There's a solid — if somewhat circuitous — reason that Matthew Healy burdened The 1975's sophomore album with the ponderous, Fiona Apple-worthy title I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It.
Yes, there was a specific girl he had in mind when he came up with it, but mostly it was a decision to stop second-guessing himself as his band rapidly rose from club opener to Red Rocks headliner status.
"There was a time before I'd written this record where I was fucking scared," says the British singer, who's become a teen heartthrob for the alternative set thanks to addictive singles like "Sex," "Girls," and "Chocolate." "I didn't know what to do."
So Healy decided to just trust his instincts. "I had this phrase written in my phone," he says of the soon-to-be album title, "and I was like, 'Well, it's a really nice line, and it's really long.' [And] if I do that now, then I'm going to make more decisions like that, and that's what this record's going to be like.'"
Released this past February, the album finds the frontman tumbling down a rabbit hole of self-reflection with Duran Duran-sleek anthems like "Love Me" (which dissects his own celebrity, in a social-media framework), the drug-culture dismissive "UGH!" and the operatic "The Ballad of Me and My Brain," which is not a love song.
The son of two British actors, Healy grew up inured to fame and all its pitfalls while hanging out with music-biz family friends like Mark Knopfler and Jeff Lynne. But when his own profile rose with The 1975's debut three years ago — to the point where he was even rumored to be dating Taylor Swift (not true, he swears, they're just good friends) — the singer began questioning his newfound notoriety so much he nearly short-circuited. "It was like a forensic analysis, and it all got very Shakespearean," he says.
Healy looked out into his own audience and saw an unsettling mirror reflection. Young girls were dressed in black, like he was. Young boys copied his foppish d'Artagnan hairstyle.
"They kind of freaked me out at times, when I first went on the road," he says. "Because I went from nothing to everything, and it was something that I was struggling to come to terms with. I was 24, and I'd never experienced anything like that. I'd lived a normal life up until then. It creates this identity crisis, and then it feeds back into who you are, and then that consequently feeds into the material."
At one American concert a year and a half ago, a female acolyte yelled an adoring "I love you!" to Healy. He stopped the show to argue about blind adulation, then basically melted down onstage. On another occasion, he grew so familiar with fans he was filmed smoking pot with them on the street outside a venue. And last summer, as a Situationist-inspired experiment, he deleted all of The 1975's social-media accounts for a full — and fan-frightening — 24 hours. "I talk a lot about that duality of art and reality on this record," he says, "and where to draw the line between who I am and who I'm being onstage."
These days, the rocker surrounds himself with a trusted crew of longtime friends — business people who have proven themselves to be working honestly on his behalf. But every time he wants to make a blanket trust-no-one policy, he catches himself. Like when he's asked about prospective girlfriends.
"That's the kind of inherent thing that people talk about when they're a narcissist," he says. "But then again? Everyone's a narcissist these days."