Our 2021 Annual Report continues with a wrap-up interview with Glass Animals. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.
While attending San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival over Halloween weekend this year, I witnessed a full circle moment with Glass Animals: six years prior, on the Sutro stage, I had seen this band play songs from their tropical-tinged debut Zaba to a decently large crowd for a 3:00 p.m. set. This was by no means their first big festival, but frontman Dave Bayley fondly remembers it as “the biggest crowd we’d ever had at that point.”
Fast forward to late October of this year, where Glass Animals took the mainstage before headliners The Strokes and played to a crowd that was easily eight times larger than their 2015 set. It was indeed a victory lap for the British quartet, and Bayley’s earnest bewilderment at the sheer size of the audience was a joy to watch.
What’s more, is that this victory lap took place in the peak of “Heat Waves’” record run to the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, weeks before a major Grammy nomination, and in the midst of the biggest surge in popularity that the band has ever experienced.
All the while, Bayley remains extremely humbled and grateful for the support. “I was pretty sure this album was going to be a bit of a rubbish one, that it was just going to be a fart in the wind in the noise of the pandemic,” he says about the success of “Heat Waves” and their third studio album, Dreamland. “Everyone was listening to the records they grew up with, and I didn’t really see our album fitting into that. It’s absolutely bonkers.”
Thinking back to their origins and first album, there’s been a notable shift in the band’s style and content: where Zaba emphasized atmosphere and environment, Dreamland marked the first time Bayley was writing from a personal, autobiographical perspective.
“Heat Waves” and fellow Dreamland highlight “Tangerine” feature a sense of longing and desire that feels much more vulnerable and resonant, and it’s fitting that so many fans connected deeply with that longing throughout the Pandemic. And regardless of how many times you may have heard it on the radio, “Heat Waves’” undeniably catchy hook and style makes it one of the best pop hits of 2021.
Glass Animals don’t plan on stopping any time soon — their recent single “I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance)” is making its way up the charts (and made our own Top Songs list), prolonging Dreamland’s extensive promotion cycle and allowing the band to continue its global dominance. Throughout 2022, they’ll tour North America, Europe, Australia, and play numerous festivals — but this time, they’re bonafide headliners.
Before their show in Edinburgh and one day before their Grammy nomination, Consequence chatted with Bayley about their 2021 triumphs, their plans for the future, and much more.
2021 has definitely been huge for Glass Animals — do you find yourself able to reflect on all the successes and triumphs of this year?
It’s quite hard to, because it seems when I start to think about how much has happened, it makes my head want to explode, in a good way, also in kind of a crazy way. It’s just completely unexpected and so much has happened to be honest, it’s really hard to wrap your head around. I think I’ll sit down at the end, kind of around New Years’ time, after Christmas — that tends to be when everything slows down for a second because the music industry is on holiday — so I’ll hunker down with my dog next to a fire and that’s when it will sink in, how much has actually happened.
Going back to 2020’s Dreamland, the lyrics on the album are so autobiographical. Does it feel rewarding having this album being celebrated in the way that it is, with so much vulnerability and personal material in it?
It certainly does mean all that much more that it’s done okay. It would have been quite awful if I had written this really passionate album and everyone unanimously hated it and hated me because of it, but I half expected that, that’s the thing. I was really shy going into it and really nervous about sharing these songs, and the response… it makes me kind of want to tear up when I think about it, especially considering there was absolutely no touring.
I was pretty sure this album was going to be a bit of a rubbish one, that it was just going to be a fart in the wind in the noise of the pandemic, everyone was listening to the records they grew up with, they were listening to the classics, and I didn’t really see our album fitting into that. It’s absolutely bonkers.
What were some of your classic albums that you were sort of going back to during those lockdown periods?
Well, I love Otis Redding, so I was listening to all those records again. I really love The Beatles, I grew up with them and Sergeant Peppers and The White Album especially. I’m a huge Beach Boys fan, so I listened to a lot of them and a lot of Nina Simone as well. I was listening to all of those records on repeat and finding a lot of comfort in them, and that’s kind of where the sound of our album came from because it’s meant to be personal, it’s meant to be that soundtrack of growing up for me, so it really pulls from all of those influences and all of those records.
Listening to some of the new tracks like “I Don’t Wanna Talk (I Just Wanna Dance),” what would you say the next sonic evolution of Glass Animals is? Are there any ideas that you’re thinking about for the next record that feel very different from what you guys have done before? Or is it kind of just a natural progression based on some of the new songs you’ve put out?
I hate doing the same thing twice, that’s like my least favorite thing. I’d rather try and do something weird or different and get completely beheaded for it than do the same thing again! So yeah, I think it’d be different, but I don’t really know how yet. I need a minute to sit down and collect my thoughts and find a bigger idea to fuel the writing process and create some kind of thread or theme that runs through all of the songs. I haven’t really landed on that yet but it will come. It will come as soon as I try and take a little break and stop touring and stop trying to do everything. As soon as I try and rest, it’ll be like, “Oh, I’ve got an idea.”
Looking ahead to 2022, it seems like a lot bands like yours that put out albums in 2020 are doing pretty extended promotional cycles. Will next year just be more shows in support of Dreamland? Or will there be a cutoff with more time for you guys to rest?
I think we’ll just keep going. The pandemic lockdown in the UK was a lot, and we had to kind of work extra hard to interact with the album and do stuff to replace touring. Now that touring is back, we have to work extra hard to make up for the lost tour, but I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying making up for the lost touring and we’re having the best shows of our lives right now, so we’re just going to keep rolling. We’ve got a whole other tour in America that starts mid-March and that’s a couple of months, and then we’ll just blow straight through to festivals. I’m really enjoying it right now.
Speaking of festivals, I was lucky enough to catch you guys last month at Outside Lands, which was such an incredible performance. The sheer size of that crowd that you guys pulled was amazing, especially given that I had seen you guys there in 2015. I remember seeing you at the Sutro stage and you still pulled a huge crowd.
I remember that so well, that Sutro show. That was the biggest crowd we’d ever had at that point.
Yeah, absolutely. I remember walking out onto the stage and being like, “Holy smokes, this is petrifying, this is so scary, there are so many people here.” And then it was like that squared, this time around, it was so bonkers. I went actually and saw a bunch of people on the Sutro stage and thought, “Oh, this feels a lot smaller now.”
It’s a full-circle moment now, not just considering that you’ve played these festivals before, but just seeing the way people connect with your band now versus six years ago.
It’s like another level, it really, really is. I feel like when we were playing those festivals early on like, people were a little timid maybe, or maybe we were a little timid, maybe. I felt like we were kinda still winning people over, or not a lot of people who came to see us had really heard the music, and now every single word is being sung back so loud that I can’t even hear myself sing half the time. I’m not saying it’s annoying, it’s great. It feels really special.
Do you have any favorite festival memories? From this year or prior?
Oh, so many. As you said, we just played Outside Lands, and Firefly as well, and they were just so unexpectedly colossal. I’ve never seen that many people, to be honest. I think the only time people have seen that big a crowd of humans is when people went to war in the 17th Century, you’re just not meant to see that many people. It makes you innately freak the fuck out, but once I got over that, they were absolutely brilliant. They were the best festival shows we’ve ever played, by a distance. There’s nothing quite like it, and I really can’t wait for more, if they’re anything like the last ones we did.
The Grammy nominations are about to come out — how will you feel if you’re nominated?
I mean, a nomination would be incredible, especially after such a crazy year for music. I feel like everyone deserves a Grammy, everyone who released music. It was a really hard year to release music and to just be that vulnerable, I think, a lot of people who put themselves out there and released a record really put themselves in a vulnerable position when the world was already in a vulnerable place, so for that reason it would mean a huge amount. I immediately dedicate it to everyone else who released any music in the last 18 months.
Ed. note: After Glass Animals received a nomination for Best New Artist, Bayley got back in touch with Consequence: “To have this nomination after the couple of years we’ve had… it means the world to us. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster and I feel like this is a ginormous delicious cake we’ve been given at the end. Everyone who released anything in the pandemic deserves a cake, to be honest!”
Glass Animals recently did a concert that was livestreamed on TikTok. “Heat Waves” also became a massive trending sound on TikTok this year. Do you feel that TikTok played a large role in your success this year?
The stream was a great way for us to play to a bunch of people who we haven’t been able to go and see. As we’ve been saying, we had a huge touring plan to launch the record, it was all based on playing shows. We were going to tour for two years solid and it was completely wiped out. It was kind of crazy how bad the timing was, almost. The live stream allowed us to visit those places in some way until we could physically get there, so it was really lovely.
That platform also, and all of the social media platforms, they allow people to respond to music in a pretty creative way very quickly, and through the pandemic when it was impossible to see anybody and kind of impossible to see a response physically… normally you’re touring and getting a response back and you’re meeting people and people are saying, “Oh, I really enjoyed the album,” and you’re getting feedback and seeing smiles on people’s faces, hopefully… that just didn’t exist.
Those platforms… I feel like they really came into their own, and that’s where we saw people responding to the music and a lot of the time it was really, really wonderful and creative and that’s the most you can ask for as a musician, a sort of creative response to your music, a sentimental response, and the kind of trend that picked up around “Heat Waves”… it was quite sad of people reflecting (and people did funny ones, of course), but there was a really sad, sentimental side to that trend and I thought it really fit the song amazingly well, it wasn’t just someone putting mustard on watermelon.
People on TikTok are definitely more open to showing sadness and the things they long for — that song has been a window into everybody not just missing life outside of the pandemic, but sort of being unafraid to have that sense of longing and to have that sense of vulnerability.
Exactly, and to share it, I think that was pretty healthy in the pandemic, when everybody is feeling a little bit wavy maybe and a little bit out of sorts. The online communities really came into their own, and I felt like they were kind of why I was waking up in the morning. People were sending artwork through all the platforms to us, and that is what was getting me up in the morning.
Catch Glass Animals on tour next Spring throughout North America; tickets are available here.