Glass Animals Embark on a New Musical Frontier
Somewhere down in a sticky gooey womb, Glass Animals was born. From the depths of an old English shed emerged the avant-garde, richly complex concept album, ZABA, full of psychoactive measures and illustrious phonetics.
The millennial version of Pink Floyd, this harmonious quartet has brought back the idea of soulful engineering, experimenting with sounds as they tweak tunes to pique insightful lucid escapes.
Not your typical British invasion band, Glass Animals is rather the nouveau riche of sophisticated indie rock. From the outside, members Dave Bayley (lead vocals/guitar), Joe Seaward (drums), Drew MacFarlane (keyboard) and Ed Irwin-Singer (keyboard) may appear serious, but get to know them, and you’ll quickly realize they are just a bunch of grown up class clowns.
MiLLENNiAL had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Dave and Joe at the Harvest Records headquarters in the Capitol Music Tower to learn about their rise to success.
From Oxford to LA
While most bands take years to develop through auditioning various instrumentalists, Glass Animals started as four childhood friends who loved to be together since the age of 13. They were attending college when the idea of starting a band began to take shape. “It was just an idea rather than any tangible thing,” Joe tells us. “None of us had ever been in bands. We had never done anything musical,” Dave adds.
While the rest of the band had finished college and decided to take a year to see if music was a path, Dave was on the road to becoming a neuroscientist. “I was really into brains,” he explains. But the voice and pioneer behind their 2014 debut album decided to use his poetic fascination with the psychosis of the psychiatric patients he studied as the root of his now famous drippy lyrics.
Without being a formal band, they had released an experimental song called “Golden Antlers,” which to their surprise, started picking up online traction. The song received so much attention that industry professionals, like their current manager, Amy Morgan, were drawn.
Recognizing the initial thrill as nothing more than hype, the boys retreated from the scene, took down the song, and decided to concentrate on properly forming an identity as a band. “The only strategy we ever had was to take our time and get the music right from the beginning,” Dave admits.
Joe reflects on that time, “It’s such a fickle industry. When things are cool, everyone wants to be apart of it, and when its not, everyone goes and does whatever else is cool. But Amy hung around which really meant an enormous amount to us. It didn’t feel like she was just interested in hype.”
Making a Hit Record
There are few albums that can be listened to on repeat. ZABA is one of those albums. Recorded mostly on a laptop in the bedrooms of the band mates, ZABA has become one of the most listened to albums on Spotify and their single “Gooey” holds the 2014 record for the #2 most globally viral track.
Paul Epworth of Wolf Tone Records (Adele, Coldplay, Florence and the Machine) had been in attendance at the band’s EP release party and naturally took a liking to their music. He invited Dave and the band out to drinks where they discussed the possibility of producing the full-length album in his London studio.
Looking to Epworth as a mentor and music icon, it didn’t take much for Glass Animals to agree. A few months later, ZABA hit the scene. More than a trusted ally, Joe confirms, “This whole thing that Paul gave us as a unit was confidence. It was on a much more basic level than music. He allowed us to feel like we could express ourselves in a way that maybe we would have been too shy to do before.”
The themes present in the album are up for the listener’s interpretation, but from the creator’s perspective, Dave says, “One of the strongest messages running throughout the album is naivety. That probably came from us not really knowing that much about music and being thrown into the industry.”
Further explaining his musical direction, Dave continues, “We wanted to create something that was cohesive and in a world of its own and have that carry over into the artwork and the live show.”
Joining Harvest Records
Shortly after producing ZABA, Morgan had connected the band with Harvest Records, who was equally new in developing their roster. “I feel there aren’t a lot of labels that have such a clear vision of what they want to be,” Dave tells us.
He says that Harvest is the type of label that wants to work with a handful of artists they believe in and invest more time in the creation of multiple albums. Joe adds, “The love and attention that we’ve gotten from this end has been really overwhelming.”
Since joining Harvest, Glass Animals has gone from an indie UK band to touring the festival circuit in the US. Their recognition has gone international with the success of their album and singles, “Gooey” and “Black Mambo.”
Glass Animals Tackles Gender Barriers
Men have traditionally run the music industry. Uniquely, Glass Animals, a completely male band, is under strong feminine leadership. Joe explains, “We’ve managed to build this team around us, which is very female heavy. There doesn’t seem to be too many women around in the industry. And somehow we managed to get loads of women around us and they are running our lives at the moment which is really cool.”
Dave continues, “Even on the music making side, it’s very weird how few engineers and producers you see.” Alongside their band manager, Co-GM of Harvest Records, Jacqueline Saturn, is forging ahead in breaking through some of these gender stereotypes. With the support of bands like Glass Animals, more women like Morgan and Saturn can start to see gender biases become a thing of the past.
“It still blows my mind that it has to be a thing in 2015…and working as closely with Amy as we do, it opened my eyes to it,” Joe says. He elaborates, “It’s one of those things that, as a man, you can drift through life and not take any notice. She has had to work harder than a man would have work in order to get to what she got.”
He also points out, “The music industry is just changing massively.” In addition to the rise of the female executive, the industry is also battling copyright infringement.
Survival of the Musician
As more people move away from buying albums and turn to streaming music, labels are having to become creative with how they protect their artists and make money from the music itself. We have entered an era where intellectual property has never been so relevant.
“A lot of people think that copyright is going to die and be valueless. I totally disagree. Copyright is always going to be important. It’s always going to be some source of income for artists,” Dave insists. He suggests the way in which copyrights are monetized will evolve. “Spotify has found one solution and there are going to be lots of streaming services popping up over the next couple of years.”
While music may turn digital for exposure, live performances will never lose their edge among listeners. Glass Animals is a testament of how word of mouth can affect the popularity of their live show.
“We can feel that growth each time we play, and when we return to a city, there is three times the crowd. It’s been awesome,” Dave says. Joe further comments, “The reason it has been so gratifying is because it hasn’t been force fed to people.” It is this natural progression and intriguing aesthetic of the band that has fans seeing them twice a year.
Glass Animals is currently on tour in the US. To find out when they are playing near you, visit GlassAnimals.com, follow them on Facebook, and be sure to listen to ZABA (available on iTunes) to discover the magic behind the band.