There is something oddly fitting about meeting Oxford four-piece Glass Animals in the disorientating docklands area of East London, wandering through a jungle of dystopian modern art, with cranes and scaffolding towering overhead and the O2 arena in the distance. Behind a seemingly abandoned diner the band emerge from a red boat. It’s an appropriate location because the music Glass Animals make has a futuristic, delicate sense of the urban about it; an experimental take on the slow, sparse yet pretty Timbaland-end of pop and R&B. And yet there is a tangible innocence to their output too — debut album ZABA, out earlier this year, takes its title from William Steig’s children’s book The Zabajaba Jungle. That title-inspiration seems reflected in the sometimes sticky, tropical sounds and the fascinatingly surreal and exotic feel to many of front man Dave Bayley’s lyrics.
On the lithe, entrancing ‘Gooey’ he croons in sultry yet childlike sentiments, bringing to mind an idea of dwindling infant naivety: “Right my little pooh bear, wanna take a chance? / Wanna sip this smooth air, kick it in the sand / I’d say I told you so but you just gonna cry / you just wanna know those peanut butter vibes”. In the promotion of ZABA the band also made references to Joseph Conrad’s modernist masterpiece Heart of Darkness, and it all seems to suggest an exploratory theme on the record of initial purity, slowly corroded by the corruption of mankind.
“I think it kind of draws from Heart of Darkness and, you know, African Queen – a classic film – and Mosquito Coast,” Bayley conceded. “Just people going off into places they know nothing about and seeing what’s there, and that’s kind of what it was like with this record.”
“We were existing in this world we didn’t know,” agreed drummer Joe Seaward when considering the experience of recording their debut. “I think there was an element of just finding stuff out all the time, all day everyday experiencing new stuff.”