When he calls from London one recent Tuesday evening, the 1975’s Matt Healy has been enjoying his version of a day off – he walked his dog, went to a singing lesson, chilled with his little brother and rehearsed with his band for the next leg of its world tour. The 1975 have been on the road nearly nonstop since their 2013 self-titled album – full of confessional tunes about drugs, sex, more drugs and even more sex – became a surprise hit. The follow-up, this year’s I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, reached Number One in America. The 1975 began playing together 14 years ago, but it was a full decade before they released any music – fortunately, after they’d worked past their emo period. “From age 13 to 24, we spent every day with each other,” says Healy, “more time than you spend with your actual siblings. It became the nucleus of our social group. People relate to us because we’re a real band and real friends.”
Your parents are both well-known TV personalities in England. Did that work against you, in that most people assumed it gave you a tremendous advantage in the music business?
I had to get over it pretty quickly or it would have been really damaging to my ego. You can’t go around judging people’s credibility based on your preconceptions of what their parents are like. If people with parents who worked in daytime TV had the key to a Number One album, I’d be writing a book about it, and I’d be a millionaire. Thankfully, it’s completely different in America. It’s fun to be there because I’m famous and my mom is not.
You like to praise 1980s artists who don’t get much critical respect, like Phil Collins.
I love Phil Collins. We always come back to the 1980s when we’re talking about our record. Pop wasn’t so encumbered with self-awareness and cynicism and fear of being uncool. That’s something we always try to channel.
You’ve spent a lot of time in America these past three years. How did it compare to how you’d imagined it?
It was everything I expected, but with more bacon. At a food-festival thing in Chicago, I ate a burger with candied bacon and two Krispy Kreme donuts for the bun. If you were high and 16, that might taste pretty good, but I couldn’t take more than a bite.
Is the weed better in America?
The kush in California is crazy. I always knew the weed was better in America, but I didn’t know how much better. The nugs are so big they look like cartoons.
Is there any drug you tried once and instantly realized you’d made a horrible mistake?
Yeah, ketamine. It was a nightmare. I felt like I’d drank three bottles of vodka.
When you Google your name, all these stories about you and Taylor Swift pop up, though you met only once and she wore a 1975 T-shirt.
I said in one interview that we didn’t date, and some dick like Perez Hilton took it out of context and morphed it so it looked like I was throwing shade. She came to our show, and you would have thought that Barack Obama had come out. I don’t know another person on the planet that would elicit that kind of reaction. Maybe Kanye, but not even him. And now she and he are kind of the same person in the public image. It’s weird.
“The days of being a rock star without any kind of self-awareness are dead.”
As the frontman of a rock band with a Number One album, how do you react when people like Gene Simmons say that rock is dead?
The days of being a rock star without any kind of self-awareness are dead. The days of being able to get away with anything and be glorified for it are dead. Thanks to the Internet, everybody’s got everybody else’s number. How do you go out and be fucking Jim Morrison? The world isn’t gonna allow for that, so [stardom] needs to incorporate humility and self-awareness – or, in my case, some awkwardness.
Do you think you will ever do a solo record?
No – I mean, it’s not like the guys are getting in my way. I think things like that happen when people want another creative outlet. I’ll just make a different-sounding 1975 record.
You’re a fan of performing shirtless. How do you decide whether to wear, or not wear, a shirt?
It’s a practical thing: It gets very hot during a gig and you don’t want to get your clothes all sweaty while you’re living on a tour bus. Although, we have stepped up in the world and now I can get my stuff dry-cleaned after a show.
You chose to do without a shirt for Saturday Night Live.
I wanted to be particularly obnoxious that night. I thought I was being kind of post-ironic and subversive, but it turns out that people in Kansas thought I was an absolute dick.