Manchester quartet out to conquer the world, one country, one city, one show at a time.
Manchester, England is not usually the first city in the United Kingdom that comes to mind when one thinks “music city.” London, Liverpool, Birmingham—even Glasgow have all been epicenters for various waves of musicians and bands coming “across the pond” to conquer America. In fact, if the average American has even heard of Manchester, it’s much more likely they’ll think of Manchester United, one of the top football clubs in the English Premier League.
But don’t dismiss the city as being only a sports town. In fact, Manchester has a long and storied musical history, spawning bands as diverse as The Smiths, The Buzzcocks, The Courteeners, The Fall, Joy Division (and its successor group New Order), Oasis, Elbow, Doves, and Take That. And now, add a new name: The 1975.
The quartet, which takes the stage at Track 29 this Friday night in the midst of their first headlining tour of the United States, came together in the northwest English city as teenagers when singer Matt Healy, guitarist Adam Hann and bassist Ross MacDon hooked up with drummer George Daniel.
Right off the bat, it was very hard to pin down exactly what type of musical style they were going to pursue. The band’s music drifts between brooding art rock, crisp electronica, dancefloor, rhythm & blues and ’80s gloss pop.
“I don’t think it’s confusing,” says singer Matty Healy of his band. “Feeling a lack of identity and the searching within oneself to acquire a real understanding of what you want to be, that’s something that loads of people can connect with. It’s so strange that with music people [they] want so many rules.”
If the 25 year old comes across older than his years, he has earned that road-weariness. His musical life started young when his dad’s best friend died, leaving him two guitars. And as many guitarists have discovered, there’s something about the instrument that seems to inspire rebellion. Which didn’t bode well for his future in private school.
“I didn’t really care for being there, I got in a couple of fights,” he explains. “I got asked to leave, I never actually got expelled.”
After transitioning to public school at 14, he started drumming in a punk band with eventual bandmates Hann and MacDonald. But he was soon to move out from behind the drum kit when he meet Daniel.
“This weird kid turned up at school. He was really tall but he looked about nine and was this odd character,” says Healy, of how he first met the eventual drummer for The 1975. “My kind of boyfriend. Well, not really, but he might as well be, we don’t really leave each others’ sides.”
The pair bonded over their dislocated childhoods—Matt moved between London and Newcastle while George was born in Belgium and grew up in Seattle—and the sense of isolation they felt in their new homes in the Manchester suburbs.
Hann had heard of a “hippie council worker” who rented out local space for kids to play shows, and the band formed in order to get involved. They began expanding their basic punk sound, adding elements of electronica, pop, and even some of the older British art-rock elements.
Several years of clubbing and touring the country, under a variety of band names, led them to two realizations. One, that they were on to something they felt was musically fresh, and two, that they needed to be very wary and protective of their music.
“We said ‘we’re not desperate to be famous, we’re not desperate to be in a massive band, let’s do it our way, on our terms, and make sure that our projection of ourselves is controlled by us’,” Healy notes.
They also needed to settle on a name. Though 1975 was the year The Sex Pistols formed and Talking Heads played their first gigs, the moniker has nothing to do with the date itself. Healy explains he found it in the back of a Beat-era book given to him by a “gregarious artist” he met at a yard sale in northern Majorca at the age of 19.
“He showed me round his house, it was like a ’60s bizarre haberdashery. He had photos of him with Hendrix…I thought this guy was crazy! He gave me loads of Beat Generation literature, Kerouac and stuff. When I went home I read them and in the back of one of them there was all these mental scribblings, it was almost suicidal, and it was dated at the bottom ‘1st June, The 1975’. I was quite freaked out when I read it, the use of the word ‘The’ really stuck with me. It was the perfect band name.”
In 2011, armed with a new name and a large collection of road-tested songs, they signed with a regional label and produced the first of what would be three EPs over the following two years. Finally, in 2013, they went back into the studio to put together a full album of their best material.
“We’re weren’t making a record to support a couple of singles,” Healy says of the finished record. “On your debut album, whether you’re hyped or not, you’ve got shitloads to prove to yourself.”
And prove it they did. Their self-titled debut album entered at the top of the albums chart in the U.K. and earned rave reviews. “One immensely hooky debut,” said Entertainment Weekly and Billboard raved, “one of this year’s biggest breakouts.”
They’ve also proved it on the road, turning into musical world travelers. Since their first show in December 2012, they have put in countless miles. The band has spent the last five months on tour taking in North America, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and mainland Europe. They’ve also been exposed to American audiences through televised appearances on “Conan,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
So where do they go from here? “People need to get on board with what we’re doing and see that we’re for this generation. I want our music to be a part of people’s lives, properly,” says Healy.
You can get on board with The 1975 this Friday night at Track 29 and see for yourself what they are all about.