With their sparkling synths and mesmerising melodies, Glass Animals are the perfect antidote to get you through these minus temperatures. Since the release of their debut album, ZABA, in 2014 this quartet have been travelling the world playing festivals from Lollapalooza and Glastonbury. We talked to Edmund Irwin-Singer (bass, keys, backing vocals) about their latest album, How To Be A Human Being and their upcoming tour.
Coming from the small yet successful Oxford circuit which has produced bands from Foals to Supergrass, Glass Animals have been friends since they were just 13 years old. However, it wasn’t until they attended Oxford University that they started playing together: “We played Strokes covers at friend’s parties when were about 18. Dave Bayley (Lead Singer) began to write songs and basically said you’re now in a band with me,” says Singer. According to him, the band name wasn’t a visionary idea but just, “Blossomed at the time when we were just messing around in a shed. But the name stuck because it suited the music, it was very glassy sounding with the synths.”
Their 2016 album, How To Be A Human Being reflects the collection of stories they gathered from strangers when touring. Each track on the album then reflects a different character; some are made up, some are people met while touring and others are based on the band members themselves. “We spent a lot of time in America and it’s funny how people open up to you and tell you weird stories when you’re a foreigner. At one point Dave said let’s start recording these conversations. The album is supposed to encapsulate that.”
Glass Animals aren’t just pushing the boundaries in music but have gone one step further by designing a website in which each character has their own world. While ‘Youth’ is a Tumblr page with scrolling images associated with that character, ‘The Season 2 Episode 3’ is an online game. “The game represents a girl who basically plays computer games every day, smokes weed and eats mayonnaise. It’s supposed to be a different multi-media world, not just about the songs,” recalls Singer. It is clear that Glass Animals are perfectionists with Bayley even designing the album cover art himself. With its retro references, the cover ends up looking like a dysfunctional family portrait of all the different characters from the album. “Dave had a very detailed vision of what he wanted the characters to look like. I think it just reflects his tastes, what he had been listening too, looking at around that time,” says Singer.
With nearly 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, streaming has been one of the main reasons for the band’s impact. “Lots of people slate streaming but when we put our first record out, we didn’t really know what we were doing but it meant that we immediately had a potential audience of the whole world. It broke down the barriers.” Without this ability to share music, their single ‘Gooey’ would not have gone gold in Australia in 2014.
Glass Animals are about to set off on their UK and US tour which will see them playing a handful of festivals such as Coachella and Reading and Leeds Festival. In order to prepare himself for months in a tour bus, Singers only necessity is “A box of tea bags. The one thing I can’t live without on tour is Yorkshire Gold.” Recently, Glass Animals toured with Tame Impala: “We had a crazy night in Auckland, New Zealand where they were going crazy and running riot at this after party. We were just kind of tagging along and trying to look cool,” Singer reminisces.
As the band have spent so much time touring in America and Australia, UK fans can expect the best tour yet. “It’s been a shame because in America we’ve been able to do more with lightening and stuff due to the size venues. We haven’t been able to bring our best live shows to the UK yet so hopefully, we will this time.”
Words by Charlotte Miles