“We’d just left this gig where I’d given a speech about the Alabama abortion ban and people were gonna shoot me”: The 1975’s Matty Healy on the song he wrote about the time the band were chased out of Alabama

Matty Healy performing live in 2022
(Image credit: Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

Matty Healy is not someone who’s afraid of ruffling a few feathers. The divisive frontman of The 1975 has landed in hot water for snogging audience members, got a whole festival cancelled in Malaysia for kissing his bandmate, initiated an online beef with Yungblud by impersonating him in the manner of someone who can’t string two words together, caused a stink over some real beef by eating a raw steak onstage, and had Taylor Swift fans panicking when it was rumoured that Swift and the 1975 singer were an item. But one such hi-jinks Healy got himself into resulted in one of the Wilmslow quartet’s best songs. People, taken from their 2020 album Notes On A Conditional Form, is also one of their heaviest, a thrashy, punky number that’s done and dusted in two and a half short, thrilling minutes. Back in 2019, he told this writer the chaotic tale behind the song’s creation.

The story begins with the band playing a festival in Alabama immediately after the state passed a draconian abortion ban in 2019. “I was going, ‘Listen, I can’t not say anything, we’re in Alabama and it’s happening now’,” Healy recalled. “I knew I was at a music festival, I knew I wasn’t at a Trump rally so I knew there was gonna be people on my side. It’s an open-carry state and I walked in with no metal detectors, it was a weird vibe. My whole fear is that you don’t have to be John Lennon or believe you’re John Lennon to get fucking shot in America, so the engines are running and we come off stage and all the security are wanting us to get out so we get out.”

Healy said there was a moment during the group’s performance at Hangout Fest where the vibe turned a little sinister. “There was point where there was this bloke at the front and he was just a pissed bloke but he started really booing aggressively at me and I turned around and in the moment just went, “Boo me, shoot me mate, I don’t give a fuck” and the tone changed a little bit with the people that were working there,” said the singer. “By the time we came offstage, I think it was totally fine, but they were a bit, “yeah, it’s probably best not to, like, wander about in the crowd”.”

The song People, he said, came about on the band’s tourbus in the aftermath. They’d set up a mobile studio so they could record on the road. “There’s such an urgency to it. It’s very me, you know, a bit funny,” he stated “It happened really quickly. We were in a truckstop in Texas and we’d just left that gig where I’d given a speech about it and people were gonna shoot me. When we were making the video, I was like, ‘fucking hell, I’ve only just learned the lyrics’, it was the quickest creation to putting it out that there’s been for a 1975 song, so it was still really fresh. It reminds me of something off Relationship Of Command or something, a little bit of Death From Above 1979 too.”

Further inspiration for the song, Healy said, was provided when they pulled into a truckstop in Texas. “We stopped off at the truckstop and there were all these stickers for sale, like “Mount And Do Me”, all this misogynistic stuff, so we felt like we were in this tornado of chaos and we wanted the song to be representative of that, in quotation marks, “bad-ass American masculinity”. The only song I can compare it to in terms of how quickly it came together is Somebody Else. That was a day and a half. We went back to People the next day and we were like ‘well, making it longer than two and a half minutes is fucking stupid, putting another bit in is stupid, it is what it is’.”

Watch the video for People below:

The 1975 - People - YouTube The 1975 - People - YouTube
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Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.