The 1975 find their voice, lose their ego at Cincinnati’s Bunbury Music Festival

Photo: The 1975’s (l-r in mirror) Adam Hann, Ross McDonald, Matty Healy, and George Daniel; photo: Danny North-Samuel Burgess Johnson

By Alan Sculley

The 1975’s second album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, marked the second time the band reached No. 1 on the album chart in their home country of the United Kingdom. It also became the group’s first chart-topping album in the United States upon its late-February 2016 release. But singer/guitarist Matty Healy says his feelings about the achievement were very different from what he felt when the group’s self-titled debut reached number one in the United Kingdom upon its release in September 2013. “At the time, I didn’t realize it, but now I realize the desire for that [first] album to do so well,” he says. “The first one was definitely imbued with my desire to be known and have people know who I am.”

“On this [second] record, I had to get myself to a place where I really didn’t care,” Healy says. “I had to get to a place where I was doing it because I just loved doing it and I wasn’t scared of what people were going to say and I wasn’t scared of what people were going to think … it was a different experience because it was about the album. It wasn’t my ego. It wasn’t about me. It was about this thing that I’d made doing so well.”

That sense of satisfaction is something Healy says he always felt he would one day get to experience. But the group had its share of disappointments in the decade after Healy, drummer George Daniel, guitarist Adam Hann, and bassist Ross MacDonald—all former students at Wilmslow High School in Wilmslow, a town in Cheshire, England—formed the group.

“We were 13 when we started this band,” Healy says. “We grew up together, and we fucked up together, and all of our social groups were based around the band. We were a band, like a band of people, like bound together. And that stands for something. I think when you have that and you put so much love into it, it’s not something that you just let go. It’s something that kinds of defines who you are. So no matter how many times we were being told no, we just knew in our hearts that this was it. This was what we were going to do. I think that it’s about belief, isn’t it? And we just started convincing people.”

The group also had musical growing to do. Healy admits the band’s influences were too obvious in their early days, and it took time to find a musical identity. Now, their music is based in creating a pop sound that blends an array of styles, including electronica, ’80s-ish synth-pop, soul, and funk.

“That’s what defines our music, the fact that we literally don’t care about stuff like genres and these kind of things,” Healy says.

The fact that The 1975 was starting to find its voice became apparent over four EPs released between 2012 and spring 2013 that spawned a pair of U.K. hit singles, “Sex” and “Chocolate,” which helped set the stage for the emphatic debut of The 1975’s self-titled album.

The way The 1975 blends an array of styles into its songs has become its defining signature. I like it… especially sounds like the work of a band that was bursting with musical ideas and decided to pack as many styles, sounds, and ideas into the songs as possible. Rock, pop, electronica, ’80s-ish synth-pop, and funk all figure into the mix. That makes the album one that can take a few listens to digest. Still, as the chart-topping debut of I like it… and the fact that the album landed on numerous 2016 best-of album lists suggests, there’s enough immediacy to songs like “Love Me,” “She’s American,” and “Somebody Else” to draw one into the album and prompt further listens. To Healy, I like it… feels more cohesive than the self-titled album.

“The first record was written over 10 years, some of it was stuff I had polished up from when I was 19,” he says. “So with that, you’re not going to have the same cohesive voice as with something that’s been written over a particular period of time.”

Healy hopes that feeling of authenticity carries over to The 1975’s live shows.

“It’s not something that I’ve thought that much about, I suppose, because it’s been such a personal pursuit for me,” Healy says when asked what he hopes audiences feel after a 1975 show. “When I go out and perform, I suppose I’m just myself. And I think all I really want is for people to believe me. I think I want people to leave, for better or worse, thinking, ‘Yeah, I believe that guy. I believe what he was saying then.’ I think that’s my intention.”

The 1975 play Saturday, June 3 at Express Live!, 405 Neil Ave. in Columbus. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $113-$229. For tickets and more information, please visit The1975.com or TicketMaster.com. The 1975 also play Sunday, June 4 at the Bunbury Music Festival, 705 E. Pete Rose Way in Cincinnati. For tickets and more information, please visit BunburyFestival.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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