2014 was a heck of a year for Oxford quartet Glass Animals. Fresh out of medical school, front man Dave Bayley and his three friends released their debut album “Zaba” on Paul Epworth’s (Adele, Florence and the Machine) new label Wolf Tone. The 11 track album was named after Dave’s favourite story book as a child – William Steig’s “The Zabajaba Jungle”. XYZ’s Léo Rahban caught up with Dave to find out more about this bunch of students turned international electro-pop hip-hop soft psychedelic band, Dave’s initial problems with singing, their single “Gooey” being the second most streamed viral track on Spotify and what could possibly go wrong when you walk on stage for your first ever headlining gig…
Hi Dave, what are you up today?
I’m doing a lot of drawing. Drawing all sorts of crazy things to go on stage during the upcoming tour.
If I understand correctly, insomnia is the reason you’re in a band now? (Laughs) I think you are probably right! I ended up having all this spare time as I couldn’t sleep, and I started listening to music to try to get to sleep. I thought about Djing at first but it requires money and you’re playing other people’s music. That sort of spiralled out of control into trying to make my own music.
Did you or your three friends – now bandmates – know anything about music before this album? Not really, it’s all pretty much been a huge learning process! I knew nothing about making music, it was our first time in a recording studio. The guys knew how to play instruments when they were younger – two of them were already good instrumentalists. But Joe could hardly play drums and I never sang before the band!
You had problems singing at first, how do you feel about it now? I feel a bit more confident, but I am still nervous about it. I have learned to not really think about it. It’s not a self belief that I can sing, and it doesn’t really matter if I can’t sing, I’ve got to do it anyway!
How would you describe your music? I am the worst person to ask, it’s really difficult for me. It’s like describing your own personality, I’m so close to creating it that for me it just sounds like, me.
The album title “ZABA” comes from children’s book William Steig’s “The Zabajaba Jungle”. Would you describe yourself as a big kid? I think I definitely was whilst making this record! Being in the music industry is very new to me, it’s sort of like being a child lost in a new world. Being in the studio for the first time was like being in a big playground with all this magical stuff! It’s a very naive experience, we were all very curious, and that’s probably why there are a lot of references to children’s books.
Has Paul Epworth let you do your own thing or did he have a major influence in making the album? He let us do our own thing pretty much. He kept back from the whole recording process. He’s definitely inspirational; I think he’s an amazing producer, a genius. Sometimes he would come in, listen to a track and go away to reassess. Then he’d come back and tell us “you know what, strip the whole thing down by 10 bpm, just keep the vocals and start everything else from scratch”. He helped us think about what we were actually doing.
We rarely see you in your music videos. Is it a conscious decision on your part not to be in the limelight too much? Yes, I think it is. Other people are more interesting than us, so we’d rather focus on the music side of things.
Being from Oxford, I assume you’ve been to Brighton before? I looooove Brighton, it’s my favourite city in the UK. Joe our drummer used to live there, so we used to go down to see him quite often!
What makes Brighton special? I think there are very cool people there, friendly, open people. In a lot of other cities people keep their head down, but Brighton is not one of them! Everyone is doing something, a lot of people have ideas, it’s a very artistic place. And, there’s a beach!!
Any venue you like to go to in particular? There’s a cool pub called the Black Lion. I’ve also been to a lot of clubs like Audio and Coalition. And my other favourite hang out is the beach, I normally spend a lot of time there.
Any surprises for Brighton audiences at Concorde 2 on March 9? Well we try to do something different every night. It depends of the crowd – if people are up for dancing, we’ll play a dancy set, with remixes of the tracks and have fun with it all. So we’ll see on the night but we always try to make it special.
Worst gig ever? At the start of our first ever London show, I walked on stage and tripped on a cable. I fell flat on my face! That was our first headline show, ever. In front of 300 people, including a lot of people from the music industry…
Any fun road trip stories? Once, on tour, Drew just forgot to bring shoes! He didn’t have shoes for the entire tour. We thought that was quite funny. Another time Joe got really drunk on tour. He was so drunk he could hardly stand up! He basically told us he was going for a run, and I was like “Joe, you’re too drunk, you’re going to die!” We were in Nebraska, in this kind of chainsaw massacre type town near the desert. He would have just fallen over and got murdered. He didn’t listen and ran out of the door, so I followed him and I ran alongside him to keep him safe. But he was so drunk he just kept running, for miles… At the end of it he was sober, and I was so dead…
How do you feel about your single “Gooey” being the second most streamed viral track on Spotify, and “ZABA” being Album of the Year, also on Spotify? It’s pretty cool but it’s hard to believe at the same time! I don’t know what to say really, I love the fact that people are enjoying our music, it’s heart warming. But I think we’ll just keep our heads down and work hard to make the next record.
And are you parents disappointed that you stopped your neuroscience studies, in exchange for a career in the music industry? I think very recently they have started understanding but when I first told them I was leaving medical school, they didn’t really say anything, they just looked at me for a bit. But now my dad is excited. He said he heard me on the radio the other day and I think it was the first time he ever realised this band was a real thing.
Are you already working on your second album? And are you feeling that second album pressure? I’m not feeling any pressure yet, but writing never stops for me – I’m always writing songs and trying to record them. All I need really is time to sit down and see how much material I have. If it’s not very much and it’s all rubbish, then I’ll panic!