The 1975 have just achieved their fifth consecutive No.1 album in the UK and, for their manager and label boss Jamie Oborne, it’s a fitting achievement for a band he considers one of a kind.
When we spoke for our The 1975 cover feature when the campaign for Being Funny In A Foreign Language was just getting started, Oborne’s excitement was palpable. Coming as it did after their back to back albums A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and Notes On A Conditional Form (whose very titles betray the vast expanse of the content offered up by both records), Being Funny… was conceived to feel fresh, punchy, The 1975 coming back with a concise record full of pop hooks.
Oborne noted that "not many bands get five No.1 albums in a row", a point in sharp focus this week as Arctic Monkeys are bidding for their seventh in a row with The Car.
In our interview, Oborne likened Notes… to The Clash’s Sandinista!, smiling as he described it as “kind of like a classic, this big sprawling collision of styles, thoughts, genres and ideas that somehow all works together”.
But that chapter of The 1975 (the Music For Cars era) has now been emphatically closed, and Oborne is excited about the new dawn.
“I want the next thing to be an era that the band are really proud of, which I think it will be,” he told Music Week. “That’s the most important thing to me, that they feel creatively fulfilled and artistically supported, which I know that they will and do.”
Being Funny... topped the chart with first week consumption of 40,962 units – the highest for any album for seven weeks, and more than the rest of the Top 5 combined. The album sold 19.61% more copies than Notes... (34,245), and exceeds the 31,538 copies their first album sold on debut in September 2013.
The album sold 12,421 CDs, 15,255 vinyl albums, 4,283 cassettes and 1,240 digital downloads last week, with a further 7,763 units coming from sales-equivalent streams.
Oborne, who founded Dirty Hit as vehicle for the The 1975 to thrive, said he expects the label to hit new heights too.
“Ed Blow [general manager] and I want to continue to grow this promotional and marketing network that we’ve been nurturing over the last five years or so,” he said. “That’s getting to a place now where we feel confident going head to head with any label. Pretty soon we’ll be doing a new distribution deal, so that will represent the next period of growth and investment of time, energy and money into the label and how we build our foundation out even more so that we can better support artists globally. I’m really excited about where we’re at as a label. It feels really healthy, we’re built for the future.”
As for The 1975’s bond with the label, the idea that they may one day be signed elsewhere feels somewhat ridiculous.
“It’s pretty safe to say that they’ll take us all out in our coffins [together],” joked Oborne. “I hope so anyway.”
Below, as The 1975's new era begins with another No.1 record, read our Q&A with the manager and label boss...
First off, how do you feel about the new record and where it sits in The 1975’s story so far?
“It’s just real. Matty wanted the listener to feel like they were witnessing something and when it’s summed up like that it’s a really nice way of putting it, and I feel like that’s what he’s achieved. I love it, actually. It’s about performance and songwriting, but it still sounds innately like them. It’s different. Matthew is never gonna do the same thing twice. Notes… took that part of The 1975 as far as it could possibly go. Do you know what, when we were in the studio, I remember saying to Matty and George and Jack that I thought it was funny how everything we were doing would make one think that it would sound like retro or old fashioned, yet when i listen to the record it sounds so fresh. I haven’t heard anything that sounds like that in a long time. We all agreed that its urgency, its sonic identity and the life in it makes it… it gives it modernity. It’s strange isn’t it, it shouldn't feel like that but it feels really fresh.”
Do you mean because it’s going back to a classic idea to record live?
“Yeah, because it’s fucking analogue, it just sounds fresh. It’s really mad isn’t it. I love that about it, that some kids won’t have listened to [an album made this way] – well, I guess they’ll have listened to classic records – but there’s not many records that are made like that anymore. It was great, actually. It was difficult, like these records always are [laughs], but it was a good time.”
We want to make a must-go-to live show, more so than we ever have before
The Jack Antonoff collaboration seems to have worked out really well…
“We had spoken about doing it with Jack in summer last year actually, we had a really great Zoom with him and I really liked him and the boys did, too. They hadn’t really worked with anyone in a while so they were a bit… they didn't settle on it immediately. Then Matty and George went to LA to finish up some writing, they wanted to get out of England for a bit. And while they were there, Jack and Matty started talking and they spent an afternoon in the studio together and that’s when Matty decided that he wanted to make it with Jack. And now they’re just friends. It went really well. It was quite a smooth journey really. They just wrote. They had a year where they were trying to write and couldn’t really, then in 2021, Matthew wrote it all pretty quickly really. And then went into the studio at the start of this year.”
It’s also their first record to feature a significant amount of co-writing credits…
“They’ve never really done that before, I guess because circumstance has not really allowed them to. There was no real agenda behind it, those are just the songs that Matty wrote and different people came into the mix through different relationships. It was just friends of friends, it was pretty organic. I think, when you’re on your fifth album, you tend to not be quite so precious about stuff. Matty just wanted to make the best record he could, whatever form that took.”
What was it like to observe making it? Compared to the intensity of the last two. Was this a calmer process?
“Yeah definitely. I think there are elements of that. There are elements that will always be the same [laughs] because that’s just how it is. I think every record, not matter who it is, what artist or situation, every record has its own quirks. And this one definitely had its own quirks. It wasn't without its challenges, but they were just different challenges to the ones we’d faced before.”
What kinds of things?
“Life. Life still happens doesnt it? Artists are sensitive and I think they have a predisposition to feeling things more than someone who isn’t an artist, that’s what makes great artists great. I wouldn't say it was the easiest session ever in the history of making records, but it certainly wasn’t the hardest. There’s always ups and downs in everything.”
The tour is about to get underway, what can people expect?
“I feel like we’ve done the maximalist [show]… we’ve done so many things, we’ve had shadows as light, projections as light, videos as light source, we’ve had lots of content. I feel like we’ve pioneered so many different techniques that people now just expect in shows. This show is gonna be that again, but I don’t want to give anything away. What I’m really excited about is, we want to make a must-go-to show, more so than we ever have before.”
How are you feeling about the band being back on the road?
“I’m excited by it. I think it can be quite stressful for artists to tour, especially after this period of not touring. Well we’re very lucky that we do get to travel the world and play to thousands of people every night. I know that Matty in particular is really excited about getting back on the road and playing shows, he’s really missed it. Obviously it doesn’t impact me the same way it does them because I don’t go to every show. I mean, I go to a lot of shows, but I simply wouldn't be able to do my job if I had to go to every show. That’s the folly of a first time manager, going to every show, thinking that you’re doing your job!”
How can 1975 grow as a live band? Will they get to stadiums? Is that something you talk about?
“Yeah. We’re still pretty ambitious. Let’s see what happens. We just want to keep making great work and marketing it in a really great way. I feel like they’re still in the ascendance for sure.”
How do you actually grow a band like this though? When there’s already so much exposure, how can you implement a strategy to expand that?
“You make a record with more humanity, which is what we’ve done, I think. Then you make shows that have the same in them. I don’t really often think about the metrics of success like that, I think it’s a success that we can sell 140,000 tickets in the UK while putting out really uncompromising music. That feels like success and there’s a lot still to offer.”
Do you think it’s still possible for new bands to reach the level The 1975 have?
“I actually really want to find and sign another band. I’m waiting to be blown away by a band. And that could just be seeing someone play live, it doesn’t have to be about music at this point. I’m up for doing the development stuff, it doesn’t have to be something that’s ready to go, I just want to meet a group of kids who blow me away. There’s got to be someone out there, hasn't there?”