It’s less than 48 hours after frontman Dave Bayley has applied the finishing touches to Glass Animals’ second album and he’s contemplating where he and his bandmates found themselves only two years ago. “It’s mad, we were in ourfriend’s basement playing to four people,” he laughs.
Fast forward to six months ago and they were rounding off a tour that catapulted Dave and bandmates Drew MacFarlane (guitar), Edmund Irwin-Singer (bass) and Joe Seward (Drums) around the world and back; climaxing in sold-out shows at The Wiltern in LA and Terminal 5 in New York, via huge festival slots in Australia,the US and - of course - Glastonbury.
Have they been able to gain any perspective on all this worldwide success? “I don’t know if I have!” Dave wonders. “It’s such a strange position to be in. I always thought Glass Animals would just be a fun thing to do with my friends. To be able to do it as a career is totally mental. I haven’t had time to think about it. I’d probably go crazy if I did.”
Indeed, given the successes, Glass Animals would be ripe for the cliched ‘difficult second album’ experience. Every tour has sold out, they’ve hit 200 million streams and debut album ‘Zaba’ shifted over 500,000 records. For a band on a label backed by legendary producer Paul Epworth no less - the pressure to up the ante had potential crippling side-effects.
Dave doesn’t bat an eyelid when it comes to the mention of the sophomore slump phenomenon at all, though. He simply didn’t have time to get himself in a pickle.Instead, only six months after getting off the road he’s already plotting what the stage sets are going to look like, how the artwork will take shape, and so on.
The new LP - titled ‘How To Be A Human Being’ - has come together so fast you’d assume they wrote it on the road. “No! We didn’t have time,” says Dave. “It happened as soon as we came off the tour bus.” Before his suitcase was even on the ground, Dave was setting up shop in their small studio space in Hornsey, North London by himself.
Writing the skeleton of the album in a week and a half over Christmas, he was desperate to put the experiences of the last two years onto paper before he forgot them. “I had the most successful time I’ve ever had writing,” he says humbly. “I had all of these stories in my head.”
Mapping out the skeletons of the songs proved to be an entirely different process from that taken on ‘Zaba’. “Last time, I started with beats and electronic soundscapes, and this time I started mainly with chords, vocal lines... sometimes even lyrics. I tried to invert the whole process,” he explains. The majority of the writing, sonics and production was taken care of in an intense 10-day period. Then in January, Dave began polish out the stories, lyrics, and music, perfecting the parts. He would send the bear bones of each song to the band. He would bring the demos to the band, and as a group they would develop the music further, experimenting with the arrangements and instrumentation.
As indicated by lead single ‘Life Itself’, the new sound is bigger, bolder and far more ambitious. Dave makes a point of not listening to his contemporaries when making music, preferring to look inwards to the world Glass Animals have built. In crafting this record, his thoughts returned to one factor he couldn’t even dream of on ‘Zaba’ - the huge live audiences they’d been drawing. “You sense what the crowds react to: big drums, bass, high tempo.”
As Glass Animals’ live set evolved, so did their sonic aspirations. Dave himself is like an electro Einstein, forever pursuing his next lightbulb moment. “That instant when a melody pops into your head and you know that’s the one, or you sit down at a piano, hit four strange chords in a row and think - ooh that works! There was a conscious effort to make this record harder, angular and in-your-face. I started appreciating rawness.”
The band would use first takes, shabby recordings, and sounds that resonated with soul, despite their technical imperfections. Much of this proved to be a punk-like reaction to the high-polished nature of pop Dave was hearing on the radio. “I was paranoid that’s what we sounded like,” he says. “On the last record I had the opposite mentality. Everything had to be perfect. This is more gritty. We’ve shaken that mentality now.”
‘How To Be A Human Being’ is about people. Many of his lyrical ideas came from live recordings of people saved on Dave’s phone, as though he’d been operating as some sort of roaming journalist all this time. “I try to sneakily record people, and I have hours and hours of these amazing rants from taxi drivers, people we met outside of shows, people at parties. People say the strangest shit when they don’t think they’re ever gonna see you again...and sometimes they’ll break your heart with the saddest, most touching stories.” The voice notes sparked ideas for characters that Dave developed, writing an album like a TV screenwriter might approach a script. “I’d obsess over what they ate, where they lived, what their furniture looked like, what they wore,” he laughs. “Some of it’s quite autobiographical but said through the eyes of someone else.”
Their fascination with the human condition is understandable given their relative isolation a few years ago. Back in Oxford, studying medicine at university, the thought of being a real-life viable band wasn’t something that crossed their mind. They were living in a bubble. “We spent those years really isolated, just making our own noise. Then all of a sudden we crashed into this place where we were in a different city every day, meeting so many characters every day.”
From the depths of ‘Agnes’ to the danceable humour of ‘Life Itself’, this second album is a zeitgeist-leaning, intrepid exploration into what makes us all tick, told from the viewpoint of four guys who have experienced life in its most extreme and unexpected form for the past two years. It doesn’t just connect with your feet - it connects with your brain, your heart, your soul.
‘How To Be A Human Being’ is a multi-layered, nuanced album that uniquely splices together 40 years of sonic history in a way that’s emphatically forward-sounding. In the characters and themes explored, the record creates a world for fans to inhabit. With every listen comes further insight, not just into Glass Animals’ universe but the human condition itself
Quite fittingly, Ravyn Lenae likens her music to a fairytale.
Sprinkling signature “futuristic soul” like pixie dust and pops of vibrant color across this aural world, the 18-year-old Chicago singer and songwriter writes her own chapter for Pop equally informed by a classical sensibility and youthful daring and already championed by everyone from Pitchfork to Chicago Tribune.
“I think of it as a fantasy world,” she affirms. “There are familiar elements of R&B and soul, but there’s also a more refined approach and new wave of thinking. Overall, it’s this fantasyland where my mind lives and my art comes from.”
Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, art immediately spoke to her as a child. Between learning piano and guitar, she went from obsessively listening to India.Arie with her mom and OutKast’s The Love Below to eventually discovering the likes of Antonio Vivaldi and Reynaldo Hahn. In her most formative years, attending Chicago’s High School For The Arts proved nothing short of revelatory.
“That’s where I found a lot of my inspiration,” she elaborates. “I couldn’t imagine myself in any other high school. I don’t feel like I’d be the artist I am today or that I would have tapped into the artistry inside of me if it wasn’t for that environment. I was encouraged to be myself, but I also learned discipline. I was up at 5:30am every day, in class until 2pm, and then conservatory until 5pm. I loved being classically trained, but I also wanted to find my own voce, so I started songwriting.”
She met producer Monte Booker, and the two began collaborating in 2014. Her first upload, “Greetings,” stirred up a palpable buzz online as she inked a deal with Three Twenty Three Music Group and Atlantic Records. The Moon Shoes EP nationally ignited this buzz followed by the Midnight Moonlight EP. Rolling Stone placed her among “10 Artists You Need To Know,” while Vibe, Nylon, Essence, Fake Shore Drive, Saint Heron, Earmilk, and more trumpeted her throughout 2017. In tandem, she morphed into a powerhouse performer on tour with the likes of SZA and fellow Windy City luminary NONAME.
Simultaneously, she carefully assembled her EP, Crush [Three Twenty Three Music Group/Atlantic Records]. After developing a friendship on Twitter, Steve Lacy of The Internet produced all five tracks.
“He posted my stuff, DM’ed me, and insisted on working together,” she recalls. “I had already been a big fan of his and felt stylistically connected before even knowing him. When we finally met, we instantly clicked. We’re the same age and share the same taste. That trust and friendship needs to be there before you can create.”
Over a lush instrumental backdrop, she opened up like never before. “The main growth for me was the writing,” she admits. “Steve’s production is so different that it made me change my approach. I’m way more blunt now. I used to be very shy with my emotions. I would cover them up with pretty metaphors. Now, I’m not so shielding of my experiences, because I feel like I owe my listeners the honest truth of how I’m feeling. The attitude has completely progressed. It’s sassier.”
A swell of organs, strutting guitars, and jazzy coos ushers the first single “Sticky” into an unshakable falsetto refrain evocative of that evolution. “It’s about being stuck to someone and knowing you shouldn’t be,” Ravyn goes on. “The person is not really nice to you; he’s actually a little mean. Even though you know that, you take him back all the time. He’s sticky.”
Elsewhere, glitchy beats swing as her smooth voice soars on “Four Leaf Clover.” During the duet, Lacy serves up a vocal call-and-response about the doldrums of getting “friendzoned.” “Computer Luv”—which concerns “finding love online”—entangles their voices once again in hypnotic harmony.
“The entire tape sounds like a girl writing in her diary about how she has a crush on this guy,” she explains. “It’s the most I’ve ever dedicated a body of work to a boy. That’s where I went, because that’s how I’ve been feeling—head over hso ultimately indicative of what’s to come from Ravyn.
“When people listen to me, I’d love for them to feel the essence of earlier records, but with a fresh twist,” she leaves off. “Pharrell and OutKast brought me to another level. It was very musical in an old school way, yet it still pushed forward. I hope listeners walk away feeling the same way I did listening to those classics.""
Chicago producer Monte Booker is 22. He recently referred to some of his formative influences, like the Neptunes and Kanye West, as the "old hip-hop scene." He considers Flying Lotus a genre unto himself. Booker is a late millenial making music for a new millenium.
His sounds are bespoke, and his beats don't smack as much as they pleasingly tumble forth, like tennis balls in a dryer. He puts his generation's restless energy to work by zapping small clicks and shots of statuc in and out of his productions. He makes hip-hop and R&B that pings between FlyLo's bulging maximalism and the charming exactitude of found-sound eccentrics Matmos. Along with his like-minded Zero Fatigue crew - including rapper Smino, Jay2, Bari, and singer Ravyn Lenae - Booker is creating music with a sense of history that could only exist right now.
Bio coming soon.
Bio coming soon.