Glass Animals' Heat Waves continue into autumn as Dreamland tour heads for Portsmouth Guildhall | Big Interview
Dave Bayley, the frontman of Glass Animals is recalling an early gig for his band.
‘We played a show, I forget where exactly, but it was a headline show early on in Manchester to six people.
‘Four of them were the support band, one of them was my friend from America who happened to be visiting at the time and I have no idea who the other person was, I think they just wandered in by accident,’ he laughs at the memory.
‘Our rider at that point was four beers, some pitta bread and some hummus, that was it, and when we turned up at the venue they said: “You haven't sold enough tickets for us to get you the rider, but we found this can of beer in the corner."
‘The top was popped out and it was undrinkable – it had expired.
‘We honestly thought we were all going to go back to our day jobs at that point.’
When we’re talking over Zoom, Glass Animals have just returned from a massive tour of America – Dave is in fact still jetlagged.
And my, how times have changed – that struggling indie band are now A Big Deal (they sold 135,000 tickets in three days).
Over the course of three albums, the four-piece, originally from Oxford, have quietly amassed a huge following.
Their most recent album Dreamland has racked up a staggering 2bn streams online, helped in no small part by the global hit single Heat Waves, which has topped 1bn streams alone.
‘It's crazy to think the first time we went over there in 2014, it was in a little Toyota Camry with all of our keyboards on our laps and driving ourselves around.
‘Cut to this tour and it's absolutely ridiculous – it felt like such an operation, three trucks and three buses and so many people, it feels absolutely bonkers.’
The US tour was the first time the band had been able to play the Dreamland songs to people in the flesh.
‘It was amazing to get back out there and play these songs live for the first time, and to see a human reaction to them, instead of numbers on a screen.
‘It was great to be back with the rest of the band – and the whole team, we've got a whole live crew, and it felt like being back with the family.’
It's not bad for an album released during the pandemic – it came out in August 2020 – which its creators thought was DOA.
‘It's all very surreal,’ says Dave. ‘I have to kind of pinch myself, it feels like a bit of a dream – pardon the pun with the album title!
‘It is bonkers, especially to think at the beginning of this album – we'd finished the album and we had this whole planned tour, we would launch this album with a bunch of live shows with some of our favourite musicians coming and opening and playing with us and stuff like that. Then we had to tear that apart.
‘I remember having conversations with our manager and she was very much like: “It's not really the time to release a record, but it's too late now, the ball is rolling. So let's put this one out, it's not going to do very well, so start working on the next one... This one's dead in the water – let's just put it out.”
‘I was so upset for about two weeks, I couldn't believe it. Each album is like a child and you want the best for it.
‘After about two weeks I started to think maybe we can do the things we do on tour but through the internet and came up with all these crazy plans.
‘To go from that to this makes me feel a bit teary.’
During the pandemic, the band created a website which gave fans access to the album’s raw sound files and artwork so they could create their own takes on the songs.
They also put on a Live On The Internet show which sold 25,000 tickets, as well as engaging with fan communities in the video games The Sims and Minecraft.
‘I'm naturally quite a shy person. I don't known if I'd even have an Instagram account if I didn't do this, but I do use the internet a lot.
‘I'm a child of the internet – I love it. I learned everything I know off the internet. I play video games on the internet, I watch movies on the internet, and communicate by the internet.
‘It was quite natural. I use (social news website) Reddit myself, and I love a little bit of coding and website design. It just kind of made sense.
‘When it finally clicked after those two really depressing weeks – I love the internet, this album is about growing up and I grew up with the internet, there's just so much possibility here that you just find a way to do it.’
Did they hear any remixes or remakes of their songs they wish they’d done?
‘Yeah! There was so much music coming back that we opened up a competition for a Heat Waves remix.
‘We put all the stems up and made it slightly more official. We got some huge people – like Diplo and Oliver Heldens – taking part, and then 15-year-old kids from who knows where? It was amazing.
‘We ended up loving it so much that we ended up putting one of those remixes out officially. This teenager from Hull did this remix which puts the original to shame, to be honest,’ he laughs.
‘We put it on an EP with the Diplo remix because a lot of people have done competitions like this in the past but it never leads to anything, so the least we can do is give this person an official release.’
As the band’s main songwriter, Dreamland saw Dave delving into his own life for material for Glass Animals for the first time.
The result saw Dave looking into his own childhood and experiences growing up.
‘I was kind of doing it a little bit before this. I was doing some writing for other people, it's quite easy to write something personal when it's someone else singing it, so you're kind of one step removed.’
But it was in the summer of 2018 when their drummer Joe Seaward was seriously injured when he was hit by a lorry while cycling which proved to be the catalyst for Dave’s change of MO.
Joe has since gone on to make a ‘miraculous’ recovery and returned to drumming duties.
‘We were there in the hospital, waiting for news and we were kind of locked down – in the same way a few months ago we couldn't go out and be with our friends and do things that make us feel normal – we were just stuck in a hospital waiting for news, feeling anxious, not sure about the future.
‘Because you're not out creating new memories, your brain sort of goes in to the past and into nostalgia. I was doing that a lot, so it felt very natural to start writing that stuff down.
‘And that was the beginning of the writing process for Dreamland. It was tough, you face a lot of realities... but it was weirdly therapeutic.’
With a UK tour starting next week, including Portsmouth Guildhall and a night at London’s Alexandra Palace, the band have also been putting together new material. September saw the release of the single I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance).
As Dave explains: ‘Sometimes after making an album it's quite hard to get back into the swing of making music. As time goes on there's more and more pressure to make more music and another album, and to hand something in.
‘I felt that at the earliest opportunity possible, let's get in the studio and do something, and it happened to be this, and it worked. It's a great way to ease off that pressure and do something spontaneous that made sense.
‘During this lockdown I've been very much embedded in my own thoughts to the point where I was talking to my dog, talking to myself and overthinking, overanalysing everything about the past, and the current state of affairs, and at the same time was unable to release the pressure – it can drive you mad.
‘If you spend a lot of time in your own head, it drives you crazy if you don't balance it out with the things that make you feel like a real human – seeing family, seeing friends, going to a club, going to see live music, and I guess that's what this song is about – realising that imbalance and shutting up that voice in my head and going out and having some fun for once, and how much I needed that!'
Glass Animals are at Portsmouth Guildhall on Sunday, November 14, 7pm. Tickets £28.13. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk.