Interview: Glass Animals on Dreamland, vulnerability and recurring nightmares

Glass Animals

Glass Animals are making their return with their third studio album, Dreamland, which presents an unusually personal collection of songs for frontman Dave Bayley.

Previously, Bailey focused on other people’s narratives – How To Be A Human Being was inspired by interviews he conducted with strangers along their ZABA tour.  This time Bayley turned the microscope on himself in his most vulnerable and revealing record to date. The opening title song “Dreamland” foreshadows the subjects to come, with each lyric tying into a different track on the album.

Despite the varying “sonic palettes” across Dreamland, the work is a cohesive looking-glass at some of the most pivotal events in Bayley’s life.

Dave Bayley joined us for a chat from his studio in London to share how he was feeling ahead of Dreamland‘s release and to chat about COVID collaborating, vivid dreams and his neighbour’s satanic cats.

 

Hey, how you doing Davey?

Yeah, really good, thanks. Did you call me Davey?

I did, Wavy Davey!

Yeah, cool. My mum calls me Davey.

Are you about it? Am I allowed to?

Absolutely! Yeah. Whatever. I don’t mind. She calls me Davey and she calls me Dugald Bug [possibly Doodle Bug] which, yeah.

Is your real name Dugald?

No, my real name is just Dave, it’s very boring.

It’s all right, I liked the pizzazz.

It’s all right. I was actually called Spike until I was about one and a half.

Is there a story behind that?

I know, I was just called Spike and then they realised it was kind of a shit name. So they called me Dave instead, which is kind of equally bland, I don’t know.

It’s not equally as bland as Spike! Do you reckon a name makes a person?

I think I would have been a very different person if I was called Spike.

I feel like you’d have as much more bad-ass persona, more like Wavy Davey.

Yeah, I’d be some kind of warrior.

Where are you right now?

In my studio, in London. East London. Where are you?

I’m in my bedroom in Sydney, central Sydney. It’s not too bad, it’s quite nice. Congrats on Dreamland! You’d be pretty nervous to put this body of work out.

I am a bit nervous. It’s quite like personal. So it’s strange that everyone’s going to hear the stuff, but ultimately the people who are like, you know, my mum’s heard it, and my friends have heard it, and my brothers heard it, and they think it’s cool, so it’s okay.

It’s always most daunting putting it out for the ones closest to you. Did this kind of open up a new uncharted dialogue with you and your bandmates? Because obviously you’ve known them since you were pretty young.

Yeah, I’ve known them for a really long time, since we were 12, so long time, but yeah, there’s a lot of stuff in here they didn’t know about.

They asked a lot of questions, and I told them the answers were in the song. It was interesting, I mean, it was nothing they really hadn’t heard before, but maybe they just never… They were maybe too stoned to think about it. I don’t know. No, no, no I’m dropping them in it.

 

Is there one song in particular that they were kind of dumbfounded by, or that you’re most nervous to have out?

I think most nervous to have out, is maybe I think in terms of the most vulnerable one, is probably “[It’s All So] Incredibly Loud” as super sad to me. And “Domestic Bliss” is really like, that was a weird one to kind of uncover, and think about, and really get back into that headspace, was sort of strange.

Yeah, because also it’s not just your story in that one. Like there’s so many moving parts.

Yeah. “Domestic Bliss”, that’s like my first memory. And you kind of forget about that stuff. You bury all the bad things about life under doing your laundry and like, “Oh shit, I’ve got to go call a plumber because my sinks exploded. And I got to go get milk, and got to go see my friend.” And I don’t know, you just bury all that stuff, and then diving back into it and trying to actively like bring those memories up can be pretty strange.

I’m really intrigued by “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” because, is that the one that in “Dreamland”, the opening track, that’s the one that relates to, “he had a gun on the first day of high school.” You don’t know? Tell me about it please! Because for Australians that is so wild.

I had a friend that I was really close with when I was young, when I lived in America. And then, it was that age when you’re like discovering music and doing like slightly stupid, cheeky, kind of rebellious things. And yeah, we discovered a lot of stuff together listening to like Dr. Dre. And that’s definitely where the like sonic palette came from.

And actually it’s Mixedbyali [Derek Ali] who’s one of Dr. Dre proteges, mixed the song for us in the end, which was really like, nice icing on the cake. But anyway, yeah, I came to England and we sort of lost each other. I fell out of touch. And then I heard a couple of years later that something really awful had happened. And it was just strange trying to believe that someone can change that much from being relatively innocent kids, to doing something truly horrific.

And I guess that song is kind of going through how innocent we were and then looking at all the things that are really, all the weird like stereotype behaviours that are imposed on you as a kid in certain parts of the world, and how that can actually really, how the world can really fuck you up to a point where you want to do something like that.

Yeah. And it’s nature versus nurture, where that nurture element is a very [important], particularly when you’re such a young, impressionable age. Yeah, it’s scary.

I mean, you touched on it. This one is one of your more hip hop tracks. Would you ever collaborate with someone like Dr. Dre or Timbaland on a Glass Animals track? Like, would you be able to put their name to it like you’ve done with “Tokyo Drifting” with Denzel [Curry]?

Yeah…

Because that’s kind of unusual for your band to have a feature on one of their album tracks.

Yeah. We’ve never done it before, but it felt right with us. We kind of grew up in America, similar time and we got along, had a lot of the same references, and like a lot of the same stuff. And it’s sort of, I think if I was going to have someone on the record, it would be, yeah, it’d be him. And then there’s a co-write on the record of someone called Starrah.

I don’t know, she’s like, basically, I’ve just like, if I’m going to do a co-write on this record, it’s going to be with my favourite songwriter. And I’ve actually been writing, we’ve been writing for a while, me and Starrah, just other stuff, pop stuff. And I’m just chucking ideas around. And then it came time to write this record and she was down to do to a track for it. So those are the two like collaborative things outside of the band. Really happy.

Yeah, and you should be, particularly if you’re getting the names that you’ve always wanted to have on a Glass Animals album. That’s amazing. How many albums do you reckon you’re sitting on now after COVID, like surely this would have been pretty good for your creativity, right? You would have written shit-tonne of songs.

Yeah, there’s the bagpipes album…

You know what? There’s a lot of collaborative stuff. So maybe there’s something to come from that, maybe there’s a collaborative record coming out of there. I’ve been doing some remixes for all sorts of people, and so that’s been really fun. And I’ve written a few other songs, but I try not to like, really duck, because when I start writing a record, like I go into a hole, I lock myself away. And as we’re about to release this record, I’ve kind of thought, maybe it’s not the best time to go into like my weird….

Internalised.

Yeah. Just wear underpants, and don’t answer the phone, and just eat cereal.

That would’ve changed this interview a lot.

It definitely would. I thought that it would be quite strange to do that for the like, months before releasing an album.

Fair enough.

Are you still working on that concept of happiness? How happiness manifests?

Yeah! How do you know that?

I do my research!

That’s pretty clever. That’s… you’ve done your research. Yeah, well I think that definitely ended up really, a lot of that ended up being kind of covered in this record, but like a slightly, I don’t know, just another level.

More nuanced.

Yeah, it just went kind of deeper. And I actually looked at, I don’t know, just stuff from an even earlier stage. That idea of happiness was much more about like, I don’t know, now. And how can you be happy now, and then I think a lot of happiness comes from like realising things that have happened in the past and coming to terms with them. That’s a big part of it.

That’s true, that is very true.

We’re going deep, I’m sorry!

I love deep. It’s like 8:30 in the morning here. Let’s dive right in a bit.

Sorry, yeah it’s breakfast over there.

All good, I haven’t eaten yet! Davey, I want to ask you finally, do you recall your dreams? Do you remember your dreams when you wake up?

I do. Yeah. I have crazy dreams. And especially since, there’s been like two points in the last couple of years, where I’ve had really, really, really strong dreams. One is when Joe [Seaward] had his accident and I don’t know, have you been having strong dreams since the lockdown, and like the quarantines and stuff?

I want to say yes, but I think it’s because I’ve been eating more cheese and drinking more wine. So, that changes it.

I don’t know. I think it’s like part of not being able to see the future, a lot of us kind of live for the future, and are always thinking about the future, and that is all total [inexplicable noises] don’t know what’s going on. So I think your brain kind of has these like. It kind of goes back into these new, if like, I don’t know, has these dreams to be like the replacement of a holiday. So that’s the two moments where I’ve really, yeah. This quarantine, and after Joe’s accident, when the future looks like shit.

That’s kind of nice escapism almost. Is there one dream that you vividly recall?

I have a recurring dream. Yeah, it’s a weird one.

Yeah, tell me about it.

I get chased by cats, these three cats. So I’m in this like huge warehouse with loads and loads of hallways and doors, and I’m at one end and these cats are at one end, and they’re just three little kittens, and there’s a red, one yellow one, and a blue one. And you know, like smokey blue, like a cat.

Yeah okay, so they’re not like primary colours?

Yeah. And I’m like, “Aw, cute kittens.” And then I go up to the cats and I’m like, I’m about to touch one. And then I touch one, the blue one like shoots me with electricity out of his eyes. Oh no, the blue one’s water. So the blue one shoots with water. And then the yellow one like gets me with electricity, and the red one shoots me with fire, and they chase me all around and I get cornered in a bathroom. And then they’re about to like destroy me. And then I wake up.

There’s so much to unpack in that. There’s so much symbolism.

 

What do you think? What do you think it means?

Okay. So you’ve got the elements there. What does that even mean? Maybe you’re the missing link. Maybe you’re like the Air bender. Because you haven’t got air. So your air, in this situation, but then you have to choose a pathway, but you know you’re going to get burnt at every turn, no matter which direction you go down. Just a cautious guy.

You got so into it! I like this. I think it just means that I don’t like cats.

Oh, that’s true actually, I’m a cat person, so…

I do like cats. I do like cats. I have a cat problem at the moment. I have my neighbours three cats weirdly, what? I’ve been having this dream for years and years and years, like, I don’t know, 20 years. And moved into this house, neighbour has three cats. And they stand outside in my garden, they wait for me. I like, look at them. They look back at me and they like, wait for me to have to pee. And then when I pee, they poo in my garden and it’s not cool.

Why? That’s so bizarre. I love that! That could be some inspiration right there.

Yeah. I’m going to do that. It’s going to be a whole album, I think. Fuck The Cat.

Fuck the cat. Western style, but like spaghetti Western in there. That’d be sick.

Yeah, would be dope.

Dave, we’ve definitely run over time so I’m going to let you get to your next interview. I might grab some breakfast.

Yeah. Go have some breakfast, and thank you for taking the time so early.

No, thank you for taking the time so late. I really appreciate it. And congrats again on Dreamland.

Such a pleasure. Thank you.

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