Face to face with Glass Animals

Having just dropped their sophomore record, How To Be A Human Being, English outfit Glass Animals were once again in the country for a national run of dates. 

Catching up on a torrentially wet day in Melbourne, guitarist Drew and drummer Joe talked all about how the record came together and growing up as a band.

You’ve toured Australia quite a few times now. What have been some of your best experiences?

Joe: We’ve had a few, I mean all of the shows so far have been pretty wild. Australians know how to party. One of the Falls Festival shows in Byron…

Drew: I was going to say that one as well.

Joe: We were playing in a tent, and there were these massive poles in the middle holding it up. This guy managed to climb up – pretty high, with these bags of wine on his belt. He just started pouring wine down upon the people. Some guy came on stage and stopped us from playing and told us that we weren’t allowed to start again until he came down. Eventually he came down.

Drew: After the crowd started shouting at him.

Joe: That was kind of fun.

Drew: It was so hot as well.

Joe: We had a holiday in Byron Bay which was pretty rad. There was no music involved, which was nice. We tried surfing and sucked. We’ve had some good times so far, I would say.

You’ve mentioned that the characters on the album were inspired by different clips and sound recordings. Throughout the production process was it always such a conceptual record?

Joe: There was an idea. An idea before we started making the record. Something that could tie it all together, from an aesthetic and sound aspect. I don’t know if there was a concept necessarily.

Drew: It was an idea that helped the creative process.

Joe: And it did help a lot. Having something to work towards, having a focal point I think made the whole process much easier. Because everything was channeled to this one idea. I don’t know if I would say that it was a concept, it was more of a weird little idea. As for when it became more clear, we didn’t know how it’d turn out. It just developed as it went.

How do you think you’ve grown as a band since the release of Zaba?

Joe: Ed’s hair has gotten pretty long.

Drew: When we released the album we had not done a lot at all. We’d played a few tiny little shows, maybe 10? Something like that. We didn’t really know what we were doing.

Joe: We still don’t.

Drew: We didn’t know how to make music, we didn’t know how to play. We were kind of making it up as we went along.

Joe: It’s cool, none of us had ever done this before, so the whole thing is a weird exploration of a world that I still don’t understand at all. Which makes it really fun – because none of us have any expectations of what we’re supposed to do or how we’re supposed to do it. What we’re supposed to look like. Any of that shit. So we kind of cruised along, but we’re a bit better at playing live now (I hope).

We can play our instruments a bit better than we did, we understand how interviews work, where you’re supposed to stand in photographs. I hope we’ve gotten a little bit better at it. But it’s a big bad world and we need to keep exploring things.

The clip for ‘Life Itself’ introduced a couple of characters appearing in the album. Will we see the story arc evolve over each release?

Joe: Certainly for the next one. We haven’t gotten any further than that.

Drew: They only let us make two.

Joe: It’s very expensive.

Drew: But hopefully we’ll get to make more. And they’ll explore more of the same ideas and characters that we’ve put together. We’ll see what happens. We’re seeing how it goes – but there is one more.

Joe: I still have no idea what’s going on (laughs). The videos are like an outsider’s exploration. It’s someone else’s ideas and imagination, and their take on our stories. It’s kind of interesting to see someone else’s interpretations of it. I hope that the theme can continue. The people of the album were actors that we chose to represent these characters of our songs. Hopefully we’ll be able to find them again, somewhere in America.

The album artwork and videos feature a sun-drenched, technicolour aesthetic. Is that something that as a band, wanted to channel?

Joe: All of the artwork was done by Dave. The idea, the casting. While he had some people helping out, it was really a straight shot of Dave’s brain.

Drew: The colour palette as well.

Joe: It’s not set anywhere, really. It’s not set in a time. People keep saying to us that it looks very 60’s, or even from the 90’s. But it’s not supposed to exist in a time or a place. It’s supposed to represent our travels, and the people we’ve met all over the place in different continents, of different ages – just different kinds of people all over the place. It’s supposed to represent that eclectic mix of humans. There is a strong aesthetic – but it’s Dave’s brain, really.

You’re known for being quote personable and accessible on social media. Do you feel that really helps to connect with your fans a little more?

Joe: Social media is amazing for that, because the gap between musicians (or anybody really) and fans is now tiny. Back in the day, people would have sacks of fan mail posted to them. Now, people can ask us questions instantly – and we can answer them instantly. Though there’s too much to answer most of the time. It’s cool as a fan of music, to be able to understand musicians that you love and the way that they think and carry themselves. It’s nice to be able to do that – we try our best.

Ultimately, life is pretty serious sometimes and when you see nice things it’s a bit of an opportunity to have a laugh about some lighthearted stuff. You can have fun. I don’t want to read about some band who are having a fucking miserable time touring the world. But if some stupid shit happens to Drew I’m definitely going to take a photo of it and put it on Instagram. Because I find it funny, and someone else might. There are also people online who hate the video we made, or hate the new album or have a T-shirt that ripped or whatever, and you can explain stuff to them and help people out. I think that builds some sort of rapport. Ultimately these people are fans of your music and they’re the reason that we get to be here, talking to you. People who come to the shows, people who buy the music – and you’re able to have some sort of a relationship with them. It’s exciting being able to meet people and understand how they feel – it’s really important.

Drew: Joe does a lot of the social media stuff – he’s kind of the king of it. I find a lot of people’s social medias do get dominated a lot by music industry sort of stuff.

Joe: I treat it as I talk to my friends. A lot of the time I write these things down and send them through to whoever is posting and they’ll be like ‘I don’t understand what this means’ because I’ve written it stupidly. So people might not understand it but, it’s us, doing it our way. You’ve got to try and have fun.

How To Be A Human Being by Glass Animals is out now.