Before their show in Philadelphia this past weekend, we sat down with Matt Healy of The 1975 to chat about the internet, how he feels about his blossoming rock star status, and cheesesteaks.
Urban Outfitters: How are you doing?
Matt Healy: Good, thank you. How are you?
UO: I'm great. How has Philly been?
Matt: I like Philly. It kind of reminds me of home. I like it.
UO: Did you like the cheesesteak I saw you having earlier?
Matt: I did. Well, it wasn't the best. We should have got one from – what's it? Jim's or Joe's or some shit.
UO: Oh yeah, Jim's. Where did you end up getting one from?
Matt: Some bullshit place right around here. It's not too bad. I just don't like bad cheesesteak when I'm in Philly.
UO: How often have you guys come here for shows?
Matt: This is our third time. I love it in Philadelphia. It's always a good show. It's our second time at this venue. We supported The Neighbourhood here in June.
UO: And now you're headlining. Is it weird getting all the attention that you have been from the album release? Because I feel like you guys blew up very quickly.
Matt: That’s kinda how it feels. We’ve been together for 10 years, and it is that amazing juxtaposition of everything being quite intense and surreal and also quite nostalgic because we have so much history. I think we’re in a good place because we can really invest in our relationship with one another and we can not panic too much. People are investing in what we do. But all our records were written when people had no idea who we were, so we weren’t harbored with the things like, “Are we being too honest? Are we doing things right? Are we doing things wrong?” It’s kind of like people have embraced exactly what we are, so we don’t have to worry about anything. And all of the things that come along with it. I could talk to you for hours about how it feels.
Especially in the U.K., one of the things I’m quite uncomfortable with, especially amongst young kids, because they’re so enamored with the band, is that I’ve become this kind of weird figure of intellectual desire. And I find that quite uncomfortable, because that album is really quite self-deprecating. It comes from quite a neurotic place, of which I’m not really too comfortable with a lot of the aspects of my personality that I’m discussing in that. To be kind of idolized not even from a sexual perspective by young people, but from an intellectual perspective, it’s a bit weird; I’m not doing this band for any other reason apart from I love making music. But now I feel this kind of peculiar social responsibility based on the fact that the band’s gone bigger and – the internet, man. It’s crazy.
UO: The internet IS crazy. I feel like what’s good, though, is that a lot of younger teens can relate to a lot of your songs.
Matt: I think the thing is, with our band, if we’re talking creatively, we create in the same way that we consume, because we’re a part of a generation – how old are you? 22?
Matt: Okay, I’m 24, and you know, people of our generation, we’re a bit – I could talk at length about it. I think that we come from a history where, we’re adults now, we can take the internet for what it is. We grew up in an environment where it didn’t necessarily dictate our lives until you kind of acquired an understanding of what a genuine conversation is or what social dialogue actually means. The internet has created this weird kind of faux social dialogue that kind of tricks people into believing they’re connecting with one another. If that is informing the way that young people believe interaction is like, then it’s quite dangerous. This whole, like, following thing – kids kind of act like it’s the sole measure of human worth, like whether you’ve been followed. It’s peculiar and it’s dangerous and I don’t think it’s something that should be endorsed. But! That’s a different issue. What was the actual question you asked me?
UO: You know, now I don’t remember what I actually asked you. We can talk about the internet, though.
Matt: It is interesting, isn’t it? Because like, it’s a weird, weird world, and I think that – I don’t know. It kind of scares me a little bit, because I think that these kids – with bands now as well, there was no accessibility to people like Michael Jackson or Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones. If you wanted to try to get in touch with them, you and a million other people had to write a letter to a fan club. There wasn’t this immediacy. We live in a world now, not only the music industry but the world, where like, accessibility is paramount, and demand and obtaining something quickly and being accessible to the way that people market things, market their personality and it just dilutes things. Kids don’t understand. Kids think that they want to connect with these celebrities on a personal level, but they actually don’t. Like don’t meet your heroes. The only reason that all these pop stars were pantheons of pop culture was because you didn’t know fuckin’ anything about them. That’s why.
I’ve met David Bowie and people like that, and they’re amazing figures, but they’re amazing people. Just people. And it sounds like such an obvious, naïve thing to say, but you do realize that there’s a lot less illusion now with rock stars and pop stars. We live in a world where you want to know everything about their personal life and you basically can do that. Kids feel entitled to a response. Or kids feel genuinely ostracized when maybe you don’t interact with them. [Laughs] And that’s fucking crazy.
UO: The internet also just gets mean sometimes.
Matt: It just gets mean! If I occasionally dive into Tumblr, these kids have unmonitored free reign to express everything they’re ever thinking, and they shouldn’t be allowed that because the shit that I’ve seen – I’ve seen Tumblrs that have stuff... like it’ll be all your typical Tumblr stuff, really, really romanticized views of youth, like beautiful people smoking with no clothes on, and you know, your typical quote from Miley Cyrus, and then it gets a bit weird.
I saw one .gif, one Tumblr I was on, it was your typical kind of hipster thing, and it was a photo of me, a photo of A$AP Rocky’s grill, some weed, that kind of thing, and then, a photo of something from the holocaust with like, a joke that could only come from someone that just isn’t grown up enough to understand that amount of information. It’s all a bit fucking weird. So the internet scares me. That’s why everything with the band is kind of detached from reality.
UO: Do you have your own Twitter, or do you guys just have a band Twitter?
Matt: I have my own Twitter, but I only use it to try and inform people, and to try and channel all these kids who think that I am who you should be inspired by. And I try and send them to real orators of our time, like Christopher Hitchens, people who were actually saying something that aren’t parts of pop culture.
I love religion, especially from an atheist perspective, and society and science and politics, but I’m a fucking pop star. It’s not my position to inform people of those kinds of things. The only thing I do know is – well, like, it was mental health day the other day, so I just put a tweet up that said, “Be careful about using words like depression.” It’s that kind of thing. I get scared to tweet sometimes because I don’t want people to like… [Trails off]
UO: That’s good, though, because I’m sure whatever you tweet, the kids following you will listen. So if you’re putting out a positive message…
Matt: Yeah, my two objectives are if I can create music without it having a negative effect on anybody else, whether it creates financial gain or whatever, if I can do that and use art to make people slightly more conscientious, then that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to become some type of fucking, polemic humanitarian. [Laughs]
UO: You mean you’re not going to be Bono?
Matt: Yeah, I’m not going to be Bono.
UO: Have you noticed a shift in your fanbase after you did that One Direction cover?
Matt: We’ve still got all the same fans! We’ve just gained a lot.
UO: I can imagine you gained a lot of younger fans after that.
Matt: They like, again, say some shit on Twitter to me, that I can not believe. If I had a 14-year-old girl, she would not be saying that shit on the internet!
UO: Yeah, I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous stuff.
Matt: Just things like, “FUCK ME.” It’s fucking crazy.
UO: And it gets worse than “fuck me.”
Matt: It does, it really does. And it’s fucking mental. [Laughs] Like, what do you… you don’t have a clue. There’s a lot of fans like that. That whole world is crazy. But that Harry Styles guy, he’s really sweet, he’s a really nice guy.
UO: Oh yeah? You’ve talked?
Matt: Yeah, well. He texted me. I said, obviously, thank you for tweeting about us to millions of people.
UO: Yeah, like 13 million, right? [Editor's note: Actually around 17 million.]
Matt: Yeah, it’s cool. It’s crazy! [Laughs] I don’t really care... I don’t really care about anything apart from making records. My life now is just a string of surreal situations strung together by me telling people about surreal situations, but you know what? The thing that really inspires me is the fact that kids like our ideas and that’s bleeding into humanity. You see kids at our shows, like you can see when we play their song. And it’s that moment that I care about. That’s what really, really gets to me. We didn’t need any kind of statistical validation to be more proud of our record, because that shit’s been out there since day one. My reality is still kinda making records, and just doing what I do. If I get loads of really cool fashion labels in the process… [Laughs]
UO: That’s always a plus. What’s your ultimate goal with the band?
Matt: I used to think, “Oh, it doesn’t matter, nothing matters,” because people have embraced this, and they’ve embraced it for what it is, so we have no responsibilities, but we do. We have a creative responsibility the same way that bands like Radiohead took it on. Every time they did a record everyone went, “Well, that’s it. That’s the Radiohead record. They’re not going to better that record.” And every time, they did, because it was a distillation of everything that preceded it. It was everything that made it better but it was coming from a modern perspective.
A perfect example of that is Bad by Michael Jackson. I mean, the guy was following up Thriller, so he took it a bit more conceptually, and then created a distillation of everything that preceded it, and I think that’s the only thing we need to do. Stay true to ourselves. Make records that really, really matter, because it’s that feeling, it’s the humanity behind it that people have invested in. So, just do that.