Glass Animals On The Dangers Of Adopting A Persona

"You end up just realising that you're actually…I'm actually just a little blonde Jewish boy from Texas. That's it. Everything else was just…not necessarily real.”

Glass Animals photo

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“I’m properly blown away,” Dave Bayley says.

The frontman of Glass Animals is still reeling from Glass Animals’ sold out November shows in Melbourne and Sydney when I talk to him over the phone. “We were trying to start songs, but they were screaming so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves, so we had to stop for a minute just to wait for everyone to be quiet,” he says.

The British four-piece last visited Australia for Falls Festival 2017/18, but their absence has not been by choice. In July 2018, drummer Joe Seaward was hit by a truck while cycling in Dublin. It was serious; the band had to cancel the rest of their 2018 tour dates, and Seaward had to relearn how to do everything.

“It was a long process, especially for Joe,” Bayley recounts. “I can’t complain myself, I can’t imagine what it was like for him, really. We did everything we could to help him, but really he had to build back to doing what he does from nothing. He had to learn to talk, learn to walk, learn to drum. So he started a couple minutes a day, then a couple more minutes a day, and built it up to the point where he could do a show and do rehearsals. I just can’t explain how much of a confidence booster it is for him doing these shows, having the Australian people be so kind.”

The Australian shows followed the release of ‘Tokyo Drifting’, their new single featuring rapper Denzel Curry. The track signals an evolution in the band’s sound, and is part of their experimental series Fresh Fruit.

“We thought we’d put this track out that sounds so different to what we’ve done before, and just sort of open the door a bit to the next project,” Bayley explains. “And I know it was such a big step in one direction for us. Hopefully people won’t be too shocked by what comes next, it can’t be much more different than that!”

Straight Out Of The Gate

When Glass Animals burst onto the scene with debut album Zaba, it felt like the album had sprung into existence fully-formed, in all its psychedelic glory.

To say it was an overnight success would be misrepresenting facts — years of work had preceded the album. Still, much of the critical conversation around Zaba centred on how confident and assured together the record was, how comfortable Glass Animals were in their sound. Their follow-up album How To Be A Human Being was equally polished and critically acclaimed.

Never ones to sit still, the psychedelic group have continued innovating. Bayley says that he’s always thinking about and experimenting trying to find new sounds. “Ultimately it comes down to what I like. I’m probably the worst person to tell you about the seams and threads of the record’s sonics…cos to me it’s just what comes out.”

While their new single is musically distinct from their previous offerings, at the core, it’s about being human.

Glass Animals excel at conveying humanity through their music, and while their new single is musically distinct from their previous offerings, at the core, it’s about being human. Bayley is an introvert, and also pretty self-deprecating: all this came to the fore with ‘Tokyo Drifting’.

The single started as a beat. “I had a melody and an idea for it,” Bayley says. “But I didn’t think I could pull it off. It’s quite a hard beat, quite swaggery, and I have no swagger.”

Who does have swagger? Denzel Curry, of course. “Denzel was top of the list. And I thought, if Denzel can do it, I can kind of make it somehow. And then I took some wise inspiration from Beyonce, she has Sasha Fierce, she has that alter ego that allows her to do whatever she wants, I decided that ultimately I could do it with another character, with my Sasha Fierce.”

Enter The Alter

Enter Wavey Davey, Bayley’s own alter ego.

“I think people do spend a lot of time putting this refined version of themselves out into the world now, and that’s what social media does,” Bayley explains. “You have these outward facing version of you, always funny, always looking good, has a filter over it, always doing fun things.

“But life isn’t necessarily like that, so I differentiate parts of my life by assuming other characters — like I hype myself up before going onstage, before going into interviews and stuff. Kinda…an extra version of myself. And try to be more confident. I really am quite shy! I’m really awkward. So I need the hype to be able to do all that stuff and have the confidence to dance on stage like an idiot.”

No one is exactly the same person to their friends, to work, to the internet, to themselves, to strangers — humans contain multitudes, after all. But sometimes taking on a character becomes too much. “It’s kind of, when does that get too far?” Bayley asks me, rhetorically. “When it’s started pushing it too far, when it’s destructive.”

In ‘Tokyo Drifting’, the lyric “Wavey Davey’s on fire” repeats. On the surface, it’s a brag, but as the song progresses, it becomes almost a cry for help. “This character is getting more and more fucked up, taking more punches, getting higher and more wasted,” Bayley explains. “The epitome of swagger and energy.”

“And then it keeps building and gets heavier and heavier until it explodes at the end into this frothy, wonky beat. It gets more sort of fluffy and detuned, and that’s meant to be sort of where it all crashes and burns, when you spent too much time trying to be someone you’re not really, and you crash down to earth and you end up just realising that you’re actually…I’m actually just a little blonde Jewish boy from Texas. That’s it. Everything else was just…not necessarily real.”

“I’m actually just a little blonde Jewish boy from Texas. That’s it. Everything else was just…not necessarily real.”

The whole thing is an “ironic flex” — as Bayley told Denzel Curry when selling him on the track — a commentary on how the glossy perfection of other people’s lives on social media can amplify an individual’s insecurities.

“You think that’s what you have to be, and you have to compete for the likes and all that stuff. Is that stuff important? No. What’s actually important is, yeah, speaking to and having real conversations with your friends. And being actually properly emotionally connected. Sometimes those two things are mutually exclusive.”

It’s an exciting harbinger of what’s to come. “We will be back soon!” Bayley exclaims, before telling me he can’t say when. “But I’m very excited already.”

Glass Animals’ single ‘Tokyo Drifting’ is out now.

Sharona Lin is a music, culture, and everything writer who watches too much TV. She tweets at @sforsharona.