In Conversation with Glass Animals: “We feel very lucky to be able to make another record”
Dave Bayley of Glass Animals is showing NME a toy ray gun – a piece of “naff” paraphernalia, he says – that hasn’t made the cut for merchandise linked to their new album ‘Dreamland’. “I’ve tried to do a lot of crazy shit that didn’t quite work. I tried to make this ray gun, which I was going to put sound effects from the album on.” Speaking from his east London home studio room he jokes: “It’s gotten totally out of hand. We have a candle, we have shoes, we’ve got all sorts of crap.”
In the absence of an imminent tour (cheers, Covid-19) which would allow the band to support recently released third album ‘Dreamland’, Bayley has spent much of lockdown collaborating with people to create ‘90s-themed merch as well as overseeing the band’s interactive website, a throwback to all things Windows ‘97.
Why the nostalgia? Well, ‘Dreamland’ is the first time Bayley has written autobiographically instead of the abstract ideas and character portraits of 2014’s ‘ZABA’ and 2016’s ‘How To Be A Human Being’.
The horrific cycling accident Glass Animals’ drummer, Joe Seaward, suffered in 2018 resulted in Bayley spending countless hours by his best mate’s hospital bedside. A byproduct, says Bayley, was that he was “stuck inside all day”. He adds: “I wasn’t going out. This is what inspired the concept of looking backwards. “It wasn’t seeing friends or anything, so your brain kind of automatically goes to memories.”
Those memories are of a childhood growing up in the US; of first loves, lusts, poolside dwellings, video games, candy, and of innocence meeting experience. These moments are illustrated vividly on ‘Dreamland’, soundtracked by woozy hip-hop and pop songs that are paeans to Bayley’s formative years tuning his radio to US rap stations.
“‘Dreamland’ is all about memory,” Bayley says. “I’m just digging back into what I was eating, watching on TV, what I was doing with my spare time – everything. And when I was reliving those memories, I was thinking about the context, so things like Karate Kid, Dunkaroos, Space Ghost, Real Monsters, N64 games and Grand Theft Auto fed into the record.”
NME sats down with Bayley for an interview (watch in full above) about ‘Dreamland’, including learning that he once stumbled across Johnny Depp late at night in a studio…
How are you feeling about releasing ‘Dreamland’? This record is your first autobiographical one…
“Pretty weird. I’ve always been told by my mum, ‘Don’t talk about yourself, think about other people first, they’re way more important.’ I’ve always thought that way. But then I had this revelation after doing all this other production and writing stuff [for acts including Joey Bada$$, 6LACK] that all of my favourite songs by my favourite artists are personal ones.
“It’s a bit nerve-wracking. And then there’s no touring which has always been huge. We’ve lost a leg, really, so we’re replacing it with weird, crazy naff merchandise.”
Your drummer, Joe, was knocked off his bike in Dublin in 2018, which left him unable to walk and talk. How does that incident affect you as a band now, two years on?
“I guess now that the record’s finished it’s about the next steps. We just feel very, very, very lucky to be where we are: to be able to make another record.”
And how is Joe doing at the moment? Have you seen much of him in lockdown?
“I mean, he’s texting me right now. We talk a lot. The magic of a Zoom and FaceTime has meant that I get to see him pretty much every five minutes. And since the rules have eased out with having, like, a bubble, well he’s in my bubble.
“There are a lot of ups and downs [with Joe’s recovery]. I don’t know how much you ever fully recover from something like that. The main thing that tends to be an issue is a confidence thing.
“But the guy’s probably the most stubborn person I know. He was on a bike when he had the accident, but the first thing he wanted to do was get back on a bicycle. And now he’s back on a bicycle. I think he’s a bit nuts for doing it, to be honest. I still can’t get on a bike. I have one and it’s just there sitting out rusting.”
‘Space Ghost Coast To Coast’, from the new album, was written about an old school friend of yours in the US, who attempted a school shooting. How did it make you feel to hear this?
“The main thing was trying to understand how someone who was such an innocent person [could do it]. You know, no one is necessarily born with the edge to do that. And it certainly wasn’t there when we were friends. It’s just funny seeing how that change is possible. I guess that’s what a lot of this album is about, and how there’s certain ways of behaving imposed on you as a kid growing up in certain parts of the world that can really mess you up.”
The album is interspersed with audio interludes of home VHS recorded by your mum. How did she feel about you including them?
“I played her the album and she fucking hated them. She said, ‘Absolutely not – I sound ridiculous.’ And I said, ‘No, mum, you don’t sound ridiculous. Please, please…I’ll make you sound really nice. I’ll put some reverb on your voice.’ I think it took her a minute to digest and now she really likes them.”
Why did you decide to use them?
“To tie things together. I had the kind of dream tracklisting done, and then sometimes two songs didn’t weave into each other…so I started thinking in a more abstract way. Like, all these songs are about the ups and downs and confusing moments in life and trying to make sense of things that have happened. And [I thought]: who’s been like in the middle of all of that my entire life? And it was my mum.”
Denzel Curry features on ‘Tokyo Drifting’. Did you have any other people you wanted to collaborate with?
“No, I don’t think so. But we’re doing some more – you heard it here first – we’re doing an expansion pack that will have more features on it at some point.”
I read that there was a lot that wasn’t included on this album. Is that what you’re referring to?
“Yeah. Some of it just didn’t quite feel right or there was too much in one certain emotional realm.”
So there’s not any extra songs that would be released as a totally new record?
“Maybe, yeah. We don’t know. I can’t say for sure, but there’s always stuff floating around. But what’s floating around is just good. People are being very collaborative at the moment and I love that. So many people getting in touch about all sorts of stuff. That’s where half of this crazy merch is coming from….I dunno, maybe there’ll be a collaborative thing that’s aside from this album. But I like the idea right now of doing an expansion pack of collaborations with a lot of the music that’s already on this record and playing with that.”