English indie rockers Glass Animals are about to drop their second album How To Be A Human Being. This comes on the back of enormous success with their 2014 debut Zaba: just months after their gigs had mostly been small events in friends' basements, suddenly they were playing at huge festivals including Glastonbury, Coachella and our own Falls Festival. Also here in Australia their hit track "Gooey" landed the young band in at #12 in our Triple J Hottest 100.
It's been a fast-paced, busy touring schedule for the band since then, but frontman Dave Bayley was actively planning towards a second album throughout those two formative years. He collected stories, thoughts and experiences on the road, and especially recorded memories of people they met while touring all around the world. Their conversations and peculiarities became inspiration for characters that Bayley created, characters who would then form the basis for the lyrics and music of the new album.
Lead single "Life Itself" was released in May this year, shortly before the band played a handful of sellout gigs here in Australia. The track, which is the opener of the new album, is bigger and bolder than their previous work, indicative of their success. Yet it doesn't disappoint in providing the quirky thoughts and images for which we've come to know and love this band. Lyrics such as "I can't get a job so I live with my mum, I take her money but not quite enough" certainly paint curious, amusing pictures of those individuals who Glass Animals met on the road and took as creative inspiration.
One aspect of this release is new to the band however, and that is how during the songwriting process the musicians were now all able to be influenced by their experiences of playing to huge live audiences - something they'd hardly dreamed of when creating Zaba. After their sellout shows and festival appearances, they could now too easily picture the new tracks on worldwide stages. Bayley describes how they "sense what the crowds react to: big drums, bass, high tempo", and couldn't help but return to these thoughts while working on new music.
The album is about people - mostly other people, though Bayley admits some of it is "quite autobiographical but said through the eyes of someone else". While previously his music writing started with the electronic soundscapes behind the tracks, this time he has inverted his process, beginning with vocals, chords, sometimes even lyrics. It brings more weight to the human ideas behind the new songs.
Tracks such as "Pork Soda" and "Cane Shuga" deliver on that signature eccentric Glass Animals sound and lightheartedly introspective character studies, and are all too easy to picture being rocked out on the summer festival stages - "Life Itself" is the irresistibly danceable number that we wouldn't be surprised to find closing out these sets.
Indie love song "Agnes" rounds the album out on a solemner, gentler tone. The melody is simple and suits the sweet echoing lyric "I want to hold you like your mine".
How To Be A Human Being is, like Zaba, released through legendary producer Paul Epworth's label Wolftone - it was Epworth (who has worked with Adele and Florence and the Machine, to name but a few) who discovered the band at a gig in London, when Bayley was studying Medicine at Oxford and "thought Glass Animals would just be a fun thing to do with my friends". We can probably all agree it has come much, much further than that.
How To Be A Human Being is out on CD, vinyl and digital formats on Friday August 26th. The music video for "Life Itself", the lead single, is out now