The London-based pop & rock band Glass Animals have enjoyed substantial, international success since they released their debut album, Zaba, in 2014 and had their hit, “Gooey.” Then in 2016, they continued to build their following with their second album, How to Be a Human Being, which was a Top 20 album in the U.S.
Notwithstanding these fine credits, Glass Animals is currently reaching a new level of success worldwide. Last August (2020) they released their acclaimed third album, Dreamland, which is gaining further exposure due to the popularity of their hit single, “Heat Waves.” Impressively, “Heat Waves” has become a Top 10 hit in several countries, and is moving up the pop & rock charts in the U.S.
Glass Animals is led by Dave Bayley, who is the band’s lead singer, main songwriter and producer. It is Bayley’s creative vision and personality which guides the four-member band, which includes Drew MacFarlane (guitar, keyboards), Ed Irwin-Singer (bass, keyboards) and Joe Seaward (drums).
Bayley & Glass Animals have developed a distinctive, imaginative sound that combines a pop & electronic approach, hooky melodies and choruses, with unique and sometimes quirky lyric ideas. According to Bayley, the band’s Dreamland album is their most autobiographical work to date. Following the emotional, heartfelt impact of their 2016 song “Agnes” (it was about the suicide of a friend), Bayley decided to write about more personal events and experiences for the new album.
Their hit “Heat Waves” is a good example of the band’s musical personality and lyrical honesty. On the surface, the single is an upbeat, funky pop song that has hooky harmonies in the chorus. But below the surface, it also has a sadder lyric theme about losing a person that was important to them. In the song, Bayley sings, “Sometimes, all I think about is you, Late nights in the middle of June,” because he sadly remembers that this person’s birthday was in June.
Here’s the video of Glass Animals’ hit, “Heat Waves.”
Notably, Glass Animals has just released a new version of “Heat Waves” that features rapper/singer Iann Diorr. This is a terrific version that will give the song added exposure and a further boost on the charts.
Other excellent songs on the album are “Tangerine” (which Bayley wrote with hit pop songwriter, Starrah), the title cut ”Dreamland” (which creates a dreamy, sonic landscape) and the rhythmic, dance track “Your Love (Déjà Vu).”
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Dave Bayley of Glass Animals. He discusses the making of their Dreamland album, and their singles “Heat Waves” and “Tangerine.” He also tells how he and the band decided to release their album in the midst of the pandemic and lockdown.
DK: You’ve said that the Dreamland album is more autobiographical than your first two albums. Can you talk about the making of this album, and your vision for it?
Dave Bayley: It’s been a progression from our first album through the second, and now to the third album. I guess the first album was quite abstract; this was mainly because I think I was really shy. With the lyrics, the words were almost chosen for the sounds and the way they lent themselves to the music. The words were basically being used as another instrument. Then for the second album, we went out and talked to the people that we met, and I was writing loosely about how I identified with those people. Now finally for this third record, I gained the confidence to be a bit more personal. I wrote some personal songs for all sorts of reasons.
DK: The last song on your previous album, “Agnes,” was a powerful song about a person who committed suicide. Was that song a turning point for you, to write more personal songs with lyrical depth?
Bayley: Absolutely…that song was a huge turning point. At first I didn’t want to release that song…I thought it was too personal, and that it gave too much away and was too honest. I was quite uncomfortable writing about myself directly and writing about personal experiences. It was the way I was brought up. My mum always said, “Don’t talk about yourself.”
Here’s the funny video of Glass Animals’ single, “Tangerine.”
That’s Dave Bayley plsying all the people in this video.
Still, I wrote “Agnes” and I played it for the guys in the band. They said, “You have to put the song on the album.” And then the response from people was unlike anything we’ve had. We’d start playing the song, and people in the front row would start crying and then I’d start crying. It was such an emotional response. And we received all these letters about how the song helped people get through something…people who had been through similar experiences. And I realized that a lot of my favorite songwriters—I love Bill Withers, Nina Simone, Brian Wilson—they write from the heart. They write really personal songs, and they make you feel less lonely because they’re so personal.
DK: Your song “Heat Waves” has become a worldwide hit. Can you tell the story behind that song?
Bayley: Absolutely. It’s a slightly sad song, but it’s sad with a big, optimistic edge. It’s about missing somebody and not being able to do anything about it. Ultimately, not being able to go out and see that person. Because I lost someone important to me and their birthday’s in June, hence the lyric (“Sometimes, all I think about is you, Late nights in the middle of June”). So every time that we get up to June, I start thinking about that person. And that’s when this song came out. Ultimately, It’s about realizing that it’s okay to miss somebody, and letting yourself miss that person. And we’re in an age where everyone’s missing someone right now…in a pandemic. No one can go out and see their loved ones. Maybe that’s why people are enjoying it.
DK: You mention that the song has a sad personal side, but it’s also very catchy, especially in the chorus. So when people hear it, I think they enjoy listening to it on the surface, and then they get the depth of it later.
Bayley: The fact that you said that makes me very happy. I’ve always loved that music on the surface is an enjoyable listen. There’s something about the harmony and the melody that makes you smile. With some of the old Motown songs, you’d often have really sad lyrics, but the beat makes you want to dance. It’s like going to a Northern soul club here in England. If you start listening to the lyrics, you’re not going to want to do the dancing anymore. You’ll just want to sit in the corner. I’ve always really liked that juxtaposition, and hopefully it gives it a bit of depth.
Here’s the video of Glass Animals’ song, “Dreamland.”
DK: When you were recording “Heat Waves,” did you and the band think that this would be a breakthrough song?
Bayley: Not at all. I wrote it late at night…I’d been in the studio for a long time. And I love the analogy of fishing for songwriting. You can get your boat in the right place, you can put some fresh bait on your rod, and you can take the boat to where you think is the right spot. But ultimately, you mainly pull up weeds and garbage and tires (laughs). And when I was writing “Heat Waves,” I basically spent the whole day pulling up garbage and tires. Then you say, “Alright, let’s cast the line out one more time.” And then suddenly a fish jumped in the boat! That’s what happens. I picked up the guitar…I played the chord and started singing. And the whole thing came out in about seven minutes—the chords and the vocal line—and I have that raw recording. Then I started adding drums and synths. After about an hour, you hear what the song is.
DK: Another song that I like from your album is “Tangerine,” and the video you made is very funny and creative. Can you talk about writing this song and filming the video?
Bayley: The whole idea of “Tangerine” is when someone has been in love with somebody (over the years), but realizing that they’ve changed so much, to the point where you kind of hate them (laughs). But once in a while you see these little glimmers of hope, these tiny tangerine speckles painted in their eyes. So that keeps you there. You keep striving for that fragment of who this person used to be. You go through this rigamarole—this torturous friendship (laughs). Then in the song you think about why that person might have changed, and it starts landing on these behavioral stereotypes imposed on us. It talks about social media, about TV, and it talks about gender norms that people are brought up with. It touches on all those things. And basically, the video taps into this (laughs). It’s spoofing all of those stereotypes and gender norms a bit.
DK: Besides “Heat Waves” and “Tangerine,” what are your favorite songs on the album?
Bayley: Good question. I also really like “Dreamland,” which is the opening song. It’s meant to be kind of a table of contents for the rest of the album. It introduces all of the sounds and themes. The album is going back through memories, and it’s trying to introduce all the sounds of those records I grew up with. It’s like Dr. Dre and Kanye West, and vibraphone and mellotron, and Beach Boys strings. It’s all these beautiful sounds layered in there, so I like the way that one came together. I also like the song, ‘Helium,” which ends the album.
Here’s the video of Glass Animals’ song, “Your Love (Deja Vu).”
DK: During the past year, we’ve all experienced Covid and the lockdown. How did you decide to release your Dreamland album last August, in the middle of the pandemic? It’s certainly done very well.
Bayley: To be honest, when we first put it out, I felt crazy (laughs). I thought it was possibly the maddest thing to do. But we had promised people we would release new music, and the album was already so late. It had been a year since we put out new music.
The album felt really close to my heart…it’s the most personal record I’ve ever done. And you always want an album to be released into the best circumstances, to give it the best chance possible. And releasing an album in a pandemic, at a time when very few albums have been released…there’s no guidebook for this. But at the same time, that fear basically drove us to be extra creative with how we presented it and released the record. [We knew that we couldn’t tour during the pandemic], and playing live is a huge thing for us—it’s a great way to contextualize music. So we were trying to find a way to compensate for this. We tried all sorts of things like making bizarre music videos (laughs), and by doing things interactive…getting a creative response from people. People would send us new remixes of our songs, or do something creative with Photoshop files for the artwork. Some of it was incredible.
DK: Lastly, I like the new version of “Heat Waves” you’ve just released, that features Iann Diorr on it. How did you connect with him?
Bayley: It was great to work with Iann. He’s a Texas boy, and I actually grew up in Texas until I was 12. I love the way Iann uses melody, and the sadness in his lyrics. I love the way he combines sadness and pop and optimism. I felt it would be perfect for him on this song, and he kindly agreed to lend his voice over with lyrics. It was an honor to work with him.