In Conversation with PALE WAVES
Ahead of the band’s biggest headline show to date at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, we sat down with Heather Baron-Gracie to talk about songwriting, touring and her love for Avril Lavigne.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to understand all the hype that’s going around because it’s us, my band! I have to think like are we a big band?”, Heather questions herself. Sat in an empty dressing room, I watch her puzzle over it as her black entangled hair falls over her pale face.
Over the past year, Pale Waves have set themselves up as prime makers of heartbreak pop. Finally now unleashing their awaited debut album My Mind Makes Noises, we see these goth-poppers properly emerging from the shadows. The combination of that pop sensibility and striking goth aesthetic has struck a chord with much of the younger audience. “Half of the album was written over about four years and then the other half was written in the studio,” she goes onto explain. “I find the studio work really difficult. Doing the same shit and being in the same building pretty much everyday is hard.”
Sitting with her legs dangling over each other and wearing all black, Heather debates the challenges and difficulties they’ve faced throughout the process. “‘Black’ is such a problematic song. Every side to that song like recording it and playing live was the hardest,” she shares. Her petite hands rest on her knee, showered in huge shiny rings, “It’s so contradicting as the chorus is really sort of influenced by R&B and then the verses are really punky in a way so we had to figure out how to make that transition work as it has noticeable drops and dynamic changes.”
Most of the songs are about love and don’t most people experience some type of love in there life?
Beneath the melancholic sweep of their music, Heather Baron-Gracie’s lyrics are a raw, emotional see-saw where she confidently channels her personal insecurities. “I aimed to catch a sort of youthful vision and expression on it, because I’m only 23,” Heather tells me. “Some critics have been saying how it’s aimed for young audiences but I’am still young. I’m not 35 or whatever, and I like to write from my perspective. It just makes no sense! I try to aim it at everyone but at the same time I write songs about how I personally feel. Most of the songs are about love and don’t most people experience some type of love in there life? I just wanted to capture things that I’ve been through and things a lot of our fans have been or going through. I wanted it to be like a series of stories so you could follow it. Taking ‘Kyle’ as an example, I wanted it so you can like picture everything that I’m doing – so me being in a taxi crying. That song really fucks people up. I thought it would be a track that not many people would pay attention to or notice, but it gets mentioned quite a lot. When I would tweet and ask what is everyone’s favourite song, lots of replies would be ‘Kyle’- you’re all a bunch of emos!” she giggles.
“With fans it can get deep. I obviously put everything into my songs and fans feel like they know me in a way, which I totally get because on the album you get an insight into my life and all these things that I’ve been through. So, I think they find it really easy to open up to me as in some ways there is a connection there already.” She pauses to think and once again her bright heavily-made up eyes look back at me, “It can be quite overwhelming for me as some of the stuff I’ve been told is not that nice, but at the same time the songs have been there to help them through it. It makes me being vulnerable worth it.”
Their soaring 80s melodies wrap themselves around you like a vine, all melodic riffs and cinematic, reverb-soaked synths. Fuelled by Heather’s headstrong sincerity the image of Pale Waves is widely known. “I’m all for girl power within the industry, as it’s so male dominated!” We both cackle as I rapidly nod in agreement. “I love it when I see women at front of house or woman TM, and generally more girls in bands. It’s definitely happening because I’ve got a lot of friends that are in bands and meeting more and more. You almost create this friendship straight away which is really cool.” With many other female artists on the rise and becoming widely-known inspirations, I was interested to see who particularly inspired Heather personally. “Morgan Saint! She’s fucking great,” she beams. “First heard her when we played SXSW in Texas and fell in love with her EP straight away.”
With their open-chest songwriting and retro tendencies, the group have managed to capture pure pop-synth feelings, creating songs for a teen rom-com that is yet to exist.
“I like the lyric in ‘When Did I Lose It All?’ which is, “Touch me like we’re dying” or the one in ‘Drive’ that goes “I drive fast so I can feel something. That was actually inspired by the great Avril,” she explains with a cheeky grin. “She has got a line in one of her songs that was like “Sometimes I drive so fast, just so I can feel the danger”. I was like fuck that’s so relatable! I fucking love her. I feel like people really over look Avril Lavigne as an artist. From a really young age, she inspired me to be how I was. I was a massive tom-boy when I was younger and I wanted to be Avril. If I can make anyone feel as empowered as she did to me then that’s really cool.”
I was a massive tom-boy when I was younger and I wanted to be Avril
Being in a band like Pale Waves sure looks fun and I was curious to see what they get up to on tour. Even half way through chatting to Heather we could hear music playing in their dressing room next door and by the sounds of it, the other three having a pre-show party.
“We shaved Charlie’s head,” she bursts into laughter, rocking forwards in her black leather jacket. “We were on the tour bus as we were playing with Chvrches and we were all bored on the bus so we started drinking and I got really hyper and used our TM’s shaver to shave his head. A lot of weird things have happened.. me and Ciara got each others names tattooed on our arm in Seattle too.”
During the summer, the band have been away playing a huge amount of festival dates. Surely there must have been some that starstruck them to the point of disbelief?
“Reading & Leeds! It’s one of the biggest in the UK, but we’ve played so many amazing American festivals too like Lollapalooza and Outside Lands. To be able to go to America and play the main stages and play those festivals is mad. We’re only a small British band, why are they letting us do this?!” She lightly chuckles, “I’m not complaining!”
So what can possibly be next for these guys I hear you ask. Having got a run of shows through the UK and Europe, this month is a busy one. With the recent announcement of a support slot with fellow Dirty Hit pals The 1975 throughout January, the start of the year ahead will be crazy also. “Well the plan is to go to LA in February to record an EP. Some 4 or 5 new tracks pretty soon. I will need to get some great moisturiser because I feel like I’m going to age dead quickly,” she titters as we then fall into a conversation about what moistures we use. “I use Nivea!”
Photos: Lauren McDermott