Up-and-coming UK band Glass Animals to Make Cleveland Debut at House of Blues

Concert Preview

The UK-based indie-pop group Glass Animals has gotten big over the past two years. Really big. Just a short time after releasing their debut album, Zaba, their hit song “Gooey” was playing on indie and alternative radio stations across the country. Their mix of psychedelic rock, liquidly beats and front man Dave Bayley’s sultry, laid-back vocals make their music different from most of the music on today’s airwaves.

When most musicians are asked about their inspiration, they name blues kings like B.B. King and rock legends like Jimmy Page. But, when we ask Bayley about his inspirations, he doesn’t commit to any one artist or style of music.

“It’s hard [to say] exactly,” he says. “We didn’t try to sound like anyone. It was more just we started making noises that we liked, and this is what happened. Our music is just a combination of everything all of the guys have ever listened to.”

Their unique sound can be heard and seen in their music videos on every song they come out with. From “Gooey” to “Hazey,” their signature psychedelic/indie/electronica vibe can be recognized.

Band members met while teenagers in Oxford and continued to be best friends through the start of their years at university. Some of the members were going to medical school while others were pursuing careers in music and anthropology. But they decided to give that up and start their band. When Bayley describes his bandmates, he gives them nicknames that suggest his left-of-center mentality. Other members in group include “smart, sneaky” guitarist Drew MacFarlane, “meerkat” bassist Edmund Irwin-Singer and drummer Joe Seaward, whom Bayley jokes “likes to eat a lot.” The band’s weird, carefree attitude comes across in its music.

Their full-length debut Zaba came out in June of 2014. It was the first and only album on producer Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone records. Epworth has won four solo Grammy awards for Producer of the Year and has worked with big-name artists like Adele and U2. When asked what it was like being the first band signed to the label, Bayley says it was a real privilege.

“Paul has put out some great records that we were obsessed with when we were growing up,” Bayley says. “He was sort of my idol in that way. He made Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, which is still one of my favorite records. And we always wanted to make a record like that. And he had made many of them. So when the opportunity came to work with him, we obviously jumped on it.”
Epworth’s work can be heard on the album. The sounds are crisp, yet they flow perfectly with the vocals. The sounds mix together perfectly in harmony. Just by listening to it, you can tell it’s a very well put together album.

William Steig’s children’s book, The Zabajaba Jungle, inspired the album. The jungle-like beats and tropical percussion can be heard in every song. For example, the track “Hazey” sounds like the beat is straight out of the jungles of Africa. When paired with Bayley’s vocals, it creates something completely weird yet totally unique.

The band is known for being a little odd. When recording “Gooey,” Bayley held a pineapple just because he could. When they initially started playing, he also hid under a blanket and sung because he was embarrassed. Their personality can be reflected in their music videos. In the video for “Pools,” Claymation is used to create a psychedelic universe that transforms from a jungle to underwater to a big mound of clay. Bayley says their videos represent the band “trying to visualize” its music. “We were trying to speak to people on a similar wavelength with us,” he says.

They have worked with animator Rafael Bonilla on various videos, including “Pools.” “He thinks like us,” says Bayley, “we should definitely have him make our videos.”

When starting out, the band wasn’t expecting anything big. They were just touring and recording because they wanted to. But, shows got bigger and so did the following. At one of the band’s most memorable shows in Australia, over 10,000 people came.

“We didn’t realize our music had gotten to Australia,” Bayley remarks. “It’s on the other side of the world. When we walked on stage it blew my mind. I was a bit scared. People were climbing on the rafters and pouring wine into each other's mouths.”

And the shows just keep getting bigger. Even their June 15 Cleveland show initially sold out and had to be moved to the House of Blues from the Grog Shop. When asked about their success, Bayley states, “We didn’t expect anything to happen. We were just happy to make an album and release it.” The band has certainly surpassed those expectations. 

Glass Animals, Gilligan Moss, 8:30 p.m. Monday, June 15, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $15 ADV, $20 DOS, houseofblues.com.