Glass Animals frontman Dave Bayley grew up in Texas, but you wouldn’t know it from his pronounced British accent. An ocean-wide difference from the southern drawl you would expect of someone who left Texas at 13. “I came to England and it was like Harry Potter, I was in it,” Dave says from 3,800 miles away. “I totally got rid of my accent. And then I copied Joe’s accent really.”
Joe is Joe Seaward, his childhood friend and Glass Animals drummer whose near-death experience in July 2018 inspired the theme behind their newest album Dreamland.
Joe is a little more soft-spoken than Dave, chiming in to fact-check Dave on his dramatics. Joe is equally important to the foundation of the band and serves as the inspiration behind their latest album. After a truck hit him on his bike, the music industry wondered if he would ever play again. “We didn’t know if he’d survive,” Dave recalls of that late summer in 2018. “We didn’t know if he’d be able to drum again, much less walk and talk again.” The future, much like now, couldn’t be predicted. This album serves as an auditory journal of the trauma they endured after Joe’s near-death accident. “The headspace that we were in, in a slightly removed way, mirrors the way a lot of people in the world are feeling now,” Joe says. “If there was ever going to be a time to release an album like this, this feels like a really weirdly appropriate time to be releasing an album which is about having to look back rather than look forward.”
This morning, the band dropped the deluxe version of the album featuring a remix of “Heat Waves” by Diplo and the 19-year-old winner of their remix competition. Talk about audience engagement. Glass Animals has earned their loyal fan base thanks to their immersive live shows, psychedelic melodies, and ability to connect on an intimate level with their audience.
While the album was written before the thought of any sort of quarantine, the lessons and themes of the album feel oddly relevant to the world today. “I found that when the Coronavirus hit at the beginning of lockdown the future was thrown up in the air for everybody in the world,” Dave chimes in. “I noticed a lot of people were going back and listening to nostalgic music, and watching movies that reminded them of their youth.” And while loneliness and hopelessness aren’t the best feelings, the music that culminates in these dark times fills the void.
Talking with Joe and Dave is akin to a double date. There are five of us on the line, Joe and Dave, me and our Editor in Chief Koko, and of course the PR chaperone to make sure things don’t get out of hand. We attempt to settle in and get deep into the album but are quickly sidetracked by things like blood sausage and thigh envy. You heard it first, Dave Bayley of Glass Animals has thigh envy.
The tone shifts easily and rapidly from Paul Mescal’s toned thighs to the state of the world and the collective loneliness that it’s created… As Dave puts it, loneliness in its purest form can be found in lockdown, recently highlighted by COVID’s annihilation of in-person experiences. “The pinnacle of live music is when everyone loses their own individual ego and sense of self,” says Dave. “[Now] it’s all gone and it’s awful.” For musicians, the dissolution of live music adds that extra layer of mourning.
“There must be other ways of getting a flavor of that collective consciousness, that unity, that togetherness that you can get at a live show, but on the internet,” continues Dave. “We set ourselves a task trying to create that over the web.” This materialized into a fully open-source website designed with, you guessed it, nostalgia in mind. The design is reminiscent of an early-2000’s mac interface, retro pop-ups, and all. It even hosts a page that scans your face, playing a new single louder when enough people close their eyes at the same time. A simple ploy to inspire collaboration and a sense of togetherness that seems to be lacking in lockdown.
If you’re going through the album in order (you would never start a new show at Season 2 Episode 3 ya know?) you’ll be met with a tangy dream, one we’ve been missing for four years. “Dreamland” screams escaping your entire existence and floating away to a personal Shangri-La , a place for nostalgia and archival magic. The wavy interlude ends on a slightly meta note: “You go ask your questions like what makes a man? Oh, it’s 2020 so it’s time to change that. So you go make an album and call it Dreamland.”
An album released right as the world shifts into what seems like a never-ending Jordan Peele thriller. Dave recalls a day in March when the band was caught in the middle of the San Francisco lockdown. It was a rush against time claims Dave, “The price for flights was going up by like $100 every 30 minutes and it was like, let’s get out of here before they lock the borders down.”
Finding an exit strategy was hard enough, but after landing back home, the band had to completely reconvene and start over. Dave sighed, recounting the original plan – which consisted of live music – for the Dreamland drop. “I just remember thinking, ‘oh my god this huge plan!!’ And just tore it in half… it was really gutting.” Although the band was still mourning the death of any live music, plan B came to fruition.
Plan B quickly became Plan C when the day before their “reinitiation” plan the murder of George Floyd went viral. “That was one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen and I’m a white British person in England. I can’t imagine how that must feel for the Black community in America,” Dave says. “I was paralyzed by that a bit. It just felt so wrong to release a piece of music at that moment. No piece of music is more important than the civil rights movement.”
The album, which officially broke ground in December 2018, weaves in and out of crackling audio files of a woman, presumably Dave’s mother. The sour ring of the old landline is heard as someone asks their baby to dance. Queue “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” and the band gives a snappy soundtrack for baby to dance to. The beat requires head bops and snaps, but the actual storyline is rather dim – based on an old friend from Dave’s time in Texas, who later attempted a school shooting.
Dave’s favorite song on the album is “Tangerine,” Joe’s is “Helium.” Tangerine is the obvious choice since Tangerine is also my favorite song, but Joe’s choice is more intriguing. “The one I find most emotionally engaging and affecting is Helium,” he explains. “It’s sort of almost backward. The structure of the song is sort of flipped.”
As for future projects, I have a few pitches of my own for the boys. “That’s a good album, coming back from being abducted by aliens,” I playfully suggest to Dave. He laughs and I think he thinks I’m joking, I’m not. “That’s the next one, thank you Sam,” Dave says. “Can you rap?” Unfortunately, Dave, I cannot rap. But I am awaiting your request for a feature on the next one.
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photos / courtesy of artist
story / Sam Berlin