U.K. Newcomers The 1975: Making 'Madchester' Proud
Coming off tiny clubs gigs, South by Southwest showcases and a high-profile slot opening for Muse, the British buzz band looks poised to break on the other side of the pond.
“This has been a long time coming for us,” said The 1975 frontman Matt Healy to a capacity crowd in Los Angeles on July 24.
Truthfully, their success story seems to have taken no time at all. A gangbusters year in their native England included a Top 20 single, a sold-out tour, and a high-profile supporting slot for fellow Brits Muse in front of a 60,000-person stadium last May -- all ahead of releasing their first album, due out Sept. 3 on major label Interscope.
Subsequently marked as a band on the rise, the U.K. quartet has returned stateside to capitalize on buzzy word of mouth. After hitting the road last month as support for The Neighbourhood, The 1975 made their U.S. headlining debut last week at the iconic Troubadour nightclub, a springboard for other emerging UK acts such as Radiohead and Coldplay before them.
A North American summer tour as well as a recently announced fall follow-up might look like nothing more than a pipe dream for a band that, up until January 2012, couldn’t decide between calling themselves Slowdown or Big Sleep. But months of performing everywhere from tiny clubs back home to last spring’s South by Southwest music conference and festival have conditioned them for a shot at real crossover appeal.
Formed in Manchester, The 1975 seem the logical successors to the Brit-rock precedent set by other big acts hailing from one of music’s most hallowed cities -- The Smiths and Oasis among them. Healy could have come directly from the late-80s, early-90s “Madchester” music scene, the very picture of youthful brazenness onstage with an eye roll here and a sip from his wine glass there. The rest of the group -- Ross MacDonald, Adam Hann and drummer George Daniel -- more than hold their own behind his wailing vocals.
Difficult to compare to contemporaries, their sound oscillates between dreamy indie-rock and frothy punk-pop. Certain tracks, like the festival-friendly “Settle Down,” seem tied directly to Healy’s entertainment pedigree -- both his parents are British television stars -- and the band’s quest to have their forthcoming album “sound like an 80s movie.”
But seen live, The 1975 sound enormous in any venue, turning even the moodiest songs in their repertoire into beefed-up synths and thumping snares. Although current set lists include old singles and unreleased material alike, audiences greet all songs with an air of familiarity. Recent singles “The City” and “Sex” prove a testament to the band’s ubiquity over four EPs in the last year, while “Heart Out” and “Girls” -- it’s about girls, Healy said -- hint at the likely fortune in store for their upcoming self-titled debut, out in September.
As the opening refrains to pop single “Chocolate” began to play at last Wednesday’s show, the crowd lifted their iPhones high, singing along and taking pictures from the floor to the mezzanine. By the evening’s end, Healy looked out into the room, seemingly mesmerized.
“I think we’ve found our new favorite place,” he said just before set closer “You.”
Good thing, too; The 1975 return to Los Angeles at the Fonda Theatre this November.