For a band from England, Glass Animals, Variety’s Group of the Year, has spent so much time touring the United States, it may as well be American.
“I feel comfortable here, and I get to eat all the food I grew up with, like Hot Pockets,” says Dave Bayley, the quartet’s ringleader and songwriter-producer, on a Zoom call during a break between two sold-out shows in Santa Barbara in late October.
Bayley did grow up in America, partly in Texas, where he says he was “very much exposed to U.S. culture,” including a hip-hop radio station that he loved as a preteen.
But it’s not Bayley’s upbringing in the Lone Star State that has endeared American fans to Glass Animals. It’s the band’s music, and their numerous tours in the past decade that set the stage for the hit, “Heat Waves,” which peaked at No. 3 on Spotify’s Global Chart (with 4.5 million daily streams).
“It was pretty relentless,” Bayley says of Glass Animals’ touring of the States in support of its first two albums.
Now, that early interfacing with fans in small clubs, where the band won over so many supporters in intimate settings, is paying dividends via a just-wrapped much-larger trek in support of 2020’s “Dreamland” album. The group not only played co-headlining slots at festivals such as Outside Lands but also performed on its own to audiences as large as 16,000 in places like Kansas City, Kan.
Touring this year in pandemic conditions was challenging but rewarding for Glass Animals.
“When they do come see us, the energy from the crowds is just massive, just so loud … like nothing else,” Bayley says. “I remember the New York show and just looking at the crowd and crying at the end.”
Ironically, “Heat Waves,” Glass Animals’ biggest hit to date, broke when touring was not an option. The band had to improvise ways to keep promotional avenues open for pushing the single, which caught fire everywhere from Australia to Europe in late 2020 and into this year.
Among the unconventional online promo strategies during the pandemic that Bayley says helped “Heat Waves” thrive was the creation of an open-source website where fans could download stems and artwork created off “Dreamland,” which resulted in hundreds of fan submissions — digital art pieces, music remixes and more — that the band frequently posted on its social media channels.
“We decided to put everything, all the parts, from the song and the album, on our website for free,” he says. “That seemed to be the thing that really got things going in late 2020, and it sort of hasn’t stopped, and that’s the most you can hope for as a musician or an artist — a creative response from your audience.”
“Heat Waves” reached No. 1 in its 60th week on Billboard’s Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart this September, breaking the record for the longest ascent to the top that was previously held by Twenty One Pilots’ “Ride.” It broke the top 10 in late November, just in time for the band’s Grammy Awards nomination for best new artist.
Bayley, who just signed a new publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group, marvels at the band’s global breakthrough.
“I never thought something so personal would be heard by so many people,” he says.