The 1975’s Matthew Healy Talks Gospel, Fame and What Lies Beyond Spectacle

It’s hard to put a finger on what The 1975 sounds like without listing everything from indie pop and emo to funk and alternative rock. What we do know is that the Manchester quartet is hugely successful—their sophomore effort I Like It When You Sleep for You Are so Beautiful yet so Unaware of It hit No. 1 on Billboard’s 200 albums chart days after its release—and that they’ve earned the affection of fans all over the world. We totally get that. Recently, we spoke with band frontman Matthew Healy about the band’s evolving sound and the probability of his dating a supermodel.

There’s a lot more R&B, soul and ’80s pop on The 1975’s latest LP. Why all the experimentation?

It makes a bit more sense if you listen to our EPs. Our foundation is in ambient music and kind of post-rock, and I think a lot of this album is a return to that. But it was just … about evolution and about progression. We just wanted to make something that represented who we were, what generation we’re from and how we consume music. I’m not saying it was a conscious decision, but that’s just how we make music. We create, and then we consume.

One standout track, “If I Believe You,” is like nothing you guys have ever done before. How did gospel find its way onto a pop-rock record?

The idea of having genres is on its way out. It’s certainly not something that I’ve really been a purist toward. I don’t consider ours to be any type of record; it’s justour record. It’s representative of the way the people listen to music now. Gospel music has always been close to my heart, whether it’s Ray Charles, Donny Hathaway, traditional gospel or modern gospel musicians who find their way into bands like Stevie Wonder’s. We wanted to write a song like that.

In a Rolling Stone article, you basically denounced the “squad goals” lifestyle of celebrities. How do you enjoy fame without getting sucked into that world?

It’s just practical stuff. I do a show every other night. All of the crew are like my mates, and I don’t put myself in environments where I’m gonna do something stupid, and those people are gonna talk about it. It’s gonna compromise me as an artist, for use of a better word.

And as much as I’m quite altruistic artistically, creatively, musically, I’m quite insular as a person. People always ask me about my fear of “Oh, what happens when you start going out with supermodels or whatever,” but it’s not really a thing. … I’m too tired, I’ve got too many gigs to do!

The 1975 really does tour a lot. What do you do in your downtime? How do you decompress?

This is my hobby. People kind of assume after a while that music becomes like your job, but it’s still my hobby. I love making music. When I have days off, I’m thinking about making records or making other people’s records. That’s what I’m trying to do, now—either produce people’s records, make my own records or sign artists I think are good. I don’t really have that much downtime from music. It’s just about all I do.

Your stage persona is very sexually charged. How do you think that kind of vibe will go over with Sin City audiences?

I’m sure that they’re accustomed to it. I’m certainly not gonna change, so they’ll have to deal with it however they feel. We’re very fortunate to have such an intense fan base, but our shows sell out very, very quickly to a very, very hardcore group of fans. So not only do people know what to expect, people are there for certain reasons because they love us. I’ve got nothing to fear. I also don’t really care that much.

Have you always had that confidence in your music and in yourself? The video for “The Sound” pokes a bit of fun at the band’s critics…

By the time we even got recognized, we were slightly hardened, because we’d had years and years of not being able to get signed. We had to be particularly stoic, and be very committed and uncompromising to get where we were.

It’s not that criticism didn’t matter or that it didn’t affect us. But it didn’t really hold the key to our success. I suppose that’s because we hold ourselves to our own standards. That’s what the video is about. It’s a funny video, isn’t it? That’s kind of the point of it. I just wanted it to be funny.

What feeling do you want to leave your fans with after they leave your show?

That I believe them, I suppose. Maybe that sounds a bit pretentious, but … it’s such a spectacle. I want people to understand that the show’s a spectacle only to hide how emotionally invested we are in it. It’s not to shroud anything. It’s the fact that I want people to go away believing in the show. Just believing what they’ve seen, believing what they’ve heard.

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