When The 1975 wrapped up touring behind their sophomore album I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it the band was in turmoil. Lead singer Matty Healy was using again and his bandmates were worried.The group were preparing to record their third and final album Music For Cars, but after a decisive argument with the band Healy decided it was time to go to rehab.
A year on Healy is clean and the band are about to release A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, the first of two albums set to be released in the next year by The 1975 as part of their Music For Cars era. “I kind of got obsessed with our third album being our last because I’d become obsessed with that idea narratively and as a writer,” says Healy. “What you always want is a great ending.
Watch: The 1975 – “Love It If We Made It”
“But, then when it came to doing that, I’d just shit myself because I realised, this is the reason that I get out of bed every morning. I don’t want to stop at 29: I want to tour for the next two years and I want to make new records. I think the only way to do that now is do two albums [at once].”
The first of these two albums is the band’s greatest experiment yet. It has all the typical signs of a The 1975 album – look no further than the self-titled opening track, not to mention song titles like ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’. Listening to the thing in full however, and it becomes clear it’s unlike anything the band has done before.
“ I don’t want to stop at 29: I want to tour for the next two years and I want to make new records.”
The 1975 – and Matty especially – have always pushed away from limiting their sound to one genre. “If I was forced to say something, I’d say [we make] art-pop, only because it’s popular and it’s formed through kind of culturally heavy ideas,” the singer says after a long pause. “The only thing I know about my music is it’s pretty and quite dense.”
The concept of genre and what feels like the eternal battle between “pop music” and “cool” music annoys him, especially in Australia. “Australia has such a tribal affiliation to what it assumes is cool or alternative or left.”
It’s a fair observation. Australia often seems unable to define alternative and cool outside of what is played on triple j and never on stations like KIIS and 2Day fm. Whilst the cultural divide is more obvious in Australia than other countries, the artist is quick to explain that it also fuels his work. “That’s what all of these alternative movements were about – the punk movement, the grunge movement – these things were all about subverting form. They were about being counter-cultural. They took the cultural idea and they countered it with something subversive.”
He goes so far as to say making punk music isn’t very… well ‘punk’ anymore. “If you’re doing something that’s been done before you are the opposite of punk. You are the opposite of alternative. You are a conservative.” This is why Healy would rather work within the realm and ideas of pop. “Going into pop music, the biggest genre in the world and changing it, changing what it means to people and subverting it, that’s ten times more punk than any bullshit view of what punk is.”
Back in 2015 the artist took to Twitter to berate Justin Bieber’s hit track ‘What Do You Mean?’ saying he was singing about “nothingness”. Looking back on it now, the artist admits he was harsh – but he still believes he had a point. “Do something in pop music that really changes my mind about the world. That would be impressive.”
“If you’re doing something that’s been done before you are the opposite of punk. You are the opposite of alternative. You are a conservative.”
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships explores almost every element of music that has found its way into the popular landscape in the past two years – from the dancehall production underlying ‘Tootimetootimetootime’ to the scattered jazz elements in ‘Sincerity Is Scary’. Of course it wouldn’t be a The 1975 album without a trademark synth-pop banger, and though nothing quite reaches the pop-perfection of ‘The Sound’, some tracks come close.
On the wide variety of genres on the album, Healy says it was never intentional. “I’ve never started a song and then been like, ‘Oh, it needs to sound like a different style of music.’ I always look at it like a magpie.
“As long as it’s shining, a magpie doesn’t care if it picks up a piece of foil or a diamond or a piece of silver. A beautiful melody is my ‘shiny thing’. As long as the melody is beautiful, I can be like, ‘I’m doing that, I’m making that.’”
Watch: The 1975 – “Sincerity Is Scary”
When it comes to the critical and public reception of the ever-evolving band Healy seems less bothered than he used to be as well. “There’s this idea that people of conservative thought will maybe not want you to evolve – but I don’t worry about that.
“I’ve spent my whole career giving my audience the benefit of the doubt. I’ve never patronised them and assumed that they couldn’t deal with an hour and a half album or fucking two of them in a year.”
The follow up to A Brief Inquiry, next year’s Notes On A Conditional Form is expected to be the group’s most intimate album yet. Healy is confident that the music will be well received even if there’s no ‘hits’ on the record. “I just think about the fact that I make albums. There’s loads of reasons why I’m not a big single artist like Ariana Grande. One of the reasons would be that it’s a real artform to design something to be consumed over a short period of time.
“I try and write things in the context of a record.The singles are me playing the game because I kind of have to. I have to tell people I’m putting an album out.”
In the short gap between their first two albums, The 1975 found themselves transitioning from playing small theatres to selling out arenas around the world. Ahead of their largest tour yet, the singer considers whether he’d like to go back to the smaller touring circuit.
“I think there’s a real misconception there because the onus of that is always on the artist. Like, if you’re massive you can play small shows if you want. I’m doing one in December at the Barfly which is the first venue we ever played when we recorded the 1975. It’s like 200 cap and we’re playing it.
“When people say, ‘Oh, I miss doing small shows,’ what they really mean is ‘I miss the time when our show didn’t cost so much money and we couldn’t do it without 200 people involved.’”
It’s answers like these that showcase Healy’s absolute honesty. He’s an open book and is unafraid to share his thoughts and opinions – no matter how strong. It’s not surprise he has that confidence though: he’s one of the biggest musicians in the world.
Before hanging up Matty revisits the idea of going back to playing smaller venues and sums up his feelings perfectly. “I don’t miss nobody giving a fuck about me – no, I don’t.”