FESTIVAL SEASON 2017: GLASS ANIMALS @ AUSTIN CITY LIMITS
Glass Animals have no chill. I came to this conclusion not during our Austin City Limits interview, but later that night when they took the stage. See, they were deceptively relaxed during our photo shoot- lying down on lounge chairs and letting our photographer frame their heads with dandelions. But that all changed just a few hours later as they shared an explosive performance with fans who, too, may have felt equally deceived.
The indie rock quartet consisting of Dave Bayley, Joe Seaward, Drew MacFarlane, and Edmund Irwin-Singer have often been mistaken for an electronic outfit instead of a band, and their lead singer and guitarist has even had his voice mistaken for that of a lady’s (but more on that later).
We caught up with Dave Bayley at Austin City Limits to discuss armies of fans, the sanctity of tiny sweaty venues, and how stories the band heard on the road became their latest album, How to Be a Human Being, as well as a strained social commentary on how the world we live in impacts our character.
Your set isn’t until later on today, right?
Yeah so we have a little time for it to get a little cooler but… probably not. We didn’t play last week. We get a one weekend get-out-of-jail-free card or something like that.
That’s good then, it’ll make you more in demand, it means that more people have to come see you.
Weird. I think it’ll be fun. Austin City Limits is always fun.
If you had to compare sets like the one you’re playing tonight at ACL and sets at smaller/more intimate venues, which shows would be your favorite?
They’re all good in different types of ways. Intimate venues have this type of energy because you’re right there, you can see people, the whites of their eyes, everyone sweats on each other, and it’s cool and raw and nice. And then those big stages, you walk out and see that many people, and you’re like ‘holy shit’ – it’s a different type of energy. The human body isn’t really meant to see that many people at once. I think in history the only times people ever saw crowds that size was when they were seeing an opposing army, so the initial gut instinct is to fucking run.
I’ve never thought of it that way. It’s like you versus thousands.
You’re outnumbered. But once you get over that, it’s fine.
Comparing your first album campaign to touring for your sophomore album, is there a marked difference? Do you feel like fans are reacting to the music differently?
Venues have definitely gotten bigger which is really really nice. It definitely adds to the volume of energy in the room like we were kind of talking about. When you have that many people in a room, when you have a quiet moment it feels really quiet. If you have a tense moment and everyone feels tense, it feels really tense. You can do a bit more of that kinda stuff and bring a little more variation into the set. In those smaller rooms, you just go full-on high energy the whole time. I think with the bigger shows, bigger venues, the new album’s worked well because it has some really quiet moments in it, you can really sense the moments.
Do you feel like it took the first album to have a little bit more confidence when having those quiet moments while you’re on stage? Does it give you confidence like– ‘we did this before, we can do this again’?
Kind of. I mean, we had no idea what we were doing making that first record – and we still really have no idea what we’re doing. Ultimately, it never gave us confidence, it made us feel like we could just have fun again and make whatever we want and hopefully it will go OK again.
Do you think making music gets easier as you move past your first EPs and album and create your discography, or harder since you’re trying to push against doing the same thing again?
Well, you always have to kind of push yourself. Even with the first record you push yourself to the best of your ability at that time and do something that’s hopefully new and interesting and not your standard three chord pop stuff that’s on mainstream radio. We always put that pressure on ourselves, and I think hopefully we always will. When we stop putting that pressure on ourselves is probably when we’ll make really shit music.
When people walk away from your set today, what message do you want them to leave with?
I want them to forget how hot it is, that’s the main thing. That’s it. I think we’re going to have fun today. We’ll watch the crowds a bit today and see what the vibe is like, then choose our set list. We don’t do the setlist far in advance, so it’s not the same show every day. It’s quite reactive to the crowd which is nice, it keeps us on our toes. A lot of people obviously don’t know our music, especially at festivals. Often it’s the first time people have heard what we do. I think people are surprised sometimes that it’s a band. Some people think it’s an electronic thing, some people think I’m a lady cause my voice is quite high when I sing. So I think people are like ‘oh it’s a band and it’s live, that’s cool’; there’s no backing tracks for us.
So, the world is in a crazy place right now. From where you’re standing, what do you hope your music does in times of turmoil, fear, and worry?
With the first record, the idea was to kind of have a little holiday. It takes you to another world, a totally different world. With the new album, it’s weirdly meant to be a mixture of that and a kind of strained social commentary. It’s all different characters on the record, each song is a different character. I guess you can either get lost in their personal stories and kind of become those characters for a bit; like we made websites for each of them and you can really get stuck into who these people are. So you can kind of escape from reality, hopefully, be someone else for a bit and get a glimpse of someone else’s life. Also, if you want to look past it, I think what we learned– I was hearing a lot of stories on the road and people were telling me stories, and you realize on the surface it’s a little story, a little tale – sometimes it’s creepy sometimes it’s sad – but a lot of the time ultimately it’s saying something about the world they live in and the state of here. The state of America a lot of the time, because we spend so much time here. So yeah, there are layers to the new record that I don’t know if the first record had.
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