WHEN novelist Jack Kerouac wrote, “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road” in On The Road, he probably didn’t realise what an impact that line would have on musicians for years to come.
It certainly resonated with Matthew Healy, 24, vocalist of British band The 1975. After trying to emulate the quirkiness of Kerouac’s novel in both his music and demeanour, the quote finally came to describe the life Healy has led in the last year.
“On The Road’s my favourite Jack Kerouac book because it has defined me so much. It is now the book that is most relevant to my life because of the fact that I do live in this decadent stream of ever-flowing perpetual rock ’n’ roll travelling,” said Healy.
Healy himself is an open book and has a rep for being painfully honest in his song writing and in the endless string of interviews he has had to give since his band made its debut at No.1 in Britain in September.
After about a decade of playing together, Healy and his band mates – George Daniel, Adam Hann and Ross MacDonald – have found themselves going from a teenage garage band to international rock stars, playing shows like the Clockenflap Festival in Hong Kong two weekends ago.
They don’t do it for the ratings, though.
Critics often try to classify The 1975 as an indie band, but the members have stated time and again that the most prominent influence on the band is R&B. Both Healy and Daniel say that their music has a more indulgent purpose, and while they aren’t too fussed about what the critics say, they are completely aware of their public image.
“All of our music is informed by African American music and the fact that we are perceived as an indie band is a cosmetic analysis. If we were four black guys, it would be very different the way that we were marketed and perceived, even if the music stayed the same,” said Healy.
“If you listen to our record, there’s so much more Prince and Michael Jackson and Al Green than there is, I don’t know, what indie bands are there? The Arctic Monkeys? Which couldn’t be further from our band.”
While the band makes music for themselves regardless of the opinions of other people, Healy confessed that his obsession with music has had somewhat of a detrimental effect on his life. As he speaks, his fingers are tapping against each other in a syncopated pattern – rhythmic tics that he finds himself mulling over whenever his hands are unoccupied.
“I’ve never really been able to be interested in anything as much (as music), even relationships that I’ve had with people. All those tics I talk about are fine, but when I realise all that all I’ve really been thinking about for three hours is a rhythm, it drives me a bit mental. That’s a bit annoying.”
Speaking of the relationships he has with people, he does have genuine concerns when it comes to the connections he makes.
“The idea of a personal interaction with another human being and the interpretation of a personality through an art form are very different things,” he explained. (Yes, Healy is extremely insightful, as you would expect from someone who often talks about his existential angst …)
“I can’t care what people think about our music because if I spend my whole life allowing myself to be affected by the judgements of people on that art form, then I would just be upset all the time. What I’ve learnt is that the only thing that’s going to ever happen to anyone is interaction with human beings. So to not have that validated or to not make that as beautiful or as resonant as possible is a total waste, which is why when I am in the presence of somebody that I respect and whose opinion I care about, immediately I’m not afraid to ask whether they like me or not.”
Unlike his extremely articulate counterpart, Daniel spent the interview coaxing Healy into sharing more personal stories and then laughing at his responses.
“Tell her about your weird dreams,” he suggested.
As clichéd as this may sound, Healy has the eyes of a suffering artist and those eyes gleam with the sort of vulnerability you don’t often see in the frontmen of popular bands. We can’t show you his eyes but read what he shares about a recurring nightmare he has and you’ll see what we mean: “Imagine the stair system in a hotel. Now remove all walls and I’m underneath it in a blank world of nothingness. There are about four people just too far away for me to see where they are and they’re leaning over just too far for it to make sense and I’m there for hours and I can’t get out of that dream.”