London-based singer-songwriter and producer, Dave Bayley, front man for the electronic group, Glass Animals, remembers spending formative years in a small Texas town, huddled at night around a radio that offered just a few channels. Luckily, for Bayley, one of the stations played classic Hip-Hop songs from artists like Missy Elliot, Dr. Dre, Eminem and, perhaps most importantly, the producer, Timbaland. These songs opened Bayley’s mind to new musical sounds and possibilities. Raised on groups like Talking Heads, The Beatles, Nina Simone and Bob Marley from his parents, Bayley says he became consumed by all of it. And each of these influences appears on the forthcoming Glass Animals record, Dreamland, slated for release August 7th.
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“I was obsessed with [Timbaland’s album, Shock Value],” Bayley says. “I was obsessed with the Justin Timberlake record, too – that song, ‘My Love.’ All the little production touches. They’re so clever. ‘Sexyback.’ That song has just enough playfulness in it. They’re like sprinkles of gold dust.”
For as visceral as Bayley’s music can be, he is also equally cerebral. Prior to diving into music fulltime, Bayley was studying medicine and, more specifically, the human brain. Heady stuff – literally. Bayley’s father, who was a scientist, moved the family around during Bayley’s childhood. Bayley’s father and mother met in New York City, had Bayley, moved to Massachusetts then to Texas and finally, when Bayley was 13-years-old, to England. It was there that Bayley met his future Glass Animals band mates, who bonded together over a love of music and some shared background. It was (Platonic) love at first sight.
“I’ve known them since I moved to England from Texas,” Bayley says. “I went to school with Drew [MacFarlane], our guitar player. He was my first friend. He’d also moved from America to England and because of that, like me, he wasn’t really liked. The kids at school called us ‘The Yanks.’ Drew introduced me to Ed [Irwin-Singer], our bass player, and then eventually we started hanging out with [drummer] Joe [Seaward].”
Bayley, whose songs have racked up millions of views and streams to date, began making music at 15-years-old. His cousin gave him his first guitar, which was stolen just two years later. But Bayley replaced it with a cheap nylon six-string he bought before any of the fame he’s garnered now. Yet, he continues to write much of his music on the instrument. But, some may wonder, why that guitar (which came complete with stickers demarcating the frets)?
“My main factor was that I could afford it,” Bayley says, with a chuckle. “It was 15-pounds but I haggled it down to five. It hasn’t broken a string yet!”
Since those early days, Bayley has worked with and written for prominent artists like Denzel Curry, Joey Bada$$ and many others. The collaborations, which sprouted from conversations backstage or through social media messages, are high watermarks for the artist who grew up adoring and soaking in the music from those few Texas radio stations. In fact, collaborating with artists is what led Bayley to write and produce his new autobiographical LP, Dreamland. He’d received positive feedback from the more personal songs he worked on with other artists and, so, he got personal with his own music. Dreamland, which reads as much like a memoir as an album, explores Bayley’s life from first memories to the most recent.
The 16-track album, which includes some “home movie” skits from actual home movie audio (Bayley’s mom would often film the family with a handheld video camera and, for Christmas one year, Bayley transferred the old footage to a thumb drive for his mom), plays like an epic melodic cornucopia. Hits include the spacey titular track, the Scotch tape-sticky “Heat Waves” and raucous, Timbaland-esque “Tokyo Drifting.” The record is as much about his future as much as his past self.
“This album has a lot to do with acceptance,” Bayley says. “Accepting that you’re going to fuck up a lot in life and that other people are going to fuck up. There are parts of life that are really confusing. In a way, the world expects all these very binary, simple answers to everything. But the world is a very colorful place. That’s the message in the album, how we were taught to think certain things growing up but how they’re wrong.”
Bayley recalls a personal moment in his life when his eyes opened. A lot of things had suddenly taken turns for the worse, personally, he says. Growing up, he didn’t have much focus on anything. He’d gone on to college and he’d begun to study medicine but he wasn’t working hard, merely getting by. That’s when he realized he had to make a change. He bore down and focused. And, at this same time, music began to take hold of his consciousness.
“It just clicked in my head,” Bayley says. “I told myself, ‘You have to work hard now or just end up doing absolutely nothing with yourself.’ So, I started working really hard at school. I was getting good grades and I was also DJing at night to make a bit of money. I would come home from my DJ sets and I couldn’t sleep. So, I started messing around and producing on an old white Mac Book. It didn’t have a battery; you had to plug it in. That was how the first EP happened.”
When he did find time to sleep, Bayley’s psyche circulated with wild dreams. Even recently, they fill his slumbering and waking-fantastical brain. Where the mind meets melody – that’s where Bayley shines. And that’s Dreamland.
“Music is the mystery,” Bayley says. “I still don’t totally understand how it happens. When I was studying medicine, I really loved the brain. It’s so mystifying. No one really understands it. It’s the same with music. It’s a little slice of magic when it lands. All you can do is practice the little tricks to get those little magical moments to show up. It’s like magical fishing.”
If you dig Glass Animals, pre-order their new album and consider getting some merch from their site.