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Meet our BOTW: Glass Animals

Glass Animals—aka four friendly, relatively down-to-earth guys from Oxfordshire—are perhaps the only band in the world to be inspired by hip hop and psychedelia in equal measure. Thereby straddling the fine line between weird and fascinating, intellectual and accessible, pretentious and cool, they’re a perilously odd bunch and all the more loveable for it. ‘Gooey’, their latest single, is a pop song like no other: catchy, yes, but subtly disorienting, and certainly peculiar.

The group has come a long way in quite a long period of time. As it transpires, they all met way back, aged 13 at secondary school, bonding over a shared love for Paul Epworth-produced guitar bands (the Rakes, Bloc Party, the Futureheads). But they only became a serious thing after university. Playing their first gig at Oxford’s legendary Jericho Tavern in 2012 (as did Radiohead 20 years before) and following heaps of on-line buzz surrounding early tracks, they were the first (and still, only) band to be signed to now super-producer Epworth’s Wolf Tone imprint.

With his backing, Glass Animals are set to release wonderfully titled and much anticipated debut album ‘ZABA’ in June, but it’s preceded by the ‘Gooey’ EP, which is out next week (April 7th). Planet Notion has the world premiere of the Gilligan Moss remix of the title-track tomorrow.

Before that, here’s what psychiatry-obsessed lead singer Dave Bayley had to say when we asked him some questions.

Planet Notion: You’ve just got back from the States. How did the SXSW crowds react to Glass Animals?
Dave Bayley: SXSW was mad. Everyone seemed up for having a great time and dancing around to some bass music. They were the most fun shows yet. And the weather was ace. Drew [Macfarlane, keyboards] pretty much melted.

PN: Did you catch any cool shows?
DB: Yeah, we caught some wicked shows… Empress Of and Bo Ningen, who are insane live, and 2 Chainz of course. He was only wearing one chain though, which was quite disappointing.

PN: Your new single ‘Gooey’ has some marvellous lyrics (NB “You just wanna know those peanut butter vibes”). How do you actually go about writing?
DB: Lyrics tend to come all at once, in a sort of stream of consciousness. I normally have the basic chords and vocal melody in my head, and it just spins around in my head for a few days or so, till I get an idea for a story that suits the song. And then the lyrics just kind of rush out. That usually happens at the most random and annoying times, and I just have to drop what I’m doing and hunt down a pen and paper. I’ll tweak and edit them a bit after, but for the most part they come all at once.

PN: The video is pretty odd. What did you make of that interpretation of the song?
DB: It suits the song well. The song is about all sorts of things, but has a thread of naivety, playfulness and youthfulness and the video is constantly referencing that. At the same time, it managed to find something much more sexual in the song than we intended, which is what I love about other people’s interpretations. There’s no right interpretation.

PN: You guys write songs in your woodland retreat, The Shed, don’t you?
DB: Yes. I’m not certain why it’s there to be honest.

PN: Describe it to us.
DB: It’s in the middle of nowhere, near Joe’s house. It looks like an old horse stable but I’m pretty sure there have never been any horses inside of it as there was an old white board inside and a model railway. Horses don’t tend to use those things. Joe asked the people who own the land if we could take it over and they said yeah so we ditched the model trains and replaced them with instruments.

PN: It’s clear you’re heavily influenced by hip hop.
DB: I grew up in a weird town in Texas. Actually, I told a cab driver where I was from when we were at SXSW in Austin, and he said, “what the hell! I’m so sorry…” But I didn’t think it was so bad.  There was lots of space to do kid things like jump and spin around. Anyway, there were only two radio stations there: one that played Nickelback and one that played gangsta rap. So, since Nickelback made me feel a bit sick even then, when I was 12, I tuned into the other station every day and listened to Dr Dre and Snoop and Tupac. Joe [Seaward, drummer] also listened to quite a lot of rap growing up and we bonded over that.

PN: So, how did Paul Epworth get in touch with you?
DB: His name was on a guest-list at our first London show. We didn’t think it was actually going to be him. But it was, and we had a drink after, and he told us about his label, Wolf Tone. Then, a couple weeks later we all went to see FlyLo together and he said he wanted to sign us.

PN: In what ways has Epworth improved what you do?
DB: He was fundamental in getting the best out of us during the recording sessions. He took quite a backseat role and only poked his head into the studio every once in a while, but he really pushed us to not be afraid of anything. Our initial recordings, pre-Wolf Tone, were quite tame and subdued. Paul made us feel comfortable with being wilder and really experimenting.

PN: How does your debut album, ‘ZABA’, expand on what we’ve heard so far?
DB: It’s bigger and louder in parts. As I was saying, it’s less tame, and rawer. It feels like quite a step on from what has been released thus far. It’s very hard for me to tell how, as I’m so involved in the process of making it, but that’s how it feels.

PN: Finally, please tell us a deep, dark and gooey secret that relatively few people know about (one of) Glass Animals.
DB: Oh, I know some good ones. One Glass Animal is obsessed with System of a Down. His nickname at school was ‘goth kid’. I’m not saying who. It could be me. It’s not me.

- Huw Oliver

Glass Animals release the Gooey EP on April 7th 2014. You can download the single here!

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