Glass Animals ’ victory in triple j’s Hottest 100 was a surreal experience for a few reasons. Firstly, ‘Heat Waves’ scored the top spot while the boys were in the midst of England’s latest lockdown. They celebrated in isolation via conference calls and lived vicariously through social media posts of their Australian fans dancing in victory at countdown parties across the country.
Secondly, ‘Heat Waves’ is just one of three of their tracks to make this year’s Hottest 100 (along with ‘Tangerine’ at #18 and ‘Your Love (Déjà Vu)’ at #51). They’re all fresh off the 2020 album Dreamland, Glass Animals’ third record and first release in four years. Like many artists who have made music during the pandemic, their plans to tour the record were quickly squashed. Instead, they’ve watched the world connect with it from afar through TikToks, fan-made remixes and artwork.
Thirdly, Glass Animals love Australia almost as much as we love them. Triple j was one of the first stations to spin their tunes and they have garnered a fervent Aussie following ever since. They’ve cracked the Hottest 100 before, but this time they had their eye on the number one spot. In fact, their determination to win saw them tweet a vow to get a map of Australia tattooed on their butts if ‘Heat Waves’ reached #1. Hindsight’s a bitch and, naturally, the internet is holding them to their promise.
Finally, the countdown is always a cause for debate but ‘Heat Waves’ feels like an appropriate win. It fuses a melancholic tale of a failed relationship with sun-drenched psychedelic pop. Like 2020 itself, it’s a sombre story flecked with silver linings.
In between their search for tattoo artists, Music Feeds caught up with singer-songwriter Dave Bayley and drummer Joe Seaward of Glass Animals. Over Zoom, we chatted about their Hottest 100 win, releasing an album during a pandemic and the ever-evolving life of ‘Heat Waves’.
Music Feeds: So first of all, congrats on ‘Heat Waves’ hitting #1 in this year’s Hottest 100! How do you feel? Has it sunk in yet?
Joe Seaward: I mean, I don’t think it has actually sunk in for me. I think if I could see people and see things and talk about it, it would probably be much more real. But it feels like such a crazy thing to happen and not be able to do anything about it at the moment. Yeah, it’s very surreal to me still.
MF: Yeah, it must’ve felt wild to receive this amazing news, celebrate from afar and then just close your laptop and stew on it in your homes.
JS: Yeah, there’s like no tangible way to celebrate it… I mean, I know it exists. And it’s an incredible feeling. But it’s very hard to ground it in any kind of reality for me.
Dave Bayley: I just saw a bunch of Instagram videos of people dancing to it on the beach. And it made me so sad. It made me cry. I mean, it made me happy and sad. Yeah, that made it sink in though. Did you see all of those, Joe?
JS: Oh my god. I did. I mean, it just feels like a different world though. Seeing people living a normal life is such an amazing thing.
DB: I’m ready to be there so badly. That was incredible. That was the most heartwarming thing I’ve seen in the whole pandemic probably.
MF: We were also in the middle of an intense heatwave at the time, so it felt very appropriate toasting the win with a couple of bevvies and a dance on the day.
DB: Oh, yes. I did see a few people having bevvies as well (laughs). Did you see the guy with like no clothes on doing some kind of sensual dance with a plank of wood? That was probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen someone do with one of our songs soundtracking it (laughs). It was pretty odd.
MF: I didn’t but that’s saying something given ‘Heat Waves’ has soundtracked everything from a Minecraft fanfic to a sea shanty trend on Tik Tok. Is it weird to see it take on a life of its own?
DB: Yeah, I keep seeing it popping up in crazy places.
JS: It’s really cool.
DB: I’ve loved seeing what people did with the track, like remixes. We put all the stems on the internet and let people go and then Diplo did one and it was crazy. Seeing that and then people doing artwork is really mad. There’s so much artwork, people doing stuff like fanfics. It’s really lovely. That means so much. That means more than like any of the numbers or anything. Just seeing people make it their own is really sweet.
MF: Did you know you’d hit on something special when you first created the song or did it just happen organically?
DB: It just kind of happened! I remember the night I wrote it. I had this tiny little room at the bottom of this big studio complex. And it was one of those really, really long days. And I was like, “Shit, I’ve had enough. I’m not going to do anything else.” And then I was just like, “Okay, one more, one more, one more”, I picked up a guitar and started playing the cords and then did the vocal line. And like two hours later, the skeleton of it was there. And I was listening to it really, really loud. And when it stopped playing, there was a noise behind me. And I turned around and someone was tinkering on the piano. And I was like, “Who’s that?” And they said, “It’s Johnny”. And I was like “Who?” and I looked out and it was Johnny Depp. He was working with someone in a different studio and had gotten lost and he was the first person to hear it!
MF: Are you serious? That is the weirdest thing I have ever heard.
DB: It was so strange. I don’t think he liked it so much (laughs). He left shortly afterwards and I was like, “Well, I’ll tuck that one away for later.” I was looking at the timestamps on the file and I think we got it out as a band like six months later.
MF: Well, thank god for that because recently you tweeted that you’d get the map of Australia tattooed on your butts if you won the top spot with ‘Heat Waves’. So what’s the verdict?
DB: Well, we’re not yet as we haven’t been allowed out of our houses (laughs).
MF: So no home jobs then?
DB: We did actually look at a tattoo gun but it doesn’t look good. It looks really sketchy (laughs).
JS: I think we’re going to do a proper job and I think that might take a minute here, because we’re still having a pretty tough time.
DB: You don’t worry. As soon as we’re allowed out, I’m going and doing it. Joe, I’ll do yours.
JS: Absolutely not (laughs).
DB: I’ll do “Dave” in really sexy cursive writing (laughs).
MF: Between the tattoo, your massive fan base down here and scoring the highest accolade you can pretty much get in Australia, you may as well be honorary citizens now, right?.
DB: It’s one of the highest accolades you can get in this industry. It’s democratic. And that’s what I love about it! That’s why it’s so amazingly special. Australia was the first place that it worked for us. I remember going to Australia for the first time, Joe. We were getting played on the radio for the first time in the world. And I was like, if it works here it’s okay. We’ll just stay (laughs). And it’s great here. The coffee’s really good. The food’s amazing and people are lovely. So yeah, honestly. I’d be honoured to be an honorary Australian.
MF: Well, I think the tattoo will seal the deal.
DB: Do you think it will? Okay, in that case, I am definitely doing it. My mum rang me up and she’s like, “Tell me about this tattoo!”. And by the end of it, she was like, “Should I get one?”. I was like, “Definitely not” (laughs). She has been sending me tattoo artists and everything.
MF: That’s amazing! You dropped Dreamland in August and usually, you’d be on the road touring right now. What has this record release been like for you given the state of the world?
DB: It has been bonkers. Really different. I can’t explain quite how different it has been. Yeah, normally, we release the album, then we don’t see our bedrooms for two years. And I’ve seen nothing but my bedroom for a year.
I guess we’ve just had to find ways to replace touring. We have a great time doing it. It is a big thing for us. It’s a way for people to have context around the music. You can put on a show with the set design and just contextualise everything. So I guess we just worked extra hard to find ways to do that over the internet.
JS: Yeah, it’s forced us to think about the way that we present the music and also think about the music in a totally different way. I hope everything returns to normal relatively soon, but I think it will probably stand us in really good stead going forward, having to go through this. It has been hard and I imagine this is the exact same thing for everyone who has been releasing music. It’s a really brave, terrifying world at the moment. I’m actually really glad we did it and I’m really proud of what we’ve done. But it was hard. Really, really hard.
DB: We had this amazing plan to do our own little mini-festival as well. Denzel (Curry) was gonna come. There’s this very beautiful venue Red Rocks in Colorado in the mountains. Denzel was going to come and have our friends come play and then tour that. Then we just had to rewrite this amazing plan. It was gonna be so fun. It was like two years, done to a tee.
So that was really gutting for like a week. Then I think I realised that no one has released an album in a pandemic since 1912 or whatever. There are no rules. The label and our management were amazing. We could just experiment and have fun. They allowed us to put all the stems for the songs on our website and allowed us to make these weird programmes like Dream Machine. We were just allowed to do lots of really weird shit.
MF: Although it would’ve been amazing to tour and it has been a tough year to release new music, it doesn’t seem like it’s curbed the success of the album. Everyone loves it. Surely that’s a silver lining for 2020?
DB: Yeah and I know I said this earlier, but seeing people make it their own has been incredible. It has kept me going every day, waking up and looking to see what someone has done with the music today. There’s always another remix. There’s always another painting or a poem. Or an animation of our heads rolling down the streets of New York City. That was incredible. People have done stuff that just totally blows my mind. Yeah, that’s what keeps us rolling.
MF: I’m sure that gives you no shortage of inspiration as well. Have you been working on anything new in 2021?
DB: Well, there’s getting out of our homes (laughs). And playing live music again. That is what has to happen at some point this year. That’s definitely in my calendar. And what else is in there? We do have stuff planned. We’ve got some collabs coming not necessarily musical but some other collabs. We can’t say but I’m excited about it. It’s something food-related.
Sounds delish. In the meantime, you can listen to ‘Dreamland’ and Glass Animals’ new EP ‘CHILDHOOD’ on Spotify.