Glass Animals on the Rise of 'Heat Waves': 'It’s Bizarre But Amazing'

Glass Animals
Pooneh Ghana

Glass Animals

Glass Animals’ biggest single to date — a hazy, captivating track called “Heat Waves” — was born in just one hour during a late night studio session in May 2018.

Frontman Dave Bayley had been tinkering in a basement studio for hours, with lightning yet to strike. "I'd been writing all day and not really getting anywhere. Then I was like, okay, one more,” he tells Billboard by Zoom.

One more turned out to be “Heat Waves,” the fourth single from Glass Animals’ third album, Dreamland, released in August 2020. The melancholy song would eventually become the group’s first Billboard Hot 100 entry, reaching a No. 69 high on the Feb. 20-dated chart.

Meanwhile, the London-based group (comprised of Bayley, Drew MacFarlane, Edmund Irwin-Singer and Joe Seaward) hasn’t been at all idle. Over the past year, aside from releasing Dreamland (and its deluxe version) in August, Glass Animals have rolled out lockdown-filmed music videos and a covers EP, put on virtual performances, held a remix competition, and much, much more.

Below, Bayley talks about the band’s most recent success story in “Heat Waves” — which, like its name, continues to rise.

How did “Heat Waves” come together?

Normally, writing a song takes a good day to get into shape, but this happened in an hour late at night. The guitar came first. I was like, “I’m going to write this long chord pattern.” I was fumbling. After 10 minutes of looking into space and plucking the guitar, I hit those eight chords, and I was like, “Ooh, that's it.” As soon as I had [that], I started singing. Literally the first thing that came out was the hook.

It's so bonkers. It never happens like that. [Laughs.] If you spend enough time in a studio f--king around, eventually all the notes will form some kind of catchy sequence.

What sort of headspace were you in when you wrote it?

It was late at night. I was in a weird place. There's a certain time of year where I always start to feel a bit s--t, because I lost someone really important to me, and ‘round their birthday, I start to feel a bit weird. Their birthday is in June, by the way. It was coming up to that period and it was late at night. Hence the lyric. ["Late nights in the middle of June."] So I was sitting back and feeling nostalgic and reflective.

“Heat Waves” is Glass Animals’ first Hot 100 entry. How does it feel?

It's quite strange! But it's always strange, releasing a piece of personal music. That's why I was really nervous around releasing ["Heat Waves"], just because it was personal. It's like your kid has gone off to college or something. It's going to do some stuff ... you don't know what it's gonna do, it's out of your control! You're not responsible for it anymore. It'll sink or swim. Knowing it was written in that little moment, it's like my little secret's out. Sometimes it freaks me out thinking about it. It's bizarre but amazing.

You put the winner of a “Heat Waves” remix competition on Dreamland (+ Bonus Levels). How did you get that idea?

When we lost touring, which was about exactly a year ago, I was initially totally like, "What are we gonna do? We're screwed!" Then after about a week of that, of face-palming, I realized we can do whatever. There's no rulebook now.

I thought of putting the sounds [we] use to make songs on an [open-source] website for people, and loads of stuff came back. I thought the guy who won was probably like some 45-year-old jazz wizard, turns out he's a 15-year-old kid from Hull in England. I was totally embarrassed. His version is far superior.

What else is in store for you this year?

I've been doing stuff aside from Glass Animals, writing songs for other artists, theme song stuff for films. Lots of production for other people, which is really, really fun. I've been working on some tracks for a certain artist who I'm a huge fan of. I'm really excited.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feb. 20, 2021, issue of Billboard.