By Josh Templeman, Digital Music Editor
In a Bristol exclusive interview, we sat down with Dave Bayley, lead vocalist of Glass Animals, in anticipation of their upcoming world tour.
Glass Animals are a band that continue to defy expectations. The group’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric – at the time of writing, they sit at over 34 million monthly listeners on Spotify, making them the 55th most listened to musicians on the platform and they’re showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
However, this was nearly not the case. One thing that I’m certain all musicians can agree on is that the pandemic has proved to be a significant bump in the road. Despite their incredible rise to the top, Glass Animals are no exception to the rule. ‘The last two years have been absolutely crazy with the pandemic – thinking everything was sort of done really’ Bayley explained. ‘We depended on touring and always depend on touring to prop us up. Having to cancel all of that was really scary’. Despite this and the numerous pushbacks that ensued, the band’s third studio album Dreamland released in August 2020 during the peak months of the pandemic, to widespread acclaim.
One thing that Bayley credits to the album’s success is the immense power of the internet. ‘We got really active on the internet. I basically spend all of my time on the internet, I’m essentially plugged into the internet – if I could get 5g in my head I would!’. The band may not have been able to tour, however, the internet and all its powers was a tool that Bayley and the band used as a crutch to get themselves through the pandemic.
‘There was a point that I was told by management that the album was a bit of a write-off’ he explained. ‘I was very depressed for like 2 weeks and then I thought… well the internet is the most powerful thing ever, there must be a way to replace touring and do the same things, find those same relationships that you would get touring on the internet, so I did everything I could, from the website to social media to Reddit to gaming - I spent so much more time doing all of those things’.
Since then, the album's lead single ‘Heat Waves’ has racked up over 1 billion streams and currently holds a place in the top 5 of the UK charts, despite releasing over a year ago. Perhaps unsurprisingly, amongst the other tracks on Dreamland, it was a song that Bayley couldn’t wait to perform earlier this summer in some of the band’s first performances post-Covid. ‘It was crazy, I cried the first three shows. It was so overwhelming – I absolutely couldn’t believe it’, he gushes with a nostalgic grin. ‘To go from basically thinking it was all lost, to people singing that loud to the point you can’t hear yourself, it punches you in the heart so hard. I was so sweaty that nobody could tell I was crying – I think?’.
The track’s longevity has been nothing short of mindboggling, something that Bayley suggested may be attributed to the subject matter and lyrics of the song. At the time of writing the track, Bayley was waiting for his long-term friend and the band’s drummer Joe Seaward to recover from potentially life-changing injuries, a feeling that Bayley believes lines up with the emotions that the pandemic has induced in us all. ‘When I wrote that song I was in a bit of a weird place. I wasn’t able to see many of my friends while I was waiting for Joe, our drummer, to recover’, Bayley elaborates. ‘The future was very uncertain, much like it has been for everybody now - so there’s a definitely a sort of synchronicity there. The song is ultimately about missing somebody and not being able to do anything about it; a lot of people have felt that over the last year and are still feeling it.’
More recently, in September this year, the band released a new single ‘I don’t wanna talk (I just wanna dance)’, a silky and upbeat track which’s synths leave you struggling to sit still. Yet, Bayley explains that whilst the song sounds buoyant and cheery on the surface, the track is an expression of the inner turbulence and anxiety he experienced during the testing months of the pandemic.
‘I was stuck in my own head through this pandemic, really overthinking everything – just being a bit neurotic, that’s a part of my personality. I talked to myself all the time. And my dog!’, Bayley explained, panning the camera to display his puppy adorably sleeping in the corner of his room. ‘I wasn’t allowed to go see my friends, I was just plugged into Zoom all the time and not able to go to a party or see live music, all the things that make us feel like people, like a community, make us feel sane – banned. I guess the song is about realising that and wanting my voice to shut up in my own head, stop arguing with myself and go out and do those things that make us feel real.’
One thing that has always been apparent about Glass Animals is a clear objection to the limiting boundaries imposed by musical genres, taking influences and inspiration from all types of music. Indeed, such breadth of inspiration is audible in the amalgamation of sounds Glass Animals ingeniously craft together. “Going back to growing up with the internet, you’re kind of exposed to everything at the same time. You can go down a ‘Youtube hole’ and within 3 clicks you can get from Aaliyah to Ramstein and everything in between – it’s kind of amazing”. Bayley goes on to affirm ‘I’ve decided to try and ignore genres when making music.’
Such a philosophy is reflected in the artists that the band collaborates with. Having worked with artists like Joey Bada$$, Flume and Denzel Curry in the past, the band have always shown a clear desire to step outside of their own musical realm. When describing the process of making this work sonically, Bayley likens the process to food. ‘You have to build sounds around someone else’s sounds’, Bayley declares. “What did I have the other day that was flipping disgusting? I had a sandwich which had basil, tomato, mozzarella and chilli in it. Then I had a sip of coffee and it was f****** rough! It was so gross. But you have to make the right sandwich to go with the drink or, you know, choose a different drink. For Denzel, I had the song first and was like, ‘I can hear Denzel on this – it has to be him’. But with Joey, it was the other way around, we got into the studio and he was chucking ideas around and we had to build something that fit around him. Just like that – just like cooking!”
When choosing artists to collaborate with, Bayley believes one of the most important things is thinking ‘I could never do that in a million years'. He adds 'That’s why I gravitate to those artists we spoke about’. Elaborating, he states 'It's incredible to watch talented people work. It's when I learnt the most, but also when I feel the most insignificant.' When pressed for the artists that Bayley would most like to work with in the future, after real consideration, he concluded ‘Tkay Maidza’. ‘And Florence! I love Florence – she’s an incredible songwriter.’
From jazz and indie, to the hip-hop that inspired Bayley whilst growing up, the breadth of influences the band has is also reflected in what they listen to on a day-to-day basis. The group has a Spotify Playlist to which they add songs every week, sharing their favourite tracks with each other. “It’s called ‘S*** I like’. It’s massive – endless!”. With a radiant grin, Bayley then shows me the playlist; no matter how fast he scrolls down the page, the songs just kept going and going.
‘What’s on it? Everything. A Giggs song, TĀLĀ, there’s a Charli XCX song. A Zombies song. A Madvillain song, I’m a huge Madlib and MF DOOM fan – that’s like my thing.’ Bayley continues, ‘The Castaways, Sinbad, Dr John, Paul McCartney, Terry Riley - It’s endless.’
Later this month, the band will embark on a huge world tour, visiting everywhere from Leeds to Berlin, including a show at Bristol’s O2 Academy on the 18th of November. ‘It’s been so much fun getting back into it and I cannot wait to do the UK tour – it’s gonna be amazing. It’s gonna feel like such a weird homecoming.’ When pushed for what fans can expect from the tour Bayley excitedly promises ‘new songs that we haven’t played live before!’. He also explains that ‘we kind of remix everything!’, responding to the crowd and adapting the band's sound dependent on the vibe of the show.
With pandemic restrictions (hopefully) a thing of the past, I'm sure there's one thing that both Glass Animals themselves and all music fans alike can agree on - thank God live music is back.
Featured image: Meredith Truax
Will you be seeing Glass Animals on their tour?