Glass Animals have the indie single of the summer in ‘Life Itself’. As they prepare to release second album ‘How To Be A Human Being’, Larry Bartleet gives you nine things you might not have known about the latest great band to come out of Oxford
1 They’re not as new as you think
Glass Animals met aged 13 at secondary school in Oxford and began playing together as a band in 2010. Now 27, they’re on the cusp of releasing their second album ‘How To Be A Human Being’. It’s the follow-up to 2014’s ‘Zaba’, which had huge success in America and Australia and has so far sold almost half a million copies.
2 They’re following in Radiohead’s footsteps
In 2010 they played their first gig at Oxford’s Jericho Tavern – the same place Radiohead played theirs. They were supporting Chapel Club and their set lasted nine minutes. Drummer Joe Seaward is glad their label owner, Adele producer Paul Epworth, wasn’t there to see it. “He would have left after about 25 seconds… Maybe less.” As an Oxford band, they’re also part of a glowing tradition that includes Ride, Supergrass and this year’s Reading and Leeds headliners Foals. Joe recalls Oxford’s tiny, sweaty Cellar venue fondly: “Once me and Dave saw Foals in there literally playing to about seven people and a dog.”
3 Frontman Dave Bayley knows how your brain works
Bayley, who also produces the band’s music, was studying for a medical degree in London when he realised Glass Animals were taking off. He switched to neuroscience and wrapped up his degree, but that side of him hasn’t switched off; he’s still very much interested in people. “I spent three or four years trying to see the world from other people’s perspectives,” he says. “But it’s impossible – that’s why mental illness is so awful.” While on the road, Bayley met hundreds of strangers, some of whom told him their deepest, darkest secrets, many of which he stealthily recorded. After listening back to them all, he used some of them as inspiration for the new album – but he’s left the lyrics open to psychological interpretation. “There are stories on the surface of these songs,” he says, “but you also have to start thinking about how these people must feel.”
19 DAYS til the new album drops!!! so….here are some facts about the record: 1. there is a spoken word track on it. 2. that track contains a line about kinder eggs. 3. each version of the album has a different cover and very different artwork inside(vinyl/deluxe vinyl/CD/digital). each different cover captured slightly different sides to the characters which i liked. ok more facts soon. dave
4 Their new record is a concept album
The band doesn’t like the term because there’s not a running story, but each track on the album is about a character made up by Bayley, based on his recordings. One man told him about a young-love experience when he and his friend were giddily preparing to drive their new girlfriends home – only for the couple in the front seats to be shot dead in front of him. ‘Mama’s Gun’, meanwhile, is partially inspired by a story from a taxi driver who explained to Bayley the damage she imagined she’d done on an “epic super-bender”: she overdid the crystal meth and cocaine she took to help with all-nighters as a long-haul lorry driver and blacked out for a month, waking up in a strip club in the wrong State. “She thinks she’s killed someone, basically,” says Bayley, “but she’s not sure. Isn’t that mad?”
5 They’re obsessed with detail
The album cover features 11 characters – actors who also appear in the singles’ videos – who each match up with one of the 11 songs. There’s no key, though, so you have to work out who’s who for yourself. “We’re trying to make people think,” says Seaward. Aside from the cryptic lyrics, the only other clues you’ll get are from the instrumentation and the samples, which are chosen carefully and hidden well. “I only like using samples if they bring a context,” Bayley explains. If the flute line on the ominous ‘Mama’s Gun’ sounds familiar, that could be because it’s a sample from the Carpenters’ ‘Mr Guder’, a song about the futility of being uptight. The synthy chord progression of ‘Life Itself’, meanwhile, is meant to sound like a sci-fi theme tune, says Bayley.
6 They know how to write bangers
‘Life Itself’, the album’s lead single, was released in May and showed the band opening up completely after what Bayley describes as the “thick rainforest” of their debut. The vocals are clearer, the melodies are meatier and the chorus is undeniable. Even better: it’s actually about a jobless sci-fi weirdo in Camden – but that doesn’t detract at all from the fact it’s an absolute tune.
7 Joey Bada$$ loved working with them
They hooked up with the 21-year-old NYC rapper on standalone single ‘Lose Control’. Bayley recalls spending hours tinkering with production until Joey couldn’t wait any more. “This beat is on f**king fire,” he exclaimed. “Let me get in the booth!”
8 They’re criminals in Mexico and Milwaukee
Guitarist Drew MacFarlane was climbing naked over a road sign in Milwaukee when he got nabbed by police. “He managed to convince the policeman to unlock the jail and let him go,” says Bayley. “I think he paid them some money. He’s very charming. I have a serious feeling that isn’t by any means the worst thing he’s done. We just don’t know.” Bayley’s had his share of trouble, too. On holiday in Mexico, he got cuffed while relieving himself on a tree. His shorts remained open, he recalls. “I was like, ‘Dude, come on, this is going to get very messy very quickly.’ They started trying to find drugs. That’s what they get you for in Mexico.” They took the 50 pesos (£2) in his pocket and let him go.
9 They’re still working out how to make it all work live
Ahead of their tour, they’re cutting down the complexity of the production. They don’t use a backing track – “a plague” in live music, says Bayley – so instead they do “as much as four people can do live”. Some nights they’ll strip back a song completely, others they’ll do a nine-minute remix. “Sometimes the crowd is really up for a dance party, but if it’s f**king hot and everyone’s high as f**k, they want an ambient experience.”