Fueled by the charismatic, scene-stealing power of Matty Healy's vocals, British alt-rock combo The 1975 has clearly struck a chord with music fans. The band's eponymous debut album, released just last month, charted at No. 1 in their native U.K., and reached No. 28 Stateside by the time they started their first North American tour.
If genetics are the determining factor, Healy was born to be a star. The son of renowned British actors Tim Healy and Denise Welch, he was raised around accomplished thespians as well as family friends like Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler.
"I suppose that's bled into me," figures the singer. "That was my reality — I wasn't a kid whose parents suddenly became actors and it was a new, exciting thing. I was a kid who thought, 'Well, that's my mum and dad — I don't wanna do what they do!'"
Healy, now 24, comes across as a fully formed, Talking Heads-inspired persona on angular, thumping anthems like "Sex," "Robbers," and the group's breakthrough single, "Chocolate." And while most artists would rather not admit their influences, he's quick to acknowledge and early debt to David Byrne's yelp-punctuated vocals.
"But I kind of realized quite quickly that — like with anything — you should always be yourself," says Healy. "Because nobody can do that better than you, you know what I mean? And I think that's the rule that I've kind of stuck to. I've always been a fan of amazing vocalists, like Donny Hathaway, Brian McKnight, and Otis Redding. But I've never felt like I could parallel what they do, so I just have to do what I do, which is what you hear."
While outsiders were always amazed at Healy's upbringing, he took it all in stride. Even when his mother won last year's Celebrity Big Brother, he did his best not to watch weekly episodes.
"I was as detached from it as physically possible, because by then my mom and I had created professionally separate lives," he says. "But I kept my eye on it to make sure she was alright. Big Brother is interesting, because you get a really good perspective to draw from when everything that happens to you is amplified by the media and the people who surround you."
Healy's father, meanwhile, enjoyed hanging out with musicians more than his board-trodding peers. His best friend from Newcastle used to play in Lindisfarne, and he willed two of the famous folk-rock group's guitars to the aspiring young rocker when he passed.
"I still use them all the time," says the frontman. "Everybody in my family has always known that this was the only thing that I was gonna do, and everyone was really supportive. I've just never shown any real interest in — or a passion for — anything else."
Even so, the Mancunian hasn't been able to completely shake his heritage. As a songwriter, he says, he thinks visually, and can practically see the song's video in his mind's eye as he's composing it. "After this album, we'd really like to write a score for something," he says. "If we got a movie like Drive, I think we'd nail it.
"That's how we fell in love with music, really. In film, the music kind of commands you how to feel, as opposed to merely suggesting it."