Their unique brand of indie electro pop has seen UK band Glass Animals sell more than 450,000 copies worldwide of their first album, Zaba – 32,000 of those were in Australia alone. Now, the Oxford four piece is back, with their second album, How To Be A Human Being, due for release next month.
I caught up with Dave (lead vocals/guitar) and Joe (drums) from the band ahead of their Brisbane show.
Hannah: Your first album was a huge success and Gooey went Gold here in Australia. Why do you think your music resonates so much with Australian audiences?
Dave: Secretly we’re quite Australian.
Joe: It happened here before anyone else; Australia was first on the scene really.
Dave: Maybe it’s just the English accent! (laughs) Australia is one of our favourite places. There’s so much good music coming out here; it’s quite weird that you’ve actually bought our music in the first place.
Hannah: Your music covers everything from R’n’B and hip hop to psychedelic rock. What sort of music do you listen to in your spare time?
Joe: A lot! The other two guys who aren’t here, they listen to a lot of classical music.
Dave: They’d kill you for saying that.
Joe: Yeah I’ve told people before and Drew nearly chopped my head off… I mean, he does but he just doesn’t like people knowing ’cause it sounds wanky maybe.
Hannah: And what about you guys?
Joe: I’m quite scatty. I have quite intense phases. I love any music that makes me feel something. Like recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of old soul music, I love hip hop. I kind of just flit around and investigate everything and then get bored and move on.
Hannah: You played a whole lot of amazing festivals last year, including Glastonbury and Coachella. What would you say has been a career highlight?
Dave: It’s hard to choose one moment; the whole thing has been one remarkable highlight. I mean, seeing Joe every day is pretty good.
Dave: It goes without saying. But writing music is just what I love.
Joe: Making the last album was a real treat. We’ve played some amazing shows. Sasquatch Festival was amazing. Coachella was great, and Falls Festival.
Dave: Those moments were incredible for us because we’d never played to that many people before. Definitely the biggest crowds we’d had at that time in our career so that was really amazing.
Joe: Terminal 5 was cool. We played some really cool shows in America. Even the smaller shows have been as fun, if not more fun. Like, the really stupid, ridiculous small ones where there were people like hanging upside-down from the ceiling.
Dave: We did a show a few weeks ago in Berlin, which was really fun. It was really small and there was a stage invasion and the whole crowd fit on the stage.
Hannah: Yeah, I’ve read about some weird and crazy things that have happened to you guys while on tour, some involving naked men chasing you down the street and crazy Polish ladies with lots of cake. Is there one thing that would top all your weird tour experiences?
Dave: We’ve had some really weird days, where you meet these people who you’re amazed still exist and are still alive. This one time, I walked onto the tour bus and our bus driver had pulled his tooth out with some pliers and there was blood everywhere. And later that day, a totally different person was telling me a story about how they tried to give themselves a blowjob! And that is now, like, a normal day, really.
Joe: There was a house party in Kansas City that was cool. We were all wasted and turned up at an aftershow at this guy’s house. Someone was like, “Oh my God, Glass Animals are here!” and we were like, “Oh f*#!” They asked us if we wanted to play and we were like, “Uh, not really.” Then everyone made us do it. We were so wasted and people were filming us too.
Hannah: Oh no, have the videos surfaced on YouTube?
Joe: No, thank God! I mean, it was really fun but not what I was expecting. I was not in a fit state!
Hannah: Dave, you wrote all the songs on your new album, How To Be a Human Being. What’s your approach to writing music? Do you have any rituals or does it unfold organically?
Dave: There’s no right way to do it, but this record happened in a pretty particular way. There was the idea to write about people and have each song be about a different person, which sort of allowed it to happen super quickly. Normally I start with the production and the beats, then have a vocal line over the top. But this time I scripted these people and what they do, what they eat, what their house looks like, who their friends are, their relationship with their mum and dad, and then I started writing the lyrics first as stories about these people. Then I went to the chords and built the song words up, as opposed to the last album, which was music up.
Hannah: Can you explain a bit more about where these characters came from?
Dave: I guess I was recording stories that people would tell me, secretly.
Hannah: Did you have to be really sneaky with your phone?
Dave: Yeah, really sneaky! I mean, you’ve probably had a taxi driver tell you a weird story, or you’re at a party and someone starts ranting about something strange. I wanted to remember all of these tales so I started recording them, listening back, and started noticing all these threads in how people tell stories and the sentiments in people’s voices and started making up new characters. I sort of started playing that game where you see someone and you wonder what their backstory is and start making it up.
Hannah: So they’re not based on real people specifically?
Dave: Little bits. They’re inspired by real people.
Hannah: In terms of your sound, how would you say it’s changed or developed in the new album?
Joe: It’s a hard question because we didn’t sit down and say, “Now, let’s write a song that will make people dance.” It just happened. I find it difficult to dissect it and see exactly what we did, compared to what we did before. But there was a lot more energy and somehow this makes me feel many, many more things than the last record. I am more proud of this album. There are songs on it that make me feel really sad, there are songs that make me feel quite scared, some that make me energised and some that are really f*#!ing weird and tweak me out a bit (laughs). It’s got all these things that I don’t think the last record had to the same extent.
Dave: It’s less shy. The last record was kind of tame.
Joe: Yeah. On an emotional level, it has more strings to its bow.
Quick-Fire with Glass Animals:
What’s your spirit animal?
Joe: I’m a dolphin. Dave is a wombat, no! An aardvark: no bull, stealthy, eats insects. It’s you.
Dave: But they’re not stealth. They’re slow and silly.
Joe: Have you ever seen one?
Joe: See! Stealth.
Best live gig?
Both: LCD Soundsystem at Reading Festival in 2007.
Glass Animals new album, How To Be A Human Being, will be released on August 26. Pre-order it here!
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