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Interview: The 1975's Matty Healy on Laneway 2020 and their next album.

Interview: The 1975's Matty Healy on Laneway 2020 and their next album.

"Class!" chuckles Matty Healy in response to a joke I've prepared in advance to cheer up The 1975 frontman as he recovers from a throat infection in Australia ("I'm all right now. I was just sick, but the guys got proper sick; [Adam] Hann got really sick and George [Daniel] got really sick, but I was kind of all right. My throat was all swollen up, but I'm all good now"), following the band's triumphant return to New Zealand the week prior to headline a sold-out Spark Arena. It turns out though, that I needn't have worried. Calling from his Perth hotel room, Healy is in top-form today and back to his irrepressible self - scolding me when I dare make noises of incredulity ("listen!"), emotionally reflecting upon The 1975-related signage at recent Australasian climate strike marches, and signing off with a positively buoyant "bye, darling!".

Read below for a progress report on the band's next album 'Notes On A Conditional Form', Healy's recommendation from the Laneway Festival 2020 line-up, and a recount of bassist Ross MacDonald's stand against a Melbourne policeman...

We're going into the studio at the beginning of October until we go back on the road in the middle of November, so that kind of four-and-a-half/five week period is when the record's going to be done, or the second 50% will be sorted. I think there's 21 or 22 songs, and they're all there and they all exist in varying degrees.


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COUP DE MAIN: Is the new song 'Depth' that you've been playing live on this tour an instrumental track from your new album? Or just a preview of an upcoming new song?
There's a lot of soundscapes on the record, so it was one of the things that we were really into, and sonically it was in a place where we could put it in the set. I don't think it's going to be on the album now though. I doubt it. I reckon it will just be something--
CDM: That was just special to this tour?

CDM: Are you looking forward to coming back to New Zealand to play Laneway Festival in January?
Oh yeah! We're super stoked for that! It's like, once you get there, touring New Zealand at that time of year is a really, really nice thing to do, so we're looking forward to that.

CDM: Will you play songs from the next album at Laneway?
Yeah, it will be a new set. So I imagine we will be playing four new songs, or all the songs that are out at least, and then we'll probably change the stuff that we've been playing from previous albums.

CDM: I heard a rumour that you've said you will play 'Milk' at Laneway Festival... can you please confirm this rumour?
Well the only reason that we don't play 'Milk' is because of the visual-- Every song has a bespoke visual, as you know, and it takes us time in rehearsal to do that. So if we just wanted to throw in songs that don't have looks, as we say, then we wouldn't really be able to do the same show. So yeah, I'm going to get a look sorted for 'Milk' and then we'll be able to put it in and take it out, whenever we want, like we do with 'She Way Out' or whatever song it is.
CDM: I'm definitely going to hold you to this. Justice for 'Milk'!
<laughs> Okay!

CDM: Are there any other artists playing Laneway 2020 that you'd like to recommend?
I'm a massive Charli [XCX] fan, so I'm always trying to tell people to invest in her as much as possible, and she should be on before us, so we're going to be hanging out a lot. That's really exciting.

CDM: What's the status of your collab with Charli XCX? When is the song going to come out?
I don't really do stuff like that - like doing stuff out of context. I don't really feature on people's songs or have people feature on my songs. We love working with each other, so we just want to do it more, but until it becomes something. Like, I can imagine we'd start a band before we'd just put out a song. So, I don't know... something like that? I don't know.

CDM: Do you get much of an end-of-year break around Christmas this year? Or will you be busy finishing the new album?
It depends. It kind of gets boring at this stage, because it's not an issue having a deadline. Everyone's like, "Oh but what about your deadline?" I've been making the record for a year and it doesn't come out until February, so if I had until February to work on it, it wouldn't even be a worry at all, it's just that to make vinyl it takes you three months, so you need to deliver your record three months before it comes out if you want any chance of vinyl. And for me, I'm not going to put out a record that I'm not in love with; it's just not going to happen. So, if worse comes to worse, I wouldn't put it out. I'd never put something out that was compromised. But it's important for it to be the right kind of expression, so I've just got to get it done before December. I might still be working on drips and drabs of stuff, but I doubt it. I don't know how that would work.

CDM: How is work on the new album going?
We're going into the studio at the beginning of October until we go back on the road in the middle of November, so that kind of four-and-a-half/five week period is when the record's going to be done, or the second 50% will be sorted. I think there's 21 or 22 songs, and they're all there and they all exist in varying degrees. Some of them are like 'People' which is already out, and some of them are just instrumental vibes at the moment, but we're making it and it's all good and it will be fine. I feel like people have been thinking or talking about this process of us making it in a very different way to how we have actually been making it. I'm always going to put out what I think is my best record, but people when they talk about it, I suppose they see it as this big deal - this "follow-up" to 'A Brief Inquiry [Into Online Relationships]'. Honestly, whether it's due to time, or just even minutes to get retrospect, we haven't thought about that shit at all.
CDM: I guess it's kind of weird that it's already taken on a life of its own, when you haven't even finished making the album yet.
Right! And people already refer to it as 'Notes' and it doesn't even exist yet. But that happened with 'A Brief Inquiry' - people were talking about 'A Brief Inquiry' for a long time before it came out, and obviously, 'Music For Cars'. But I love that though. Making people adopt my language is a big part of what excites me.

CDM: Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about 'Notes On A Conditional Form' at the moment?
<makes a thinking noise> I don't think so... because I don't really know much about it. When it's finished, I'll be like, 'Okay! It's a thing!' But at the moment, I'm still putting different things in and taking different things out, so it would be unwise of me to speak about it right now.
CDM: We can talk about it in January!

CDM: I have really fond memories from Big Day Out 2014 of seeing you guys all throughout the day walking around the festival. I specifically remember seeing you and George wandering around in the crowd during Snoop Dogg's set at sunset, and Adam and Ross standing next to me during Arcade Fire, and I recall thinking that would be the last time I would probably ever see you all being able to freely walk around like that in public. Even though that was only five years ago, does that feel like an entirely different lifetime to you now?
No! It doesn't! That whole time? I still feel like I'm on that tour. That's what people don't remember. Because I've not really done anything [else]. I've toured, and when you tour, Monday to Friday doesn't exist and seasons don't exist, it's just a year of everything, and then Christmas. I haven't had a whole year presenting itself to me as a year, as maybe you have. It's just been this constant thing of Christmases that keep coming up. I went on tour to make the first album and I didn't go home after tour, I went straight to LA and made 'I Like It When You Sleep [For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It]', and then as soon as I landed back home, I was back on tour. And making an album is just 'tour' without going anywhere; it's just the same thing every day. And then I toured 'I Like It When You Sleep'. And then I went straight to rehab for six weeks. And then I went into the house with the guys to make 'A Brief Inquiry' and then that was a year of essentially 'tour' again. I haven't done anything else. I haven't experienced anything else apart from smoking weed with George, and then making music, and then walking around places with the guys. So as we get more famous or more popular in different places, it does feel strange because our reach is quite global, but our life is so small. <chuckles> It's weird.

CDM: When you think back on pre-tour life, does that seem like a simpler time to you?
Yeah! Life was a simpler time for everybody, like ten years ago or whatever. I just remember having no money! Like, NO money!! And it being fine. I miss that. I do miss the fact that the things that we worried about, or the things that we-- I just didn't care about making money, I just cared about playing shows. And getting paid fifty quid or sixty quid or EIGHTY quid between us, for a show, was fucking amazing. And I still feel like that person. I don't feel like I've grown up that much. I'm still excited by quite simple stuff, or stuff that we didn't have back in the day, like recording studios or nice hotels, or tour buses, and shit like that. I still get pretty giddy when we get new stuff like that; I still feel quite similar.

CDM: You were fourteen when you started the very first version of the band right? What do you think your 14-year-old self would think of 'People'?
He'd fucking love it. That would probably make the most sense to me, if you said, "You're going to be in a band when you're older and this is what it's going to sound like." If you played 'People' to 14-year-old me, that's probably the one song of all of ours that would make sense the most, because that was what I was super into.

CDM: Was it important to you to make time to attend the Climate Strike in Melbourne last week?
Yeah, it was important for us to be at one of them and we happened to be in Melbourne, and it was a great one to be at, so we were always going to do that. That was at the height of our sickness as well, but we got out there. I don't think Hann could make it because he was just so fucking ill. Bless him.

CDM: What was it like being at the strike for you guys?
It was quite emotional just seeing that whole Generation Z. There were so many people, and there were so many young people, and it was quite a hopeful environment. And then there was so much 1975 stuff! It was crazy!
CDM: It was the same here! We went to the Auckland strike today and I saw a dude with a sign that said, "Stop fucking with the kids."
<goes quiet for a moment> I love that.

CDM: I heard that Ross asked a police officer why he'd left his car engine running during the climate strike and the officer threatened to arrest him?
Yeah he got in a bit of a fight with some guy. Ross walked past two police cars and they had their engine running and there was no-one sat inside. So what Ross did was write a note that said, "Turn your engine off," and put it on the car. This guy was like, "Step away from the car, mate," and all that kind of stuff. Ross was like, "Sorry." And then the guy was saying that he thought Ross was being clever, and Ross was like, "No, I don't think I'm being clever, I just think it's quite inappropriate and it's just a mean-spirited thing to do." And then he was like, "This is what I've been told to do," and Ross was like, "That's a bit of a dick move," and the police started to give him shit. But Ross doesn't really stand for that kind of thing. Ross is quite belligerent when it comes to authority and stuff like that, so I'm not surprised that that happened.
CDM: Go Ross!
Yeah, go Ross! Exactly. He's a big guy as well, so I don't think he was that worried.

CDM: It's been cool to see you embracing not conforming to gender-norms with your clothing in Australia! Was there anything in particular that inspired you to want to start exploring fashion in this way?
Not really, when I was a teenager I used to wear loads of weird shit. I wore dresses... I don't really think about it, and then I get really weird talking about it because I'm not being that performative, really, I'm not trying to make a point with everything that I do. I imagine that I was fluid enough in my-- If you're talking about wearing skirts recently, I don't really think about it that much, I just kind of assumed that people would imagine that I'd maybe wear a skirt at some point. I don't really feel quite tethered to any persona. I'm not really playing with gender norms... or I suppose I am. I just think that skirts look really cool and I like skirts. I really like girl's clothes.
CDM: But they don't have pockets!
They don't have pockets and it's fucking annoying, but they are comfortable!


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CDM: Lastly, I have two questions from Sam Fender for you. We spoke recently and he told me about the talent competition you judged when he was sixteen!
Oh yeah! Bless him!

SAM FENDER: What's your favourite pastry from Greggs?
As boring as it is, it would be a sausage roll. It's the main thing from Greggs that you can eat cold. Cheese and onion pasties are not good cold, steak bakes taste like cat food anyway, especially if they're cold, and I don't really eat meat that much anymore. Three sausage rolls and a ribena, that was a standard lunch for me at high school.

SAM: And also, do you like stottie bread?
I do like stotties! It's a bit thick for me, but I'm quite into my Geordie cuisine, just because of my dad, and my dad's ability to cook that kind of food is amazing. I love stotties and I love all that kind of shit.

The 1975's upcoming album 'Notes On A Conditional Form' is out next year on February 2020.

The band will return to New Zealand and Australia to headline Laneway Festival 2020.

Watch the 'People' music video below...

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