Dave Bayley of Indie-pop band Glass Animals talks new album Dreamland, and how Covid-19 has affected their creative process and interaction with the fans.
As I log onto Zoom and see the digital, pixelated, retro-esque background behind me, I ponder to myself, how did we all get here?
Soon enough, my existential crisis got cut short as the frontman of Glass Animals, Dave Bayley, as he put it, began pouring waterfalls out of his mouth. He was nothing short of charming, charismatic and entirely eloquent, despite voicing his initial worries of rambling too much.
As with most of us during these trying times, Bayley and the band have been keeping safe and sane, working in the studio. Routines had to be altered due to Covid-19, and inspiration for music had to come from different sources. While the “old normal” allowed Bayley to talk to a wide array of people, to listen to diverse stories and voices, the creative process of making albums and music had to change drastically.
As for Glass Animals’ latest album, Dreamland, Bayley stated they were lucky to finish the album before the pandemic wrecked the world. Group work, that is, working together as a band, had largely been completed by early 2020.
While the album itself was finished, the release of Dreamland was the next issue. Now comes in the Dream Machine, an online experience ironically designed to be a screen detox. The idea came to be when the band, as Bayley stated, “learned touring was a no go for the foreseeable future” and had to invent “new ways to interact with people”. While the Dream Machine was, Bayley admits, “Not the same, but [we were] trying to make something like a collective consciousness.”
“The open-source website keeps getting things in and out,” Bayley details, “which led to so much creativity in response, that back and forth.” As the site continues playing music, the audience gives a response through remixes and their own projects. This culminated in Glass Animals releasing their favourite remixes in the deluxe of the album.
The inspiration for Dreamland largely came from Bayley’s nostalgia for the 90s, “Going through memories up until now, makes you think about a certain time period and takes you back.” The retro objects such as Game Boys, the “vaporwave vibes” for the album’s look, the food he ate as a nine-year-old, recalling those memories, sets the scene of the songs.
Bayley expands on his fondness of memories, quoting one of his favourite writers, Haruki Murakami, “Memories are the fuel we burn to stay alive.” He explains, “Memories are who we are as people, the people around us. It’s a really important thing to acknowledge and write about.”
As for the lyrical writing of the album, Bayley revealed how it was “scary to be open” and “talking about your flaws”. Bayley is very self-critical when it comes to songs and holds himself to a high standard, as with anyone pursuing perfection in their craft.
Bayley’s inspiration behind ‘Heat Waves’ was making a song about “missing somebody and not being able to do anything about it”. Tragically, Bayley lost somebody he loves and wanted to convey that “It’s okay to miss them and feel that.” He continued, with the ongoing pandemic, this message is immensely relatable, and he hopes people find comfort in that.
As the creative projects keep going, more creative ways are available as technology makes it happen. Bayley excitedly divulges how he has been doing many collaborations with people he would never have thought of working with before. Conventional musical collaborations prior to Covid-19 involved a session, followed by being in studios, mixing rooms and live rooms. Now, through video conferencing sites like Zoom, the musician and Dave can work in two entirely different rooms. Furthermore, Dave adds that “music is all digital now”. The atmosphere of creativity during the pandemic is prolific because there’s not much else to do, “A lot of people have been hitting us up, all sorts, not just music.”
One amusing collaboration outside of music is the PEZ dispensers in the shape of every Glass Animals’ members’ heads. Another interesting project is the pair of shoes the band designed. “Everyone is in a collaborative mood,” explains Bayley, “there’s a lot of creative output from this time.” Technology has widened and revealed more open horizons, willing more creatives to take advantage of the fusion of ideas to do more collaborations that are out of the box.
“With the infinitely blank canvas of the computer, you can do anything,” Dave says. From chord progressions to visuals, “It’s the little things that can I pour to give you an idea, anything at all, something to make some noise. Find something cool and start from there!”
Last October, Glass Animals held a live performance of ‘Heat Waves’, joined by hundreds of fans on ZOOM who surrounded them on stage to recreate the togetherness and atmosphere of live shows digitally. Bayley exclaimed it was, “Chaos! No one had done it before, performed with a live Zoom show.” The essence of live shows that Bayley missed was the crowd mentality and atmosphere.
Ultimately, while the pandemic closed doors for Glass Animals, it also opened many avenues for the band and future projects. With the ever-evolving situation, Bayley explains while plans are “very embryonic about the tour”, the exciting thing is the fact that tours are happening.
Circling back to my mini existential crisis in the beginning, while I do not have an answer, Bayley’s endeavours have told me this. Despite everything, while we are all here, we definitely have the ability to make the most out of it.