2016 Artist Survey: Drew MacFarlane of Glass Animals
MacFarlane on Trump, Brexit, Scary Movies, Vivid Dreams, the Democratic Party, and Stranger Things
Feb 21, 2017 Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary Photography by Ray Lego (for Under the Radar)
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For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Drew MacFarlane of Glass Animals. The British band released their sophomore album, How to Be a Human Being, in 2016 via Harvest.
For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.
Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.
A shorter version of Glass Animals' survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.
Top 10 Albums of 2016
1. Beyoncé: Lemonade—obviously.
2. Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool—This one took a couple listens but it's brilliant.
3. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service—Awesommmmmme.
4. Nicolas Jaar: Sirens—Thought my speakers had broke first time I heard this so I turned them on full and was blasted into a different dimension by that crazy jingly crunch thing.
5. Kornél Kovács: The Bells—Wicked and weird dance album. Love it.
6. D.D Dumbo: Utopia Defeated—This dude's a G.
7. Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker—So growly.
8. Kendrick Lamar: untitled unmastered.
9. Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition
10. Frank Ocean: Blonde—Not many people I know are with me on this one. But there are about five tracks from it that are on repeat inside my head.
What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?
It was a surprise, in many respects, but there is a lot to learn from it. It really showed the importance getting people to vote—voting is something that can be taken for granted, but we should never feel like it's pointless or won't make a difference—it always will. More people voting may not have change the result, but it is worrying that Trump received a little more than a quarter of the eligible voting population's support. I think that one positive aspect of Trump's election is that it showed how fed up people are with the U.S. political status quo. Hopefully the post-Trump political reality will be one that has been jolted (or electrocuted) into dealing with some of the big flaws in the system. For example—thinking just about the U.S. electoral process—why is it that despite what happened in the 2000 election—when Al Gore won the popular vote—there wasn't more of a drive to make the state electoral college votes more closely reflect the popular vote? Or, is a political system really democratic if it's dominated by just two parties that are heavily enmeshed with corporate funding and interests? And what about all the people who, if they want to vote, are forced to align with a party or candidate that doesn't remotely represent their views? Surely there is a way to change these things.
Let's discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it?
I wouldn't tell people, including Trump supporters, what to think or how to vote. But I would tell people, especially now, to protest and stand up against policies and initiatives they believe are bad or unjust. We can always do something to make a bad situation better, and there are going to be a lot of things to stand up against in the coming years. Voting is just the beginning—if you believe in democracy, and then participation is really what happens in the months and years after you vote. In terms of how to act over the next four years, I would say go out and be active politically. Support or join political movements you believe in. Volunteer for or give (any amount) to charities which help combat the biggest problems that our governments create or fail to deal with, like climate change or the various refugee crises. But most of all, talk and debate with people about politics, especially people whose views differ from yours, and listen to what people have to say. It's become a cliché, but America is pretty fractured right now. That's obvious from touring around meeting all kinds of different people. People with extreme political views aren't going to become any more moderate if they are shouted down and dismissed as morons; that's how divisions gets worse and people become more isolated, its not the right way to find common ground to work things out. The challenge now is going to be trying to find ways to deal with the problems that caused such an outpouring of hatred over the last year. How do we reconnect with such a huge part of society that feels so disillusioned? What did we ignore for so long which enabled Trump to be elected? These are things, I think, that we're going to figure out by communicating well and trying to understand people, not by pushing people away. Oh and lastly, don't forget to vote in the midterms!!! They're important!!
What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?
Uh oh... I don't know much about reality TV. How about a TV character? I think Tyrion Lannister would be a great president.
If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?
Well, I reckon the two most pressing issues for any American president are how to deal with climate change and nuclear disarmament. These are two problems which are perhaps the most aptly poised to achieve global destruction. And it's weird they don't get more coverage across the board given that either one of them could literally mean the end of life on earth. Not trying to be overdramatic, that's just the way things are. Take a look at the doomsday clock on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. It makes for some interesting reading. Yeah, I'd try and do as much as possible to start getting rid of nuclear weapons and to fund alternative energy technologies. Tall order.
What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?
I think, as a lot of people have said, there are strong parallels. And in some ways, yes, they were motivated by similar factors. Again, it's a wake up call. It's not just Americans who need to be reminded that the U.K. is more than just London, people over here forget it too. The U.K. is two thirds the land-size of California with an extra 25 million people packed in. A large portion of them felt forgotten by the people pulling the strings, and many expressed that in the form of a protest vote to leave the EU. But of course, that's not the whole story. Another thing that was similar to the U.S. situation is a fear of change and a fear of foreigners. But once more, a positive side to the vote is that the younger generation voted overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in the EU, so the generation that's ultimately going to take over will hopefully be a little bit more progressive and realistic about the way the world is going.
We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?
Yeah that was sad. But it's life. It's been good to reflect back on what they did for music. I can't really decide which Leonard Cohen album. Probably Songs of Leonard Cohen, but I only choose that because I listen to it the most. There are too many good ones. David Bowie would be The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. And the Prince album, Purple Rain.
Which Friends character are you most like?
Oh gosh. Probably Phoebe.
What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?
Man, definitely The Ring. I saw that at a friend's house when I was 10. Definitely too young. Still gives me the creeps, it was seriously traumatic. Had to move my big old computer screen out of my room for like a year. I actually haven't watched a horror film since (not even kidding). That was it. I saw that one and decided never again.
Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?
Yes definitely, but mainly I'm looking forward to automated teeth flossers. I find teeth flossing really difficult, because I have a really small mouth, so could use some help with that.
Tell us about your first kiss.
Hahaha what?! It was probably one of my dogs when I was a toddler. Sasha and Tasha. They were twins, German shepherd/black labs. They used to kill porcupines. But yeah, a lot of platonic French kissing going on there.
Which Stranger Things character do you most relate with? Why?
Dustin. I think we'd vibe.
What advice do you have to the leaders of the Democratic Party in terms of how to rebound from this election?
Ha ha so you're assuming I voted Democrat? Well, it's pretty clear that many people have difficulty with establishment candidates these days. People don't like the massive influence of corporate interests on the political system. People want change, and they voted for the candidate who said they would provide that. One thing Trump and Obama have in common is that they were both elected on a platform that said, "things are broken, I can fix them." The large amount of support for Bernie Sanders, a "socialist" (shock horror!) candidate, is more evidence of people wanting some kind of alternative to the existing system. In terms of rebounding from this election, I think this provides a lot of things for both the Democrat and the Republican Party to think about (bear in mind in terms of the presidential seat, this was not exactly victory for the mainstream Republican party).
If you have kids or plan to have kids one day, will you encourage them to be a musician or artist or would you prefer they get a more stable job?
If being a musician or an artist were something they felt passionately about, I would definitely encourage them to pursue that path. Whether or not you manage to become Taylor Swift, there's always a way to make things work out if you put your mind to it. And I'd much rather they were doing something they found exciting and stimulating for their work than seeking out fanciful notions of stability. When is anything in life ever really stable? That's just an illusion. Best thing is to just get comfortable with instability; it's probably not as terrifying as it sounds. :-)
What's usually the biggest stumbling block to your happiness?
Reese's Pieces are much less affordable in the U.K. But no. Probably forgetting how easy it is to form meaningful connections with people around me. Whether it's someone at work or close friends, or the person I'm buying Reese's from in the shop. For me, being aware of the value of every interaction you have, human or otherwise, is the most important aspect of being happy.
What celebrity, musician, or historical figure, living or dead, would you most want to be stuck in an elevator with?
Jimi Hendrix or Beethoven.
What band, besides your own, has the best name?
King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard. I mean come on-that's a friggin awesome name.
What's the most vivid dream or nightmare you had in 2016?
Ooo man, personal. Hm. I dreamt that I was taking cocaine on a submarine in the arctic with Noel and Liam Gallagher, and we were surrounded by these huge iceberg caves. Also that was before I heard about the new Oasis documentary, so no idea where that came from or what it means. If you have a good theory defs let me know, I'm stumped.
What song, past or present, best sums up 2016?
Hmm.... "Lovely Day," Bill Withers. Let's try for a bit of optimism.
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