Interview: hotly tipped band on power ballads and desire for Michael Jackson duet
michael baggs
11:58 20th November 2012
Need a tip for 2013? Try The 1975. A Manchester quartet who specialise in songs about sex in the back of vans who have won support from Radio One. Their alternative mix of genres is already getting them lots of attention, with a few EPs under their belt and an upcoming album set for release in May 2013.
 
We currently can't get enough of this brilliant four-piece, and we caught up to lead singer Matt Healy about the influence of 'hippy council workers' on the band, dreams of a Michael Jackson duet, what it would have been like in the 80s and, er, whether they'll record their next EP with a llama...
 
Hi Matt! What's up?
Hello! We're on our way to London in a van.
 
You said on Twitter that this is like your first proper show - how are you feeling about that?
The thing is that Ross is ill, so we don't know the way it's going to go - we should maybe not comment on that, because I don't know exactly what's going to happen. But the main thing is that this tour is the first time we're ever going to be headlining and that's like a bit mental, really, 'cause we've never played to as many people just coming to see us. It's going to be a pretty intense experience, but we're really looking forward to that.
 
You could always pull a Justin Bieber and  vomit on stage. 
That could be exciting but he's already done that and we don't want to follow on the coattails of Bieber. We'll just see what happens. 
 
[They did end up cancelling the gig.]
 
Is there a good story behind you getting together - or was it just mates playing some instruments?
We met at school. There was this idealistic hippy council worker who started to put on these gigs for kids, to form bands. I remember the guitarist came up to me and said he wanted to play one of these shows. We started playing, doing covers of punk songs and pop songs and just started out doing that. Then once we eventually wrote a song, I decided, well, this is a lot better than going to work - or going to school, for that matter. We started from then and we've been making music together since we were about 15 - George was 14, actually, when we started. 
 
 
 
If you could have been born in a different era, what would you choose?
If we could've been a band in any other generation, it would've been the 80s. Totally, because our contemporaries will have been Michael Jackson at his best and Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads - I think for us, all those artists peaked in that decade. The 80s gets quite a nostalgic tag to it but there was so much amazing music and so many albums that got taken to the next level. I reckon we'd have a good shot in the 80s, to be honest with you.
 
So if you could collaborate with someone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Michael Jackson probably. Realistically, we want to work with Michael Skinner because The Streets have been a massive, massive influence on us. You wouldn't really think that, because we're not exactly a post garage project, but the lyrics and the vibe of him has been something that we've really related to, so Mike Skinner. But ideally it'd be Michael Jackson. I think everyone should choose Michael Jackson, unless you're in a rock band and then it would be Zeppelin.
 
Michael Jackson would bring his pet llama into the studio when working with Freddie Mercury. Would you be OK with that?
Is that true? That's pretty weird. We've got llamas down the road from us, they're weird as it is, so combine it with Michael Jackson and that's a very weird party. 
 
Will you be recording with llamas on the next album?
Yeah, we should do. We're not quite that experimental yet.
 
Is your single 'Sex' about your own romantic adventures?
Yeah! It is for everyone, though, isn't it? It's just the story. I think people seem to really relate to it because they take it really personally. It's not necessarily about one girl, it's just about being seventeen and that happening all the time - the kind of indecisive prudishness of certain teenage girls. A lot of people relate to that, even girls themselves relate to it. 
 
Everything's autobiographical with our band because we've been doing this so long and we got so used to doing it for ourselves, that once people started embracing what we were doing it was already fully-formed. Lyrically, it's just stories of us - especially the album that we've just finished, it really is the soundtrack to our formative years, as young adults and things like that. All of the songs - from the EP to the album - they're just about us knocking about.
 
Have you finished recording the album now?
Yes. We finished recording most of it but it doesn't come out until May. If we write any more songs we want to put on it then we'll just go back and record it, but we're going into production next week and starting mixing it. We're taking a single off it, to go on the next EP.
 
What would bother you more - a bad review from a critic, or a fan on your Facebook page?
That's a good question, because you can always get away with thinking 'Oh well, the internet is the foreground for idiots to just be horrible to each other.' But then if you're got somebody who's a critic, then their opinion has kind of been validated. I think it would hurt me more if somebody that I really respected, like a public figure, really slated us. I wouldn't like that.  I don't like anyone being horrible to anyone, really. Everyone should just be nice to everyone.
 
Below: Listen to 'Sex':
 
The Sex EP has a complete range of different sounds from indie to trip-hop. Do The 1975 suffer from identity issues?
I think having a lack of identity is something that everyone can relate to, whether it's personal or whether it's music. It's one of those things that I've thought of a person and it probably reflects itself in our music. I do think a lot of people are like, 'Oh, they don't know who they want to be.' We know exactly who we want to be! It's just loads of things. We're massive fans of TLC and Boyz II Men, so the 90s R&B feel has bled quite a lot onto that EP. But why not? I don't listen to music in one genre, so I find it difficult to write in one genre.
 
What's your ultimate guilty pleasure?
I love the Dixie Chicks, but you can't really be in a contemporary alternative band and hail them as one of your influences. All the guilty pleasures are stuff that I think is the fucking best stuff. Like Disney soundtracks! Everyone loves Disney soundtracks, if you don't, you're mental. Everyone loves Aladdin, everyone loves Lion King, 'A Whole New World' - although I don't like Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Wizard of Oz makes me feel physically sick, that whole kind of weird technicolour world where they combine animation and... it's just not alright. Wait, what was the question?
 
I think we were talking about guilty pleasures.
Well, Whitney, Mariah, Boyz II Men, like, they're not really guilty pleasures to me. Like, I love big power ballads. I understand that the days have gone of where it can be  portrayed as cool or relevant but Iove that. I don't really have many guilty pleasures. I just like loads of naff stuff, openly.
 
How big an influence on your own sound was your upbringing in Manchester?
As a place it did, but i don't think the musical history was very relevant to us. I mean, I was born in London and then I was brought up on a farm in Newcastle. George, the drummer, who's one of the other main songwriters and producers was born in Belgium and grew up in America so the tribalist leaning towards the Manchester music scene wasn't very impressionable on us. I think it was quite nice for us when we did start out as a band in Manchester because we didn't feel the need to wear the Mancunian badge of honour. Our geographical location has never been a very inspiring thing for us.
 
I'd much rather create our own world than be a localised ideal. Manchester's got enough heroes, they've got the Gallaghers, we don't need any more. What would be nice is hopefully just what we're trying to do, just trying to create this hypothetical little world of The 1975 that people can dip in and out of if they want.
 
Thanks, Matt! The Sex EP is available now. The 1975 are on tour now. Dates are below. For more information visit Gigwise Gig Tickets.
 
DECEMBER
02 Leeds - Cockpit 3
03 Glasgow - King Tuts
04 Hull - Fruit
05 Manchester - Sound Control
06 London - Barfly
07 Southampton - Joiners
08 Birmingham - Temple
11 Dublin - Academy 2
12 Belfast - Oh Yeah Centre
13 Newcastle - Head of Steam