For Manchester band The 1975, releasing their self-titled debut album bookended an era of adolescence. Despite being a band for 10 years, they released their first EP Facedown just last year. Since then, they’ve followed it up with three other EPs that all led up to their debut full-length dropping this past September.
Their black and white aesthetic, along with their ‘80s romanticized depiction of youth and honesty, somehow separates them as a young pop band. Upbeat, guitar-heavy anthems like “Sex” and “Girls” are contrasted with more ambient/vulnerable tracks like “An Encounter” and “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You.”
It’s those (sometimes literal) highs and lows on the album that were heavily inspired by John Hughes films and a ton of well-listened records. And the four-piece band aimed to make an album that would affect listeners the way that their favorite albums and movies affected them.
“There’s so much in our band,” frontman Matthew Healy told Hive. “Like Sigur Ros’ Takk, Jesus and Marychain’s Psychocandy, Glassjaw’s Worship And Tribute, Speaking In Tongues and Remain In Light by Talking Heads, American Football, A$AP Rocky, Carol King’s Tapestry, James Taylor, Brian Eno’s Music For Airports and Scritti Politti. They were massive for us.”
Matty sat down with Hive to explain five albums that changed his band members' lives, in no particular order. Check 'em out and queue 'em up:
Peter Gabriel, So
It came quite late to me. I probably became really aware of Peter Gabriel when I was about 13 or 14, and when you’re a kid, you obviously don’t think about music being cool, but I grew up with—all my favorite songs were pop songs like Whitney [Houston] and stuff like that. When I heard Peter Gabriel, I listened to that whole album. That freed up a generation of records that were very forward-thinking pieces of work but also had big international smash hits on them.
When I analyzed that album, I’m quite a manic person and music for me is my only form of expression, and I think about everything mathematically. There’s a formula to it, and I was inspired by the way [So] was created and the process. When I started obsessing over that record, I was probably about 17. It was when I had been so in love with ambient music like Sigur Ros and drifted more towards Brian Eno and the bigger records he worked on like Joshua Tree.
Then I started finding all of these classic albums, songs like “Sledgehammer,” which is such a culturally relevant song. I think what I love about that song, and something that I took from that personally, was the fadeout -- because that song is like a train. People don’t like fadeouts, but what people don’t realize about that song is that some songs can’t finish. It’s like a train. It’s foot-to-the-floor the whole time and a bass drum every two beats. It’s a genius pop song with a fadeout.
You’ve got “Don’t Give Up” as well and that informed a lot of our music stylistically. I mean, “Falling For You” is “Don’t Give Up.” That was our version of that.
Michael Jackson, Bad
Oh God, I’m so obsessed with Michael Jackson. I don’t even know where to start. As an adult, I think one of the reasons why I love Bad is the same reason I love a lot of great artists, such as Radiohead. I know they’re two totally different things, but with Radiohead, every time they put an album out, that’s the Radiohead album. They’re not going to be able to do an album like that, and every single time they followed it up, they did because each record was like a distillation of everything that preceded it.
Now with Bad, for me, I appreciate the record in that regard because he was following up Thriller. They were following up The Bends, [but] he was following up fucking Thriller. Now, how do you do that?! But he did! And it was an artist at their peak. Everyone says he peaked on Thriller, but as a creative mind, to follow it up with something that was… because Thriller was such an amazing record, and it was the crossover between black and white music.
So Bad, that’s when Michael Jackson got very conceptual. For me Bad as a kid also has…I mean the songs on there like “Man in the Mirror,” and I think there’s 10 songs on that album. Eight of them were singles, and eight of them were probably number one.
It’s very rhythmical based. I have kind of a lot of nervous ticks and stuff, and they’re all based on syncopation and rhythm. With music for me, one of my obsessions is syncopation. The idea of the drums doing something, the bass playing what the drums aren’t, the bass playing what the guitar isn’t and the vocals interjecting and nuances in between, and this kind of textural thing with rhythm. Michael Jackson is the king of that—he’s like a beat box.
If you watch just the tiny bits of footage of him in the studio, Michael Jackson is rhythm in the way that he dances. He’s my main inspiration vocally because I write the rhythm of the vocals before I write the lyrics, and I’m pretty sure that he did that. Like “Chocolate” for example, I didn’t think of it melodically, it’s all about playing off of what the guitars are doing. My voice is essentially—I don’t try to treat it like an instrument, but that’s kind of what just happens.
The Streets, Original Pirate Material
I moved from New Castle to Manchester when I was about 10, and we lived in the city. There was this bar next door that was quite important in the genesis of the UK garage scene, so I would live next to this club, and the thing with garage music is that it was electronic music that I’ve never heard before because it’s very melodic and major scale like ear candy. It’s very poppy. It’s essentially like a Boyz II Men tune sped up then cut around, and I kind of fell in love with this type of music unknowingly when I was 10 years old.
I was into UK garage music. We were in punk bands but at this time it was before that. I was literally like 10 and just in love with this insanely rhythmic, melodic music. When I was about 13, I heard Original Pirate Material and remember it was this guy just talking. I’d never related to rap music. I’d never related to hip-hop at that time because I couldn’t. I’m from so far away from anything like that, so I couldn’t really connect with it. But this guy was coming from the street level from where I was from, and it was just middle class boredom and that kind of street level talking.
That kind of beat poetry inspired and really, really informed the way that I wrote lyrics. I never really had a formula for writing lyrics, but the only thing I did know was that I wanted it to be as earthy as that is, like Seamus Heaney and people like that. Mike Skinner is up there.
My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
I remember falling in love with that whole scene, which I wasn’t really old enough to experience. Music is really the only thing that I remember. It’s such a silly thing to say, and I was so obsessed with it when I was a kid. It was video games and music. I loved music and movies, and I had a good knowledge of music by the time I was six or seven—that sounds pretentious.
My parents were actors, but all my dad’s mates were like people from Dire Straights so I grew up around rock stars. It wasn’t even that—it was making music, hearing music and the way that it affected me subconsciously and the way it commanded me how to feel.
If I was ever at a party, all I was ever doing was listening to the music or seeing what was happening. Some guy was talking about all these late ‘80s bands like the Cockteau Twins. I fell in love with the Cockteau Twins, Jesus and Mary Chain, early Primal Scream and stuff like that, and when I heard Loveless [by] My Bloody Valentine, it was just perfect because I don’t like minor chords to be honest with you. I like diminished chords. I like augmented chords, but minor chords—it’s not a melancholy of which I connect with. Minor music. It’s creating that with an uplifting sensibility.
So I think that when I heard Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, if you take away all of the distortion and all the augmentation and all of the detachment from reality, they’re very, very simple and very beautiful major pop songs, but they’re like drowning. It’s like a beautiful pop record that’s drowning. It’s like something that’s been left in the sun for months.
Brian McKnight, 1989-2002 From There To Here
If you listen to those EPs, they are a composite of that record, Crazy Sexy Cool by TLC and Brown Sugar by D’Angelo, but very cleverly done because we didn’t want to be overly inspired. We take melodies and elements and things from so many different songs and create composites of them. We’re massively into Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Joe, Shai and TLC was massive for us.
My dad was massively into Otis Redding, Roberta Flack, the [Rolling] Stones, Wilson Pickett, Al Green and kind of bigger things like that. Black American music inspired me very much as a kid. Motown and soul kind of informed my musical decisions when I got older, so I was always interested in black music. It was an easy thing.
My mum used to listen to a lot of those big bands like Eternal in the UK, and I remember she was listening to D’Angelo once in the car and I was like, "What is that!?" like Brown Sugar and I was like, "Who is that?" But she had liked people like Michael Bolton and Curtis Stigers and kind of [was] inspired by black music and seduced by it. That [Brian McKnight] was on the radio when I was younger as well. You had those bands like East 17, and I fucking love the Backstreet Boys. When they were more like R&B, like “As Long as You Love Me.” I love that record.
Also, that was the whole thing in the ‘80s—it was a bygone area of music. That type of music lost its innocence when grunge came in but that over-sexualized,‘90s black R&B was the only type of music that did retain its innocence, and it was allowed to be a bit cheesy. That’s why I like that. Slow jams. But with Brian McKnight there are so many tracks and so many songs that are massive for us. I’ll probably say maybe his greatest hits to be honest with you. It’s a composite of all of his songs. I love Brian McKnight, and he’s got one of the best voices ever.