The success of Glass Animals’ 2014 debut album, Zaba, is, in the words of fellow British rocker Nigel Tufnel, a mystery that's "best to leave...unsolved." Through a curious blend of tribal percussion, casually psychedelic lyrics and a transverse connection to both modern rock and electronica, Glass Animals achieves an impressive sonic iconography. Its style is unique and recognizable, and with upcoming album How To Be a Human Being, the band proves not to be a fluke.
Rather than falling in line with the pop-washed and exhaustive appropriation of genres, Glass Animals combines a few unusual sublunary musical influences to create a sound that is primal and different. Beats ranging from glacial to urgent in tempo bait fluid synths and bewitching vocals. The result is an atmosphere of revelry, one that is trippy, green and playfully sordid.
Indeed, the not-yet-released LP maintains Glass Animals’ propensity for percussive rampage and cerebral passage, but more important, it sounds like a lot of fun. Organic, playful and vulnerable, How to Be a Human Being proves Glass Animals' staying power.
The band hails from Oxford, also home to Radiohead, Foals, Stornoway and J.R. R. Tolkien. So what is it about the small town in southern England that produces such far-reaching creatives?
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On whether he suspects Oxford University has anything to do with the town's notably creative exports, Glass Animals drummer Joe Seaward is unconvinced. "[Oxford] University is weird. It's its own little thing. When uni is not in term, it becomes hush, not many people in town...lots of greenery, it's a very beautiful place, inspiring in a lot of ways, lots of space.
As for the creativity, "No idea. Maybe it's something in the water...."
Glass Animals is Seaward and his mates' first band, and they aren't taking their sudden success for granted. With true-to-form English modesty, Seaward confesses, "We have genuinely got no idea what's going on most of the time, which is kind of cool because you don't have any expectations. And none of us had ever been in a band before, never been on tour."
Laughing slightly at himself, Seaward continues, "This whole thing is a bit surreal, to be honest."
The band started as a hardworking local act, touring smaller venues in their home town. On the beginnings of their popularity, Seaward explains, "I think the thing that was interesting [about Glass Animals] is it was never really force-fed. It was never super-hyped, never on the radio. We never had any press."
("Life Itself," below, is the first single from the upcoming sophomore release How to Be a Human Being.)
Seaward attributes the dissemination of Glass Animals' distinctive sound to a dedicated early fan following. "It was this thing that spread through word of mouth, so it was theirs," Seaward explains. "It was the people coming to the shows. They did really feel ownership of the music, because it was theirs. They found it. They told their friends about it. They really wanted you to be there, which makes it really gratifying."
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Although they now play larger venues, Seaward admits they face smaller-band problems. "Sometimes you're playing the main stage at a festival, only to see ten rows of people who want to see whoever's playing after you! The challenge from our perspective is to hook people who don't know who we are and are just people who care about music."
Glass Animals is also known for being visually arousing, which will make the group's daytime show at Red Rocks a challenge. "I think the daylight thing is interesting; you can't get fog and stuff," Seaward says. "I hope that we'll bring enough excitement and energy to the stage that it won't matter."
Glass Animals performs at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Wednesday, July 20, with Portugal. The Man.