‘We were doing covers of punk songs and Ghostbusters’
In a year filled with unreal childhood dream-type moments, there’s one that stands out for The 1975’s singer Matt Healy...
It’s the moment when, as his band supported The Rolling Stones at this year’s iTunes festival in Hyde Park, he spotted their iconic frontman Mick boogying along.
Matt, whose band headlines Blackpool Rocks this weekend, recalls: “Jagger was at the side of the stage, singing along to Chocolate!
“It was one of those surreal moments that you talk about in your bedroom ...it happened!
“It was crazy – and it was over like that. We were back on tour. That’s the whole thing about the year. It’s just surreal situation after surreal situation.”
For the 1975, 2013 began playing tiny pubs and ends with a Number One debut album and firmly in the eye of a media storm.
Although, as the son of Loose Women star Denise Welch and Auf Wiedersehn Pet actor Tim Healy, Matt grew up in the shadow of media attention, he is still struggling to adjust.
He says: “We genuinely did not expect our popularity to accelerate in the way it did. This year, we’ve gone from playing rooms with 70 people in them to playing with The Rolling Stones!”
It’s a dream that began in childhood. Growing up in a home all about performing, the music Matt heard then still influences him. He says: “My mum was big into Motown like Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Kim Weston and stuff like that while my dad was massively into the Stones, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, so that all played a part.
“One of the main reasons our band is so groove orientated is because our influences are from R and B and soul. When I was a kid, I knew that music was the thing that I wanted to do.
The foursome – Matt, Ross MacDonald, Adam Hann and George Daniel – first met in a Wilmslow High School classroom.
Matt says: “Hann came up to me, probably about 15, and said ‘Do you wanna, like, ...play drums in my band?’
Music and a mutual love of certain artists brought them together from the start.
Matt recalls: “So many. I think the oeuvre of John Hughes was the main inspiration we bonded over... Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads. I could go on forever.
“There was no real scene in our town and we were all looking for some way of expressing ourselves, I suppose.
“A hippy council worker called Sheila started gigs for underage kids and they soon turned into a riot.
“We would go and play there, doing covers of punk songs and Ghostbusters.
“After doing that for a while, we wrote a song and thought, ‘Let’s just do this! This is well better than going to school or work’.
“So we went under loads of names, made loads of different music and now we’re here – as The 1975.”
Childhood friendship builds tight bonds and they already seem guarded about their privacy. For instance, Matt is clearly uncomfortable talking about the writing process by which, over 10 years, they put together the tunes on their debut.
He says: “I don’t really talk about the writing process very much, not to be perceived as enigmatic or cool; it’s simply one of the only things we have left that’s just for us.
“But our music is built up of syncopated loops and hooks, both vocally and musically. Rhythm is paramount and everything is treated the same way. Rhythm and flow precedes all melody; from the vocals, to the guitars, everything.”
Early last year, they began to gradually release them online, putting out EPs Facedown, Sex, Music For Cars and IV.
Their online popularity exploded and by autumn, they were recording the album at Liverpool’s Motor Museum, birthplace of landmark records like Oasis’s Definitely Maybe and Arctic Monkeys’ Favourite Worst Nightmare.
Of following in these footsteps, Matt says simply: “It was an incredible experience.”
But he is more talkative about their relationship with producer Mike Crossey, famed for his work with Arctic Monkeys and Foals,
He says: “We kind of fell in love with Mike, both professionally and personally.
“He was very delicate in the way he approached us and presented himself and his vision of what we could all achieve.
“He didn’t steam roll over how we do things. But once we hit the studio with him, his knowledge and technical understanding really brought the creative process to life.
“He just knows his stuff to the ground and we made an album we couldn’t have been close to without him.”
Although they started the year in tiny pubs, by July they were supporting Muse. Then came THAT date in Hyde Park.
Matt recalls with a grin: “Tough gig! You’ve got 50,000 people there. The first 10,000 people were diehard Stones fans on the hottest day of the year who aren’t really interested in seeing you. So you have to win them over – but we really did! It was amazing.”
On release in September, the album smashed straight in at Number One.
For Matt, this was another surreal experience. He says: “To be honest with you, it was weird because I thought finding out about the Number One record would be like when I used to listen to the countdown.
“So I used to think I’d know nothing about it and then I’d listen to the countdown – and we’d come in at Number One. It’s not quite like that because there’s a lot of mathematics involved.
“We were at iTunes Festival and we spent the whole week thinking hell we’re gonna get a Number One album’ and when it hit me, I didn’t feel any different.
“I had this big existential crisis; then I thought that those aren’t the important things. Like statistical, material achievements, they’re actually quite brittle and they don’t really last.
“What really has substance is the kind of human connection with somebody at your show – somebody tells you an amazing story about how your music has affected their life. That’s what this year has been defined by for me.”
It all came together in Matt’s greatest moment this year – standout performances at Reading and Leeds Festivals.
He recalls: “Reading and Leeds was crazy. We would stop and I would stare out in to the crowd and the cheer would die down, and then it would come back again after every song.
“It was like everyone in that tent had all been away in a war or something.”
The 1975 headline Blackpool Rocks at The Winter Gardens on Saturday, December 21, alongside Wretch 32, Ms Dynamite, Pete Tong, Disclosure DJs and many more. They also return for two homecoming shows at Manchester Academy on January 7 and 8. Tickets are still on sale for all dates...