Pic by Elliott Arndt
Yesterday, in part one of this interview with producer/songwriter and frontman for Glass Animals, Dave Bayley, he talked about finding a way to release a less self-conscious, more exuberant version of himself – Wavey Davey – to face the world.
Today: how that’s manifested in the impressive width and depth of the band’s new album.
If the external confidence exemplified in Wavey Davey is now being seen, the internal confidence of Dave Bayley the songwriter, and Glass Animals the band – which includes Joe Seaward, Edmund Irwin-Singer and Drew MacFarlane - can be measured in the expanding pop and lyrical scope of their three albums, from 2014’s Zaba.
The first album’s somewhat tentative steps, keeping pop within limits in a more controlled electronic field, opened up on its follow-up, 2016’s Mercury Prize-nominated Being Human, and now in Dreamland’s variety and exuberance there is no hiding their enjoyment of pop’s possibilities.
“Listening back to Zaba I sort of cringed a little bit at how sterile some parts of it are, and hyper perfect some parts of it are, and it’s all very whispered, all the lyrics are sort of smudged and rubbed over and super abstract. I remember doing tons of takes for everything, to make sure that I had everything just right,” says Bayley. “With the second record we had then toured for a few years and you start to embrace a little bit of the chaos of live music and you appreciate that that’s a different type of good, that spontaneity and that rawness and having a really raw take with some mess ups.
“I think that’s definitely the same on this record, maybe even to more of an extent. Some of its quite raw and super stripped back. Like Domestic Bliss, almost nothing happens, and Melon And The Coconut is really simple.”
It’s the confidence now to let the song be rather than to fuss.
“Yeah, and on the second album was definitely still trying to hide the song there. I didn’t believe I was good, and I still think I have a huge way to go. I’ve got a lot to learn and I’ve worked with them people who have just totally blown me out of the water, and I just feel ashamed,” Bayley says. “So with that second album I really had that strongly, so you pile on the production and you pile on sounds and you bury the song. What I went for [Dreamland] was trying to have that confidence in the core: the lyrics, the melody and the harmony. Not overcrowding that, letting it breathe is something I realised a lot of my favourite songwriters did perfectly.”
But not too perfectly.
The lyrical confidence on these new songs is as palpable as the musical one. He no longer tries to hide himself within those songs, or hide the people whose stories he tells.
“I deftly haven’t done that totally on my own. A lot of that came from friends and fans feedback. Agnes, on the end of the last record, I really didn’t want to put on the end of the last record. I was really nervous about that, but I was encouraged by the label and band and friends to do it, and the response that came from that, the letters I received …,” Bayley says, his voice trailing off in the memory, about a song for a friend popping Percocet and having a smoke to clear her head, whose first lines were “Agnes just stop and think a minute/Why don't you light that cigarette and/Calm down now stop and breathe a second/Go back to the very beginning”, and which finished with Bayley repeating “I'm lost but I don't know why/You're gone but you're on my mind/I'm lost but I don't know why”.
He explains now that even after being convinced to include the song on the album, he hadn’t wanted to perform Agnes live.
“But we performed live once, basically because of all these letters saying it meant a lot to them, and it was weird that that song I wrote about myself means a lot to you. That had me thinking well actually, all of my favourite songs that other people have written are really personal about them and make you feel less alone, they justify how you feel.
“And that’s a beautiful thing, and playing it live you see the reactions in people’s faces, and that itself was really encouraging. That opened the gates to writing more personal stuff for other people - so you’re once removed; you’re not singing it, so it’s okay.”
It was a necessary first step, writing personal material for other people, so that he could then do it for himself.
“People I was working with were reacting to the personal stuff, in a way that they just didn’t to the abstract things. And when I was in the room watching someone who writes really personal lyrics, you see that vulnerability in you realise, oh, that vulnerability is really amazing and really important. And it’s important to show that.”
Which brings us back to perfection, or accepting imperfection. Accepting who you really are, Wavey Davey and Dave Bayley.
“Yeah. Admitting you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and hurt people, and people will make mistakes that hurt you, and coming to terms with the fact that you are built on this kind of slightly fucked up foundation, and you do the best that you can.”
Dreamland is out now.