The 1975’s Healy: Our 1st time in Philippines was surreal

Micah Levin Isla - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - In the final moments of calm before the storm, The STAR sat down with Matthew Healy backstage at Mall of Asia Arena, unsurprisingly packed even on a pouring Thursday night. Thousands of fans assembled at the venue to be #InTheMix — an eargasmic extravaganza headlined by Healy’s band The 1975, Panic! At The Disco, James Bay, Elle King, Twin Pines and Third Eye Blind.

The crowd erupted. Panic! had taken the stage; Brendon Urie’s high notes unmistakable. The storm intensified. Back in the waiting room, Matthew was still a vision of calm — casually planted on a couch in a graphic shirt from The Artisan. (One would wonder if his newfound rock star status, the earsplitting din of fanaticism and the fact that he still had to do press on concert night bothered him at all.)

He was warm, welcoming and ready for a chat.

“I really struggled to say what we sounded like in a few words,” Matthew said when asked to describe their brand of rock. Since their debut in 2013, experts and fans alike have attempted to put the band in a pigeonhole, labeling their music as Guitar n’ B or contemporary-pop, indie rock, dance-pop, jazz and so on. But after two chart-topping albums, Matthew still couldn’t — and doesn’t want to — define their sound with a few constricting words.

“Genres don’t really exist that much anymore, and I think we kind of represent that or at least our last record represents that,” he explained.

Our inability to cage The 1975 is the manifestation of this genre-breaking process. Fans might not be able to box it, yet it strikes a sensitive chord with them and that’s more than enough. At one point, Matthew stressed the importance of authenticity in their songwriting process, and their discography echoes this regard for self-awareness and honesty — qualities that seem hard to come by these days.

The 1975 is an ode to the ecstasy and recklessness of young life and love — cigarettes, dreams and tears. A far cry from the glittery fantasy of young Hollywood and living by the formula (“Where’s the fun in doing what you’re told?” says a line from Girls). The songs of the band are raw narratives of self-discovery and a celebration of flaws in black and white and neon pink — an organized chaos, much like the band’s creative approach.


The STAR: You said the first major concert The 1975 did was in Manila, what does it feel like to play here again?

“It’s very surreal. It was surreal the first time that we came here so I suppose it feels normal, a little bit. We didn’t know what to expect the first time we came here. It was very, very intense and it still feels very intense. I mean, we’ve started playing venues of this size back home but we’ve never played anything like that before so it’s amazing.”

How do your fans react to the songs from your current album, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, when played live?

“I mean people seem to be just as much, if not more invested in this new album. I think people, from what I can gather, kind of have really taken to it. A lot of people as well have seen us on the first album and not on this album, so they’re excited to hear the new stuff.”

Do you feel like you have grown a lot musically since the release of the first album?

“Well yeah, we have. I mean we haven’t really stopped writing so we’ve carried on, we’re kind of working on what I suppose will be our third album. We’re not talking about it being an album yet. We’ve kind of kept working so it’s kind of inspired us, like the reaction that it’s had. You know we just wanted to make a really honest record that kind of was a bit all over the place, like us.”

Will you be touring the rest of the year?

“Yeah, we’re gonna be on tour ‘til probably around this time next year, touring this album anyway. So we’ll kind of go around the world and then do it again, and that’s what we did on the last album.”

We noticed that your second album took a lot of inspiration from the ’80s, why did you choose to go into that direction?

“Well I don’t know, I think I heard somebody say that the ’80s revivalist movement has lasted longer than the ‘80s now, you know. People have kind of been referencing it for a long time. I think the ’80s was when there was a purity to pop music and people weren’t scared of pop music. It wasn’t tarnished with kind of a lack of credibility. So it was somewhere that we looked into for inspiration — a purity, you know.”

Why did you choose neon pink for the album’s aesthetic and how do you feel about it becoming sort of a trend, especially online?

“(Giggles) Yeah, I mean it’s really nice. I didn’t come up with the concept of neon. On our first album, it was a neon box and I just wanted the second album to have continuity, but also be an expansion on that idea, like an obvious evolution. So, I thought that keeping the form but changing the color would be a good idea, and what’s the opposite of black and white, you know? Like electric pink or electric blue, I suppose. That’s kind of where it came from and once I made the decision that it was gonna be pink, I just went crazy on it.”

We hear that you’re very warm to fans even in public. Can you tell us more about that?

“I suppose that like anybody I can get tired or I can get annoyed about things. But I wasn’t — I don’t like using the word ‘famous,’ but let’s use it for this sake. I wasn’t ‘famous’ until I was 24 or 25. I was kind of my own person by then and I had a set of principles and knew how to live. I do sympathize with Justin Bieber if he lashes out and people see that. It’s like, this guy hasn’t been able to go outside since he was 17 years old, he doesn’t know anything different. I’ve been locked in my hotel room here for four days because there are so many kids around and if that had been the case since I was 17, maybe I wouldn’t be like that but I was old enough to appreciate it.”

So what makes the Filipino audience different?

“I don’t know why they’ve taken to our band so much and I don’t know what it is. It’s kind of an intangible connection with the Filipinos. It’s really cool.”

So is this special connection with Filipinos mean that a fourth visit is sooner than later?

“We’re gonna try and hit most places twice.”

Matthew left with a promise.

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