Glass Animals will bring their third album, Dreamland, to Australia in July. Rolling Stone Australia spoke to songwriter and frontperson, Dave Bayley, about Dreamland, “Heat Waves” and a whirlwind 24 months.
Dave Bayley was born in the USA. His father is Welsh and his mother Israeli. The Glass Animals leader lived in Massachusetts until he was seven and Texas until the age of fourteen. His family then moved to Oxford, in south east England, where Bayley remained into adulthood.
Bayley now lives in the east London neighbourhood of Hackney, surrounded by a who’s who of contemporary British music.
“We’re all in Hackney,” laughs Bayley, who’s sitting in his home recording studio. The room is lit a fluorescent pink. To Bayley’s right are a few monsteras and ferns, the sort of plants you’d expect to see on stage at a Glass Animals show.
He goes on: “I go out for lunch here—there’s like one café here—and every single day I see the same people: I see The xx and [FKA] twigs. It’s all really awkward. Like, ‘Are you getting the soup? Oh nice. That’s cool.’”
Bayley will leave Hackney for an Australian tour this July, which includes a run of Glass Animals headline dates and stops at Splendour in the Grass and Adelaide’s Spin Off Festival. Glass Animals’ Australian fanbase has been building since the band released its self-titled EP in 2013. Bayley and co. sold out their first Australian club shows in April 2014, a couple of months before their debut album, Zaba, came out.
But this time it’s different. Not only has the band’s latest album, Dreamland, been their most successful to date, but the single “Heat Waves” is a certified hit. It’s a hit everywhere, too: in Indonesia, America, across Europe and at home in the UK.
Its success in Australia is perhaps the most comprehensive. “Heat Waves” topped ARIA’s Top 100 Singles of 2021 chart, eclipsing The Kid LAROI’s “Stay” and Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License”—not bad for a track released in June 2020.
The song’s broader popularity followed its victory in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2020. As a consequence of the Hottest 100 win, Bayley and guitarist Drew MacFarlane agreed to get Australian-themed tattoos on their bums. Bayley got a map of Australia decorated with squiggly lines representing heat, MacFarlane an impression of a koala on a branch.
“When I think back over the last two years, I get palpitations,” says Bayley. “I feel like it was so many good things and so many horrific things.”
The first horrific thing happened in 2018 when Glass Animals’ drummer, Joe Seaward, was hit by a truck while bicycling around Dublin. Seaward required brain surgery, which put the band’s foreseeable tour plans on ice. Seaward made a somewhat miraculous recovery to be available in time for the Dreamland recording sessions in 2019. But trouble lurked around the corner.
“As soon as he’d made his recovery and we were playing shows, we were hit with the long, hard schlong of the pandemic,” says Bayley. “And that was right as we were releasing our album. I thought [the band] was over.”
Despite Bayley’s mortal fears, however, the album took off. “Heat Waves” preceded the album’s release by five weeks and caused a sufficient enough stir to push Dreamland into the top ten in Australia, the USA and Britain (where it debuted at #2).
Glass Animals have never been an obscure commercial proposition—Bayley’s not the sort of songwriter to lay all his cards on the table at once, but the band’s hip hop- and R&B-influenced indie pop music has always possessed a core accessibility—but it’s not marketing spin to say the success of Dreamland was unforeseen.
The album was conceived as a self-consciously personal project for Bayley. The lyrics reflect on the singer’s tweenage experiences in Texas in the late 1990s and early 2000s; audio clips from family home videos are interspersed throughout the track listing; and the production draws on Bayley’s affection for ’90/’00s hip hop heavyweights, Dr. Dre, Timbaland and The Neptunes.
Regardless of the record’s hyper-subjectivity, “Something worked,” says Bayley.
“I think maybe it was a record about nostalgia and people were feeling nostalgic in the pandemic,” he adds. “When you’re not out creating new memories, you go relive the old ones. It was a record about that, perhaps.”
18 months later, people in their millions are still listening to Dreamland. The album’s deluxe edition includes new versions of “Tangerine” (feat. Arlo Parks) and “Heat Waves” (feat. Iann Dior) , remixes from Diplo and Oliver Heldens, and the new single, “I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance)”, which cracked the top 25 in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2021.
Glass Animals are currently the 34th most played artist in the world on Spotify, and no one’s more surprised than Bayley. “I actually felt it was quite a sad and sombre, insular record,” he says. “I never expected this much from it, to be honest.”
Bayley expresses comparable astonishment at the ongoing success of “Heat Waves”. “Heat Waves” is the fourteenth track on a sixteen track album. Neither the band nor their label anticipated its smash hit potential. Though, Bayley can acknowledge why a sad and sombre pop song like “Heat Waves” might exert transnational appeal at a time like this.
“It’s a song about missing someone,” he says. “We’re all missing people right now. It’s a strange time and in those times people do try to find comfort in music—I know I find comfort in music.”
Glass Animals – Dreamland Tour 2022 Australia
Thursday, July 14th, 2022
HBF Stadium, Perth, WA
Saturday, July 16th, 2022
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW
Tuesday, July 19th, 2022
John Cain Arena, Melbourne, VIC