Without a hit, Sweetlife headliners the 1975 eye world domination

It's a formula many groups around the world fantasize about: Win over your home first, and then conquer the world.

One of the latest and most intriguing cases is the 1975, a pop-rock quartet of high school friends who conquered their home of England with a series of EPs and a 2013 self-titled debut that revealed diverse songwriting chops and a penchant for earworm hooks.


With the release of the band's second album in February, the Manchester quartet now aims to extend that loyal fandom stateside through a No. 1 album and a world tour through September. And it's all a bit of a whirlwind, exemplified in singer/guitarist Matty Healy's response to the question, "Where are you right now?"

"Where am I? I'm in the — what's it called? The Seattle Seahorses dressing room," Healy, 27, said on the phone recently. It was hard to tell if Healy was being facetious, but he corrected himself anyway.


U.K. band the 1975 projects an extravagant image. Matthew Healy lifts the curtain while discussing new album "I Like It When You Sleep."

"Seahawks. Seahawks," he said from inside CenturyLink Field, where his band would later perform in its 7,200-capacity theater. "It's a football thing."

When you're on a pace like the 1975, who headline Saturday's Sweetlife Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion, keeping track of your surroundings can get difficult.

But the band — which also includes Ross MacDonald (bass), Adam Hann (guitar, keyboard) and George Daniel (drums) — asked for this when it released its sophomore album. The mouthful of a title ("I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it") reflects Healy's wide-eyed, romanticized lyrics, but also the album's sprawling scale.

"It's not about reciprocation, it's just all about me / A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic-junkie wannabe," sings Healy on "The Sound" an uptempo pop single.

There's also anthemic electronic music like M83 ("Lostmyhead"), atmospheric emo a la Death Cab for Cutie (the instrumental "Please Be Naked"), soulful longing for faith ("If I Believe You") and what seems like countless other twists and turns. More or less — and against the odds — it all coalesces.

At 17 tracks (and just less than 74 minutes), it's a huge record made by a band aiming to make a tidal wave, not merely a splash. When it came to bringing the album on the road, Healy knew the live show had to be huge, too.

"Everything is about creating a world for us, you know? It doesn't just stop with the music," Healy said. "Putting so much into the record itself and making it so obviously ambitious in its essence — if that wasn't met with the live show, it wouldn't work."

While part of the 1975's appeal is the band's collective, effortless cool, Healy admits translating "I like it …" to the stage has been exhausting.

"I think it's taken its toll a little bit more physically than it did last time, because it's such a bigger task," Healy said. "It's really getting used to giving an hour and 40 minutes every night."

While Healy credits their "really, really hardcore fanbase" for the 1975's success (how else do you fill arenas and amphitheaters without a crossover hit?), some critics wondered if their fans would follow the group on such an overtly ambitious path.

Healy was never worried, he said, because the album reminds him stylistically of the EPs that first earned the band its following. More so, as an artist, he can't allow himself to worry about outside perspectives.

"If you start worrying about alienating people, the only person you're alienating is yourself," Healy said. "If it's all about belief and it's all about truth then you just need to be what you believe in."


Their gamble, that fans would appreciate the album, has paid off, as evidenced by the band's nonstop touring schedule and high-profile TV spots like "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show."

As their profile has risen, so has Healy's. In a recent profile, Spin described him as a "newly minted pop star," but Healy swears he doesn't feel like one, even though he admits he plays up the character of a frontman when the time calls for it.

"I know that what people are watching when I walk out on stage is the 1975, and we do the 1975 show," Healy said. "I come off stage and I'm with all of my best mates I've been with since high school."

Acting like a pop star means acting like a jerk, although Healy describes it in a more emphatic and unprintable way.

"When you're a pop star behind closed doors — oh my god, can you imagine nothing worse than that?" Healy said.

After this North America run ends in June, the 1975 will head to Europe, Australia, Japan and then South America. For Healy, it's all a reminder that the band has come this far by being true to themselves and the music they choose to make.

"We were put in a position to prove ourselves and everybody was like, 'Do what we want,' essentially," Healy said. "We did what we wanted, and that turned out to result in being what everybody else wanted. So I think that's the thing I'm most proud of at the moment — that we kind of just stuck our heels in and it was the right thing to do.

"But then again, tomorrow it'll probably be something else," he said with a laugh.

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