The English indie-rock band Glass Animals is known for tackling obscure topics in their music and always keeping their listeners guessing with interpretive lyrics.
“The first album was very abstract. All the lyrics were pretty cryptic. I wanted this album to be way more raw and for the lyrics to be much more down to earth,” lead vocalist Dave Bayley says of the progression from their debut album ZABA (2014) to the band’s second album How To Be A Human Being.
The album focuses on what makes people human beings. Every track on the album tells the story of a specific character. Each song is going to have some sort of multimedia content developed around the song’s character.
“The websites are a cheeky thing. They aren’t the main part of Glass Animals music but rather an accessory to give you a bit more insight into the lyrics and the characters themselves,” Dave says of the digital assets that accompany each of the songs on the album. From the video game created in partnership with “Season 2 Episode 3” to a quirky website for “Pork Soda,” these websites really do allow listeners to connect with the various characters.
We sat down with Dave to discuss How To Be A Human Being, the most memorable show Glass Animals has played and Dave’s favorite Beyoncé song.
What inspired you to create individual characters throughout your new album?
We were touring like crazy with our first album, and when you’re touring you meet so many people. You check-in to a hotel and meet someone; hop in a taxi and start talking to the taxi driver; arrive at a venue and get stopped to chat there; all of these people tell you stories about themselves and their friends. You hear some crazy stories that break your heart or make you cry or make you laugh. Some stories make you feel things you’ve never felt before. I thought it would be quite interesting to recreate these characters based on the stories I was told.
How’d you get started collecting the stories?
Well, I started recording these stories secretly before I thought it could be an album concept because I thought they were really interesting. I had all these stories on my phone and towards the end of the touring cycle, I sat down and looked back at all the stories and realized I should do something with them. I started writing these stories about these different characters. I didn’t know why I was doing it but then I figured I should put some music to this.
What is the common thread between all of the characters?
There are good people on the album, bad people on the album, all sorts of things happen and ultimately, there are a couple of things that make us all human, deep down.
What inspired the character in the newest single “Pork Soda”?
I was walking down the street and I heard someone say something like “pineapples in my head” and I’m pretty sure he didn’t say exactly those words but for some reason that’s what I heard. It took on this weird meaning. I made up this character, Mr. Jennings, based on this guy who looked like he had really amazing life and some crazy memories. I also met this woman who had a tattoo of a pig on her arm and in the middle of the pig it said “pork soda.” When she realized we wrote a song inspired by her tattoo, she brought us all gifts when we went to Ohio.
What did she bring you?
Forty little glass animals.
Where did the title of the album, How To Be A Human Being come from?
The title came from meeting all of these different people from all over the world and realizing that they’re all just human beings. It was also a reference to us becoming human beings. Learning how to be real people as opposed to being stuffed in a tour bus.
Did you have an idea of what type of digital asset you wanted to make for each character?
I knew for “Season 2 Episode 3” I wanted to make a video game. I thought it would be funny if that website made you play a video game the way the character does. I have some ideas in my head for a couple of the other songs.
What was it like incorporating technology into your music the way you did?
It was definitely outside of my comfort zone, I’m not much of a coder. I created the websites for “Life Itself” and “Youth,” which were super basic and then we worked with a guy named Whoopi Winger to create the retro 8-bit video game for “Season 2 Episode 3.”
How has it been performing the songs from the new record live?
There are only four of us and obviously the record is quite dense; there’s a lot of stuff going on. We have to pair it back a bit and do what four people can do. I don’t believe in using backing tracks so I think everything you hear should be made on stage. It can be challenging to figure out the most important parts that drive a song but it’s also great because we can have fun with it and perform songs a little differently each night.
Do you keep the live performance aspect in mind while making a record?
I don’t think you can think about live when you are making a record. I know some bands do but I personally think they can be two very different things. If people want to listen to the record, they can go home and listen to the record. If they want to hear it slightly reinterpreted or slightly more intense, a bit dancier, they can come see it live.
What is the most memorable show Glass Animals have played?
We’ve played some massive venues that just take your breath away. One particularly memorable show was in Salt Lake City, Utah. We turned up in our tour bus and we were in the cul-de-sac in the middle of the suburbs and we all thought we were at the wrong location. All of a sudden, this kid comes out of the house and welcomes us to “the venue.” It was literally this kid’s garage. There was no stage. There were two speakers and only one of them worked and a little light bulb hanging from the ceiling. This kid had sold like 450 tickets to his garage that could fit maximum 50 people in it. People were hanging off the walls and peaking through the windows. There was a bar that was selling water for one dollar. It was amazing though- everyone there went mad.
What is a band or an artist that you listen to that fans would be surprised to hear?
This one isn’t a guilty pleasure but I think people might be surprised to know that I love Rage Against the Machine. I’m a huge Rage fan. I’m also a big System of a Down fan. I love blink-182. And I’m a big Beyoncé fan.
What’s your favorite Beyoncé song?
There are so many good ones. I’m going to bring it back to Destiny’s Child. I really like “Say My Name.” It’s kind of a Beyoncé song.
Glass Animals are slated to play festivals this summer such as Coachella, Bonnaroo, Firefly Festival and Panorama Festival.