What’s Still in a Number
Part of this weekend’s Santa Barbara Bowl season-opening sweep, British sensation known The 1975 returns to the venue, still flying high.
The 1975, with Pale Waves and No Rome
When: Sunday, 6 p.m.
Where: Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St.
Tickets: $34.50 to $64.50
Information: 962-7411, www.sbbowl.com
This weekend marks the moment when the eagerly-awaited new concert season at the Santa Barbara Bowl kicks in, more busily than usual. This year’s Bowl launch is a bigger than usual, Coachella-driven bang of a season-opening handful of acts. Notably, most of those acts—in the area thanks to their role in the Coachella Festival in Indo over the next two weekends–are making their local debut in our local Big House, including last night’s showing by Blood Orange and Christine and the Queens, tonight’s appearance by ZEDD, and RUFUS DU SOL on Saturday.
And then there is the exception of a grizzled veteran, The 1975, on Sunday. Well, “grizzled” might be too strong a word for it, but the band did light up the Bowl stage in 2016, another April evening synched with Coachella. At the time, the band was riding high—and wide, international touring-wise—after scoring hits such as and “Chocolate,” “The Sound” and “Somebody Else, “ with their eponymous debut album, and then coming out boldly with the successful sophomore released in 2016 with the mouthful title “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.”
As the band—lead singer Matthew (aka Matty) Healy, Adam Hann, George Daniel and Ross MacDonald–returns to the Bowl stage on Sunday, the band is coming off of the critical and British chart-topping buzz of last year’s “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” and up-shifting quickly into this May’s release of a new album, “Notes on a Conditional Form.” Provocative album and song titles are a tipoff to the intricate nature of this band’s songwriting, lyrics and musical structures, even while keeping up its pop-rock spark and sparkle.
Despite the band’s major thrust of success in the ‘00s, the story of The 1975 begins in the year 2002, when the first incarnation of the band formed between high school pals in Cheshire, England. No, they are not fans of ‘70s retro styles, but have a thing for Beat Poetry, and literary/poetic interests generally: they copped the band name from Jack Kerouac poetry book.
Dark corners and self-destructive plot twists have also been a part of the meteoric rise and simmer of the band’s story, leading up to Mr. Healy’s detoxing from heroin and assorted drug abuses built up during the mad acceleration of fame and touring in the past five years.
Speaking about his attraction to heroin in the first place, in an interview last year with Vulture, Mr. Healy commented that “it’s so busy and loud just being alive. When you wake up it’s so loud. So that (drugs) kind of gets rid of it. I’m a very addictive person. Anything that has ceremony I’m a sucker for.”
He went on to insist that “the reason it’s so hard to quit is because you have nothing else that does that. Quitting is cognitive behavioral therapy: keep doing something, eventually it’ll become all right. Sometimes you gotta’ do it. It’s like getting fit. Just do it. Or don’t. Don’t moan or figure out different ways. There’s only one way: not doing it. That’s how you quit.”
In the case of a currently vibrant and prolific rock star, quitting was made easier by his will to avoiding becoming a beautiful young corpse-style casualty and to keeping creativity in his sites. Mr. Healy told Rolling Stone last November that the soon-to-be-released “Notes on a Conditional Form” “is a U.K. nighttime record. I’ve spent so much of my life in vans and cars, stopping off at a McDonald’s when you don’t want McDonald’s. I wanted to make a record that reminds me of that.”
A very different kind of “high”—the polar opposite of necessity meals at McDonald’s—is the band’s lofty circle of friends. Their impact on not only young audiences but the boomer set has landed them in such enviable positions as opening for the Rolling Stones and befriending Mick Jagger. Mr. Healy enthused that “he’s still so youth-culture-minded. He knows his (stuff). Obviously, it’s amazing for me whenever I have a chance to have a chat with him or text him, ’cause I’m like a kid in a sweet shop. It’s (frigging) Mick Jagger!”
By this point, a few albums into the story, the matter of where The 1975 sits, stylistically, is a slippery subject. “It’s not a rock band,” Mr. Healy told Vulture. “It is a rock band in the way that we’re four white blokes playing guitars a lot of the time. But we’re an R&B band before we’re a rock band.
“I’ve always liked playing with any form. I don’t think about it when it comes to making music. I hear something I love and go, ‘let’s do that!’ I’m one of these kids with a low attention span, access to the internet, and loads of time. I wanna’ be everything. I’m so excited about the present.”
And it’s safe to say, as a recovering junkie, he’s more present in the present these days.