly about love but is not so subtly an ode to heroin (“I’ve got a 20-stone monkey on my back”), there’s a fragile, beautiful ballad about guilt, one song employs the kind of plastic piano sound last heard on Glenn Medeiros’s ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You’; a ‘90s-style alt-rock track, ‘I Always Wanna Die Sometimes’, is a stirringly moving song about depression; a spoken word piece, voiced by Siri, skewers our relationship with the internet in a modern parable. And even in this jumbled up state, it sounds like a masterpiece, a game-changer, a bar-raiser. An absolute stone cold legend masterpiece. It sounds like they’ve done what Matty said all that time ago: they’ve made ‘OK Computer’ for a new generation of kids – ’Snowflake Computer’, if you will.

And it strikes you that it’s not really an inquiry into online relationships at all, it’s an album, mostly, about love.

“I think it is,” Matty says after, back on the veranda. “The form is about love. I think that you noticed something in it which in its most crudest form would be a double entendre – they all could be about love but they are all not necessarily about love. I think it’s all kind of nuanced. There are moments of real darkness in there, but the overall feeling is optimistic. I didn’t want to provide irony as the solution to everything. I’m so bored of that.”

Matty struggled earlier when talking about the future, the long stretch on the road ahead. I’d asked if making two records was a way of keeping himself in the cocoon of the band, whether in the studio or on tour, away from the distractions and temptations home. “If we wanna get deep in the psychology of things I’m scared of, things I’m scared of voids of time, but no, no,” he said. Actually, in contrast to that meeting back in 2017, it seems like writing is no longer torture. Neither is life.  “I think the thing with growing up, getting your shit together and taking things really seriously, is because it’s like… I’ve said before that self-esteem is acquired by esteemable actions, right? There’s this whole self-love kick at the moment, which is part of like the zeitgeist that everybody’s all about. And it’s fucking great. Regardless of whatever people think, it’s fucking great that everybody’s getting into that vibe.”

“I just know right now that if I am at a certain level of fitness and a certain level of mental health, the whole thing of ‘find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ actually really becomes true. When you can physically do all of that shit, when you have the mental capacity to I don’t know… try and make two albums! Or you know, even to just make one really fucking good one, or tour properly, you’re there. And when we go back on tour, I think it’s gonna be like the first time we’ve like really fucking done it, you know?”

In April next year, in among these two albums, Matty Healy will turn 30, and spend most of the next two years on the road. He’s said that his band’s first three albums were supposed to be the story of him growing up: the debut is him dreaming in Manchester, the second is him experiencing success, and this one was supposed to be the mature one? But they’ve gone one bigger. They’ve put together an album that doesn’t just sum Matty up, it seems to sum up the human condition. Who’d have thought?

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