Interview: Glass Animals

Having just got home from an extensive North American tour, and with Heat Waves currently sitting at number five in the Official UK charts, Glass Animals are showing no signs of slowing down. As the band are gearing up to embark on their UK and Ireland tour, frontman Dave Bayley found the time to sit down with Gemma Cockrell to discuss tour life, the virality of Heat Waves, and their new single I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance).

“I’m at home!” Bayley exclaims. “I love North America, but it’s good to be home with my little dog – I don’t know where he’s gone, though, he’s somewhere,” (we later concluded that his dog was upstairs). “The jetlag is alright; I’m used to it. I don’t mind it. I like the dreamy feeling!” he laughs. Unsurprisingly, the tour sold out almost instantly, something that Glass Animals have had to get used to in the past year following the success of their 2020 album Dreamland. “It’s so crazy. I remember the first time we toured the UK, our own headline tour in 2014 or 2015, it didn’t go well. It was terrible! We played in Liverpool to four people – and I knew three of them! It was a state, it was a terrible show. We were driving ourselves in a Ford KA. So, this feels crazy, it’s astonishing to me. I have to pinch myself.”

Even though Bayley is residing at home right now, he won’t be there for long. Glass Animals will soon be embarking on their UK and Ireland tour, starting in Glasgow on 8th November. “I’m so excited, it’s going to be a great homecoming. It’s been so long since we’ve played in the UK – when the pandemic hit, we were midway through an American tour. We played London and Manchester at the start of 2020. Apart from that, it’s been four years since we’ve toured the UK.” The tour includes a show at Rock City on 15th November, but it isn’t the first time that Glass Animals have visited Nottingham. “We’ve played twice before in Nottingham. One time was at a pub, and the stage was in the middle. We got heckled! It was so funny,” he reminisces.

“After that first tour, it did get significantly better,” he confirms. “We’ve had some of the best shows of our lives in the UK, they always feel like mini festivals. Everyone seems to get pretty worked up. When we played in Cambridge, which I thought was going to be chill, we played one of our slowest songs and there was a mosh pit!” He predicts that this is only going to escalate following the several lockdowns that the UK has undergone in the past year and a half. “Now everyone has been locked in for a couple of years, it’s going to be even wilder. I might wear a helmet!” he jokes.

"It’s been the craziest year and a half of my life!"

Glass Animals’ popularity soared during the pandemic, leaving Bayley struggling to comprehend the sheer number of fans the band now has. “I’ve been thinking about it a bit lately. It’s been the craziest year and a half of my life. But also, I haven’t been able to leave my house. So, it’s felt like being a spectator to someone else’s life. You get sent numbers on a screen, and it’s really hard for that to mean anything, to be honest. It’s mind-blowing but it doesn’t feel real, it doesn’t feel like you, and then as soon as you’re stood in front of a crowd and you see those numbers stood in front of you, shouting back at you, it’s incredible. I was really nervous before the shows, which never happens to me, and for the first five shows I actually cried,” he admits, “And I feel like it’s going to feel even crazier when we do that at home in the UK.”

It’s impossible to speak about Glass Animals without mentioning Heat Waves, the song that has propelled the band to these heights over the past 18 months. It has gone double platinum in the US, platinum in the UK, and is currently sat at number five in the Official UK charts – another thing that Bayley is still struggling to comprehend. “It’s insane, I can’t believe it and I don’t really know what to say! It’s such a personal song, and to me it’s really sentimental. It’s my little secret, my little baby, and it’s gone and made loads and loads of friends,” he laughs. “Obviously, I’m so happy, you always want that – I’m going to keep with the children analogy – you always want your children to have lots of friends and be happy and thrive, and it really has. But it still feels like your little secret. Sometimes, I think ‘Why this one? Why this one that’s so personal and sentimental and meaningful to me?’ and then I realise that’s probably why. I think people in this time need a bit of that.”

The song was initially released in July 2020, but it is only seeing the peak of its success now – a strange phenomenon that Bayley doesn’t really have an explanation for. “It seems to have kept creeping up! It’s something that has always intrigued me, but I’ve also always loved it when I’ve heard a song and been like ‘That song is incredible’. I remember hearing Florence and the Machine for the first time, Dog Days, and I was like ‘That deserves to be huge’ and then of course, a year and a half later, it was massive. It feels crazy to have a flavour of that, for that to be happening to us.”

It was funny to hear Bayley say this, since I vividly remember hearing Heat Waves last summer and thinking to myself that it would surely be a breakthrough hit for Glass Animals. “You predicted it!” he laughs when I tell him this. “I can’t do it with my own stuff that I’ve written, because it’s too close to me.” Often, artists seem to believe that their most popular songs are the ones that they least expect to find an audience, and this is no different for Bayley. “That definitely happens. I quite like the song – that’s why it’s on the album – but it’s at the end of the album, so I didn’t expect it. I thought maybe it was too sad to do what it’s done, but maybe everyone’s just been feeling a bit sad lately,” he observes.

"The song is doing what I always hoped it would – make people think of a memory, makes people feel nostalgic"

He acknowledges the influence of TikTok on the song’s surge in popularity, leading him to have a positive perception of the platform. “I think it’s amazing. The most meaningful thing you can have as a musician or an artist of any kind is a creative response back from something you’ve done. TikTok is a space for that. All social media are, but TikTok is a way for people to respond with dance, drawing, memes – I love memes, I think they are a creative thing and are often really clever! TikTok provides a space for people to do that very quickly and spontaneously, and I love that. I also love the trend that’s come up around Heat Waves, it’s like SadTok!” he laughs, “It’s quite a sad trend, and the song is doing what I always hoped it would – make people think of a memory, makes people feel nostalgic. Obviously, some of the TikToks are very funny and tongue-in-cheek, but others are quite deep and meaningful. Of all the TikTok trends, this one actually hit me in the heart a couple of times.”

Sometimes, artists claim that they become fed up of their most popular song, but Bayley doesn’t understand this sentiment. “Why would you hate one of your children?!” he exclaims, “You can’t! You can’t do that, that’s not fair. If bands hate their most popular song, they shouldn’t have put it out. I just feel lucky to have a song that’s done so well.” Even though he evidently doesn’t mind talking about Heat Waves, I decided to steer the conversation to their latest release, a new single titled I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance). “That one is an anti-lockdown, party song. That’s how I’d describe it! I think, probably like a lot of people, I was spending a lot of time in my own head through this pandemic. Overthinking things and driving myself a little bit crazy. I was trying to think about why that’s the case, and the thing it boiled down to was that no-one was doing the things that make themselves feel real and human, the things that ground you and stop that vicious cycle. It’s about wanting to get the fuck out of my house and go and have some fun, but not being able to.”

However, this new single doesn’t mean that a new full-length project is on the way. Instead, the band intend to release it simply as a stand-alone song. “I’ve mainly been working on other people’s records since Dreamland, but I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance) is part of a series, we’ve always released one song in between albums, and we’ve called the series ‘Fresh Fruit’. We’ve done a bunch of them now, and it’s a chance for us to do something different and unattached to the concept of a record and enjoy ourselves with no strings attached. Not having to think about a bigger picture, and not having to go into some crazy conceptual artwork and set design for a tour. I don’t know if that song is an indicator of where we’re heading, it’s just something that came out kind of like a fart that you didn’t expect,” he laughs, “But there it is! And now, we have to think about where we’ll head next.” For now, the band are focused on finally giving Dreamland the touring cycle that it deserves, and you can catch them in Nottingham at Rock City on 15th November – if you are lucky enough to have tickets, since the show is (unsurprisingly) already sold out.

Written by: Gemma Cockrell

Edited by: Joe Hughes

Featured and in-article images courtesy of Glass Animals via Facebook and YouTube