"This is their identity, it's the thing keeping them alive"
The 1975‘s label boss Jamie Oborne has given some insight into the band’s highly ambitious plans for the future, as well as discussing his other artists and what it takes to get signed to Dirty Hit.
This week it was announced that The 1975 had renewed their contract with their label for another three albums – including the upcoming ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ later this year. Now, Dirty Hit’s boss has spoken to NME about the plans that the band are already formulating.
“Dirty Hit was a label started for them, so the legalities were always secondary to the mode we wanted to operate within,” Oborne told NME. “It’s just the formalities catching up with the practicalities.”
Asked if there was already a plan is place as to what the two albums after ‘Notes On Conditional Form’ will involve, Oborne replied: “Oh my god, do you know what – there is. I’m refusing to talk to Healy [Matty, frontman] about it at the moment because it’s making me really anxious!
“We’ll worry about that when we’ve finished ‘Notes…’, because I strongly believe that you can only make one album at a time. But he does very much have quite a defined idea for what the follow-up is, what it’s called and what it actually sounds like. The kid’s a fucking force of nature and I love it. It keeps everyone on their toes.”
Oborne added: “I always say that there are two types of artist: those who want to do it and those who have to do it. The 1975 and a lot of the artists that we work to fall into the latter category. There isn’t another option. This is their identity, it’s how they express themselves, it’s the thing that keeps them alive.”
After topping NME’s Albums Of The Year in 2018 with acclaimed third album ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships‘, Oborne promises a further sonic departure on the next record – echoing Healy’s comments that their fourth album will have more of a British influence from artists such as The Streets and Burial.
“Matty and George [Daniel, drummer] never stop writing,” Oborne told NME. “I love hearing all the speculation about whether or not they’ve finished and the release date, but the truth of it is that the tap never turns off. They’re always trying to better the last thing that they’ve done. On the last UK tour George had a studio set up in the dressing room. That’s what he does.”
Oborne went on: “The record is kind of amazing. It’s a nighttime record. Matty often gives us these soundbites and they’re always so on the nose. It’s going to be brilliant.
“They love rave culture and house music. They’re from that generation of hotboxing in cars and listening to British dance music. You’ll definitely hear that on the record. It’s quite a British record, and what Matty’s talking about is this feeling of ‘the nighttime’. That’s what has stuck.”
Aside from the BRIT Awards next week, The 1975’s next major live commitment in the UK will be headlining Reading & Leeds Festival this summer. After the impressive stage production of their recent show, Oborne said that their plans for the summer shows will be nothing short of ‘historic’ – in the same vein as Nirvana‘s legendary appearance in 1992.
“It will just be an ever-evolving production, both with the sonic and the aesthetic,” he said. “Everything grows with new songs and textures. What took me by surprise with the arena shows was that the band made the venues feel intimate. When we headlined Latitude, it felt like we were easily big enough to do it. It was a moment.
“We can achieve that at Reading. It could be like when I saw Nirvana headline there. We want Reading and Leeds to be the standout live performance of the year – not just for The 1975, but we want it to define live activity in 2019.”
Oborne also confirmed that Healy’s dream of playing a residency with a different album and ‘era’ performed live each night would “definitely” be taking place.
“I don’t know when it will be, but it will be one of the final things we do [after the next album],” he told NME. “Those things sound like they’re really easy to do, but because we’re always trying to keep ticket prices lower and not promote a hierarchy within music fans, these things can be quite hard to do in isolate – so we’ll be building them into our wider plans. We need to make it work but still affordable for kids.”
Oborne continued: “Matthew and I don’t believe that art should have boundaries to access – especially financial ones. We’re always going to be governed by that because expression shouldn’t be exclusive. It shouldn’t be navigated by money and we’re really proud to not do the VIP ticketing and all that stuff.
“That’s somewhat sickening. Most people wouldn’t think that of The 1975; that they have such strong ethics of how they operate.”
The 1975 aside, Oborne was excited about the plans afoot for the rest of the acts of the Dirty Hit roster. As well as a new EP from Pale Waves “in the next few months” and Benjamin Francis Leftwich‘s “best and most personal work to date”, there will also be new material from Beabadoobee and No Rome – who both featured in the NME 100 of essential new artists for 2019.
“Beabadoobe is amazing, and has a new EP coming at the end of April,” said Oborne. “We’ve also got The Japanese House debut album coming out March 1; that’s an absolute masterpiece and she’s such a fucking talent. It’s a masterclass in what an alternative record should be like in 2019.
“The new EP from No Rome is just straight fire. Rome is just proper home team ‘75. He was in the entire session for ‘A Brief Enquiry’ and will be for ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’. He’s like family now. He’s really progressed as an artist and his new work has a lot of different colours on it that will surprise people.”
As for other new talent on Dirty Hit, Oborne continued: “We have another new artist called AMA who recently released ‘Monochrome’. She’s got a really positive energy. There’s a rapper from Virginia called Caleb Steph. Hip-hop is one of my favourite genres and is a cornerstone of my musical taste. We just released a track called ‘Can I Talk’ which is like a tiny polaroid of what’s to come. He’s only 20. I signed him three years ago but we have been giving him to grow.”
To inspire his signings, Dirty Hit have been building a very studio space with some ‘sacred’ objects and instruments in the London borough of Putney.
“Over the years, me, Matty and George have acquired loads of amazing musical equipment,” said Oborne. “Like the right microphones up to the guitar used by a producer who worked with Blondie and The Ramones. I want it to be an artist’s studio. I want to give a new artist the only guitar that Blondie used on their debut album, and then write their best song because they’re fucking buzzing. Whether it’s acquiring a guitar or a Daniel Johnston scrapbook, it’s part of our job to inspire artists to do better work.”
So what does it take for a new artist to be signed by Dirty Hit?
“They would just have to send us music,” Oborne replied. “It’s really easy to get my email, so do that. These days, it’s hard to find the artists that have to do it, rather than want to. It’s hard to figure that out when you meet someone for the first time. You just have to make me believe in you. If you can do that, then you can get me to do whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be commercial.”
Asked if style and genre played a part, Oborne replied: “No, not really. For instance, I’m obsessed with dub and reggae. Do you think there are some kids somewhere making that kind of music with spirit and social commentary? If there is a band like that in the UK, then I will sign you. It’s my dream to have a more melodic Bad Brains, or The Wailers. Can you imagine that? They’ve probably passed some people by.”
The Japanese House and Beabadoobee will be performing at NME’s ‘Girls To The Front’ night at The Shacklewell Arms in London on February 25. Visit here to join the waiting list for tickets.