Interview: Glass Animals don’t limit themselves
Glass Animals dropped their new album earlier this year and are touring the UK soon. We caught up with them for a chat:
Hi and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Something You Said. Your latest album How To Be A Human Being is out now. Would you say that it is a straight-line evolution from Zaba or a completely separate beast that doesn’t share much in common with its predecessor?
That’s a question and a half (laughs). It does feel to me like a natural progression. It is difficult for me to tell you what it sounds like compared to Zaba, I think I am just too close to it. They do sound very different to me but I don’t know how the rest of the world feel about it. We didn’t go out to make a record that sounded like X, we sat down and wrote this music and this is what happened. I don’t think we thought about Zaba at all when we were making this record, it feels like quite a natural thing but it does sound different to me. It’s a lot bolder and feels more exciting. We made it in a much shorter period of time so it was quite instinctive a lot of it, erring on the side of caution which we did with Zaba a lot. We tried erring on the side of being brave and that meant some of it is a bit more in your face I think. I mean when it gets quiet, it gets really quiet and when it gets hard, it gets harder and when it gets sad… sadder.
It has been remarked that some of your tracks took on a heavier style and reinterpretations when touring Zaba. Did this road-tested and battle-hardy approach make its way into the studio environment when it came to record How To Be A Human Being?
Yeah I think it probably did. Perhaps more on a subconscious level than a conscious one. As I mentioned, we didn’t sit down with any intention to do anything. All we had been doing for the two years before making the record How To Be A Human Being, was playing live. We realised it was more exciting and crowds seemed to react better to the tempos being a bit higher and the bass being a bit louder and harder, the drums being higher up in the mix. That was the thing that made people react and that was literally the thing we had been doing absolutely every single day for two years before going into the studio so I am sure it had some impact on the way we were thinking about music but we didn’t sit down with the intention of making anything that had worked live if you know what I mean. We decided from very early on that we would try and make the record sound as good as it could as a record and then we it came to working out how to play it live, we crossed that bridge when we got there. We were determined not to limit ourselves by only making a record that we would only be able to play with eight hands.
Your single Life Itself is largely about a guy who feels strange and who struggles to fit into society. What other concepts and inspirations went into shaping the lyrical content for other tracks on the album?
Well we were touring for two years after Zaba came out and one thing we were doing everyday day aside from playing music was meeting people. We were coming into contact with many more people than I ever meet. We would turn up to a venue where hundreds, thousands of people would turn up and end up being thrown on a tour bus with people we didn’t know and got to know them. Everyday relationships were being formed and stories were being told so with all these stories being told, we started getting ideas. It was really interesting in the way people were telling stories, not necessarily the content of the stories but the way people go about telling strangers stories basically. You can tell someone a very sad story in the way that maybe sounds positive by framing stories in a different way and I think that sort style is really interesting to hear. A lot of the lyrical content was inspired by that idea that you can tell people a very sad story but in a positive way which is a really interesting thing because if you play it to someone their instinct is to dance or smile but underneath it is actually can be something very different. A lot of the lyrics are to do with that and a lot of it is autobiographical, it is a bit of a mish-mash but all inspired by what we had been doing for a long period of time.
Having met and played with so many different musicians over the years, were there any words of wisdom spoken to you that really resonated with you and altered the way you approach your music?
Not that I can remember really. The only thing that we do is to try and enjoy what we do because we are very lucky. I don’t know why Glass Animals ended up doing what we do, I don’t know why we are the people that get to come to Australia or go to America or play X festival but I am very, very glad we are those people. I think as long as enjoy it as much as possible then that is the most important thing. If I see a band play that look like they are having a good time, it is much easier to get into. I think if you see a band that looks miserable or they sound like they are not having a good time and looked pissed off because they have been travelling or are tired then I think it sucks to see. I think trying to have fun and enjoy it while it lasts is the most important thing. Making the last record was one of the most fun things I have ever done.
In what ways does this album reflect where you are all at in your lives right now?
Oh my god… I don’t know. I don’t think it is a reflection on that at all. The record isn’t really a reflection on what we are doing. The thing I really like about records and the thing I like about Zaba is that it is a snapshot of that band, at that like. Something like Ok Computer by Radiohead. Zaba was the best thing Glass Animals could do at that time and it will always be like that. There are things that I would change now listening back to it but I can’t and for that reason it’s really cool. That is just what we could do with the equipment we had and the ideas we had at that time and I think this record is the same again and I am really proud of that. This is why records are really interesting because live shows can change and develop but you get one shot with your record.
Were there any guest musicians/vocalists you had the pleasure of working with on this album?
No, I feel like Glass Animals records it is just a snapshot of us four dudes who have known each other for a really long time. A Glass Animals records is a Glass Animals record and it will be us four doing it. I think working with other people is really cool but there is a whole heap of stuff that we will never be able to do. We did a track with Joey Badass last year and it kind of just stood on its own. It was like a treat for the fans, it wasn’t anywhere, and it wasn’t a part of a record for anything because it was fun to do but a Glass Animals record is Glass Animals and that is the way it will be I think.
What is more rewarding on stage, playing crowd favourites that receive a guaranteed positive response or new tracks that are played live for the first time?
I think playing new music is very healthy for us. It is very easy to go into autopilot sometimes as we have played these songs for years and could do it with our eyes closed so it is exciting. Stuff can go horribly wrong, what we play live is all live, we don’t have any tracks or clicks or anything so the possibility for things to go wrong is very real and very scary. Playing new songs that we have road tested amplifies that so to me it’s actually really exciting playing new stuff because we have to think and we have to engage with each other which makes it much more interesting to me. It’s consistently terrifying which is really fun.
You will be playing a string of shows on the back of your new album. Do you find touring to be inspirational whereby it helps you write and create more material or are you so focused on the task at hand that writing and creating new material takes a back seat?
Well we have never really done any writing on tour but the new record is almost entirely inspired by the fact that we were on the road and meeting all these people for the last two years. In that respect it has had a massive impact but we haven’t actually done any writing on the road. It’s inspiring meeting people and getting to travel around the world all as friends. It really is an amazing thing. Sometimes it sucks and sometimes it doesn’t. Being away from home can be really difficult and having a fight with your oldest friend over a sandwich or something, it’s like family life but it is the most amazing thing.
Catch Glass Animals at the following venues:
21/10 – O2 Academy 1, Oxford, UK
22/10 – Dome, Brighton, UK
25/10 – Roundhouse, London, UK
26/10 – Academy 2, Manchester, UK
27/10 – Arts School, Glasgow, UK
28/10 – Academy 2, Liverpool, UK
29/10 – The Olympia, Dublin, Eire
They are also playing a massive headline show at the Brixton Academy, London on 17/3
Follow Glass Animals on Facebook.
Interview and photographs by Courtney Dabb.