Glass Animals work out How To Be a Human at Bestival

Glass Animals. Picture by Neil Krug
Glass Animals. Picture by Neil Krug
Gerry Cunningham and Rachel Kane at the 2017 Isle of Wight Festival

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The numbers for Oxford’s Glass Animals are quite impressive. Their 2014 debut Zaba has racked up 250m streams on Spotify, making them the second most streamed band in the world in 2015, and it sold more than 500,000 copies.

The four-piece also had considerable success in America and have spent a lot of time out there touring.

But now, with second album How To Be a Human Being out a week ago, it seems their homeland is starting to pay more attention too – its first single Life Itself spent four weeks on the all-important Radio1 A-list playlist.

Drummer Joe Seaward tells WOW247: ‘It’s all kind of happening at the moment which is really exciting, particularly in England in a way that things weren’t before.’

What about the success in America?

‘It’s been an amazing thing, but also something that we’ve had to get our heads around a bit. This (England) is where we grew up and the world I understand – things like 6Music and Radio1. The cultural significance of stuff in America isn’t the same to me.

‘When I hear our songs on the radio here, I know what it means. Or when I go to these venues we’ll be playing at on tour, I’ve seen gigs at The Roundhouse, I graduated at the Brighton Dome – all of these places and things mean more to me in some ways.

‘Everything that’s happened in America has been utterly mind-blowing and very exciting, I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it’s more gratifying with things now happening here that my friends and family can get a flavour of why I haven’t been around much for the past couple of years, and that’s quite a cool thing.’

Things have moved quickly for the band – after finishing touring Zaba, frontman Dave Bayley headed literally straight into the studio.

‘Zaba came out summer 2014 and we toured that until December last year, so it was quite a long time.

‘We came off that last tour, Dave got off the airport, in a cab and into the studio in London because he had all of these ideas he wanted to get out of his head on to a computer.

‘He came back to us with about 10-11 demos in 10 days. By the end of May we had written everything, recorded it, mastered it and done all the artwork.

‘We had all this stuff bubbling – what Dave had essentially done, we had this idea of making a record about people, and what he’d done was created these characters and wrote out this really detailed plan about each person that the song was about, where it was set, what colour their eyes, were, were they married, what newspaper did the read, what were their fetishes.

‘There were these huge character documents that he came up with, so we had a very clear idea of who we were writing a song about.

‘It was happening so fast that we didn’t think about needing a break. It felt really fun and quite efficient, in a weird way that we’ve never experienced before.

‘We’ve been very lucky, and we’ve been able to work with people who’ve given us this slightly mad artistic licence to run with this idea and bring it all to life.

‘In my head I can’t remember what I originally thought it was all going to look and sound like because what we’ve actually come up with is even better.’

But don’t call it a concept album...

‘That was never something that occurred to us,’ says Joe. ‘To me a concept album is something almost like a film, where each song tells part of the story.

‘For us there was this idea, that we’d met all these fascinating people and heard their stories, each song on the record has nothing to do with the others, you can take Mamma’s Gun or Agnes and listen to it out of context and it won’t mean any less. They’re like little vignettes.

They were signed to super-producer Paul Epworth’s label Lone Wolf, and although Dave produced the album, Epworth was still around to lend a guiding hand.

‘We saw a lot of him because we were in his studio. We went there with the songs written - he was around, but not in a producer role, he’s more like an A&R guy to us, he was throwing advice in and then he’d disappear and do his thing. He’d wander in and out. To have someone like him being the person giving the advice is pretty cool.

‘The reason the four of us are friends is because we used to hang out in Oxford and listen to music and go to gigs, and most of the music we liked he produced – The Futureheads, Maximo Park, Bloc Party, LCD Soundsystem.

‘If someone else came in and suggested: “Why not try snapping the song in half and doing this?” We’d be like: “What are you talking about?” But with Paul, it’s: “Maybe we’ll listen to him”.

‘It’s coming from a place with a lot of trust and respect.

You can see for yourself when the band help open this year’s Bestival on Thursday night in the big top with Hot Chip.

‘We did Bestival just after Zaba came out and it was really good fun,’ Joe adds.

‘I’ve never been as a fan, but people seemed to be having a good time as far as I could see – lots of people wandering around in fancy dress.

‘It’s a cool festival.’

Bestival, The Isle of Wight

Thursday, September 8

bestival.net