As publications and websites start rolling out their Best Albums Of 2013 lists, you’ll definitely see a lot of familiar names filling out each list. But this year, perhaps more than ever, you’ll see a lot of new names; bands that debuted this year with extremely strong records.
As publications and websites start rolling out their Best Albums Of 2013 lists, you’ll definitely see a lot of familiar names filling out each list. But this year, perhaps more than ever, you’ll see a lot of new names; bands that debuted this year with extremely strong records. Picking the best of all those new bands and debut records might be daunting, but what’s not challenging is figuring out that The 1975 is definitely one of the best newcomers of 2013.
The Manchester quartet has been around for years, but it wasn’t until the release of their four successive EPs that heads started to turn in their direction. Those EPs (Facedown, Sex, Music For Cars, and IV) did such a good job of wetting people’s appetite that by the time their self-titled debut LP came out in early September, it had easily become one of the most anticipated records of the year. After just hearing a few seconds of it, it’s easy to see why.
The band’s truly unique sound is an amalgamation of so many sounds going on today. Elements of Indie rock, synth pop, and R&B intertwine in nearly every song to deliver something truly original every single time. In a time where bands are instantly compared to their contemporaries, this is a band that truly has no contemporary, and can honestly say that they have a truly unique sound that’s only found under the name “The 1975.” Before their sold-out show this Saturday, December 14th at The National, singer and frontman Matthew Healy talked to RVA Magazine about the band’s recent success, as well as early hurdles with the band’s trademark sound.
I wanted to start off asking you about the band’s trademark sound. In a time where everything has to have a label, people are definitely scratching their heads trying to give you one label. How would you describe your sound?
I really try and avoid it, to be honest with you. I don’t really know because I’ve never really thought about it. I suppose we’re just a contemporary pop band, or contemporary alternative/pop band. We’re very inspired by R&B and 80s pop and grandeur pop elements. I think the ironic thing is that we’ve become defined now by being indefinable. It’s nice to be like that too, you know? I wouldn’t know how to tell people what we sound like. I don’t know, what do you think?
Indefinable sounds good to me and I think would draw people in just for the mystique of it. Didn’t this “indefinable” sound work against you in the beginning though?
Massively so. Every label used to come to my house and they couldn’t tell whether I was some kind of creative genius or just an idiot. They kind of went to the latter. I was pretty open with the fact that there is a big stylistic polarity in our material. One song wouldn’t sound stylistically the same as another one. They found that really uncomfortable, but I’ve always said that’s a generational thing. Our generation doesn’t consume media in the same way as ever before. We’re a lot more stylistically ambiguous now and no one consumes media in a linear format anymore. So for my band, we’re just a representation of this generation. We create in the same way that we consume. I just think that that’s a generation gap and the people who aren’t part of that generation–for example, those running the world or the record labels–they don’t understand it. That’s fine. I didn’t mind and I still don’t. I did it myself anyway.
Do you think this style ambiguity is going to start popping up more and more?
I think it will have to in order for people to keep up. Everyone will have to embrace it if that’s the cultural movement going forward. It will be old news to be a band that commits to just one style or genre. The thing about us as a band though, mate, is that we don’t care. We’re not making music for anyone else apart from ourselves. A lot of people are very suspicious of us for saying that. They don’t believe it because we’re so grandeur, we’re so stylized, and we’re way more replicating records from the late 80s than anywhere else conceptually. I think that people don’t like us saying that though, because it comes across that we care loads by saying it. Perfectly honest though, I don’t really care enough to be knowledgeable about it, you know?
No, I understand. Not saying you’re on their level, but The Clash’s attitude with their work in the 80s with Sandinista! and Combat Rock is a good example, especially their approach to it.
Yeah, that’s a perfect example. Obviously we don’t sound like them, but we have the same kind of attitude about it. They came from a punk background and came up with a very post-modern look on music. That’s the same as us too – same punk background ending up with post-modern music.
Have you ever gotten any pressure from your label or management to try and move towards a centralized sound?
No because we’ve never been surrounded by people like that. We probably would have had that if we didn’t get signed when we did. We just got bored of the bullshit cycle of people making promises and them just being full of shit, so we signed to our manager’s [Jamie Oborne] label, who’s managed us for seven years. We’re lucky enough to be surrounded by people whose mantra focuses around facilitating our wants and desires. There’s nobody who’s involved with this band, which is a handful of people, that’s there to throw logs at my feet or anything like that. I’m totally facilitated, and I have free rein to do anything. Because of that, we’ve ended up with a very coherent product and it being very understandable because it all comes from one place.
Switching gears to your album that came out this year, how did that album come about?
Well, the songs were ideas that had formulated in the years 2009 to 2013, like “Robbers,” for example. The initial idea for that song goes back quite far. I suppose by the time we were 20/21 (I’m 24 now), we had ideas for songs like “Chocolate” and “Robbers,” but we didn’t really care, because we were just a bunch of stoners in a band. We weren’t thinking, “Oh, let’s sort it out.” We just let that material die and wrote other material. After a while, we realized we had this big wealth of material to play with, so we decided what was going to go on the album. Then we wrote EPs around singles that we knew were going to come off the album. So we wrote the album and then were like, if “The City” is the first single, let’s write an EP around that. So we wrote Facedown around “The City” and we did that in a week. Wrote and recorded it in a week. Then we wrote and recorded the Sex EP in a week, then Music For Cars for “Chocolate” in a week, and then IV in a week. That was the way that we did those and this was all after the album, so we kind of did it in the opposite way than other artists. They do EPs and then take songs from there to put on an album. We made the albums and then created EPs around those album tracks.
Is that kind of a more classic approach to releasing music, kind of in the same vein of B-Sides?
Yeah, except that could lead to a haberdashery of material. I think that kind of artistry is diluted and compromised due to output. It kind of becomes a haberdashery of material that isn’t exactly focused. For example, if you look at the Haim album; I love that album, but it does feel like it is slightly disjointed and I think that’s because they didn’t have enough time to put into because of the pressure they were under by the record label. That just wasn’t the case with us because we had so much time.
So is this EP structure thing going to be the plan for your next album?
No. I think what we’re going to do is release a new EP probably at the end of next year, and then we’ll release our second album two years to the day we released the first one.
Oh, so you’ve already got plans for the next album?
Yeah, we’ve started it. We’ve got lots of ideas going on. We’ve got about nine or ten songs at the moment that we’re working on for it.
So what’s the songwriting process look like?
I don’t really talk about it that much, to be honest with you, mate. Not to be clandestine or trying to be all cool and mysterious, but it’s one of the only personal things that we have left in the band. We’ve realized that there’s a certain importance to keep it that way. We don’t really talk about the writing process, but I can tell you it’s very much based around the computer. We write music in the same way you would write electronic music. We write music electronically and then translate it to a live setting.
Now, I wanted to ask you about a story I read. Mick Jagger asked for you to open for The Rolling Stones and when you were on stage performing, he was off to side singing along to all your songs. How did it feel to look over while performing and see that?
It’s a strange, strange feeling where your world starts to turn upside down and your idols almost become your peers. Not really because Mick Jagger is not a peer of mine, but he is a man who stood at the side of the stage and sang along to one of my songs because he is a fan. It is weird. It’s like the situation that you’d discuss when you’re all high playing guitar in your room at fifteen. “Oh, it’d be so cool if we’d open for the Stones and like Jagger saw us and he thought we were cool, man.” Well, that shit happened. It actually happened. It was a very surreal experience and very humbling. For us, it was more of a testament for how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. Very surreal and very rewarding.
I can only imagine. Now to close up, what should the Richmond crowd be expecting from your show?
Our live show, I think, is very consistent. I think everything that we do is very consistent, to be honest, and has a good feeling of synergy. Our artwork, our music, et cetera. I think our live show is a great representation of our record. We want people to feel the same way that they feel when they listen to the record, but in real life. If you’re into our album, you’ll love our live show for sure.