[S]ome call them psychedelic, others marvel at the influence of hip hop and R’n’B, while many ponder over their inscrutable lyrics. The only thing that seems to be certain about Glass Animals, is how good they are. ‘Genre-defying’ may be a cliche, but used in relation to their infectious, unique sound – it’s pretty accurate.
The Oxford quartet met at school, aged 14 but didn’t start releasing music officially until last year. In a fairly short space of time they have managed to catch the attention of one of the most highly-lauded producers in the business. Glass Animals were one of the first signings to Paul Epworth’s new label Wolf Tone. Epworth has a nose for quality, having helped make hits for Adele, Florence & The Machine, Friendly Fires and Plan B, winning Grammys and Oscars along the way.
With their debut album ZABA in the pipeline for release on 6th June, the band have already made fans and music press pay attention with their recent singles ‘Gooey’ and ‘Pools’- tantalising tastes of what’s to come.
We grabbed a few words with front man Dave Bayley to talk about the band’s beginnings, the very real possibility of fame and why ‘Gooey’ isn’t about anal sex
YOU ALL WENT TO SECONDARY SCHOOL. DO YOU REMEMBER HOW/WHEN YOU ACTUALLY MET?
Of course! I moved here from America when I was 13 and Drew and his gang of chronies were the first people I met at school. His chronies included Ed and Joe. We all liked slightly left-field music and bonded over that…we’d skip school and sneak into gigs together and stuff. We grew up together.
HOW DID YOU START MAKING MUSIC TOGETHER?
I started writing songs at university and came back one christmas holiday with some mp3s. One wobbly New Years Eve I built up the courage to show them to the other guys and asked them if they wanted to be in a band. We had a late night session or two in my garden shed (which is just full of cozy pillows and duvets and guitars) tweaking up the tracks, and then we put ‘em online.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES IN THE BAND? WOULD YOU SAY YOU BALANCE EACH OTHER OUT?
This is probably best done by comparing each person to an animal…
Drew is a peacock. He’s beautiful and has wonderful plumage.
Joe is maybe a gangster grizzly; looks a bit angry but deep down just wants a cuddle.
Ed is a meerkat. Long and thin and quite entertaining just to watch from a distance.
I’m not sure what I am. I like owls at the moment.
Everything definitely balances out.
PEOPLE OFTEN TALK ABOUT YOUR LYRICS…WHERE DO YOU FIND LYRICAL INSPIRATION?
I find lyrical inspiration in people and their stories. I don’t talk about myself ever in songs. I think I’m probably relatively boring. A lot of the songs are written from the point of view of a character I’ve dreamt up or someone I’ve heard about and the words will be a view of the world from their perspective. I tend to write lyrics after the rest of the track has been made, that way I can try to imagine a tale that fits the vibe of the music, and use words that contribute to the soundscape.
WHERE DID THE CONNECTION TO HIP HOP COME FROM AND WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE GENRE THAT YOU LIKE?
My personal connection with hip hop started when I was about 10 or eleven. I was living in america in a small town in Texas and there were two radio stations; one playing christian country music and one playing rap and R’n’B. I had a little radio in my room and tuned in to the latter as christian country made me feel quite ill. So around that age I was listening to a lot of Missy Elliot, Busta, Eminem…mainly things Dr Dre and Timbaland had done. I think what I like about the genre is the lack of boundaries. Hip hop artists are constantly exploring and pushing sounds, structure, and song form into new territories. I think other popular music could take a lot from that.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD ANY UNUSUAL REACTIONS TO YOUR MUSIC?
We had an interview with a certain popular magazine, and the interviewer was totally convinced one of our songs, ‘Gooey’, was about anal sex. And he just wouldn’t let it go or believe otherwise. It was very strange. It’s quite an innocent song really.
YOU’RE ALL STILL LIVING IN OXFORD RIGHT? DO YOU THINK YOU’LL EVER MOVE DOWN TO LONDON?
Yeah we’re all in Oxford at the moment. I was living in london at university and when the band started – I love it there. Hopefully we can move back one day, but at the moment we’re travelling so much it doesn’t really matter where we live…I’ve been home for about four days in the last few months.
SIGNING TO PAUL EPWORTH’S LABEL – HOW MUCH HAS IT CHANGED YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? HAS HE GIVEN YOU ANY GOOD ADVICE YOU CAN SHARE WITH US?
My creative process will probably never change. I just wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and start recording them. It’s quite annoying. I normally just want to go back to sleep. But it’s important to capture the idea. Paul has some amazing equipment which really allowed us to experiment with sounds in the studio. He encouraged us to be fearless with experimentation.
HOW HAS THE PROCESS BEEN IN GENERAL? DID THE NEW ALBUM COME QUITE EASILY OR WAS IT A DIFFICULT PROCESS?
It was a smooth process, and I guess an inevitable process…I’m constantly writing music and the guys in the band are constantly keen to help develop them, so there wasn’t a shortage of music. The difficulty was actually choosing the best collection of songs to create a really nice cohesive album.
WE’VE HEARD THAT ZABA IS INSPIRED BY A NUMBER OF INTERESTING REFERENCES SUCH AS PSYCHIATRY… WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MAIN INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF MUSIC?
Music consumes most of our time at the moment. But I’m very much still into science and brains and how they work. Joe is into being funny, Game of Thrones, and Chelsea football club. Ed is into building amps and guitar pedals and other nerd things. Drew I think is probably a spy.
CAN YOU TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM?
It’s bigger and wilder than what’s come before. The first couple of tracks we’ve released were all quite mellow compared to what’s on the record. There’s a broader range of influences coming through on the record too. More hip hop, more krautrock, some house, some world music.
PAUL’S PRODUCED A LOT OF HIGH PROFILE ARTISTS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF FAME?
I guess fame is a consequence of being successful in the music industry. Being famous doesn’t excite me whatsoever. Being successful does.