We caught up with Glass Animals to discuss crazy African-style artwork and the thought-process behind their bizarrely titled songs
After being one of Paul Epworth’s (the man behind Adele’s ’21’ and Florence & The Machine’s ‘Ceremonials’) first signings on his Wolf Tone label, it was no doubt in anybodies minds that Glass Animals would be anything less than remarkable.
Following support slots for the likes of Metronomy and St. Vincent, the band eventually released their roaring album ‘Zaba’, a blend of hypnotic indie rock and punchy psychedelic pop. After gaining positive reviews, the album seemed to become a firm favourite in Australia, where it went to number 9 in the charts.
Here we chat to Dave and Joe from the band on their progression since their first release, Leaflings EP, about the inspiration behind their dreamy album artwork, and the thought process behind their bizarre song titles…
You’re signed to Paul Epworth’s label, what sort of working relationship do you have with Paul?
A terrible one [Laughing]. No it’s good, it’s really good! He’s like a bouncing board for ideas and a kind of general presence in our lives, if we have any problems we go and ask him. He tends to be quite busy doing his thing, so it’s not like having someone in the studio with you at all times. He’ll come in once a while and listen to something and say like ‘go away and listen to this band for a bit’, just very general things. He’s a cool guy!
The track listing on the album has some pretty strange names, can you tell us why you choose to use such abstract song titles?
I guess a lot of it comes from when I’m making demos and it’s really late at night and I’m really tired and I just want to go back to bed, so I start the idea and I have to save the idea as something on my computer. Sometimes I just write a random selection of letters and then after we’ve spent a month working on the song, the guys are like “you can’t change that!”. There was one called crystal meth because Dave was watching Breaking Bad and then the idea came so it was saved as Crystal Meth and it will always be Crystal Meth to us but now it has this sort of pretend other name [Black Mambo].
That’s interesting! Tell us, who would you reference as your biggest influences?
We listen to so much stuff but I don’t think we draw influence from just one or two people particularly more than anybody else. I wouldn’t even say that our favourite bands are particularly influential of our sound like Radiohead and The Strokes are two of our favourite bands and we sound nothing like The Strokes. We listen to a lot of old soul when writing vocal lines and chords, it tends to be stuff like Nina Simone and Otis Redding, just simple old soul music. We listen to a lot of hip-hop that probably influences the production and sound of things quite a lot.
Quite a tricky one but which is your favourite song on the album and why?
You can’t ask that! That’s like asking which is your favourite child. I like them all for different reasons and I think they all take me to differences places, it can kind of transport me to a moment when I first listened to it or really got into it or if I was in a different country or feeling a certain way and I don’t know if I prefer those feelings or places any more than the others.
You’ve supported the likes of Metronomy and St Vincent, but if you could choose any band to support, who would it be and why?
That would be incredible! So, you’re all from Oxford, how does the Oxford music scene compare to the other places you’ve visited?
To us, it’s slightly less existent. Basically when we started being a band we weren’t in Oxford, we are all at university. We didn’t get nurtured by a scene and we didn’t know anyone else doing it because we weren’t there doing it so I think we’ve always been slightly on our own. I know a lot more people in and involved with the South London based music scene than I do people making music in Oxford.
How do you feel you’ve progressed and developed from your 2012 EP, Leaflings?
I think that when we started making music we had no idea what we were doing. I think we were a bit sheepish and self-conscious and a bit worried about what other people would think, especially my mum, I didn’t know what my mum would think. So, they’re quite shy pieces of music and introverted and slowly we’ve shaken that off and gotten a bit more confident. I think we’ve probably grown as people and our music has changed with that.
So you’re still proud of the earlier recordings?
Yeah completely, that was a snapshot of what we could do then, that is what Glass Animals was at that point in time and some of those songs are amazing!
Sweet! Your album artwork is very creative, tell us a bit more about your artwork and the thought process behind it.
We had a very strong idea of what we wanted, we knew the colours and what kind of shapes we wanted. It’s kind of a blend of things that we like and that are personal to us. We had a reference piece by a guy called Alberto Del Pozo who draws these crazy African goddesses and gods and weird creatures and it’s kind of like a sitting room in a rainforest. I think the colours are really important too, like the colour of an album cover can have a really strong impact on your first perception of a record I think. We basically wanted the music to be summed up in art form so we put lots of patterns in the artwork to resemble the grooves and then animals to resemble the animal sounds that are on the record.
Finally, what does the future hold for Glass Animals?
Fun I hope! We’ve got lots of shows and we’re going to America soon and then back in the UK and Europe in October and November and a we have a new single soon, a B-side with that and some new mixes. We’ve got couple of collaborations we’ve been working on so yeah, there’s a lot!
Words: Ryan Cahill