Interview: Glass Animals

From the subdued sounds of their debut Zaba to the hip-hop tinged tales mapped out in How To Be A Human Being, Glass Animals have come a long way in the last two years. Inspired by recorded conversations and people they met whilst on the road, we get frontman Dave Bayley on the blower to find out more about this second offering.

Words: Rachel Heward

Hi Dave, what have you been up to today?
Hi, well it’s morning here actually so not much so far. We’ve been quite busy though trying to get the new show together. It’s a big operation and we finally get to see the set design today. There’s a bit of a DIY element to it, I’ll do some drawings and then little elves will come and make it all happen… I’m a bit worried about how it’ll fit in some places actually.

Your approach to writing this album is an unusual one. What gave you the idea to start recording people’s conversations?
I have a bad memory, basically. I wasn’t recording things for the album, just to remember experiences while we were on tour and travelling around. It would be a shame to forget all of that. When I was listening back I was making all these connections; the way people told stories was fascinating, some things would be exaggerated, some things left out and it got me thinking about life, about what it all means. If you listen to that many conversations there are common threads, so I began to write stories and build characters based on all these themes.

Did you ever get caught?
Twice. One person thought it was funny; the other was a bit grumpy about it. But it wasn’t like they said anything incriminating.

Are there any conversations that stuck with you the most?
Loads, there have been all sorts! I’ll tell you this one from a taxi driver in New York. He’d been in love with this girl for a long time and had been asking her out every day for about two months. She finally said yes and they went on a double date with his best friend and his girlfriend. They went dancing, had a great time and the way he told the story made you think this was just one of the happiest days of his life. When they got back to the car, they sat in the back and his friend and partner were in the front. Just as they started kissing this man tapped on the window and pulled out a gun. He shoots his best friend and girlfriend then turns the gun on them. He pulls the trigger but the gun is out of bullets and the guy runs off. I just didn’t know what to say. I thought it would be a happy ending but this devastating thing just came out of nowhere. It was such a contradiction of emotions. Can I just say for the record, they all survived.

Thank god for that. Was there anything else that was a big influence on the album?
There are a couple of strange documentaries from Les Blank and Erol Morris that I was watching at the time. There’s one called Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, which is literally a film about garlic. Les Blank researched the industry and found all these people who were fanatical about it. On Sundays they would write songs about it or cook a meal with 20 cloves in it; they would eat it as you or I would eat a roast chicken. These films were ways of telling extraordinary stories and I was looking for a way to do a similar sort of thing. Musically, playing live changed the way we approached the second record. We began to appreciate big drums and braver sounds and arrangements. We didn’t write the album for a live audience but subconsciously I think that had an influence.

With this record, there’s a lot more than just the music – the artwork and videos also tell a story. How did you find the right people for the job?
We decided to use young, new actors, and it was amazing because they were incredible people who all had stories of their own. It was better than using models as we gave them all the information, the lyrics and the back stories and they really entered the roles. We actually decided to use different covers for the different formats we released, as the actors interacted in weird and wonderful ways and we wanted to show as much of that off as possible.

Tell us a bit about the websites that you’ve made alongside this album. Are they extensions of the characters in your songs?
Yeah they are a way to make it all a bit more real. With vinyl you have the artwork, the lyrics, the story of the band, some photographs. You get some real context around the record. Nowadays everyone streams things and it’s all digital so we decided to use that platform to provide some context. It’s another way into the record, a way to connect. If you listen to the lyrics and then have a look at the websites you’ll find more references, imagery and influences. It adds more depth to it.

How does it feel to be selling out venues like Roundhouse?
It’s definitely bizarre. I went to a couple of shows there when I was very small. And now we’ve announced Brixton Academy too – the first show I ever went to was Bloc Party there. I was 12 and underage and literally shuddering as I handed my ticket over. Luckily I got in and it changed my life seeing music live. And now I’m going to be on that very stage!

Finally, what’s next? Could we see a How To Be A Human Being film on the horizon?
That would be fun! Beyonce’s done that with Lemonade, though I don’t think we’re quite at that level. Plus it’s a pretty expensive undertaking… For now we’ll be doing a video for as many tracks as we can and more websites too. We’re also doing a game for one of the songs instead of a video as it fits the sound perfectly, so watch out for that.

How To Be A Human Being by Glass Animals is out now. Head to for all live dates.


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