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Glass Animals: ‘I had to get out of this doom hole’

After breaking every record imaginable with mega-hit ‘Heat Waves’, Dave Bayley came back down to earth with a bump. Fourth album ‘I Love You So F***ing Much’ sees him sift through the existential wreckage and focus on the fundamentals.

By Will Richards

Glass Animals
Glass Animals (Picture: Lillie Eiger)

Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley is a few minutes late for our video call, but has a better excuse than most. “Sorry, there was an earthquake,” he says with half a smile from his Manhattan hotel room, moments after a magnitude 4.8 tremor rippled across New Jersey and into the city last week.

Bayley has a strange ability to summon the elements. During a show at the legendary Red Rocks in Colorado back in 2017, he sang the lyrics “my thunder shook him down” from ‘The Other Side of Paradise’ at the exact moment thunder and lightning exploded in the sky in a moment genuinely too good to script. Suitably, the band’s fourth album, I Love You So F***ing Much, was also concocted during an ungodly storm.

In April of 2023, the band’s singer and producer was in Los Angeles for writing sessions to follow up the band’s 2020 album Dreamland, before a positive COVID test left him stranded in a hilltop AirBnB for a fortnight. Then a mighty storm arrived.

“The house was shaking in the wind,” he remembers. “I was wondering why the place was so cheap… and I got there and it all clicked! I thought I could handle it, but when the rain came, it was a lot. The roads were flooded, and I would have had to walk down the mountain to safety. I just couldn’t hack it.”

In those two weeks, Bayley wrote the entirety of I Love You So F***ing Much, an album that dives into the core of the human condition, completely alone. “I was in this really weird existential place, and I saw the hope,” he says. “I had to get out of this doom hole. I was looking out over the valley in Los Angeles and I saw the couples and families walking around. People laughing, people crying. It was like I was in space looking down. I felt like that is actually where we need to be putting our focus – down there.”

Behind the scenes of Glass Animals’ show at Red Rocks Colorado (Picture: Drew Perez @d.r.e.w.b.y)

The creation of the new album came at the end of a transformative and hugely disorientating few years for Glass Animals. Releasing Dreamland in the first summer of the pandemic, the band then headed out on a huge tour of the United States, one of the first of its kind in the new world.

“It was a beautiful rollercoaster ride that dumped us out the other end,” Bayley reflects of the journey. “I felt like I was spectating the whole time. Even when the pandemic ended, we still weren’t allowed out into the real world because there was no insurance against COVID. If you missed five shows, you’re done. You’re bankrupt.” Such was the sense of being the canaries in the pandemic coal mine, Bayley and his manager ended up writing a manual for how to navigate touring during COVID for the bands that followed.

He remembers: “It was off the bus, onto the stage, back onto the bus. We’d see these huge flashes of joy during the show but then be right back down into our bubble. It was surreal and added to a real feeling of detachment. I think that was the beginning of the crisis.”

While their unique, knife-edge tour was happening, the band’s song ‘Heat Waves’ also completely exploded, becoming the first song by a British act to spend five weeks at the top of the Billboard 100 chart since the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ in 1995. To date, it is the longest charting song in Billboard 100 history at a staggering 91 weeks. It led to a Best New Artist nomination at the 2022 GRAMMYs, a night Bayley was cruelly unable to attend due to another positive COVID test.

Bayley had always written and produced Glass Animals material alone, but the overwhelming success of ‘Heat Waves’ saw him become an increasingly desirable collaborator for others, with external musicians also wanting to get involved in his band’s work. Bayley worked alongside Jack Antonoff on Florence + The Machine’s 2022 album Dance Fever, and had been involved in multiple writing and production sessions with others for his own band’s fourth album.

“A lot of people were getting in touch and wanting to help produce this record, and I did all that for a bit but I’m not sure it was very ‘me’,” he says now. “I was going into the sessions very open-minded but it didn’t really get anywhere. I learned so much, and worked with some geniuses, but it didn’t feel right for a Glass Animals project.

“When I was in this house and I was sick and forced to be alone, it dawned on me,” Bayley remembers, telling himself: “It’s actually ok  – you don’t have to do all the things that everyone thinks that you should do. People were pushing me to do these sessions but I’m quite an introverted person. When it comes to writing songs for Glass Animals, that’s the natural space to do it – alone.”

After the album was written in demo form, Bayley took the songs back to his London studio and worked in a more structured way after his hyper-productive but manic two weeks in California. “The good songs happen fast,” he says. “What then really needed to happen was to get out of that mad frenzy and into a place where I could make sense of it all.”

The album’s first teaser is ‘Creatures in Heaven’, a song that pairs Glass Animals’ traditional wonky charm with the crunch of distorted guitars and Bayley’s new perspective. “The backdrop of the record is about space, and this existential crisis is framing the whole thing, with these really intimate love stories at the core,” he explains. “The contrast is meant to be an argument between the two. That led to a lot of the sounds being very different, with some space-y sounds and heavy guitars put through 70s-style phasers. It was all made on stuff that was meant to sound like the future in the 60s and 70s.”

On the new single, Bayley tells a decades old story and of longing to “be in the moment,” something that proves hard for any touring musician, let alone one subjected to the whiplash-like sensation of being on the road during COVID. “The intention of the song is to argue that a tiny moment can be as complex and as interesting and as huge as everything else,” he says. “A one second event can change your life forever, and this moment can have a knock-on effect on other people’s lives.

“The complexity of the emotions in that moment, it’s impossible to comprehend at the time,” Bayley adds, putting his new breakthroughs down to the simple fact of growing up as well as finding himself – not by design – in a feverish state and a crumbling house during a huge storm. I Love You So F***ing Much tackles the manic last few years of his life but goes far deeper too, right down to the fundamentals. “I was forced into isolation,” he says. “That’s the place where you can start to make connections.”