The new Glass Animals single Agnes documents a quite painful tale of a break up, and apparently is a personal story for lead singer Dave Bayley.
“There are varying degrees of autobiography and my own life in each song I write,” he says, “but for the most part, that stuff is buried and clouded in fiction or blended with other peoples’ lives that I’ve heard about in taxis or at parties or on the street. But there is one song that stands apart from the rest. It is the most truthful, honest, and personal story i have ever written, and that song is Agnes.”
To get across the sense of grief and sadness in the song in the promo, director Eoin Glaister struck on the idea of using the centrifuge machine. “In searching for ways to explore the weight of grief, I remembered my grandfather used to perform tests on a human centrifuge,” he says. “Essentially it’s an extremely large bit of kit that spins around very quickly. As it does so it subjects its occupants to increased levels of G-force. The faster you go, the heavier you become. On the day Dave described this feeling as like having an elephant sat on his chest. It was emotional. Appropriately so.”
With the camera closely trained on Bayley’s face, the video is a little reminiscent of that other video endurance test, Radiohead’s promo for No Surprises, where Thom Yorke’s face is submerged underwater. As in that film, the Agnes video results in some powerful facial expressions.
“You sit in a small egg-like pod about the size of a horse which hangs off a 50 foot steel horizontal frame,” says Bayley of the centrifuge set up. “It looks like something out of a Bond villain’s lair. It’s claustrophobic and uncomfortable and also incredibly hot.
“Slowly the whole thing starts to rotate like a helicopter blade. Faster and faster until every part of you becomes crushed under the extreme gravity. It’s like being slowly sat on by an elephant, or like your whole body being punched in slow motion. You have to flex every muscle and use every ounce of strength you have to keep going. Breathing requires serious effort. Movement becomes incredibly strained and almost painful.
“The blood rushes from your brain making it impossible to think rationally or focus,” he continues. “Your eyes are also drained and you get tunnel vision … only able to see small circles of the world directly in front of you and your sight goes completely greyscale, no more colour. Your balance and spatial awareness goes and the world begins to spin like you’ve had way too much to drink. But the most striking thing is the way that the machine pulls on your heart. You can actually feel it struggling to beat and changing shape … flattening inside of your chest. It’s similar to that horrible sinking, tugging heartache that comes only with complete and overwhelming sadness. And then you pass out.
“We ran the centrifuge 18 times while I tried to sing along to a song which I find difficult to listen to at the best of times.”
Agnes is on the Glass Animals album How To Be A Human Being, which was recently shortlisted for the Hyundai Mercury Music Prize. Read our previous interview with Bayley about the album artwork here.