In July 2018, Glass Animals drummer Joe Seaward was riding his bicycle in Dublin when he was hit by a truck and nearly died. After spending weeks in the hospital unable to speak or move, he learned how to walk, talk and read again while his body healed. For his bandmates, the experience was excruciating and profound, the kind that made frontman Dave Bayley “zoom out” and ask existential questions about trauma, art and mortality. “I started thinking back to stories from my childhood in Texas before my family moved to England,” he tells Apple Music. The experience wasn’t necessarily pleasant. “Your brain goes to weird places.”
Bayley doesn’t particularly enjoy writing about himself, but wound up circling his own memories for the band’s introspective third album—specifically, those emotionally charged moments when innocence is lost. Strung together by interludes ripped from his family’s home videos and production inspired by early-aughts hip-hop (the soundtrack of his youth), Dreamland is a deeply personal account of Bayley’s journey into adulthood that chases an ever-looming question: “How did I get here?” Below, the London-based musician opens up about the stories behind a few standout songs.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast “I’ve tried to tell this story somewhat vaguely because I hate the idea of revealing someone's identity, and this person in particular has rebuilt themselves, which is an incredible thing. This song is about a very good friend I had growing up, back in those formative years when I was first discovering hip-hop—Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, all of whom I tried to channel in the production—and also discovering myself. We went to camp together, we got into trouble together, but we were both always nervous and shy about everything. There was gentleness to it all. When my family moved to England, we fell out of touch, and a couple of years later I found out that he’d brought a gun to school and tried to do a shooting. He got caught on the way in, no one died, but it affected me. It didn't add up in my head. He was the person I watched cartoons with and played kickball with... I couldn’t understand it. It was the first time I really understood how much things can change, that people you love can do things that you won't understand. It was a breaking of innocence.”
It's All So Incredibly Loud “This song is about saying something that you know is going to really hurt somebody—something they'll never forgive you for and that will probably make them hate you—and the three seconds right after you say those words. That silence that feels like the loudest fucking thing ever. I began with a particular moment in mind, but then I just started thinking back on all the times I've been...well, maybe not a dick, but close. All the times I've hurt somebody, and sitting with what that felt like. It’s quite abstract compared to the rest of the songs on the record because I wanted it to apply to a lot of situations.”
Domestic Bliss “This song was sparked by one of my very first memories—the first where I can trace the whole sequence of events. I was maybe six. I went to my friend’s house after school one day, and it was a weird place. There were dogs in cages, wild cats in cages; I didn't really understand it. We weren’t allowed in the house—we always played in this woodsy area nearby—but sometimes there’d be loud shouting from inside. My friend would turn to me and be like, 'Oh god, she's going to come out crying.' And his mom would come out of the house in tears with blood on her nose and things like that. I remember it hitting me, just that it was so bad. And then we'd all get back in the truck and she'd take me home. I guess the song is about the helplessness you feel in situations like that. When you know it’s bad but also that you’re too young to really get it.”
Heat Waves “It began with a personal experience that everyone has had: A friend starts dating someone and slowly, they change the way they dress. And then the way they talk. And then everything. Eventually it gets to the point where you’re like, ‘Who is that? Where did my friend go?’ Well, this song is about realising that it’s happened to you, that it's you that's changed. You've become someone that you aren't. I was trying to figure out whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but ultimately I think it's about hitting a wall—a point where you can't change anymore or you’ll lose the foundation of who you are. You’ll become an attachment for this other person. It’s happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to so many friends. And there’s a moment when you see your reflection and you're like, ‘Oh, fuck.’ All of the lyrics play into that—mirages, hallucinations, things like that.”
Helium “This is the only song that gets at any resolution and isn’t groundbreaking. It basically says that we have to accept that we're all doing the best we can. We're doing it on top of tattered foundations with all these rocky cracks—because it’s never perfect, right?—but we’re trying. We build what we can, we make a life, we do our best. And that’s just fine. By this point in the writing process, I had become more comfortable being confused about everything. I had stopped searching for answers or wishing I’d done everything differently. It was a relief to get to that point. There are plenty of times when you look back and realise you got it wrong, but you have to forgive yourself, because you’ve probably, hopefully, become a better person for it. People spend so much time trying to be a kid forever or go back to their youth, but the whole reason these memories even matter to us is because of the wisdom we’ve gained from them. Even if we could go back, we probably wouldn’t, because they’ve made us who we are.”