Glass Animals Interview.
Glass Animals is an English indie rock band. Drummer Joe Seaward recently discussed the formation of Glass Animals, how playing live helps songs evolve and the creative process of making an album. For more info on Glass Animals, check out http://glassanimals.eu/
What first got you, got you interested in playing music? What was your earliest musical memory?
I have no idea what my first musical memory was. My dad was a musician when he was young. Music’s really been a part of my life, I think, at an early age, but I don’t think I ever thought about things seriously until like the band started. It just never occurred to me that something like that was possible. I’ve never really given it much thought. Music that like changed my life, there’s a guy called Tom Vek.
Yeah, he’s awesome.
Yeah, British guy. He made his first record when he was really young and made it in his dad’s basement inside his garage. He recorded all the instruments by himself and just made it, a complete DIY record. I found it when I was 12 years old or something. It just completely blew my mind and that changed the way I thought about music. I never really thought about how music was made or why it was made. The idea that one kid could do that by himself, it resonated with me. It wasn’t a huge record in the U.K., but it was quite a culty thing. I think that was the first thing that really changed the way I thought about music. He’s like a hero of mine, but no one really has a clue who he is. I guess that was responsible for changing my expectation of music.
How old were you when you first started writing songs?
As a group?
Twenty one or twenty two, when the first demos started getting made. We were all friends, from the age about 13 onwards. We would listen to music together, we didn’t sing music together and music was one of the reasons why we became friends. We never really made music until Dave wrote a couple of demos and played them to us one holiday. We were like “Wow, this is really cool.” He asked us if we wanted to be in a band, which we said yes to, but didn’t really think very much of it. It was kind of like the token gesture, we were like, “Sure whatever you have sounds fun but, you know, whatever.” Then, it became really serious quite fast. It was halfway through our university careers. We were about twenty one or twenty two.
Did you guys start off with demos and start fleshing them out? How did your process start?
That’s Dave. Dave wrote the first two demos completely by himself. I didn’t even know that that was happening. It was just something that he’d be doing in the middle of the night. We went to school together, but then went to university in different places, so I didn’t know what he’d been doing. He just came and played me these two songs, which he’d completely done by himself. He wrote the whole thing by himself, produced it by himself, played guitar in it and all that. The process changed after that, but he’ll come out with a beginning of a song. I think the best way of describing it is that he plants the seed and then grows the plant into a sapling. The band comes along and turn that sapling into a tree. It’s that kind of thing. He comes up with this sort of skeleton, and then it gets built on, changed and adapted. We play it live, and sometimes that makes a difference. There’s lots of different ways of doing it, but there’s no sort of right or wrong way of doing it. It always changes.
Songs are always changing and growing.
Yeah, of course. When you play the songs live, they have a completely new life. They grow then too. When you start playing stuff live, it always grows and changes. Someone played some of our songs for us. We were in a record store the other day and it was playing on the radio. I was listening to it, on the sound system, in the place. I was listening to one of the songs, and I was, like, “Wow, I haven’t listened to it in so long. This song sounds so different to what I’m used to.” I don’t listen to the recording. Basically, that would drive me up the wall, you know? I hear the songs enough. Hearing the recorded version of the song was really surprising. It’s different, which is great. I really like that idea.
Well, because you’re so focused on digging into the nuances of a song right? Yeah, it is just like the structures and stuff change, the nuances. There are little things, like the way Dave sings the vocal changes. The way the rhythmical things, drums and percussion, changes to fit a live environment. Some of it gets bigger and louder and some of them are quieter. Even just the structures of them, there are holes in places where there aren’t in the record and stuff. It’s great, because we don’t play the same things. If you have to play the same version of the song everyday, good luck to you. I’d go completely nuts.
You’ve got to keep it interesting for yourself.
Yeah, I think that’s important. If I walk onstage and look like I’m bored, then chances are people in the audience are going to be pretty bored too. It’s really important to keep it interesting and keep us on our toes as much as anything else.
Absolutely. Do you try to change up the set list every night, or do you pretty much stick with the same set list?
There are a couple things that are set in stone. There are a few songs that are really great to end with, and there’s a few songs that are good to keep in the middle to keep energy up. The answer is no, it’s not the same every night. It’s one of those things where it would be ideal if there was a perfect set order. It would actually be quite helpful for us, but we haven’t come across it yet. It’s always changing. There are a couple that we always mess around with starting with and there are a couple that we mess around with ending with. There’s quite a lot of scope for change. It’s one of those things that actually doesn’t make that much difference to how exciting a set is for me. I don’t think like, “Wow, this is really cool playing this song second instead of seventh.”
Like that’d really make a difference, but it actually can make a massive difference to how a crowd feels. If you start with a slammy intro that takes people completely by the balls and drags them through the set, you can make an show different, instead of starting really gently. You can kind of toy with people’s expectations and stuff and that is interesting.
Yeah, that idea of shifting dynamics of a set list.
Exactly, you want to keep things moving. You want to sort of shock people, take the tempo down a bit then just come in with a really fast loud, massive baseline. It takes people by surprise and that’s always really fun. It gets a much better reaction than having four slow songs in a row and then three fast songs in a row. Mixing up is cool for that reason.
That comes down to digging into the songs too.
Yeah, of course.
Your album, Zaba, is awesome. I love the way you guys use so many different textures. You guys don’t sound like anyone else.
Thanks dude, yeah. People often say, “It sounds like this, it reminds me of this.” I think that it’s almost impossible in this day and age to make music that’s listenable that sounds unlike anything else on the planet. Ttechnology isn’t moving as fast as the amount of music that’s being made now. It’s like there was a period of time where people were inventing new kinds of synthesizers and programs online and programs on computers and stuff. The amount of stuff that was possible was expanding faster than the amount of people doing it.
It was just an explosion of new kinds of music. The accessibility of being able to make music is actually bigger than the scope for making something new. So, to make something that sounds unlike anything else anyone’s ever made is very, very hard. Inevitably, you end up with things that can remind you of other things. I can see why people say, “Oh, it sounds just like this other band who I really like.” It makes it easy. We live in an age where you have Spotify or you have iTunes. When you listen to a song, it says, “Why don’t you try this song?” I find that really helpful when I’m listening to Spotify and somebody says, “Why don’t you listen to this band you’ve never heard of?” I’ll listen to it, sometimes they’re amazing and that’s really brilliant. I’m glad it sounds different from other things, but I think that’s really positive. It just sounds like us to me, you know?
Yeah, absolutely. You’ve grown and changed with the sound too. I think people try to pigeonhole artists and sounds based on convenience. That’s not how you do it, you know? It’s your thing.
Yeah. Describing our music, it’s really strange. People say, “What do you think you sound like?” It’s an impossible question to answer. It’s like me saying, “What do you think you look like? What does your face look like? Describe your face to me.”
You’ve seen your face every single day of your life. You can say, “Ok, I’ve got a nose and brown eyes, eyebrows and ears.” Actually distinguishing those features from anything else is really hard. You’re so close to it, because it’s yours. You stop being able to see why it’s different.
You’re so close to your own face everyday, you know?
I couldn’t possibly get you to draw what my face looks like. Even if I gave you the features of what my face looks like, and you drew a picture, it wouldn’t look anything like my face. When people say, “It sounds a bit like this,” that’s kind of a good thing. If it helps people to be excited by it or interested in it. That’s why that kind of thing doesn’t really bother me too much.
Yeah, that makes sense. You’re coming to Kansas City. I’m excited to see you live, to see where you take the songs and how they shift live. Growing up, what were some of your favorite live shows you’ve seen?
I’m really picky. I went to Flying Lotus and it was really disappointing, He’s like one of my favorite musicians ever. I absolutely love his music. We went to see him and it was just a sort of DJ set. I found that really disappointing. Equally, I went to see Radiohead, who are also one of my favorite bands, a few years ago at in this football stadium, in Milan. It was on the In Rainbows tour, and it was one of the most amazing things that I’ve ever seen. The light show, the performance, the crowd, the atmosphere, everything about it, it was just like in a different league. It was just completely amazing.
They’re one of those bands too, where they do things on their own terms. Yeah. It’s just one of those things that, individually, they are such great musicians. Collectively, they’re greater than the sum of their parts, which are amazing anyways. It’s another level of musician, like, musicianship and performing. It doesn’t look like tired at all, or anything like that. They’re doing it for the sake of it. They’re doing it, because that’s what they love. It feels like that. I think they’re one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live.
Do you guys try out new songs on the road as well? Are you still digging into this album?
We haven’t really had the moment to think about new stuff for awhile. We’ve had festival season in the U.K., which is pretty relentless.
Yeah, because it’s just so many back-to-back, right?
Yeah, exactly. We finished the record at the end of last year. It’s quite a creatively draining process, making a record. Going into the process, I had no idea quite how exhausted I would be by the end. I think we’re probably coming off the back of that, just feeling like for the next couple of months it would be nice not to have to think about anything and just recharge batteries. I think that’s kinda coming to a close. New things are being fiddled with now for the first time for a while, but it hasn’t got to a stage where we’ve been experimenting onstage. I’m sure that will come.
Yeah. It’s easy to get burned out having to deal with every single nuance of making an album.
Yeah. It’s a serious process. I absolutely loved making the record, but it was one of those things where I came out the other side of it and really felt like that was an intense period of time,
What did you feel was so intense, just like the creative drain of it?
Just like being in such confined space. Making a record is such a strong objective, with a desire to make it as good as it could be and get things right. It’s just such a focused thing. In most other walks of my life, you don’t have to focus on one thing. If you are having a problem with a friend of yours, then you can think about what your going to have for dinner. When you finish cooking dinner, you can think about something completely different. When we were making the record, there was the record and there was nothing else. We weren’t playing live, we had no social lives. We were in the studio for six weeks and we needed to do that one thing. There wasn’t very much distraction.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. I loved it. Being with your friends and in an amazing space. At the time, I didn’t realize quite how exhausting it was. It was after, it was when we finished, and I could actually do other things. I thought, “Oh my God.” It was a relief. Really tiring, in a good way, not in a bad way.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s having that complete deadline and a complete focus. You can’t turn it off, you’ve got a set deadline.
Yeah, exactly. We’d get into the studio at 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning and leave at 3:00 at night. You don’t leave, you don’t go out and have a drink. You might have dinner together. It was very intense.