Two days ago The 1975 were in New York hosting the first of two pop-up shops to celebrate the release of their second album, ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’. Before that space had even closed, they were on a flight back to London to hold court at the second.
“I’m a bit jetlagged,” frontman Matt Healy admits as he takes a seat on a fold-up white chair before doors open in central London. Not that you can tell – he’s been pacing energetically around the room since NME arrived and talks at a mile a minute, full of enthusiasm and passion.
Outside, hordes of fans line the street from The White Space gallery near Leicester Square, round the corner and all the way up to Tottenham Court Road. Some have been camping out all night, patiently braving the cold so they can meet the band. It was a similar story in New York, too, with the Lower East Side overrun by 1975 fans.
“We’re amazed by how mental it actually is,” admits Healy under the glow of pink neon signs. “I don’t know how much kids knew about what it was going to be like, but [New York] was pretty intimate. I liked it.”
These shops are more than just a way of securing a few more album sales or profiting off exclusive merch (items on sale today include a rose gold 1975 necklace). Artwork and prints featured on the record’s sleeve are on display, with extra trinkets – a pile of books about hallucinogenics, a typewriter with a diagram written out in pink ink next to it – set out on white plinths. And, possibly most importantly to those shivering outside, the whole band will be present for the duration of the event, waiting to meet their fans, chat and take selfies.
“We just wanted an experience that wasn’t as antiseptic as loads of them are,” says Healy of this more immersive meet-and-greet. “Like [there’s] a queue and people stamping stuff. I’ve seen people stamp stuff before! We just know that any success we have now, whether it be big commercial success or whatever, is proper founded in how intense our fanbase is.”
In New York, you were in a separate room to the art…
Matty: Well, we had the [first] room and they came in and they could buy all the exclusive stuff and they could take pictures of whatever, the neons and that. And then there was another room, but we kept it quite informal. So they had 10 minutes in that room and then 10 minutes in the room with us. We just hung out really. The whole personal relationship with the band, cos it doesn’t happen much online, our shows and stuff like this – we never wanna monetise it or do anything that would make it feel a bit naff, do you know what I mean? We’re not trying to subvert anything. We’re not like ‘hey that’s uncool’. It just feels like the thing to do. I do feel very accepted, which makes me feel comfortable. I need a lot of benefit of the doubt to get me and all these kids have it.”
Obviously the aesthetic aspect is a very important part of The 1975. Are these pop-ups are way to encourage your fans to engage with the art as well as the music?
Matty: “I think so. I wince at the idea of anybody assuming that I think I’m being educational, whether it be with my music or art. This just comes from my love of what I do. I’m not having a case of having serious artist syndrome. I’m not doing that. I love the things that I love and this for me matches exactly what I do. I want it to be the visual representation of our music. I think that there is an element of it, with our live show and stuff like that. I wanted it to be like an art installation, I wanted it to feel like a light installation. Because I know who I am and I understand where we sit culturally, I know that there’s going to be a lot of our audience who aren’t into fine art or aren’t into these kind of things. So I suppose there is that element of doing this kind of thing for the masses and immersing people in those ideas, and that’s nice, but I don’t think ‘oh they need educating’ or ‘I need to reference this or that’.”
It’s more sharing your passion?
Matty: “Yeah that’s all it is! And I have such an opportunity now to extend it. It’s always been a proper world for me, The 1975, whatever the correlation between the visuals and the music. I can just do it now and have a room of it.”
How closely did you work with Samuel Burgess-Johnson on all the artwork and ideas behind it?
Matty: “Sam’s my best mate. Sam lives with me. Everything is my idea and then Sam takes it and turns it into whatever. I consider him kind of like my art director, but I would never say that… but I just did. He’s a really good mate and he’s just a very, very talented guy. I think because the ideas we had for the visual aspect of the record were quite succinct, it was easy – it was just choosing cool locations. There’s loads of subtext and stuff. There’s a line in ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Brain’ about Sainsbury’s and the light on up it is our flat where we recorded most of the demos for the record. So those kind of things just fell into place cos we were mates.”
What’s the subtext with the ‘Love Me’ one in the hospital?
Matty: “The ‘Love Me’ one in the hospital. It’s quite funny cos I’ve kind of opened up a can of worms there. A lot of it’s quite personal and I didn’t really say a lot of it. One of us went to get some psychiatric help, one of us did, and we just wanted this juxtaposition between extreme insecurity that even takes you to places like that, but with the brash sentiment that exists within ‘Love Me’. I thought it was a nice juxtaposition between what we knew the video was going to be about and stuff like that.”
These pop-ups are to celebrate the release of the new album. What would it mean to you if that record went to Number One?
Matty: “I don’t know. I can get very me and over-talk about it. The first album was met with this massive existential crisis. I compared it to winning 4-2 on aggregate, because you know by Wednesday and stuff and there’s this buildup and you get there and it’s like, ‘Agghhh!’ It’s kind of like New Year’s Eve. And then it’s like ‘oh my god, my whole life led up to this. This was my ultimate desire’. Now you’ve got it and then it keeps going. It’s like the end of The Graduate where it’s happy and then they realise, ‘Oh, maybe I’m not happy forever now’. Anyway, that’s a really depressing thing to say.
“I hope that I’m not met with such an existential crisis, I hope that I can embrace it. Regardless of how glossy or it almost retrospectively seems like that [first] album was designed for where it went in commercially, it was a record we made in our bedroom. Through a love of big records, it turned into that. So even though I got why it was successful, it was mental for me. It was mental because it proper was a big part of my history. I hadn’t faced everything that comes with being in a band – people knowing who you are, touring for years. I’ve done that now so I think I might have a bit more context to understand things. But still, when I say shit like ‘I’m so humbled’ I really am. I fucking am. I think especially if this record goes in at number one, I haven’t at all made a contrived record or a record that is trying to subvert anything, but a lot of the time, with the process of this record, I kind of ran in the other direction of anything that I thought was a preconception of what a 1975 album would be. I think it’s a weird record to go in at Number One, do you know what I mean? And I understand because we’re who we are and have our fanbase, I get it, but I kind of think it’s cool that a record with such a ridiculous title – it’s so long and so pretentious, but quite sweet – I’d be really happy for that record to go in at Number One. Way happy with that.”
The same day it charts you start a run of five nights at Brixton Academy. You played there three nights in a row on the first album, so why go back?
Matty: “We love it there and it’s like where everything became, ‘Fuck, we’re a band now!’. Those were the shows were we were like ‘right OK, this is it’. Coming off the first album and playing two nights at Ally Pally and stuff like that, a lot of people expect you to go from there and do arenas. It sounds silly trying to be like modest and being like ‘so we’re going back to the small Brixton Academy’, but I’d rather have done 10 Brixton Academies than do 2 O2s right now, do you know what I mean? I want to do those arenas, but I want to fill it up in the same way that we filled up Brixton Academy, with proper intense fans. I think if you address all of those fans and you give them, on this album now, shows that are intimate or just good shows, then it makes those shows later on less anodyne and boring. I want to play an arena, but I want to play an arena for the fans, proper fans. So by doing as many nights as we can in proper venues that’s hopefully how we’re going to cultivate it.”
Have you got anything special planned for those dates?
Matty: “There’s no, like, dance troupes coming out or stuff like that. But there’s new songs and, this show, every song has it’s own particular look, so there’s new looks and amongst our fans that holds quite a lot of currency. It is a new set, comprised of a lot of very new stuff off the new album and very old stuff of the EPs. It’s missing a lot of the first album. I’m kind of done with it.”
You feel like you’re over the songs on the first album?
Matty: “Yeah, for a bit. I’ll come back to it, I’m pretty sure, but for now it’s all about this record.”