BY MARK KENNEDY – AP Entertainment Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Hospitals are usually not breeding grounds for great music, but in the case of English indie pop band Glass Animals, a member’s medical emergency resulted in a breakout album and a Grammy nomination.
Drummer Joe Seaward was hit by a truck while riding his bike in Dublin in 2018 and fought for his life. Dave Bayley, the quartet’s songwriter, singer and producer, spent many hours in the hospital next to his friend, the future uncertain under the glaring fluorescent lights.
“Hospitals are weird places and I think that makes you feel very nostalgic. You are looking for comfort in the past. So that was the beginning of the album, ”says Bayley. “I started writing these memories down and looking for more memories, and some of them were great. Some of them are really uncomfortable. “
The album that emerged was the deeply personal “Dreamland” rooted in Bailey’s past. There are playful references to Scooby-Doo, Fruit Loops, Pepsi Blue and Mr. Miyagi, but also a song about domestic violence (“Domestic Bliss”) and a tune about an old friend who planned a school shooting but never pulled it off ( “Space Ghost from Coast to Coast”).
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The standout single is “Heat Waves,” a hypnotic, hazy tune honoring a deceased friend whose birthday brings grief every June. It was a slow hit, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 after 42 weeks on the charts, the longest climb to the top 10 in US chart history. The song earned over 1 billion streams on Spotify and ended up in the company of “Levitating” by Dua Lipa and “Dynamite” by BTS.
“Dreamland came about before we even knew about COVID-19, but it came at a time of personal turmoil for Dave and the band – after Joe’s accident,” said Amy Morgan, the band’s manager.
“For example, ‘Heat Waves’ is a very personal love song about loss, but it connects me because I think it captures a very universal sense of loss – which is unfortunately ubiquitous at the moment.”
Glass Animals also garnered a Grammy nomination for best new artist, though that’s a little odd for a band whose debut album came out in 2014. Later this month, they’ll face Olivia Rodrigo, Saweetie, Finneas, Japanese Breakfast, The Kid Laroi and Arlo Parks. The band also bagged two Brit Award nominations.
Bayley believes part of the album’s success can be attributed to the pandemic. Finding the future bleak, many listeners sought solace in the past – as he had done in the hospital.
“You were in a similar position to me when I wrote much of this album,” he says. “Everyone was stuck inside. They heard the music they grew up with. They ate the food they grew up with. They sought consolation in these situations and relived these memories because they cannot be outside to create new ones. “
Dreamland’s denominational roots were actually sown on the band’s final album, How to Be a Human Being, where Bailey wrote each song from someone else’s perspective. The last one, “Agnes”, was about a friend of the band who died of suicide. It was Bayley’s most personal song and marked a change in his songwriting.
He didn’t want to put it on the album. He played it for the rest of the band, who quickly insisted it was on the album. Fans later wrote letters saying how much the song meant to them, and that gave Bayley the courage to turn more inward.
“That reaction gave me a lot of confidence to write more personal things,” he says. “The songs that meant the most to me from my favorite authors are when they talk about something personal and make you feel less alone.”
When the songs were finished, something was missing – “a little glue,” he says. Bayley looked for something that put it all together and realized it was his mother. He had recently digitized old camcorder tapes she made when he and his brother were kids, and layered some of her narratives on the album as interludes, which made Dreamland even more personal.
He also added some subliminal messages for hardcore fans – there’s something in Morse code in the middle of the record, another message that can be heard on another track if reversed. The album was finally ready, but the pandemic ruined the band’s tour plans.
“We had to rethink everything completely. And in a way, it really made us open-minded, ”says Bailey. “Nobody left a manual on how to release an album in a pandemic during the Spanish flu.”
With the blessing of their record label, Glass Animals began giving the album away – literally. They started an open source website where fans could download every section of the songs and artwork. They invited remixes and saw their music adopted for TikTok videos and by Minecrafters. Fanfiction and art submissions, inspired by “Dreamland”, poured in.
“I woke up every morning and looked forward to seeing what came in. That was my gas, ”says Bailey. “I thought to myself, ‘We don’t know what to do. That helps me. Maybe it will help some other people. ‘”
Avery Lipman, President, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Republic Records, praised the band, their labels and their agents as flexible and innovative. “Glass animals have historically defied gravity,” he says.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.
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