We're looking at how Matty Healy and the crew achieve that louche, funk-pop sound. We talk about guitars, amps and even pay reference to Dream Theater...

Louche Pop Hooks From the North West of England

The North West of England has been responsible for some of the best-known musical talent around the world. Oasis, The Beatles, A Flock Of Seagulls (!)…the list goes on. You can add The 1975 to that list now, as the Cheshire-based pop-rockers become the latest export from the M62 corridor to hit the heights.

Combining high production values with impeccable pop sensibilities, the band are now headlining festivals and selling out stadiums everywhere. Let’s take a look at how to sound like The 1975.

Background

Singer and band leader Matty Healy actually has his own interesting backstory; his parents are actors Denise Welch and Tim Healy of Coronation Street and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet fame. With that interesting – well, I thought so – nugget of information out the way, let’s talk about the band.

The 1975 was started by Matty in 2002, when he and the other members began playing together as teenage students at Wilmslow High School. They started, as many bands do, by playing covers before progressing onto their own material. Fast forward 10 years and the band released their debut EP, followed a year later by their first album. They went on to rack up some pretty impressive support shows, including The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park, along with shows at Coachella and the Royal Albert Hall. Their second album landed in 2015, and has flown, with lead single Girls racking up 40 million views on YouTube.

Since then they’ve sold out Madison Square Garden, racked up even more album sales, and proven themselves to be quite adept when it comes to switching up musical styles.

Worth A listen

The obvious first choice would be the aforementioned ‘Girls’, with its Robert Palmer-esque video. The intro guitar riff wouldn’t feel out of place on a Talking Heads album, and the chorus has festival singalong written all over it.

Elsewhere, ‘Somebody Else’ shows a nice line in 80s inspired breathy synth pop, a thread carried on with another track off their second album, ‘A Change of Heart’.

The Gear

Matty Healy – Guitar

Gear-wise, the band are actually pretty straightforward. Matty tends to favour Fender Mustangs above anything else, with a small smattering of Fender Jaguars for good measure. His 1965 Mustang is, he says, his favourite guitar due to the fact it has now become road-worn in ways you only get through actually using a guitar. No fakin’ here, for sure.

His Amp use is more varied, and he has experimented with different brands and models across his career. We do know for certain that he loves his Roland Jazz Chorus, stating on Instagram how it has the richest chorus you can find on a valveless amp.

Adam Hann – Guitar

Fellow guitarist Adam Hann is also partial to a Mustang, but generally prefers his custom-made Fano guitars from the States. Interestingly though, he says the majority of his parts on the first album weren’t recorded with the usual line-ups of Fenders; instead he favoured a Music Man John Petrucci Signature model! He claims to have been a Dream Theater fan growing up and was only persuaded to use the MM when he heard how great it sounded clean.

Adam’s amps a bit more varied, taking in a couple of Hiwatt models along with the famous Silverface Fender Twin. You can clearly see his priorities lie in finding the cleanest, richest tube tones there are from his choices here.

Ross McDonald – Bass

Bassist Ross McDonald is much less high maintenance, relying on a straightforward Fender Precision into Ashdown setup.

George Daniel – Drums

While drummer George Daniel adds in some nice tech to his Yamaha kits by utilising Roland BT-1 drum triggers and a Roland SPD-SX sample pad.

How To Sound Like The 1975

Clearly, this is a band that appreciates a Fender Mustang. The good news is that this isn’t a typically expensive guitar. The even better news is that you have a few options here. While Matty’s guitar is a 1965 vintage, and has the scars to show it, you can pick up a brand-new Fender Mustang with single coils for under £500.

Alternatively, there’s a Fender Mustang P-90 pickup variation for the same sort of money if you prefer slightly warmer, more rounded tones, while for anyone not looking to shell out too much paper there’s a superb Squier Classic Vibe 60s Mustang which features the same shape and vibe, but at a fraction of the price.

For amplification, you’re going to want an amp that cleans up beautifully, but also acts as a blank canvas onto which you can put pedals. For this we’d recommend the frankly stunning Fender Tone Master Deluxe Reverb. Now this isn’t a cheap amplifier, but by goodness it’s a good one. Or, in true 1975 form, you might look at the venerable Roland Jazz Chorus, which is famous for its surgically clean tones at any volume.

Conclusion

We hope you’ve found this article useful. Much like the band themselves, The 1975’s gear is simple, effective and sounds great. Goes to show you don’t need a tonne of pedals, amps, guitars and equipment to find your own sound: sometimes the real identity comes from the songs themselves.

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Uncovering the gear behind the artist is a privilege and a pleasure. Check out our articles on Brian May, Mumford & Sons, Squarepusher, Deftones, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, with more to come!