The 1975 have been a long time coming. The four met at secondary school, started jamming in each other’s bedrooms throughout their teenage years and finally got around to releasing an EP last year – nearly ten years after writing their first song – before signing to a mate’s record label ‘when they were ready’. Their debut album is due out this summer and with 2013 touted as the ‘return of the guitar band’ we decide to get to know the frontrunners a little better.
TALK US THROUGH HOW THE BAND FORMED?
We didn’t really start a band per se, we were friends and we just started picking up instruments and messing about. None of us had picked an instrument particularly, we were all big fans of music and just tinkered with lots of different things. So when we all started playing music together it was a natural evolution, an organic process really. We started playing in punk cover bands and by the time we were 18 or 19 we were supporting our mates who were in more established bands – but we never felt the necessity to put anything out until August last year.
SO AT WHAT POINT DID IT BECOME MORE SERIOUS?
We’ve always believed that we could do it but retrospectively, when I think about it now, we’ve had quite a lot of foresight, we were very aware that there was no rush. We’d seen bands put music out too early and it came back to bite them in the arse. It was just a stage in our lives that felt right, we were signed by an indie label – and before that had been winded and dined by some major labels when we were very young and not ready – and because we had big songs, everyone was very excited. But nobody at major labels has any balls and that was proven to us so we signed to our mates’ label in the UK and Vagrant in America and it just felt right. We had enough material that we were proud of as well. I don’t know if we would have worked if we were signed to a major. We have to pride ourselves on our conviction.
There’s a brilliant Kafka quote that’s: a camel is a horse designed by a committee. If you’ve got the idea of a horse in your mind and you then give it to twelve people you’re going to get a camel back. And that’s very much how I feel about this band. The devil’s in the detail – it’s the intricacies that make us who we are.
THE STORY BEHIND YOUR NAME HAS BEEN QUITE ROMANTICISED – WHERE’S THE TRUTH IN IT?
It’s become quite idealised, yeah. It’s a romantic story though. I was on holiday in Northern Majorca and I went for a walk and met an artist out there. We hung out a bit and I left with loads of literature that he gave me – I was a very impressionable 19-year-old boy. So I got the books home and read them and one had been treated like a diary by the previous owner, covered in scribblings. It wasn’t a suicide note as has been reported but it was obviously the demise of someone, you could tell from the writing, and the note was dated 1 June the 1975. It was the use of the word ‘the’ that stuck with me. I didn’t instantly think ‘oh I’m going to name my band that’ when we were trying to come up with a name I remembered that story.
A LOT OF YOUR MUSIC IS QUITE AMBIENT, AS WELL AS THE INDIE AND POP THAT WE’VE HEARD. HAVE YOU FOUND YOUR SOUND YET?
That’s the question that we’ve become fascinated with, and that has defined us recently. With the Facedown and Sex EP it brought quite a lot of critical acclaim upon us but also a lot of criticism because people were saying ‘do they know who they are’ or ‘what do they want to be’ and we got fascinated by it. We don’t listen to one type of music or consume any media in one linear format so we find it difficult to create in that way. It’s not even a conscious approach it’s just that our musical vocabulary has developed in that way. We’ve been living in each others pockets for ten years so our tastes and influences are the same, which makes it very coherent. The idea of searching within yourself to find what you want to project, or suffering from a lack of identity – everyone can relate to that. It’s a reflection to who we are as people. If you can manage to not have a defined sound over 16 tracks then you’re doing okay. I’m not harboured by that way of thinking.
DO YOU VIEW ANYONE AS COMPETITION?
I haven’t really thought about it you know. I’ve never really worried about the competition, it feels like the pressure is kind of off us a bit because if you are investing in our band you are investing in us – this is the only thing that we know how to do. It’s our only form of expression. We’regrouped in with the usual suspects – Palma Violets, Peace and Swim Deep but I would put us more along the likes of AlunaGeorge or the Weeknd. The people that we know and are close to musically are all in the R’n'B scene like Bareface or Tourist, so we don’t feel that much competition because we don’t see our sound the same as those we’re compared to. We’ve been called guitar ‘n’ B before and I love that.
WHO’S IMPRESSING YOU IN MUSIC RIGHT NOW?
Laura Mvula is great and we love A$AP Rocky more than belief. I met him outside our hotel – he recognised me from the Futures festival which was amazing but weird. And also Kendrick Lamar, Tourist and obviously Aluna George and Disclosure. Our heads have always been buried in R’n'B and dance music so we identify with that.
DO YOU THINK CURRENT R’N'B IS GOING TO MOVE AWAY FROM THIS DANCE SOUND THAT IT’S LATCHED ON TO?
Hopefully there’ll just be a move towards something more organic. But currently I think music moves in waves, something wishy washy always follows something good. Look at what you had after Blur and Oasis – Travis! And then the Libertines came along and then the Arctic Monkeys which was great but then what did you get after – The Hooisers and the Wombats. The David Guetta scene has to die at some stage. We can live in hope at least.
YOU WORKED WITH MIKE CROSSEY ON THE ALBUM – HOW WAS THAT?
He’s now one of my closest friends. He understood how we worked and he understood that it can be quite unsettling moving away from a way of working that you’re used to. We were originally just going to do that album ourselves but he came on board after falling in love with the band and he didn’t steam roll over anything we did, and we listened to him because of that. I learned so much from him about producing. His technical understanding revitalised our creative process.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE ALBUM?
It’s very broad you know, and very ambitious. It doesn’t sound like the EPs even though ‘Sex’, ‘The City’ and ‘Chocolate’ are on the album. I’m not very good at retrospect, I have a lot more conviction about what I’m saying in the moment so most of my lyrics are quotes, like in ‘Sex’, most of that song was spoken at some point. That song was about four or five different girls, and a lot of them have picked up on it because they remember me saying those exact words to them!
YOU’RE ALSO SIGNED IN THE US TO VAGRANT. DO YOU THINK THE US WILL GET YOU?
I think they’ll get us more. They love the accent so that’s a start. Musically I think our album will work really well in America because even though it feels like a happy record most of the lyrics are not, they’re quite unsettling – like ‘Chocolate’ which is about my relationship with a particular drug and our relationship with the police in a very small middle class town.
WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?
I’m hungry for seeing a really emotional validation in people through our music. What we’re starting to get now from people is a direct emotional response which has been quite moving. We’ve been writing music for nine years but before this tour hadn’t really performed our own music to people. I’m hungry to hear a story about how our music has affected somebody’s life – whether they listened to a song to get through something or whether they were inspired by listening to us, I’m hungry for a human connection.