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One of the most surprising records for me this year is the latest album by The 1975. My preconceptions of this band's music as simple, catchy pop have turned out to be so wrong. The album, called I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, is filled with ambient music, electronica and a good dose of '80s sheen. I wanted to talk to frontman Matty Healy about his influences. He's someone whom I'd met a few years ago when he performed a fascinating solo Tiny Desk concert. On this edition of All Songs Considered, he plays DJ and talks about growing up in a family where his parents, both English actors, shared lots of the music they loved.
And a footnote here: We talk about musician Leon Russell. This conversation happened just a few days before he died.
You can hear the full interview with the play button at the top of the page or read edited highlights below.
On his dad's love of soul music and why Matty Healy is drawn to it
"It's always been about conviction. And I think that my dad found that in black music, like soul and blues and stuff like that. He would always be about like — 'Listen to this, listen to this voice.' I remember it well, whether it be Percy Sledge's 'When A Man Loves A Woman' or the conviction in Otis Redding."
On making music with his "right hand man," drummer George Daniel
"It's normally down to both of our obsession with other artists' music and then kind of really in-depth, maybe over-analytical, conversations about one part of one song. And then that'll turn into an obsession about one sound which will then inspire — you know, it's all accidents. Just like that brilliant [Brian] Eno thing where he says, you know, 'Inspiration doesn't come looking for you.' You can't just sit there and expect something to happen. It's like, an hour and a half after playing the same sound when you move the module a tiny bit and then, 'Oh that's interesting. Oh, there you go!'."
On his love of "All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem
"I'd found my song. I'd found my forever song. I'd found the song that I knew was going to inform every single song that I ever did. The fact that it's two notes. And this song, it makes me think about life, it makes me think about death, it makes me think about friends past and present. And it's kind of everything to me. And I have rinsed this song in my career. Technically, emotionally. I'll say that with a complete, unabashed freedom. If I wanted to [make music], it needed to be as good as this. It needed to be funny, it needed to be self-aware, and it needed to be beautiful, and it needed to be culturally aware and it needed to mean something."
On what it means to him to be in a pop band in the age of Brexit and Donald Trump
"My band is starting to become a very, very big band. A very important band to lots of young people who have just felt directly disenfranchised by this situation. We're talking about Brexit, we're talking about the Trump presidency. And the fact of the matter is, is that my responsibility was always artistic and it was kind of to myself. But now I know that my next record is going to come out within the Trump presidency. I think there's more of an expectancy for art to be more actively challenging what we see every day. And what would be interesting for me is to see how we incorporate that into the way that The 1975 works because The 1975 is kind of like my diary. I'm either really, really frank or it's kind of conversational. When it gets political, it's still all about me. So I don't yet know how I'd make a kind of a record with a punk lyrical ethos."