Make sure you take a deep breath before trying to recite the title of British rockers The 1975’s new album. I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It. It’s epic, romantic and unabashedly absurd, much like the quartet itself.
This isn’t an insult, as these traits are largely what have set The 1975 apart from its pop peers. Since forming while still in high school in 2002, the Manchester locals have experimented with usually distinct sounds and unapologetic lyrics to create their now-renowned devil-may-care demeanour.
The quartet didn’t drop their debut self-titled album until 2013, but have experienced a whirlwind of success since then. They’ve toured for almost three years straight (including 195 gigs in 2015 alone), amassed a legion of passionate screaming teenage fans and caused pandemonium at their sold out gig at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion in January. Now add the release of the musical mongrel I Like It When You Sleep… to the list and you get the picture.
The 1975 is largely the brainchild of 26-year-old frontman, lead vocalist and heartthrob Matt Healy. An articulate and spirited artist who is also every mother’s nightmare, Healy channelled his many influences to create the technicoloured contrast of pop-rock beats and morose themes that we have come to associate with The 1975.
We spoke to Healy about harnessing his influences for the new album, his disdain towards modern celebrity culture, hints of a July tour and why he still doesn’t give a fuck.
Music Feeds: Congrats on the release of I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It last week! It’s an epic album name and a bit of a mouthful. How did you guys come up with that?
Matt Healy: How’d we come up with it? It was just a lyric that was written down or a song title that was written down. We named it that before we really made the record. It was because we didn’t want to be scared and we were a bit scared and I just, at one point, said “Well let’s just call it that”. Then I think it was because if we called it that it was already ridiculous, d’you know what I mean? It was already ridiculous. So it meant that if we did that, that was a bold decision and it meant that we could carry on making bold decisions.
It was like setting a precedent for how we wanted to execute the album. I think it was really important for the album that we knew that it was already something that was, you know, it wasn’t a decision that was based in fear or preconceptions or careerist ambitions. It was just what felt right at the time and that’s the way we’ve always done stuff.
MF: You mentioned that you guys were scared before creating the new album. Was this because of the success of the 2013 debut?
MH: Yeah! I mean, you’d be scared, you know what I mean? Anyone would be scared. I was scared making the second album because I’d never made a second album before. What I was scared about was the polarising, the really, really obvious gap in where I was and where I’d come from.
Because when you’re making your first album, with no money and nobody gives a fuck whilst you’re making it then you can actually, retrospectively, be really objective. You’re doing it for the right reasons and you’re doing it for you. You’re not thinking “What is this person gonna say?” or “Is this right?” or “Is this culturally relevant?”. You’re just doing whatever and it’s not based in fear.
I think that when you come off tour for two and a half years and you become a big band and you finish and it’s like, “Ok, go and do another one.” So you’re like (sighs) “I don’t really know how”. I think that the quest to figure out how I was going to make this record is what the record became about.
MF: Yeah, I think you can sense some of that fear and anxiety on the album. I was expecting some more sexy upbeat pop tracks, but it was a lot more morbid than I anticipated. Was this a deliberate move?
MH: I think that we’ve always been this kind of over-juxtaposition between how morose or introspective or self deprecating our lyrics are, or my lyrics are, met with the music being more upbeat. D’you know what I mean? That’s something I always have done.
I think on this record it’s just exaggerated, just like everything has been exaggerated on this record. The pop elements of the last album have been exaggerated, they’re more morose-sounding. I mean, I think on the first album, when asked about that idea of the juxtaposition, I would always say that it’s because my ideal song would sound like “I Want to Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston but have the conviction and sentiment of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, you know what I mean?
Like that would be my ideal song. I think that’s something I’ve always been in search of. I mean, songs like Ugh are perfect examples of that.
MF: Yeah, definitely. I think when you first hear Ugh, you hear the poppy beats and catchy hooks and you’re like yeah, this is a party jam. But when you actually listen to the lyrics and realise it’s about a relationship with cocaine, you’re like… oh. A bit taken aback.
MH: Yeah (laughs), I know. That’s what I like about it. Yeah, music that makes you dance and lyrics that make you think. Or music that makes you dance and lyrics that make you stop dancing (laughs).
MF: Haha, yeah! The Cure or The Smiths come to mind when you say that.
MH: Yeah, I’ll take a comparison to The Cure any day.
MF: You mentioned that some of the musical elements have been exaggerated on the album. I think that, stylistically, the album is probably broader than the debut. Do you ever find it difficult to reign in all of your influences?
MH: Um, yeah. I find it hard to reign in. That’s not normally peoples’ questions. Peoples’ questions are normally “Do I find it hard to, I don’t know, um, articulate so many genres or so many references?” That I don’t find hard. I’d find it hard to write two songs that sounded the same. I would struggle with that.
I do find it difficult. I find it difficult to reign myself in in general life. I find it difficult not to say the wrong thing every minute. Or I find it difficult to just, yeah, that’s the perfect way to say it, to reign myself in.
So I did find it difficult to reign myself in creatively but, then again, I also knew that I didn’t really have an parameters. So I think that, if a 17 track album called I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It is me being reigned in, then I wouldn’t really want to see what it was like otherwise.
MF: In a previous interview you said you wanted the new album to be representative of this generation. Do you think I Like It When You Sleep… has achieved this?
MH: It’s not for me to say. You can’t be objective about those kind of things. I want to be representative of that, but a wise man can’t call himself wise because therefore he would not be wise. D’you know what I mean? So, I don’t really know but that’s what I want!
And that’s what I feel, when I’m holding myself to my own standards, I feel that’s what we’re doing and what we are. I don’t have to ask for permission or forgiveness to feel like that, so I do feel like that. Yeah, but it’s not for me to say.
MF: I think you guys definitely make some social commentary on this generation though. For example, Love Me is about the 21st century addiction to social media and celebrity, which is kind of ironic considering the band provokes a similar sort of pandemonium and obsession. I think you can tell that you guys are kind of taking the piss in that song, but does it ever get difficult when you obviously incite that sort of response but resent that culture at the same time?
MH: Yeah, of course. That song talks about being immersed in a culture that you don’t really understand or necessarily represent, d’you know what I mean? I think I understand, I mean..the social media thing is more to do with this social hierarchy that used to be preserved for artists that is filled up with people who aren’t artists.
There will be a “selfie” that “breaks the internet” that will comprise of five or six people who haven’t fucking done anything. Or haven’t, like, said anything or given anything apart from, I don’t know, being attractive or being whatever. I think that song’s about narcissism, it’s about obsession and it’s about being immersed in a world that doesn’t really represent what you feel like you should represent.
MF: At your Hordern Pavilion show in Sydney in January, you asked the crowd to put away their phones for two songs. Is this something you do at every show?
MH: Yeah, I do it at every show. I try not to do it in a Jack White way, like, I try not to get annoyed at people. I think that people get really pissed off about it and they’ll be like “Well, I’m not playing until you get off the phone!” I mean, I’ve got a phone. I’m fucking on my phone 24/7, d’you know what I mean? I’m just as bad as anybody else. I completely understand that whole thing.
But the fact of the matter is that when you’re in that environment, it’s not that I’m annoyed with people for having their phones out because I’m flattered by it because you want to capture the moment. But I always say that I just fear that if we live so retrospectively and people are so concerned about missing the moment, by capturing the moment, you might actually miss the moment that is there. D’you know what I mean?
That’s what I say. I just think people need reminding of that. Because I don’t say “Right! Everyone put your phones down and look at me!” I’m mindful that we all have the opportunity to put our phones down and when people realise that, the room sets up a level because it becomes a more human experience, a more shared experience. You know what, people say that…and it’s not even like taking it back to what gigs used to be like.
That appreciation didn’t exist at other gigs. I actually like now that, it’s actually more potent that phones do exist because when you put them down, it breathes a reality in the room that was ever there before phones. D’you know what I mean? Because you couldn’t appreciate what it was like not to document something.
Gallery: The 1975, Hordern Pavilion / Photos by Ashley Mar
The 1975's Matt Healy Talks His Disdain Towards Celebrity Culture & When To Expect Them In Australia Next - Music Feeds
MF: At the show you mentioned that you’d be back in Australia for some more shows later this year. Do you have any more news around that?
MH: We haven’t confirmed where we’re gonna be when, but I do know that we’re doing a big tour. One hundred percent. So we’ll be back out in like July. So that’ll be winter for you, but summer for me.
MF: The video for The Sound came out last week and featured quotes such as “There’s no danger in this music at all”. Were these actual quotes from reviews you’ve read?
MH: Yeah! They’re all reviews. The annoying thing was that I wanted to use all of the sources of the reviews but we didn’t want it to come across as being defensive, d’you know what I mean? We also didn’t want it to come across as being um, I don’t know.
Some of the reviewers were like “You can’t use that, you can’t quote us in your video and I wanted to be a bit like “Well, fuck off! Because you reviewed that!” But yeah, they’re all stuff from like YouTube or reviews from the last album. Though it’s funny though, innit? (laughs).
MF: Yeah, my favourite by far was “Unconvincing emo lyrics”.
MH: (Laughs) So funny.
MF: So basically you guys just put it up there and were like “I know what people think of us, but we don’t give a fuck.”
MH: Yeah, exactly. We don’t give a fuck.