Who is Glass Animals?
Pineapples are in my head.
Are they in yours? If not, they should be.
While some of you might find this phrase a bit strange and out of context, fans of the band Glass Animals will immediately recognize it as a lyric in their song “Pork Soda.”
Yes, Glass Animals is an incredibly weird band (after all, pineapples have become a major part of their image and they have a song called “Pork Soda”), but it’s exactly this quirky creativity present in their music and their live performances that makes them so appealing to fans and has ultimately helped them gain a great deal of recognition in recent years.
Glass Animals is comprised of four British men from Oxford, England and has been active in the indie/alternative scene since 2012 when they released their first EP, Leaflings. This EP is pretty obscure, even to fans who have been with them from the start. The most famous song from this EP is undoubtedly “Cocoa Hooves,” which eventually ended up on their debut album Zaba two years later in 2014. Before they released Zaba, though, they released a self-titled EP in 2013 which features some of their most well-known tracks to this day. These two EPs gave listeners an impressive preview as to the unique style that would be present in their future work.
If you’re a first time Glass Animals listener, I would recommend starting with Zaba right away. The tracks on their debut album and the way they fit together to create a cohesive piece will give you the best representation of what you’re getting yourself into. Prepare to be surprised by their versatility and impressed by their talent and creativity, exactly as I was. How do they come up with these crazy sounds? What gives them the inspiration to write such obscure yet profound lyrics? This is the kind of album that makes it clear exactly how intelligent the musicians behind it are. If, for some reason, you aren’t sold on this point after listening, go read a few interviews and you’ll gain a whole new respect for them, not just as musicians but also as people.
Their two EPs and Zaba were their only works in existence when my college roommate found Glass Animals on a YouTube playlist in early 2015. We immediately fell in love with their smooth yet exotic sound and quickly came to the conclusion that we needed to see them play live. After discovering that they would be touring England while we would be abroad, we changed our itinerary on a whim to catch the show at Komedia Bath – and I am so glad we did. That show sealed the deal for us. We ended up in the front row, resting our elbows on the stage as we waited.
If you listen to Zaba especially, you might describe their sound as a bit dreamy, chill, jungle-y – the kind of music you sway to. As a result, we expected the show to be quite tame. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The energy radiated from the stage into the crowd and made for an electrifying experience. Lead singer and guitarist Dave Bayley abandoned his shoes just a few songs in and by the end of the show, he was standing barefoot on the drum set singing his heart out. The movement and extra punch they put into their songs for the live performance was an unexpected treat and we were shocked in the best way possible.
Since then, I’ve seen Glass Animals live three more times – once in North Carolina, once in Prague, and once in Delaware at Firefly Music Festival. I didn’t think it was possible after the first show, but they get even better every time. In North Carolina I experienced a much larger crowd than in England, it got even bigger in Prague, and obviously it was huge at the festival. No matter how big and crazy the audience grows, though, Dave is never afraid to step offstage and make his way through the crowd to sing to everyone from a more personal level. This is something I really respect about the members of this particular band – they always go the extra mile to personally connect with people, no matter how difficult that might be.
Their second album, How To Be A Human Being, was released in August of 2016 and is arguably their most popular work to date. While this album is much more percussion-driven and a bit less jungle-themed, it still sticks to their quirky and eccentric musical style that longtime fans know and love. Each song on this album is based on a different character that Dave invented after hearing crazy stories from people out on the road. It’s also a very personal album for the band – just check out the lyrics and the video for the song “Agnes.” The lyrics and messages of these tracks are purposely left up to interpretation and it’s clear that the band is trying to make listeners think – something that is so incredibly important and yet so undervalued these days, especially within the music industry.
One of my favorite things about Glass Animals is how they’ve embraced pineapples as part of their identity. Their stage decor is always tropical or jungle-themed, with fake palm trees or fun beachy lights and at most of their shows that I’ve been to they also always have a pineapple onstage with them. They hold it and dance with it throughout the performance, only to throw it into the crowd at the end for one lucky fan to catch. At their most recent show I saw at Firefly, they had a huge disco ball onstage shaped like a pineapple.
So why pineapples? Well, they just like them. The pineapple theme started well before it was in “Pork Soda” – the band had pineapples hidden in all the artwork for Zaba and people started to catch on. This seemingly random fruit is now so closely associated with Glass Animals that fans have started bringing them to shows and Reading & Leeds Festival has actually banned pineapples from festival grounds. Glass Animals responded humorously to this ban by calling it “fruitist.” Whether you like the pineapple theme or you think it’s a bit strange, I think there’s something to be said about a band that can take a mundane piece of fruit and make it a fun and unique aspect of their own identity.
Glass Animals is clearly a band that likes to embrace the weird in the world in everything they do; their style is not for the close-minded and their music will force you to think. They are objectively one of the most creative bands in the industry today and every music lover should be familiar with their work because they have undoubtedly broken some barriers and invented a style that’s all their own in a world where so many people are pressured into fitting a mold in order to be successful. Do yourself a favor and check them out if you haven’t already – you won’t be disappointed.