Glass Animals released their debut full length album Zaba earlier this year to much critical acclaim. They have been on tour for the better part of 2014 and will be coming through Atlanta for the first time next week on Thursday, Dec. 4 to The Loft at Center Stage. We got to chat with lead vocalist and songwriter Dave Bayley, an Oxford native who draws his inspiration for songwriting largely from his studies and interest in the world of medicine of neuroscience.
What was the deciding factor to pursue music over medicine?
I guess a few things, one is that I was totally and utterly addicted to making music, I just really like doing it and couldn’t stop myself and the other thing is that the further I got into medical school I realized that it’s not quite the career I thought it was. I think there’s still certain specialties where it’s still really interesting, you get to speak to patients, but for the most part it turned into a lot of paperwork and I don’t really like that.
What sort of medicine were you wanting to pursue?
I think I probably would have done psychiatry, just because it’s the part of medicine that is still kind of a bit untouched, and you get to meet a lot of very interesting people.
How much of a role does music play in the world of science and vice versa?
There are obviously people doing all sorts of studies, and this is from the psychiatric background that I came from where people were studying the effects of music on the brain, and it’s amazing how powerful music can be to some people. There are people who find it really difficult to coordinate movements, but as soon as they start listening to music, they find that they can do anything – they can tie their shoes, they can put their clothes on. So yeah there are all sorts of studies being done on music in the medical world. In terms of our music, I met a lot of interesting people when I was trying to be a psychiatrist and I had a lot of really crazy stories from people, so it definitely contributed to the lyrics. A lot of the stories I tell in the lyrics I draw from from all those things that I heard.
What musicians inspire your music?
Lots of them, I guess if I go back to when I first started listening to music it was my Mum and Dad’s record collection. My Dad’s collection was mainly kind of psychedelic rock music and other, mostly 60’s/80’s bands, so Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, Jimmy Hendrix, late Beatles. My Mum was more into old soul music like Nina Simone, Otis Redding, so I started listening to that and I still love all of those bands, especially Otis Redding and Nina Simone are two of my favorites of all time. So that’s definitely there, and I started to listening to a lot of hip hop when I was a bit older, maybe about 10. I grew up in Texas for a bit and it was a really tiny pocket, and there were two radio stations – one of them played terrible country music that I didn’t really like and the other one played like Dr. Dre, Snoop, Timbaland, Kanye and JayZ and things like that.
If you could only listen to 3 albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?
That’s hard, and they probably change every day but… I’d go for The Strokes Room On Fire, and then I’d go for Can, they have a record called Tago Mago that I really love, and then I have to choose a hip hop record…let’s go for Illmatic by Nas, a fantastic record.
You’ve talked about the importance of creating a coherent record. What is it about a coherent album that you think is important?
I mean I don’t know if it’s ‘important,’ I just like the album as an art form. I think you get a lot more from an entire album then you can get from individual singles. You can create a kind of an atmosphere and a story; it’s more like a novel as opposed to an article. It can have themes and threads and it can actually take someone through quite an extensive journey through lots of different emotions. I think an album that does that really effectively is Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd. You put it on at the start and it just takes you through this like roller coaster through space and then you kind of snap out an hour later when it’s finished and it’s taken you through all different emotions. It’s taken you through a completely different land for a little bit.
Describe your songwriting process. How much of it is collaborative with your bandmates?
Actually the collaboration part starts quite far down the line. I do most of the writing late at night when I’m at home; I’m normally trying to go to bed and I’ll have an idea which is really annoying because I just want to go to sleep. I have a little guitar that I bought for like 5 pounds sitting next to my bed and I have a little recorder just in case that ever happens, but I just kind of roll over on my bed and start recording ideas. And I tend to know if it’s a good idea if more ideas keep coming and then I’ll just end up spending the whole night recording and I’ll end up with a kind of soundscape. Then I’ll take it to the band and I’ll get them to play all the drum parts I sketched out and the keyboard parts I sketched out and they’ll add their own personal flare to it.
Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
Anything, I guess. All sorts of weird things run through people’s heads at night, especially when they’re tired. All the other logical parts in their head turn off and start thinking about weird things you’ve never thought of before. Everything, stories that I’ve heard are definitely a big influence.
What’s the craziest or most interesting thing that’s happened so far on your tour?
There’s been quite a few weird things…I had my shoes stolen off the stage which was pretty annoying, and they started a Twitter account.
Off the stage?!
Yeah they took them right off the stage, we finished playing so we left and they stole my shoes and drum sticks and all sorts of stuff, but mainly my shoes was the most annoying thing because I didn’t have any other shoes. They made a Twitter account called GlassAnimalShoes and sent me pictures of them holding my shoes and dropped them off a bridge and stuff, but eventually I found them because we were in Dublin and they sent a picture of the bar that they were at, and I found my shoes! I’m wearing them right now.
So they survived, your shoes?
They survived, they were scared for a bit but they’re alright.
What’s the biggest artistic difference between recording an album and performing it live?
In the studio there are no rules, there are no boundaries. You can just record as many layers as you want, you can make a noise with anything you want, which is literally anything – be it like you throw a cup against a wall and record that as your snare drum, but yeah just zero rules. But when you do a live setup there are only four of us, so there’s a limitation there already, there’s a rule there already, and you can’t bring certain things on tour with you, so you definitely have to limit yourself quite a lot with what equipment you have, how many people you have and then there’s all sorts of things – the lights, the context, if you’re playing to an audience you have to work with that crowd and get a vibe of the crowd. If it’s like a late night crowd and everyone’s taking lots of ecstasy then you can’t really play the songs that you play on the record because people probably want to dance, so you have to pick the tempos up, pick up the bass, make the drums a bit louder. Yeah it’s very different, you’re not thinking about making an album where people will probably be listening at home in their living room with headphones on.
What can we expect from your show at The Loft?
It should be fun, I’m looking forward to it. I think people will see songs a little bit different live, totally recognizable, I hope, but we do have fun with them. We try to read the crowd, and if they’re up for dancing we’ll have a big ol’ dance party, see what happens. Maybe we’ll do a cover, actually, because a lot comes from Atlanta…Outkast, maybe we’ll do an Outkast cover.
That would be sweet.
That would be pretty sweet, we’ll work on that. I also know a few musicians in Atlanta, so we might get a couple features, actually, that’d be cool. Hopefully we’ll get some of them up on stage with us.
See Glass Animals live at The Loft on Thursday, Dec. 4. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 day of show. Doors open at 8pm.