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Glass Animals on How to Be a Human Being [Interview]

An interview the magical and always psychedelic UK indie rockers Glass Animals about their latest album "How to Be a Human Being" and current tour.
Photo by Neil Krug

Photo by Neil Krug

If you're a peanut butter lover, or a vibe enthusiast of the highest order, then you should already be well acquainted with UK's Glass Animals. They stepped onto the scene with a huge footprint in 2014 with their psychedelic indie pop record Zaba, and they've kept on marching forward ever since. 

On Zaba, "Gooey" is one of those songs that slow burns like candles in a wizard's lair, and don't even get me started on "Black Mambo." Glass Animals conjure up lively music that demands you groove, and their songwriting hypnotically transports you to some far away land of their own lush design. 

Immediately finishing their world tour of Zaba in December 2015, Glass Animals did not sit idly, but went straight into the studio. The infectious sonic potion that emerged from this rapid return to their creative castle is their second album How to Be a Human Being. It's fun and true to form, and this time around, it really brings some interesting character portraits to life. 

Recently at Treasure Island Music Festival in the San Francisco bay, I had the good fortune to catch Glass Animals before a triumphant rain-drenched set. Here is my interview lead singer & songwriter Dave Bayley and keyboardist & bassist Edmund Irwin-Singer on the latest and greatest for Glass Animals. 

It doesn’t seem like you gentlemen like to sit still. Zaba in 2014, How to Be a Human Being in 2016. How do you keep churning them out?

Dave Bayley: Working too hard probably. We were really lucky with this record. We finished touring Zaba in December 2015, and then middle of December I just went straight to the studio.

Edwin Irwin-Singer: Zaba definitely felt like it took a while to make because it’s the first record and you want it to be perfect, obviously. But after touring for two years on Zaba, we were keen to get just get on with it. Dave definitely had a lot of ideas. We came off tour and we were just like, “Let’s get on with this.”

Dave Bayley: I was sick of not writing. I can’t write on tour. I really wanted to write, so I went straight to the studio before Christmas and it just came really quickly. It took like a week and a half, two weeks, and all the demos were done.

What is How to Be a Human Being all about?

Edwin Irwin-Singer: It’s a collection of stories that we experienced whilst we were on tour. Dave was recording some things on his phone, we met lots of people, some really interesting people in taxis and vans. It’s a mixture of stories that we heard, a bit of autobiography from Dave’s life. It’s just an album about people.

Dave Bayley: It’s about human beings.

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On both albums, the songwriting is quite descriptive and vibrant. It really communicates a lot. Can you walk me through how you approach writing a song?

Dave Bayley: In my first records, I was very much more inside of beats, electronics stuff. Then, I’d put the vocal over the top. Whereas this record, because it was about people and humans, I wanted it to go all the way around. I wanted to write some of the words first, some of the vocal melodies first. I thought it was going to help make it more human and down to earth.

I started with the vocalized lyrics and then put chords around that and, based on the lyrics, I could put sounds around that fit the character of the song. If the character sits on the sofa all day watching TV and playing video games, all the sounds of the song are versions of sounds from video games and the sounds we would use if we were to make a cartoon on Cartoon Network.

On the song "Pork Soda", how did the pineapples get in your head?

Edwin Irwin-Singer: I think that started out a long time ago. We were recording the song ‘Gooey’ on the first album and we were trying to get an interesting vibe in the studio and there was a pineapple sitting around in the studio. As a joke, someone put it in Dave’s hands while he was recording the vocals and said, “This will capture the essence of a pineapple in the vocal style.”

It started like that. Dave recalled that story in an interview and then they sent one to a show and Dave put it on stage. It started becoming a thing. That’s how it happens.

Where do you gents go from here? Are you soaring high where you’ve always dreamed you wanted to be?

Dave Bayley: I don’t know what’s going to happen next week. We always like pushing things and keeping things different. We’ve got a lot of live shows coming up, and with that comes lots of set design ideas and staging ideas. We’re still working out the set. We have an idea of how we want it to be at the end of the tour, and we’ll get there. That’s part of it, and there’s always music flowing around.

What is one deep thought you have been having lately?

Edwin Irwin-Singer: Do I want cereal? What kind of cereal do I want for breakfast?

Dave Bayley: I looked around the dressing room the other day and everyone was drinking bottles of water, as you do everywhere. There were just bottles of water everywhere, half-finished, empty - so many bottles. I was like, “Why the hell aren’t we just using one bottle each?” That would just make sense, wouldn’t it? If everyone just had a bloody bottle. I’ve been using one bottle. That’s my deep thought.

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