UTG INTERVIEW: Glass Animals Discuss ‘Zaba’ and Touring the US

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Who says that nice guys finish last? This year has been incredible for Glass Animals. With the release of their first full-length, Zaba, and their first tour of the U.S. (which sold out multiple dates all over), humility and kindness has reaped its benefits for this English outfit. And they couldn’t be more grateful.

When you see this band live, that’s exactly what you get. Between the multiple thank yous that the band gives, to the interaction and fun nature they deliver to the crowd, and the final goodbye; nothing but pure, humble attitudes. Not only that, but the show is just as relaxing as it is exciting. The chilled vibes set the mood and slimy rhythms sneak in and get you dancing, whether you want to or not.

They brought this to Kansas City, the last city of the tour, for three sold out shows. UTG was lucky enough to get into the Sunday night show at the packed Riot Room and sit down with the lead singer, Dave Bayley, to talk to him about coming to America, their new album and the future.

So this is the last date of the US tour, right? How has it been?

Dave Bayley (vocals): Yeah, the last twelve hours. We have two shows. Tonight’s and then Kegs and Eggs tomorrow, which is going to be fun. I’ve never played a show that early in the morning before. But it’s been amazing. We totally didn’t know what to expect coming to the US.

Is this the first time you’ve been over here?

DB: Well, we came for SXSW. That was pretty crazy. It was unlike anything else, have you been before?

I haven’t, but it’s a bucket list goal. I want to go next year.

DB: Yeah it’s crazy. Aside from that, yes. We had a freaking awesome time. It’s been great. We’re doing a much larger run in September, about thirty dates.

Oh, wow. Europe first right?

DB: Yeah, lots of UK festivals and other Europe festivals. Then, yeah, coming back to New York, mid-September, staying for ages.

The record is just great. How do you take your sound, and approach the stage and a live sound? Do you take a lot of samples with you on stage, or is it all band and instruments?

DB: There’s sampling [on the record], but not from other people’s music. I go out and sample all sorts of things, someone biting into an apple, Joe [Seaward] getting slapped by Drew [MacFarlane], and turning that into a snare or a kick drum. Things like that. So there’s that kind of sampling. And we do a bit of that with our show, but our philosophy is that everything has to be live. The best acts I’ve ever seen, everything that comes from the speakers is made by their hands on stage, live. And I think that’s so important. Because you can interact with the crowd. If you’re playing an afternoon set at 3 p.m. and it’s sunny and very chilled, you can slow the tempos down; you can see if the crowd’s feeling a bit dazed and mellow things out for a bit. Or if it’s a 3 a.m. party vibe, you can kind of pick the tempos up and go a bit more crazy. But yeah, we have to strip things back a lot live. No backing tracks, no clicks.

Make things as organic as possible.

DB: Exactly, yeah.

So what were some of your influences going into the studio? Where’d you come up with some of your ideas?

DB: I guess there are a lot. They just come from everything I’ve ever listened to, and everything the other guys have listened to. Just gets sort of jumbled up in our heads and spat out onto a tape. I listen to quite a lot of old R&B- Otis Redding, that kind of stuff, and I think that influences the writing side of things, the vocal and chord structures. But sound-wise, it comes from hip-hop. I used to listen to so much hip-hop, and I still do. Those are the producers I’m interested in.

I heard you guys covered Kanye West last night.

DB: We did, yeah. We might do it again tonight. I love hip-hop. They’re doing such amazing things. I also listen to a lot of kraut-rock, and groove-based music. I love grooves. Bands like Cannon and the Talking Heads do it so well. So there’s that, too.

What about the videos? The stop motion animation is really funky. And all the sweat and drool in “Gooey” was intriguing. What was behind that?

DB: The stop motion and animation was done with our friend, Raphael Bonilla, Jr. Joe actually found him and sent me one of his videos. I was reading this book, a couple months before, that was about animals that people thought would exist in the future. But it was written in the 1600s. So there were drawings of all these animals that people thought would be around now. It was crazy. Ridiculous. Humans with octopus heads and things. And in this video [made by Raphael], there were all these animals brought to life in claymation. So it was like, this guy has read the same book, that’s crazy. So we got in touch with him and asked him if he wanted to make a couple of videos for us. Because he clearly has similar influences as us, visually.

And the “Gooey” video is made by The Apiary. We wanted to do things slightly different; the song has a different vibe. And we were on tour, so we were really busy and didn’t have a lot of time to come up with an idea ourselves and go back and forth on it like we normally do with Raphael. So we just thought about the song and how it made us feel, and we found directors that made videos that fit that video. And we just asked them if they’d write us a plot/treatment and said just go with it.

We’re picky. We know what we want when it comes to videos. We always want a plot that runs through the whole thing. Makes it more interesting to us.

Zaba. Where’s the name come from?

DB: It comes from my favorite book when I was a kid. It’s called The Zabajaba Jungle, by William Steig who wrote Shrek. It’s a really weird kids book that shouldn’t be read by kids. It’s really dark. This child wakes up, sitting in a hammock in the middle of the jungle and he has no idea why he’s there. But he has a backpack full of fireworks and a knife. He wakes up and there’s snakes all around him. So he somehow escapes from all these snakes and then he gets captured by the boons who put him in front of a panel of human-bodied, animal-headed creatures in tuxedos called The Animal Council, and he scares them off with fireworks. Then he gets eaten by a monster, but then he gets saved by a butterfly and flown off. And then he gets eaten by a flower, and eventually finds his mom and dad sitting in the middle of the jungle inside of a glass jar.

Sounds pretty trippy.

DB: It’s really trippy. And it’s really weird. And it shouldn’t be read by kids.

It sounds relatively terrifying, especially if you’re five.

DB: Yeah exactly. But [Zaba] came from that. I just like the idea that every page is almost a different chapter. I thought it would be cool to structure an album like that, where each song is a different page, but they’re all taking place in this same weird, tropical rain forest.

What are you listening to these days?

DB: What am I listening to? I’ll show you my Spotify. [Grabs his phone] I’ve been going back in time a little bit, listening to Nas. Since he’s touring Illmatic. So I’ve been listening to that. Also have been listening to D’angelo’s Voodoo a lot. I have Sly and the Family Stone. Oh, and Can just re-released all these lost tapes; these recordings that haven’t been heard before. And some old gospel music and a lot of Kendrick Lamar.

With being from overseas and being here now, what’s the difference in the fan reception?

DB: It’s hard to say. It’s nice everywhere. American crowds have been so kind to us. They have danced so hard. I haven’t seen dancing like that at our shows before.

So after the fall tour here, whats next?

DB: Another UK/European tour, and then Australia.

Have you guys been over there before?

DB: Yeah we played three shows there. It was nuts. Amazing. Nice weather, nice people. Can’t wait to go back. I don’t really know what we’re doing there, but it’ll be fun.

Last question: how did you come across Gilligan Moss for that “Gooey” remix?

DB: We somehow stumbled across his Soundcloud page, and his songs were wicked. I think he only had one song up at first, but it had like seven thousand plays. But eventually we got in touch with him and realized we needed remixes.

Anything else for the fans?

DB: Thank you for being very, very cool!

Written and conducted by Corey From (@morfyeroc)
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Corey From

Corey From, from Kansas City, MO, when not thinking about or listening to music, obsessively thinks about Royals baseball, a platter of ribs (or BBQ in general) and cold beer. Nothing special really.
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