Glass Animals would be forgiven for existing in hyperspace. The alternate reality of 2014 debut album ‘Zaba’ - a twist on the Jungle Book, with even more palm trees - was given an extra-surreal story when the Oxford four-piece suddenly blew up Stateside. UK crowds are still flocking bit-by-bit, but over in the U.S. they were playing to thousands every night. Dodgy sleep patterns and a big fanbase are enough to send anyone off the rails, but with their second record they’ve kept themselves as rooted as possible.
As soon as the group’s world tour simmered out, frontman Dave Bayley took a flight home and went straight from the airport to a studio in Hornsey, London. Less than two weeks later, he’d written the bulk of the record. Clearly he’d been bottling up a lot of thoughts while crossing state borders.
Dave wanted to opt against the tropical flavour of Glass Animals’ debut. Instead, he tried to capture the reality of people’s everyday lives, which can often be more fascinating than licking a poisonous frog in the jungle. “Have you ever sat around a bit bored and tried to imagine what other people do with their lives?” he asks. “You think, ‘Fuck, I wonder what their story is.’ You start to embellish it in your head. ‘That guy makes these weird inventions that never see the light of day, but his mother thinks he’s a mad genius and he’s got this weird seventy-year-old girlfriend.’ You wonder how these people came to meet and what the story is. Some of it is me hypothesising, but there’s definitely a lot of truth.”
It clearly takes a good imagination to make this ‘true story’ schtick actually work. Otherwise you’re left with Johnny Borrell parading streets with an acoustic guitar, trying to figure out how the world spins. Dave’s perspective has a wondrous quality, and he’s not afraid to dive into weird territory. New album ‘How To Be A Human Being’ contains some real zinger lyrics. There’s a story about “Northern Camden’s own Flash Gordon”, whoever that is. He sings about “codeine Coca-Cola”; how his “girl eats mayonnaise, from a jar when she’s getting blazed.” Strange territory, but Dave’s got it covered.
"I didn’t want to sound like this band or that band, with a sprinkling of Beyoncé."
— Dave Bayley
“We’re gonna get through all the condiments by album seventeen,” he jokes, referring to the “peanut butter vibes” lyric Glass Animals are most associated with. But there’s “definitely an emotional heaviness” to these songs, he insists. “I still feel very odd listening to these strangely personal songs. We’ve never done that before. I didn’t want to sound like this band or that band, with a sprinkling of Beyoncé. The opposite, almost. I tried not to listen to any music. I didn’t want any sonic references. I just made these sounds that popped into my head.”
Even though they’re no longer swinging from rainforest canopies, Glass Animals’ imagination is still running riot. Their playful spirit hasn’t calmed down one jot, and they’ve made a record that’ll do nothing to slow down their ascent. Chances are this trip back to Planet Earth is just a quick detour on their space mission.
Get your facts straight:
Title: 'How To Be A Human Being'
Where: Hornsey, London. The studio doesn't have a name. Dave's christened it "Awesome Studios."
Songs: 'Youth', 'Season 2, Episode 3', 'Life Itself'.
Due: Summer 2016.
Other deets: The studio wasn't massively kitted out, so the band has to make do with inventing their own sounds. "I recorded what I had; some crisps, some cheese, a cigarette packet." The big question: what flavour of crisps? "I'm probably going to break a lot of people's hearts here, but it's salt and vinegar. I don't like them very much, so I was happy to smash those into the back of a guitar. If it's a nicer flavour, those would be in my belly."
Photos: Emma Swann / DIY.
Glass Animals' new album 'How To Be A Human Being' is due August 26th via Caroline.
Taken from the June 2016 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe below.