Human Nature

Interview by Charlene Chan
Photographs courtesy of Neil Krug, Cherlynn Lian, Cliff Yeo & Laneway Festival Singapore

It’s the third Saturday of January, the day when the Singapore edition of St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival takes place. The weather, as it turns out, is miserable: by noon, the skies are overcast, and the rest of the day alternates between a steady drizzle and an all-out thunderstorm, rendering festival goers soaked to the bone. Dave, one fourth of English band Glass Animals, however, is chatty and obliging when we meet, signing our record and taking photographs just hours before the band is due to take the stage.

2016 was a busy year for the band. Two years after they put out their debut album, they launched their sophomore effort, a series of songs and narratives told in their distinctive hip hop / electronic / synth-driven style. Since then, they’ve kept up a relentless tour schedule, and have shows lined up already till the later half of this year. Ahead of the band’s first ever live show in Asia, Dave tells us more about the making of the band’s second album How To Be A Human Being (HTBAHB), as well as their varied interests that extend beyond music.

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The songs in HTBAHB are driven by characters that you create, and you’ve written backstories for each of them. How did you think of doing that?

I started with the stories, really. I was writing these stories about people I had made up, I didn’t know what for, and eventually I tried making music out of them and turning them into songs. When you know everything about a person, it’s really easy to write the lyrics: you know what TV shows they like, you know what food they like, you know what their house looks like, what their favourite clothes are, and what they think about. So the stories really came first, and really helped.

human nature glass animals laneway

And some of these stories come from conversations you have with people while touring. What’s one story that stands out to you?

I took a taxi once in Atlanta. My brother was with me, and we were talking and suddenly the taxi driver—a middle aged lady—interrupted and started asking us about what we were doing in Atlanta. We talked for a bit and then we drove past a strip club, and she pointed at it and said, “I’ve got a story about that strip club.” She went on to say that she used to drive trucks across the United States delivering packages. The quickest way to make money doing that was to stay awake for a few days at a time to complete a cross-country trip, so she’d take crystal meth and cocaine to keep herself awake.

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One day, she pushed herself a bit too far and took too many drugs and blacked out. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the strip club with strippers dancing on poles around her. She asked a stripper where she was, what state she was in, what day it was… it turns out she had blacked out for a whole month, she had lost her delivery truck and its contents, and she remembered nothing that had happened. But worst of all, she woke up with a deep feeling that she’d done something awful. She thinks she’s murdered someone, but she isn’t sure.

Read more in The U Press N˚15 (Singapore edition).