Glass Animals: “I tried to sell our biggest hit”

by James Hendicott
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Glass Animals have had a convoluted and fascinatingly varied career so far, one that’s seen them genre hop, drawing on influences from indie to hip-hop, and progress their style from the deeply abstract to the pointedly personal.

Frontman Dave Bayley is open about the band’s journey, which feels like a learning curve combined with a growth in confidence of self-expression, a step up to addressing the emotional and the heartfelt.

“Some songs are so personal I find them hard to perform, like ‘Agnes’,” frontman Dave Bayley says. “I need to be emotionally ready for it, it’s very deep for me and quite dark. I’ve stopped playing it for now, until I feel ready.”

Bayley traces much of his style back to his childhood. “I got a radio when I was about 11, and listened to a lot of hip-hop,” he says. “My small town in Texas, where I lived at the time, had two radio stations, just hip-hop on one and country on the other. I loved the way hip-hop made me feel. I still love artists like Busta Rhymes and Timbaland.”

“I actually have all my sounds on my computer organised by those producers, in folders called ‘Timbaland style sounds’ or ‘Pharrell style sounds’, so they’re a huge influence on my production in particular. It helps me find things, it’s the way my brain works. It makes sense to me. In a similar way, I have all the Apps on my phone organised by colour. It’s just what works for me.”

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In recent months, following the launch of the album ‘Dreamland’, single ‘Heatwave’, in particular, has been a remarkable journey, peaking on the UK charts last week at number five, almost a year after release, and reaching over a billion Spotify streams. “It blows me away, I feel very very lucky, I wish I could understand it!” Bayley says. “I’ve always had this philosophy that great songs grow. I remember when I first heard Florence and the Machine, and it took a year to be on the radio. It’s great to have a little taste of that.”

“I actually tried to sell [Heatwave] to another artist,” Bayley laughs, looking back at the single’s early days. “I felt it was too personal. I put it away for a while, and then came back to it. Our drummer had a bad accident, damaging his brain in a bike accident, in Dublin in 2018, which left all of us in the band in a bit of a panic state, not knowing what the future would hold. We had to cancel everything and wait for news.”

“In a strange way it had parallels with how a lot of people have experienced the pandemic. We were all locked in, focusing on Joe (the drummer) getting better, and re-experiencing our old experiences in our heads as we weren’t really able to have new experiences. That’s what we ended up writing about, and how we became more personal.”

“Despite Joe’s experience, we’re really just excited about coming to Dublin. Joe loves the city, as he lived there for a long time, and we’ve always had the best shows, the best experiences in the city.”

In the meantime, fans have been connecting online. “I love any kind of creative response to our music,” Bayley says. “We started this open source website. It started at something that was to replace the interaction of touring, and this website had all the artwork, all the layers, and so on, scans of a lot of objects.”

“It’s all there for people to use, and I think that’s a really interesting thing that can come from something you’ve made. It’s the reason I’ve been waking up through this pandemic, to be honest. We’ve seen some things that have been so good that we’ve reached out and tried to work with the people who made them. There’s a video, for example, that we now use live for one of our songs. It’s been an incredible thing to see, something that encourages me to create.”

Glass Animals bring their Dreamland tour to the 3Olympia on the 24 and 25 of November.

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