R&B isn't the new rock. It's only continuing to influence rock the way rhythm and blues always has, going as far back as the rockabilly of Elvis and the brown-sugar-loving Rolling Stones. Still, some of the biggest "rock stars" these days are more apt to lay down a silky-smooth groove than shred on a Telecaster. While not yet in the same echelon as, say, the Weeknd, Oxford-based quartet Glass Animals, with their alternative take on R&B, share plenty of similarities with the Canadian crooner — which is to say, they have more in common with Flying Lotus than with Foo Fighters.
Mates since the age of 14, Dave Bayley (lead vocals/guitar), Drew MacFarlane (guitar/keys), Edmund Irwin-Singer (bass/keys), and Joe Seaward (drums) formed Glass Animals after completing school but just before Bayley could finish pursuing a career in medicine. Instead, he shared a couple of songs with his childhood friends and, after selecting a name they could all agree on, began recording and releasing music while still at university. After catching the attention of producer Paul Epworth and signing to his label Wolf Tone, the four-piece went full-time. Their well-received debut LP, Zaba, is a collection of tropical sounds, languid jungle vibes, and electro-R&B humming reminiscent of Alt-J, Foals, and Wild Beasts.
Ahead of their show this Tuesday at Revolution Live, we spoke to frontman and lead singer Dave Bayley about the origins of the band, the sweet side of touring, and the one thing he really wants to see while in the Sunshine State.
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New Times: The band has been friends since you were all in your early teens. How did you start making music together?
Dave Bayley: None of us were doing any music at all. I think Drew and Ed had a couple of instruments, and I knew Joe had played the drums a little bit. But really, I went off to university and started tinkering around, writing some songs, and I came back one Christmas holiday and played them a song I was writing. They convinced me to put it on the internet, and I was like, "I'll put it on the internet, but that means you guys have to be in the band."
So none of them had expressed wanting to make music in the past? They were just supporting you as a friend?
I think the only thing we'd ever done in the past musically, as a group, besides going to some shows and talking about stuff, we played a friend's birthday party — 16th, I think. We played some Strokes covers. We never really talked about being a band. None of us thought it was a career path. [We thought] you have to have all these connections in the music industry, know people, spend lots of time scraping. I don't think that's true anymore.
What's been the coolest thing you've done or experience you've had so far?
Whoa, a lot of cool experiences — a lot of cool experiences onstage, amazing headline shows, insane crowds. Then there's the amazing stuff we do as friends, on days off on tour. Cliff-jumping one day in Croatia, beautiful. We tried to surf in Australia. We weren't so good, but it was incredible. We were out in the middle of the ocean, and all these dolphins came and started swimming along next to us.
What's been the most dramatic change in your life since the success of Zaba and the singles that preceded it?
The main thing is I'm hardly ever home. I never get to see my mum or my brother. I tend to always be traveling, which, to be honest, I quite enjoy. It's a massive change but a change for the better — better than sitting at home, which is what happened after we released the record. Nothing happened. We didn't think anyone wanted it.
You guys have described Zaba as a holiday, a way to get away from it all. What records do you personally spin to escape on your own mental holiday?
Oh, there are a lot of good ones. I guess that's why we wanted to make a record like that. Our favorite records are those records that take you away for a bit. I think the classic is Dark Side of the Moon. You put it on and you get whipped off in space. Then you get plunked back on your sofa, after taking an epic journey. It's just an amazing record. More recently, I think Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion did that really well.
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You guys are also big fans of Beyoncé and J Dilla. What would a hypothetical collaboration with either, or both, of those artists sound like?
You definitely have to have both. We'll take what we can get from Beyoncé! I think it would probably sound, I would hope, really good [laughs]. Maybe it would sound like — imagine a really heavy hip-hop. We'd get Beyoncé to rap. We'd get a heavy, hip-hop Beyoncé, rapping, but you know, everyone's taken a lot of drugs as well.
What are you expecting from your first South Florida visit?
Palm trees. Which would be good, because our album cover has palm trees on it. We're expecting sun, which we don't get in England, so that'll be refreshing. And we're expecting to see lots of alligators.
Hate to disappoint, but they're not everywhere.
Oh no? I thought they were like wild cats. I'm going to find an alligator. That's my plan; that's my goal.
Tuesday, December 8, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $22.50 to $25 plus fees. Call 954-449-1025, or visit jointherevolution.net.