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Phoebe Bridgers and Matty Healy
Phoebe Bridgers and Matty HealyPhotography Clara Balzary; Photography Samuel Bradley

‘We’re the best lyricists’: Matty Healy and Phoebe Bridgers in conversation

The musicians come together for an exclusive conversation spanning Twitter shitposting, self-lacerating lyrics, early 00s emo and nerding out over songwriting

“It’s fucking easier contacting the dead than it is contacting me and Phoebe most of the time.” Days ahead of the release of The 1975’s fifth album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, Matty Healy has found an hour for some fun masquerading as promo: Zooming close pal and collaborator Phoebe Bridgers. “Us talking for work is the only way that we catch up,” laughs Bridgers in agreement, herself only just back home in LA, and pacing around her apartment, phone in hand.

In contact for a few years now, Bridgers first worked with The 1975 on “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America”, from 2020’s Notes On A Conditional Form. Earlier this year she appeared as a sad clown in the video for “I’m In Love With You”, while Healy made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo at the climax of “I Know The End” during Bridgers’ recent Brixton Academy residency. Suffice to say, they’re firm friends, sharing a similar penchant for Twitter shitposting, self-lacerating lyrics, early 00s emo and nerding out over songwriting. These are a few of the subjects they discuss today.

When did you first become aware of each other?

Phoebe Bridgers: Well, I’ve been a fan forever. But I remember someone sent me a video of you wistfully looking out the window and ‘Scott Street’ was playing in the background. And then you reached out about me singing [with The 1975] and I happened to be in London. It was very serendipitous.

Matty Healy: Yeah, I remember your first record [Stranger In The Alps] had come out, and before I’d heard it George [Daniel, drummer with The 1975] had been saying to me, ‘Have you heard this ‘Motion Sickness’ song? So I put that album on, and I heard ‘Funeral’ and was like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ For me, you only really love a piece of art when it makes you a little bit jealous.

Phoebe Bridgers: Oh my God, completely, dude. Like, I can’t listen to ‘Part of the Band’ and be like ‘I’m so glad he came up with that.’ [Laughs] That’s not the way I feel when I hear that song.

Matty Healy: I think it was the hit rate of the lyrics on that [first] album. And then when it got to Punisher, I realised you’re my favourite lyricist. You know, I’ll say it, because I’m allowed to say this shit because everyone thinks that I’m an insane person: I think we’re the best lyricists. Us and Kendrick, who are coming from a different place.

“I think we’re the best lyricists. Us and Kendrick, who are coming from a different place” – Matty Healy

Phoebe Bridgers: [Laughs] I feel like the only thing that I really care about is lyrics… It was crazy to witness you literally writing parts of ‘Roadkill’ in front of me, realising nobody had to trick you into writing those lyrics. I kind of have to be tricked? Like, I feel like I will straight up not pick up an instrument for like eight months at a time. And it made me insanely jealous.

Matty Healy: That’s the same way I feel about your last record. I think one of the main reasons that [the roster of] Dirty Hit is like 90 per cent female is because I can look at Prince and Michael Jackson and be like, whoa, they’re amazing. But Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell? They’re like aliens… And this is gonna sound very wanky, but it’s this divine femininity that’s the most potent thing. That’s the thing that I’m jealous of: it’s just a place that I can’t go. But then I suppose it’s the same with you: you don’t have a dick so you can’t talk about having a dick as much as I do.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, I don’t know what it’s like having an erection so that’s, like, half your songs gone.

Matty Healy: [Laughs] Exactly. That is the extent of my repertoire. OK, let me change the subject. Before your established working routine with Marshall [Vore, Phoebe’s musical collaborator], what was your experience as a woman in the studio? A lot of women I know have found that their ideas may not be taken as seriously as men’s.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, I mean, I started fucking the first person who seriously wanted to produce me, you know? [Laughs] And then later I realised, like, oh, he actually took me zero per cent seriously. And what I thought was a real connection was actually a pattern of abuse. This was Ryan [Adams]. But also I’m proud of myself, because he wanted to produce my full-length and even at 20 I was like, hmm… And then that’s why I met Marshall –  he played drums with Ryan. He ditched Ryan and completely let his entire life revolve around me and the thing that we made, and for the first time in my life, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m excited to make music.’

As lyricists, you’ve both recently begun to embrace sincerity. What prompted that change? And have you found it exposing?

Matty Healy: I think that what I realised is that I needed to challenge myself. It’s always been so much easier for me to be like, ‘I fucking shat my pants and then fucked someone’s girlfriend and then took drugs.’ Every time I got close to being really sincere, I’d pull it back, or make a dick joke, or say ‘Not!’. And I was like, that’s not transgressive for me anymore – that’s predictable.

Whereas, some of the shit I say on this record, like, ‘I’m in love with you,’ or, ‘Tell me you love me: that’s all that I need to hear.’ And I think the thing that I’m trying to drive home is that all of the postmodern nihilism that I was defined by in all of my previous records – you know, drug addiction, individualism, infidelity, narcissism. All these things are maybe appropriate at that time in your life, but then life happens to you. And a less transgressive set of circumstances starts to present itself, like responsibility, family, just being a good person… It’s a new way of being yourself.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, totally. Marshall wrote ‘Sidelines’ and I wrote, like, three lyrics, but I was just like, I wish I’d written this. I’ve been super-sincere in the past, but I had to set those moments up with a bunch of jokes first. And so I’m kind of challenging myself to [be sincere] right now. And I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from you doing that, because I think having crown jewels of truth within the muck of self-hatred and humour have always been my favourite lyrics.

“Yeah, I don’t know what it’s like having an erection so that’s, like, half your songs gone” – Phoebe Bridgers

Humour has always been at the forefront of both of your social media presences too. Phoebe, having seen Matty’s experiences with cancel culture, do you find yourself increasingly monitoring what you say online?

Phoebe Bridgers: I don’t think I’m monitoring myself, but I’ve definitely gotten more conscious of trying to let better-informed people speak on certain issues. Like, if it’s an indigenous issue, I try to point people in the direction of people who know what they’re talking about. But I also think as long as I have empathy and I’m speaking from the heart, then if I got in trouble for anything I said I would mean it, if that makes sense?

I’m not really afraid of the internet. I think at its worst, it can be like a cesspool of misinformation, but at its best it’s making sure that the teenagers that are on the front lines of some protests have the loudest voice.

Matty Healy: For me, my relationship with social media was very politicised and it was very much something that I would use daily to reaffirm who I was to myself and to the world, as an artist and as a person… I think I got a bit jaded, because I grew up on bands like Refused, in rooms where people were saying we can change this environment and that will change the world. And I still genuinely believe that music will have some profound impact on the world, but maybe there is this silent resignation that I don’t know if that is possible right now… Like Phoebe said, what we’re constantly seeing is young voices of progression being drowned out by older, regressive ideas. And it’s difficult to fight that with art, because art comes from the left.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, totally.

Matty Healy: I wrote about school shootings on this record [on ‘Looking For Somebody (To Love)’]. Would the fact that you’re American – and too close to all that – make you not want to do that?

Phoebe Bridgers: No. The thing I’m the most afraid of politically is sounding corny. Oh God, when Trump was elected, musicians I love put out songs that were making my vaginal fluid evaporate back into my body – you know what I mean? [Laughs] Like, sometimes when you’re really hot with an emotion and upset, the things that you say are fucking stupid or there’s no nuance… So I think that I’ve been reticent just because I want to be careful. Or I want to say something that means a lot to people and I want to change people’s minds. But I’m so angry.

It’s just so hard to watch these little insular conversations go down on Twitter about how we need to be dealing with stuff and then have it not seep into the mainstream media at all. Sometimes it feels like you’re screaming into a vacuum… And it’s really hard to tell people to go vote when there’s this huge, powerful system making sure that people don’t vote. Anyway, I can scream about America all day. I fucking hate it here.

Matty Healy: You feel more politicised than I feel than I am at the moment. But then again, you’re a woman in America so that must provoke a lot of anger?

Phoebe Bridgers: I think a lot of what makes me angry is how easy my life is. To go back to the beginning of this conversation, talking about meeting producers and not being taken seriously: like, I don’t have any of those problems anymore. People fucking kiss my ass. And when I had an abortion last year, I fucking walked in, people were really nice to me, and I walked out. It was like an hour of my life.

Matty Healy: So you feel guilty?

Phoebe Bridgers: It’s not guilt. I think it’s just the fact that I got here but I wasn’t always in this position. Having been treated like shit in the beginning of my career – as a woman with no industry connections – being taken seriously now just makes me pissed off for my younger self, you know? And it also makes me pissed off for marginalised kids or kids who move to LA when they’re 18 to make a record with somebody. I don’t know, I think the difference in my life experience is what pisses me off and makes me political. But it could also just be the midterms coming up or whatever.

“I think a lot of what makes me angry is how easy my life is... People fucking kiss my ass. And when I had an abortion last year, I fucking walked in, people were really nice to me, and I walked out. It was like an hour of my life” – Phoebe Bridgers

How will you stay in touch after this conversation?

Matty Healy: Me and Phoebe are bad at texting… Like, we appreciate that we’re both super busy and we’re not flaky – we’re just not good with our phones. So we communicate kind of through memes and then we will call each other and have conversations about aspirations or stuff like that, because me and Phoebe we always want to work together… In my 30s, I’ve made like a handful of close friends and Phoebe is one of them.

Phoebe Bridgers: It’s my favourite when we pop up in each other’s city. It’s the best.

Matty Healy: What I don’t think a lot of people know is that when you’re an artist – and you fucking live it like me and you do – it’s not like we make records, they just accumulate and we put them out, because it comes from this place. You can’t be friends with people who make art seriously that you don’t like. Because it’s such a representation of the disconnect between your values and how you see the world. Do you know what I mean?

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, totally.

Matty Healy: So yeah, this has been really nice to catch up.

The 1975’s new album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, is out now