With their soulfully sung vocals, R&B beats, electronic structures and gentle percussions, GLASS ANIMALS crept up on us like warm sunrays through an ice-frosted window. Their intelligent and inventive sounds caught our attention by way of their 2012 release Leaflings and the brilliantly eccentric Glass Animals EP. Becoming the first signees of Paul Epworth’s new label, Wolf Tone, their highly anticipated debut album Zaba is set to drop in June. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION sat down with singer Dave and drummer Joe and chatted all manner of silly things including how incredibly inconvenient it would be to have fingers the size of legs.
Hey guys, pleasure to meet you. So, how’s it been working with Paul Epworth?
Dave: It’s been a dream. When we were younger, we grew up listening to the records he produced: BLOC PARTY, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, THE KILLS, THE FUTUREHEADS…
You’re in good company then.
Dave: Yeah…! We followed his trajectory and then he showed up at one of our shows.
Joe: We saw his name on the guest list before the show and we were like ‘Holy cow, this is massively not cool, to know before going on stage.’ (laughs) He took us for a drink afterwards; he’s a really lovely man. He told us about the label he was going to set up.
Dave: It wasn’t that long ago, maybe this time last year? May, last year yeah.
So how was the recording process with him? I read something about you holding a pineapple?
Dave: Yeah, I don’t know if he was there for that, I was just doing that for fun (laughs) It was really good, he’s a really great producer, he knows how to make everyone feel really relaxed and push you out of your comfort zone so you’re not just regurgitating ideas but coming up with new ones and trying things out – even if they don’t work.
Have you felt a shift from the EP to the LP because of him?
Joe: I think for me, his greatest asset is not necessarily, musically, what he’s capable of doing but it’s more like what he allows you to feel like you can do. He’s a very serious manager; he makes you feel like you can create things. The first hour we were all terrified and in about fifteen minutes we were all relaxed and ready to do things, and that’s what he, as a human being, enabled. He made us question the music we were making, he didn’t force us to change it, he basically made us think about our music in a different way and he tried to show us that if you follow this path with this song you might go somewhere you wouldn’t have gone if you went the other way and we’d always been going that way. If we hadn’t gone that way, we would’ve never known. Having someone outside, with a different perspective was really cool.
Would you say there’s a concept behind the album?
Dave: Well, the whole idea was to… I love those records that you can put on and listen to from start to finish and they keep you in an alternate universe for the hour, like PINK FLOYD’s Dark Side Of the Moon is the ultimate example of that; you put it on and it keeps you in outer space for an hour. The idea is to have something like that but all the songs blend into each other and fit into a similar soundscape and take you through a series of episodes within the same alternate world.
Before you started working together, what was your musical experience? How did you realise that you have that sort of voice inside you? It’s very unique and expressive.
Dave: Under a blanket actually. I’d made these little demos and I played them to Drew who’s our guitarist and he basically said ‘You’ve got to sing’ but I didn’t want to so I hid under a blanket. That’s how the first couple of tracks were made. I didn’t really realise anything; it was Drew who realised.
But now you feel good singing?
Dave: Now I feel a lot more comfortable. Y’know, I’m still a bit shy but I’m over it enough to perform.
So here the question we try to ask in all our interviews: how would you describe your sound to a deaf person?
Dave: This isn’t gonna come across well on an interview but maybe like (pulls his arms in strange directions); I don’t know.
Joe: This is like the hardest question to answer.
Dave: What would you draw them a picture of?
Joe: It’s like asking me to describe your face. There’s a nose, and two eyes…. It’s really difficult. When you’re inside something as much as we’re inside this, it’s really hard to describe, like I don’t know how anyone else would react to it because I’ve been in it so much, I’ve stopped hearing what it sounds like to other people.
Dave: Last time we were in Berlin, John from some label described as what?
Joe: He was this big Canadian dude and he was like ‘It’s cool, man, it’s just blowing my mind, it’s watching DR. DRE being performed by four white kids from Oxford.’
Dave: That’s how we’d described it.
Joe: (thinks a lot) But they wouldn’t know what DRE sounds like either.
Dave: Oh, yeah (laughs) Tricky question!
Let’s go for something slighter easier, what inspirations can you list?
Dave: There’s a wide range of stuff. I grew up on a lot of old soul music, like NINA SIMONE and OTIS REDDING. When I’m writing songs I always listen to those guys, I love how they write vocal lines and construct songs and chords. After listening to my parents’ record collection, I listened to the radio, I lived in America and there were two radio stations in my tiny town, one that played NICKELBACK and made me feel pretty sick and the other one played DR. DRE and 2Pac. I listened to that from eleven to fifteen. Then I came to Oxford and met you guys and you were all listening to cool guitar music.