While we just closed the books on yet another summer of music festivals, let us not forget the spirit of this coveted season, when concert aficionados came out in droves to embark on multi-day long journeys, fueled by adrenaline and whatever fits inside their fanny packs. ‘Twas the season of sweaty singalongs and rain dances – the time to discover new acts and celebrate the return of the ones we love.
For the English indie rock band, Glass Animals, this has been the time to thrive. Although the band debuted just three years ago, the four-piece has quickly risen to the elite standard status at coveted festivals including Bonnaroo, Coachella, Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, and others.
Lead singer and guitarist Dave Bayley, guitarist Drew MacFarlane, bassist Edmund Irwin-Singer, and drummer Joe Seaward, are still riding the wave of last year’s sophomore album, How to Be a Human Being. Inspired by the personalities and attributes of the various fans they’ve met on the road, the band compiled a track listing of songs that celebrates differences in people.
While the opening track, “Life Itself,” prefaces the album with a sort of self-deprecating factor, the following track, “Youth,” conversely conjures up a confident, empowering vibe of self-indulgence. This continuity in storytelling is an artful and pensive balance that ups the ante on a musically sound body of work.
The band supplements these songs with fan-engaging activities, including an interactive site for “Life Itself,” “Youth” and “Pork Soda,” as well as a video game app for “Season 2 Episode 3.” The album is well aligned with the live show presented by Glass Animals: Energetic, fun, soulful, and quirky.
Bayley checked in with The Aquarian Weekly shortly after the tour kicked off to offer his humble take on the band’s rise to fame, and to tell us exactly where those damn pineapples came from in the first place!
Glass Animals has been killing the game on the summer festival circuit, not only this year but the last few! How do you plan for headlining shows versus festivals?
Every show is quite different with us, because we never really do the same thing twice. It’s not like we have a backing track. You’ll always get something different [during our performances], depending on what the crowd and venue are like. If we feel like people are up for dancing, we’ll do a very dancey version of the set. Or we’ll do a musical or ambient big sounding set. We do like to mix it up for ourselves, as well as someone (in the crowd) who’s seen us before. We never want to do exactly the same thing – that would be no fun. With our live shows there’s a lot of stage design and writing – we like that to be really cohesive with the album artwork and music. That’s a really big thing for us.
Fame has moved quickly for Glass Animals, as you debuted only three years ago.
Is this what you’ve been working for, and how has the band adapted to these changes?
We expected nothing when we released our first album. It all happened fluidly, of course. But (from our view) it took a lot of time. Every time we’d go back to a play a show the venue size doubles. But (there was a progression), when you start with one person coming to your shows and then the next time there are more, and it builds. It kind of crept up on us.
The album, How to Be a Human Being, is sequentially compelling. What were the creative goals when you were making this body of work?
The idea was to give a brief overview of humans that we interact with, and under those stories and characters the songs offer a bit about where the world is socially, economically, and there’s quite a lot of content in each story. There’s a tale on the surface but if you dig deeper into some of the references there are little name drops in there. It’s more about the world. That was the goal of the record, and obviously to create a cohesive musical work that extends through the artwork.
“Pineapples are in my head” – and everywhere! That’s a line from the song “Pork Soda,” but the image of pineapples has become part of the Glass Animals repertoire. What does the pineapple mean to you?
The pineapple started off as a joke, to be honest. I really wanted one to be on the album cover because it’s my favorite fruit and they’re delicious! I love them. So I approached the guy who did the artwork with us and I had a list of things I wanted on the cover, like a flamingo, Rubik’s Cube, and a pineapple! So he slapped a pineapple into every piece of artwork on the album: on the inside, back, and everywhere. And then someone brought a pineapple to a show – I grabbed it out of the crowd and put it on my guitar and it spiraled out of control! Loads of pineapples come to the show now!
Glass Animals have become a great festival staple. Who are the bands that inspired you guys as fans at festivals bands?
We all love The Strokes. We are huge, huge Strokes fan. We just saw them all as band recently. They were so amazing and we all rocked out together! I’m also a huge fan of LCD Soundsystem – that’s actually how I met (Glass Animals drummer) Joe. We were watching an LCD Soundsystem show at the Reading Festival in England. We knew each other from school but not that well. Then we went to this festival — I was so thirsty and I was about to bail to get some water because I felt like I was going to pass out. Suddenly the crowd passes and I saw at the other end of the crowd, Joe, holding two bottles of water. And we became best friends.
Do you find yourselves challenged by the financial implications of record sales, which is a common concern for bands? What is your biggest challenge as a band?
We never expected to make a lot of money. We never expected to make any money as a band. So we actually see ourselves as very lucky to be able to do it full-time in the first place. A lot of heritage artists complain that there’s not enough money in record sales but that just means you can’t be lazy. It just means you have to make more music, keep touring, and actually work. The money does come in from the streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and Google. It does come in, but you have to be slightly more patient.
Our main challenge is being away from family and friends for so long because we spend so much time on the road now. I don’t see them that much. Usually when I’m back home I’m working on new projects, writing, or thinking about the next record. It’s hard stuff. It’s hard work. But everyone should have to work hard. I like working hard.
Glass Animals are playing Radio City Music Hall for the first time in New York City on Oct. 5, and the Fillmore in Philadelphia on Oct. 6. For more information, visit glassanimals.eu.