story / Megan Laber
styling / Jonatan Mejia
grooming / Anthony Tulve @ Creative Kommune
hair / Steph Hui
special thanks to Chinatown Soup Gallery
The notion of privacy won’t be an easy concept for the generation born 2016 and beyond. With social media being our generation’s way of communicating and connecting, it’s the norm to want to share everything happening in our daily lives. The future value of going off the grid and its post-apocalyptic film portrayal makes more sense with each new app. We are aware of what one another are doing so often, the very definition of community must adjust to fit our modern technology.
With the transparency we give to our online friends, there is also a certain curation we are allowed. The lack of face-to-face gives us the freedom to be performance artists, street comedians or self-made sex icons. Matty Healy of British pop band The 1975 isn’t looking in that direction. Instead, he’s taking his genre—known for its vapid content and instantaneous gratification—and playfully mocking it while making listeners privy to information that typically lives inside one’s own mind. Off the band’s massive international tour, I talked to Healy about the new album I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, its lengthy title, and the intentions of creating it.
How did touring affect the album? Does writing on the road change what you talk about?
The process of writing and recording all became one in the same. Whenever we would have an idea it would be articulated straight into the computer. Touring and making music felt like a natural thing to do to pass the time… Not that the creation of our music is just passing time. We make it because we love it. It wasn’t an alien concept for us to work on it on tour. I know there are bands that say they can’t do it but I think it’s an excuse. I can’t not write everyday.
You say on this album that you guys were really seeking truth. What opposing path was in front of you that you’re referring to in your music?
When we were first writing for the debut album it was without fear or thought of being judged. We didn’t even know if people would hear it, so there is this blissful naiveté that I see in it now. I really wasn’t afraid of being myself. When I finally came off the road, and we needed to record, there was this fear that the age, the popularity, and all of these new issues were going to change who I am and what got me to where I am now. It very much became a process of self-preservation… We said, “Fuck it, let’s make a record and call it this long line that we like.” That was a bold decision that really set a precedent as the philosophy of this record. We ended up delivering a seven-minute song and plopping it on the desks of these labels without much concern.
There was some awareness to my position in pop, and as a pop artist, that I obviously didn’t have before the last record. The one thing that pissed me off that I talk about on the record and in normal conversation is that I have this contempt for pop culture icons with followings, almost like biblical Messianic times, when they aren’t saying anything. With those followers many of them choose to say nothing. I understand to a certain extent because you don’t want to be seen as a wanker, but there are so many people in pop that have young people hanging on their every word and they won’t saying anything of merit. I feel such an emotional investment in our fans that I wanted to give it back. I wanted to shine a light on myself as a person, and in turn, shine a light on what others are dealing with.
And you take those themes, and pair them with really joyous and danceable pop tunes. There is a big contrast in a song that feels so happy, yet you are talking about a coke binge. A lot of pop is like that. Do you think listeners see past the melodic value of your songs and into the darker, deeper issues you address?
Totally. The one thing I do know is that you have to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think people are intelligent. I care about the people who get the references. My fans get me, so they will get the music. Like, when I am talking about drugs, I am never glamorizing it. Whenever I talk about it I definitely have this disdain with my own behaviors and reference the values that keep me true and good. It’s partially a tool, what you’re referencing; taking bright sounds and matching them with morose topics. It works in everything, whether it be the color scheme of a garden or ideas and concepts. I definitely hide behind it, but am obviously aware of the celebratory tone matched with the words. The trickery and smoke and mirrors are my thing. We exaggerate it a lot on the record.
It almost sounds like you are making a mockery of your music, or your genre.
That’s exactly it. I was determined to make this about evolution. Everything that made the first album great, I wanted to evolve it and cultivate its references. Even musically, it’s different. Listening through as a first time listener to our music will seem drastic compared to the first album, but if you are a proper fan there is so much subtext and so many resolutions. There is this kind of wisdom that replaces naiveté. The first goes on about, “Will I get better at this? Will I find love?” All of these maybes. This record is me accepting things the way they are. As a fan they will feel like they’ve been on the journey as well.
You talk a lot about self-growth. Who in your life pushes you to see growth as a priority?
My manager Jamie is my best friend and also so creatively involved in the philosophy of the band. We see eye to eye on everything. He’s very much shown me the way. He’s like the greatest editor. He makes me a good artist. He cultivates what’s good about me and points me away from the things I should stay away from. Also, my parents, of course.
I don’t think there is an ideal setting for albums to be listened to, besides the time when the person who introduced me to Radiohead told me to listen to Kid A with headphones in a dark room, but where do you envision people listening to this record?
I guess there isn’t really a place because it’s broad, but I love the idea of it bleeding into people’s lives. I am a proper music-phile, and the way it soundtracked my life had a romantic impact on me. I wanted my life to be a John Hughes movie, walking out of detention with that song playing. I really viewed the world that way, and now I do it as a job. I think about it a lot as our music being this antiquated soundtrack to your memory, like in the background of an argument between teenagers. That excites me, that it could be a part of the cultural fabric. It’s the idea of an idea that spreads and becomes the background for others—something deep and lasting in that way.