A Chat With Glass Animals

Words by Jess Garcia.

2013 was very kind to hard-working UK band Glass Animals, working with producer Paul Epworth (Florence and The Machine, Friendly Fires, Foster The People) on single ‘Psylla’, and being the first group signed to his new label Wolf Tone, they’re ready to take on whatever 2014 has in store. 

You’ve just released your EP, Glass Animals. What did you have to consider when you put your EP together?

We had a few songs hanging around for it, so we had to be quite selective. We wanted to choose four songs that went really well together because we’re quite diverse. It was quite a strange mix of sounds, because there’s ‘Psylla’, which is like a psychedelic rock song, ‘Exxus’, which takes a lot from dub music and there’s ‘Black Mambo’, which takes a lot from hip-hop (and it features a rapper). So we really wanted to be quite diverse and I think we got that.

How do you guys feel being able to work with Paul Epworth and to be the first act signed to Wolf Tone?

It’s great! It’s kind of a dream. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. He was a producer growing up who really inspired me the most. He put together all those classic records, like that first Bloc Party album Silent Alarm and the first Maxïmo Park record. They were the albums I grew up with and they are completely coherent from start to finish. He’s got a great haul of records and I’ve always been into that, having really cohesive albums. So it’s a mark of someone who can make those kinds of records and who can gives us some pointers, so it’s really invaluable.

What can you tell us about the making of the single ‘Psylla’?

For ‘Psylla’, we were mainly working from Oxford in our little shed studio and we didn’t really have any good equipment. We were using an old computer that my dad had given me as a hand-me-down. But we were finally able to get to a London studio, where we gained access to a whole feat of new synths and equipment. It was stuff that could help us get a harder, more grittier live band sound. The sound that we had for ‘Psylla’ before was quite cold and computer based and quite digital. But I do think ‘Psylla’ moved on from that a bit because we were in a better studio.

You’re getting a lot of love for ‘Psylla’ in Australia, especially on one of our radio stations, triple j. Did you anticipate such an international response?

Triple J? Oh I love that radio station! Totally not. It was so incredibly unexpected. I think it’s been a better response here at our home country. I mean, it is going okay over here in the UK, but we’ve got quite a lot of interviews and a lot of demands here in Australia, so that was really unexpected. I’ve never been to Australia and I never thought that our music would make it out of the UK. But it has and it’s really promising the idea that we might be going to Australia. I think we’ll hopefully be there with you guys in the first half of 2014.

What was a highlight during your tour in Europe?

We always end up bumping into Mac DeMarco on tour and we bumped into those guys again. We’ve played with them at quite a lot of festivals, especially around Europe. So bumping into them, hanging out with them and sneaking around backstage with them is always really really fun. They’re really great guys.

What were some obstacles that you have to overcome in preparation for the tour?

It was quite a tough time to talk through it while we were right in the middle of making the album. The main obstacle of it was trying to have time to rehearse and record. We were basically in the studio for the whole month before the tour, so it was an obstacle being able to play properly with minimal rehearsal. I think we did okay, even though it was a bit rough. It made the shows a bit messy and a bit more fun, but we danced harder to make up for it.

You guys have been described as cinematic with your approach to music. Do you look at film scores when you’re trying to find inspiration or do you look to other sources?

That’s really interesting. I haven’t really heard that cinematic description, so that’s really cool. I do often find myself not really paying attention to a film because I’m listening to the film’s score. Maybe that’s why we’re a bit cinematic. I’ve never really thought about it like that, but I would love to score a film one day.

What do you look to when you’re looking for inspiration?

I listen to quite a lot of old hip-hop, like 90s hip-hop, so lots of Dr. Dre. I also listen to old records from the 70s. However, I listen to a lot of new stuff as well, like Animal Collective and Burial & Four Tet. I’m always looking for new producers and people who are doing weird and new things that haven’t been done before.

From some of your earlier Instagram posts, you have a lot of really charming photos of patterns in nature. Are the aesthetics of nature a dominant factor you consider within your sound?

Well I live in Oxford at the moment and we rehearse out in the forest in this little shed. It is quite a nice little sleepy forest, so we end up spending quite a lot of time getting there and walking there. When you walk in the woods you see all the animals. I think that has been quite a strong influence on this album. It’s impossible for that world not to infiltrate the lyrics and the stories that you’re trying to tell in songs. And being there makes you totally enveloped in that.

Your videos seem to follow along a tangent of surrealism. Did you, as a band, have an input to the visual aspects of your music videos?

Yeah, well with the latest video (the video for ‘Psylla’) we actually came up with the concept and sent it over to our friend, Raphael (Bonilla Jr) in L.A, then he put his swing on it. We quite like to come up with the concepts for our videos and then give them to someone else to interpret the concepts. Then they can come up with an actual treatment and a real idea. We will always be quite involved with that side of things.

How do you think your band has developed over the past year?

We’ve moved on quite a bit from our old sound. As I said earlier, we used to mainly work on one old computer, where everything sounded quite digital. And because the computer was quite slow, we really had to think about things before we recorded them. This was because it would take a long time to record something for when we wanted to play it back, so it had to be really thought through. But now we have access to better equipment, which allows us to be a bit more spontaneous. We can mess around when we want a random sound. These things turn into happy accidents in the new recordings, which definitely wasn’t the case before.

Do you have any advice for young people (particularly those who want to produce electronic music) who want to get into the music industry?

All I can really say from personal experience is don’t rush anything and just take your time. That’s definitely the best way to go about it, especially when you want to find out what kind of sound you want to make. And when you start doing it, just go slowly out to the world.

What should we be expecting from Glass Animals in 2014?

You should expect a couple of new songs coming out and we’ve been working with a few other people. I’m not going to say too many names just yet, because I don’t want to say just in case the tracks don’t come out. But we have been working with some really cool artists, like rappers, bands and solo artists. So we might release tracks with some cool features and what we’ve worked on with friends.

A fun one for our very last question: If you could be a literal mold of a glass animal, what animal would it be and why?

Oh my God, that’s tough! Probably… a Llamacorn. It’s not a real animal of course. It’s probably my favourite animal, even though I’m pretty sure it does not exists. It’s basically a combination of a unicorn and a llama and they’re really delicate creatures. They’re funny and they tell good jokes.

Watch the video for Psylla by Glass Animals.