Matty Healy
Photo by Samuel Bradley

Matty Healy: “Nostalgia is beautiful”

Short Profile

Name: Matthew Healy
DOB: 8 April 1989
Place of birth: London, England, United Kingdom
Occupation: Singer, musician

The 1975's new album Being Funny in a Foreign Language is out now via Dirty Hit.

Mr. Healy, as the frontman of the band The 1975, what would you say is the secret to staying humble?

Don't get famous until you're 24 and have been in a band for 10 years, with not only no one caring, but people actually hating you beforehand. (Laughs) Honestly, I didn't get big ‘til I was 24 because every major label had said no! But also, we’ve been best friends in the same band for 20 years now. And so every move I have to do in front of 50,000 people, I also have to do in front of Ross [MacDonald, bassist of The 1975], who's going to be like, “You're not fucking Jim Morrison!”

That’s humbling!

(Laughs) Right? We have this really famous drag queen in the UK called Lily Savage and Ross once said to me when I was wearing makeup, “You think like David Bowie, but you really look like Lily Savage.” So David Savage became my character! We’re down to earth because we only care about music and funny. That’s all we care about. Like Jerry Seinfeld says, “I'll only go for dinner with someone if they're really funny, or they've got a lot of chat.”

“I think I struggled with how I felt about myself in my twenties. But now in my thirties, I feel like more myself. I think I just grew up a little bit.”

A recent article said that your approach to music is simply: “a group of old friends making art.”

You know, I think it's difficult for people to maybe grasp how small of a project The 1975 really is, considering the scale at which it is received. It is us four in a room talking about it, all of it, artwork and everything; doing it until it's all done. And that's it. That's all I think about when I'm there. We've never had a conversation about what's happening in the music industry or what another artist is doing. I feel like I’m getting away with murder! I started this 20 years ago, 20 years, I’ve been in the same band, the same lineup since we were 13! When you’re 13, it’s like, okay, play catch, pretend you’re X-Men. You’re playing! That’s what I’ve been doing this whole time. Our job is to fuck around like when we were 13. So that's all we do.

Has anything changed in terms of how you write music together or how you work together creatively?

No, not really! It's just me, running around, making lots of noise, and George helping me make sense of that noise. The thing is that every time I've made a record, for whatever reason I've always felt that it needs to be about everything that's ever happened, everything that's happening now, and everything that could ever happen in the future. I think that's partly due to being young and being erratic — I'm also an addict with ADHD, so I'm very like that. I had all these questions, like, what is a band? What is rock ‘n roll in the 21st century? Am I a rock star? Is it funny that I'm a rock star now? Is it ironic? All these big questions and big ideas…

That much is clear from your music, which has touched on everything from nihilism to youth to addiction to individualism…

Exactly, and I think I struggled with how I felt about myself in my twenties. But now in my thirties, I feel like more myself. I think I just grew up a little bit. So with our new album, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, instead of worrying about every thing, the past, the present, the future, all those kinds of things, it’s just become a bit more focused in regards to where I am emotionally, where we are emotionally as a band, and even to where we are physically. That’s why this album was almost live, like, we’re here. If we have an idea, let’s not go into the plethora of computers and the Internet. We have seven instruments and we’re a fucking rock band — if we can’t make these songs sound good and fresh with that, then we’re not very good producers. That’s the truth.

I guess it also helps to keep your music relatable when you’re writing about these everyday sort of themes.

Sure, I mean, I think it’s real, and people like real. But at the same time, I don't think about my relationship with my audience! I don't really think that much about being relatable, or about how you keep an audience, or maintaining anything… I don’t think about anything like that, outside of maybe wanting people to feel personally addressed in the way that music has made me feel personally addressed. I've felt like bands are talking to me sometimes, and I want that.

The 1975 plays their song I'm In Love With You on the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, 2022.

And have you figured out how to accomplish that?

The funny thing is that when I think I'm being really specific about something cross to bear, and I put that in a song, I'm like, “Right, that's the most impenetrable thing that no one's going to get.” But that's the thing that everyone gets the most! So I try not to think about it so much. I've been writing about my life and my ideas since before I was even an adult! So you know, if you ask a gymnast who's been doing it since they're two, “How did you do that?” They're like, “I don't really know. I don’t think about it.” That’s me! It’s almost ceremonial, you know? There’s never been any separation.

Do you ever worry that having your work so ingrained in your life will be problematic? What if, for whatever reason, one day you had to give it all up?

No, I mean, reversion back to what it was like before we were famous doesn't scare me because it was the happiest time of my life. When we made music, and like 200 people came to our shows, I wasn't unhappy. I wasn’t like, “Fuck, I wish there was 50,000 people here.” If we end up playing to 200 people again, it will be because I’ve made a series of creative decisions that I've wanted to make. I'm never not going to have my work, because I am my work. I don't have any removal from The 1975 and me, and I don't find that complicated.

How is it for you to then look back on all the work you’ve made that is so intertwined with your own life?

Well, I don’t really listen to The 1975 when I’m chilling at home. Of course it’s different when I’m performing on stage… But you know, Oscar Wilde said something like, “The best reason to keep a diary is to have something amazing to read on the train.” I mean, it's not about being self-interested, but it’s just reflecting on your life. My journal is these albums over the past 10 years. It’s beautiful. Nostalgia is beautiful.