Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley talks ‘Dreamland’ inspirations, engaging with fans amid pandemic

Glass Animals
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Glass Animals have always been known to make fans tap deep into themselves with pensive lyrics and psychedelic pop beats. But the band’s newest release, Dreamland, ushers in a fresh era for the quartet, one in which lead singer and songwriter Dave Bayley steps down from sharing others’ stories and puts his own introspective thoughts and memories on the table.

With Dreamland, the band went through a tumultuous process to make a cohesive, emotionally encompassing album. Before the record was realized, drummer Joe Seaward experienced “a really bad accident,” as Bayley said in an interview with The Daily Californian, and much of that stress manifested into Dreamland’s concept.

Bayley felt much uncertainty about Seaward’s recovery and what the future held, thus letting his mind drift to the warm embrace of the joys he grew up with. “You just kind of naturally end up finding comfort in the memories,” Bayley said. “Maybe it’s your brain’s way of doing therapy to itself — just start thinking about the past.”

While Seaward recovered, Bayley flew to Los Angeles and began recording an amalgamation of the thoughts, feelings and memories he turned to for solace. Tapping into his mental store of souvenirs while working on other artists’ projects encouraged him to bring more of a personal touch to his own endeavors. 

“This album was basically trying to soundtrack my own life,” he said. “It was just about digging deep into the sounds that I grew up with and the things I would’ve been listening to when any of the memories I was talking about in the lyrics was happening. I tried to fuse the things that I’ve always fallen back on, and that’s like The Beatles and The Beach Boys and small Motown stuff.” 

He said the recording process starts with taking his retro influences and resampling them through a hip-hop filter — noting Madlib as his favorite producer. The band uses many of the same recording instruments used by Bayley’s favorite bands from the 1960s.

Bayley explained that he’ll usually get a demo ready and then pass it on to the rest of the band to dissect or greenlight, though having the input of four people can sometimes lead to overthinking. Some demos end up on the album, such as “Heat Waves,” but others, such as “Your Love (Déjà Vu),” end up being revamped quite a bit.

“Sometimes I’m like, ‘This bassline is rubbish. Ed, get on the bass and play something, please,’ because he’s amazing and he can add all these fills and do these things that I just can’t do,” Bayley said. “Or if something needs live drums — like, I’m a terrible drummer — so I’ll say, ‘Joe, go to town on this.’ ”

But apart from the challenges of producing a record, Glass Animals have faced even bigger obstacles not being able to tour and promote their music amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s quite confusing,” Bayley said. “You’re normally used to releasing an album, and you’re already out on the road at that point, and you kind of see if people like it or not. … It is strange not having that.” 

Usually, the band will gauge the energy of the crowd or the event and alter its set list and style accordingly. But with drive-in concerts, regular livestreams and possibly even a live album to tide fans over, Bayley feels that the intimacy of live shows is being compromised. 

“It’s hard because everyone’s still in their own bubble,” he said. “It’s the same with a lot of the online shows — a lot of them are just like normal shows that people have done on a stage in a venue, but there’s no crowd there, and that’s 90% of the show. I just always feel like it’s not quite as good as being there. I’ve listened to some of my favorite bands doing live albums and it just makes me really wish I were there, that’s it. It makes me feel left out.”

Though he misses the sense of togetherness and the audience feedback that come with live shows, Bayley embraces the challenge and views grappling with the internet as an opportunity to experiment with the band’s fanbase. Going forward, the band hopes to put more emphasis on its website as a means to connect and interact with fans, hinting that a unique livestream show is in the works for the near future.

“There’s definitely something like out there to be explored in terms of a show that actually uses the internet for its full power,” he said. “I think the chaos of it and the unpredictability of it, it kinda is what’s exciting about live music in the first place anyways.”

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.