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TRACK-BY-TRACK: Glass Animals
The Quietus , June 2nd, 2014 17:09

The band fill us in on their debut LP Zaba ahead of its release next week

Glass Animals are currently hosting an interactive stream of Zaba on their website - head here to listen to it. Here, frontman Dave Bayley talks us through the album, which gets released next week, on June 9, via Wolf Tone

We set out to make a record that you can listen to from start to finish. Something that takes you to a place away from reality and holds you there for its entirety. Each song is meant to fill a space that the others don't in terms of the music, lyrics and the sonics. We didn't want to repeat ideas, or repeat any one emotion. We didn't want to write a whole record of love songs for example. It's meant to fit together a bit like a puzzle, where hopefully the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and each song is a little world within an overarching larger picture, taking you through to different places, meeting different characters and creatures.

Get your big speakers out for this one. Or some big headphones. I think the idea for this beat was sparked by an old FlyLo track. I don't even remember what it's called now, but it was a bass-heavy monster. The first half of the track is quite mellow but is meant to build tension, and then it all changes up about halfway through. We thought that could be a cool way to start the record. Give people a bit of a false sense of calm. The sound at the very beginning, the first thing you hear, was me trying to make a noise that sounds like someone opening your head with a can opener. 

'Black Mambo'

I wrote the basic sketch and lyrics for the song while watching Breaking Bad… I don't know what it was in the episode that sparked the idea but I had to pause it, and two hours later I had most of this track. It was quite annoying actually… I really wanted to finish the episode. So… it was originally called 'Crystal Meth'. But then someone showed me the Louis Theroux documentary on crystal meth and… well… that's some awful shit! So we changed the name after that. It's an older track from the middle of last year, but we had more ideas for it. After re-recording it, we thought it fit nicely onto the album, even though we really wanted to include only new material.


We went on a little holiday to Cornwall in-between some shows we were doing. All the ideas popped into my head when we walked past some rock pools on the beach. We had a lot of fun creating the soundscape for this one. A lot of the percussion was done on pans and by hitting anything that sounded good around the studio. There are a few photos of Joe [Seaward, drummer] lying on his back with us holding pots full of water over his head as he hit them. He got a bit wet. Oh and also… Paul [Epworth, producer and Wolf Tone label boss], whose studio it was, had just had a baby and her toys were lying around. There were these massive tuned tubes called Boomwhackers that all fit together into some sort of xylophone…we used those to make the main percussive synth-y riff. 


'Gooey' started off as a beat I'd made for a hip hop artist. I was just going through some beats I had made for someone, choosing which to send off, and I got to this one and listened to it a couple times. At that point it was just the bass line, drums, percussion, and little glock riff. All of a sudden those chords popped into my head and I got the piano out and started tinkering and then the, "Right, my little Pooh Bear" vocal line popped into my head, and then the rest. I ended up making this eight-minute groove track. Then I showed it to the guys and we took it to the studio where we shaved off a few minutes. And then I recorded the vocal while holding a pineapple called Sasha Fierce. Paul also had this idea to record about eight tracks of me singing the final chorus in different accents and voices to get the sound of a tweaked choir. I think I imitated an old woman, a drunk crack addict, a terrible impression of James Brown, etc. 

'Walla Walla'
Another one you'll need some bass-heavy speakers or headphones for. This also started off as a beat for a hip hop artist. I think it was made while I was listening to a lot of Missy-era Timbaland productions, and some early Dr Dre R&B stuff. But Drew [MacFarlane, keyboardist/guitarist] and I were really getting into Can's early records, and I showed the beat to Joe and asked him to just freestyle over the top of it on his drums, krautrock-style. Live we do this a bit faster and a bit dancier. 

This was initially written to be the intro to the record. It's meant to suck you out of reality and into some mad tropical world. We thought it worked equally well as a sort of psych intermission halfway through the record that pulls you through even deeper into the wilderness. The words are impossible to understand, but they're printed in the CD and vinyl versions of the album. 

This is the most recent track on the record. We actually thought the record was all done, it was about to be signed off by the label, and then two days before our deadline I started this in my bedroom. The guys threw a couple ideas over and it was finished within about 48 hours and we decided to replace another track we'd done for the album with this one. I'm pretty sure I didn't leave my house for those two days. Just worked on this, slept and ate lots of cereal. We didn't have time to get into the studio to record this so it was all made in my room on one old microphone, a computer and an old battered guitar I bought for £5 at a market in Oxford. Our very first releases were made like that so it's also a nice nod to that way of working. Also… Xander my rabbit played some keys on this. He's grade eight synth. 

The sound and atmosphere in 'Toes' was meant to be a sonic interpretation of The Island Of Dr. Moreau and Heart Of Darkness. Most of the songs were written and in demo form before we went into the studio, but this wasn't. I had the drum beat and the bass line in my head, and we started with that in the studio and it rolled into this. 

This was actually quite a mellow, down-tempo track at one point, mainly piano and vocal. And then one day we gave ourselves a challenge: see how heavy and hard we could make it. Within a few hours, we'd gone from essentially a ballad, to this twisted beast with dense percussion, wild synths and massive bass. 

'Cocoa Hooves'

This is the oldest track on the record. It dates back about two years now. Maybe a little more. It's been changed and re-worked from its original version, which was released on vinyl what seems like ages ago. We wanted there to be a softer song on the record, something simple and sombre that gave you a moment to breathe. And this is it. 

When this was written I was pretty sure this was going to be the song to end the record. It's meant to bring the record to a nice, smooth resolve. 

The interludes between some of the songs (five interludes in total, I think) were mainly recordings of a field near my house mixed with recordings of my pets chewing on my microphone, but put through synths and effects.