- 19 Jan 21
With three albums under their belt and over 10 years of experience as an outfit; Glass Animals have perfected the dreamy soundscape of psychedelic pop with their latest LP, 'Dreamland'.
Connecting with the Oxford band’s frontman over Zoom in his Hackney studio; Dave Bayley’s mellow temperament makes it clear to see how the quartet and their fans have cemented a friendship of equals through the medium of creativity.
The Covid-19 pandemic, while halting their touring schedule, has allowed the easygoing band to explore further their relationship with their dedicated followers; engaging in MarioKart Twitch streams, airing a Dreamland TV Network and releasing covers and collaborations with industry names like fellow London-based act Arlo Parks. Their Windows ‘97-inspired interactive website even allows fans access to unreleased Glass Animals content to create their own music and artwork.
The journey to their current stage of success had its own unorthodox twists and turns, not to mention a near-fatal accident in Dublin that almost derailed the band permanently. Bayley speaks to Hot Press about the band’s powerful attachment to Ireland and describes the experience of writing autobiographically for the first time, opening up his Pandora’s box of childhood memories to create Dreamland for the world to consume.
“I have incredible memories of playing in Ireland. I genuinely think Irish crowds are the best,” Dave says, the pink-LED lights of his East London studio glowing in the background.
“I remember we played the Academy in Dublin, and it was so loud at the end of one of the songs that we couldn’t start the next track. Every time we tried to play, we couldn’t hear ourselves,” he laughs. “We played Whelan’s - that was wicked. My shoe got stolen and someone made a Twitter account for it. They kept tweeting pictures of the shoe in random places around the city and I had to chase it everywhere. I found it at 3am, barefoot running around Dublin with Joe Seaward - our drummer. He actually lived in Dublin for a long time.”
Joe endured a traumatic incident while cycling in the Irish capital two years ago, which nearly took his life. The drummer collided with a lorry, suffering a broken leg and complex skull fracture that required immediate, life-altering surgeries. You’d be forgiven for assuming that the band’s associations of Dublin - despite Joe’s miraculous recovery - may not be so positive, but Bayley holds an alternate perspective when recounting the crash.
“Those accidents happen - I still love Dublin. The way we were treated was so helpful, not to mention the kindness offered by nurses, doctors and those who just witnessed the accident. I don’t think he would have recovered nearly as well as he has done without the way that he was treated by everybody,” Dave says. “From the second after it happened until he came back to his parents house to make the more long term recovery, there was constant support. The surgeons were absolutely incredible - they saved him. At one point, he couldn’t walk or talk and they did one key operation where they lifted some of the bones that were pressed into his brain out and then it all started coming back to him. He was very lucky. If anything, it made our connection to Ireland stronger rather than one tainted with negativity and sadness. I certainly feel an emotional connection to Dublin.”
“When Joe had his accident, I basically moved there for a couple of weeks just to be by his bedside. I was pretty much living in the hospital in the little waiting room,” he laughs. “I don’t think I was meant to, but I just camped out there. I’m not sure that we would have necessarily experienced that same level of kindness elsewhere.”
Dreamland signifies the first time Bayley has written autobiographically instead of the abstract ideas and character portraits from their 2014 debut ZABA and 2016’s How To Be A Human Being. By casting his mind back to his formative years of childhood and adolescence, the album is rich in both Bayley’s vulnerability and eye for detail.
“I think the band were probably a bit surprised when I approached them about writing Dreamland as autobiographical rather than building characters. It was uncharted territory, and I’m quite shy about my personal life a lot of the time,” Dave says. “They were quite shocked by it, and were probably nervous because it was very personal to me. The previous album was about people we’d all met on tour and people we knew. I cared a lot about the band’s opinion, so it was theirs I looked to first while writing these songs. They’re probably glad that I finally decided to open up.”
“It’s definitely strange putting yourself out there. It’s very easy to take things to heart when it’s so personal,” Dave continues, reminiscing on the album’s commercially successful August release. Landing at No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart, only Taylor Swift’s Folklore stood in their way. That alone is something worth bragging about.
“It’s never been about numbers - I hate saying that because we’re so lucky that the new album has done so well. It also opens up a huge amount of doors creatively and gives us options - shows can be bigger, for example. We’ve been having fun and making the exact kind of music that we want to make and because it’s done well, we’ll be allowed to do that again. That’s an incredible thing, and it’s the main takeaway from it.”
Despite the woozy beats and funky, shimmering pop skin of the tracks - the bare bones are often filled with distressing memories from Dave’s past. ‘Space Ghost Coast To Coast’ was written about an old school friend in the US, who later attempted a school shooting. Though it’s not the first fragment of brutal honesty we’ve seen from Bayley - How To Be a Human Being’s ‘Agnes’ told the tale of a friend who died by suicide, for example - Dreamland dives into previously buried parts of himself. A painful process, no doubt.
“‘Domestic Bliss’ was the toughest song on the album to write,” Dave says, casting his mind back. “When I was in hospital waiting for Joe, I couldn’t really make new memories so I went back into my old past really heavily. A lot of tough stuff comes up. That’s been happening for a lot of people in lockdown as well - we’re all going back to our youth.”
“Reliving a distressing moment to create the track ‘Domestic Bliss’ was hard, especially with context,” Dave adds. “I was so young when it happened. The song is basically about my first experience of witnessing domestic violence. It’s about not understanding it at the time but going back and thinking about that moment when you’re older. I’d really buried that memory as a kid. I had never really thought about it until I sat down in that hospital and had the time to think. It’s a strange thing and painful to relive. It makes you wish you’d done something different in that moment, but again, I was only around six-years-old.”
“There are definitely parts to a lot of the songs that I’ve kept to myself. I’m never going to say exactly what they mean to me, but the really amazing thing is that people are reading those lines and are making their own interpretations of them,” Dave explains about the value of keeping aspects of Dreamland to himself.
“That’s just as important, if not more important. Even if the words are misunderstood, at least most people are finding something in them that they appreciate.”
The album is interspersed with audio interludes of home VHS recorded by Bayley’s mother, curating innovative ways of showcasing memories through music. Some of the industry’s greatest figures paved the way for this level of nostalgic candor, which Bayley consumed as a child.
“A lot of my heroes had made autobiographical records - for instance, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys,” Dave says. “Pet Sounds is incredibly personal, and it always made me feel less alone. I couldn’t really put a finger on why, but then when you have someone tell you that that’s what Dreamland has done for them, it absolutely blows my mind. I never expected that. I just hope that the album has made people feel like less of an island in a time when it’s very easy to feel isolated.”
Dreamland is out now via Polydor.