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Glass Animals Scored a Huge Hit With ‘Heat Waves.’ What Comes Next?

“Oh, shit!” Dave Bayley exclaims. His blue eyes are wide as he holds his head with both hands. The Glass Animals frontman has just heard some great news from his publicist, who confirms that the U.K. band’s hit song, “Heat Waves,” is officially RIAA diamond certified, representing 10 million sales and streaming units. Bayley blinks rapidly and sputters in disbelief, trying to think of what to say next in his Zoom with Rolling Stone. “I don’t quite know what to make of it!” he adds. 

Even as Glass Animals are gearing up to release their fourth studio album, I Love You So F***ing Much, the glorious mammoth that is “Heat Waves” is still front and center. For the past four years, the song has taken over the band’s life. Released as the first single from 2020’s Dreamland, it was a sleeper hit, reaching Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 nearly two years after its release, and breaking multiple records related to chart longevity. The whirlwind that came next included TikTok virality (more than 1 million videos use the song) and a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist — even though Glass Animals have been making catchy songs that meld indie rock, hip-hop, pop, and electronica since their debut in 2014. 

“Nothing felt real,” Bayley says of the dizzying rise to a new tier of fame. It didn’t help that the pandemic was raging concurrently. “There’s this huge level of detachment between reality and what’s happening,” he says, adding, “I feel like I didn’t have a chance to catch up to that.”

As lockdowns were lifted and the world returned to a new sense of normalcy, Bayley still felt overwhelmed. “I was forcing myself to catch up to what I thought should happen or what I thought someone should do in that situation,” he says. He jumped at the opportunity to work with new people in the recording studio, co-producing eight tracks for Florence and the Machine’s 2022 album Dance Fever, whose credits also feature Jack Antonoff and Florence Welch herself. 

But as an introvert who works best on his own, none of the new material he was generating felt right for a Glass Animals record. “I did a lot of stuff I’d never done before and kind of slightly lost sense of who I was,” admits Bayley, who is the sole songwriter and producer on I Love You So F***ing Much.

The madness of that time is best summed up in the new track “What the Hell Is Happening?” In the song, Bayley is hijacked and shoved into the trunk of a car, but the refrain goes, “I’m so happy/This is just where I want to be,” sounding almost like he’s trying to convince himself. It’s all a strange metaphor by design. “There’s a weird joy in that helplessness,” Bayley says, before adding, “Your fate is not in your hands. You don’t have to make any decisions … There’s freedom in that.”

Soon, Bayley says, he found himself in an existential crisis that nearly swallowed him whole. During a brutal Los Angeles rainstorm, trapped in a “bubble of helplessness,” he turned inward and started to reflect on the onslaught of emotions that gave way to I Love You You So F***ing Much. In many ways, the album is Bayley’s answer to the last four years as he tackles generational trauma, anxieties, abusive relationships, and loneliness — and how they all pertain to Bayley’s own experiences. It’s a move he plucked straight from the success of “Heat Waves,” which he describes as “the most personal song I’ve written up until this album.”

In order to let his raw lyrics shine, the production leaves a lot more room to breathe than on previous records. On 2014’s Zaba and 2016’s How to Be a Human Being, there was a lot more of what Bayley calls “ear candy” to listen out for in each measure, whether it was the drip of water, the swish of wind, or beeps from video games. The change is a purposeful one, Bayley says: “I was trying to do some of the storytelling with the chords a bit more, so there’s a lot more chord work in these songs compared to the previous records.”

I Love You So F***ing Much is a natural continuation from Dreamland with big, heavy bass lines, woozier synths, and larger pop sounds. To create a cinematic, space-inspired sound, Bayley dove deep into the past; he tapped into the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and their work on old soundtracks like 1981’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. At one point in our conversation, Bayley is so enthralled with the technical gear he’s referring to that he makes a point to pick up his laptop and show me the instruments up close on Zoom. The different keyboards and mixing boards make Bayley’s London studio resemble a spaceship of sorts. 

With such careful intention put into I Love You So F***ing Much, it’s hard to not to think of what new audiences will make of the Glass Animals’ first full-length project since their record-smashing hit. “It would obviously make me happy if the album was successful in a commercial way,” Bayley says. “But for me, success is on quite a personal level.” 

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That’s something that is harder to define for the singer. Bayley sits with his thoughts for a second before asking me what I find successful for an artist. I say a band’s ability to connect with listeners and remain authentic, no matter what. He ruminates on the idea of togetherness and says, “Maybe it’s just creating that in some shape or form, in the most powerful way possible.”

It’s not until he hears about that new certification for their biggest hit that Bayley truly finds his answer to what would make the new Glass Animals album successful in his mind. “With ‘Heat Waves,’ I was trying to do something honest and personal and push myself further than I have before,” he says. “Luckily, I think I’ve just spent a whole album doing that.”

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