Pale Waves have had a quite hectic couple of years. With the release of their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, to winning an NME award, the band have swiftly transitioned from rising stars to trailblazers in their own right. I had a quick chat with the band’s lead singer, Heather Baron-Gracie, before their Nottingham show at Rock City.
Pale Waves have been on tour for quite some time. The band have now wrapped up their UK/EU tour and are set to play a lengthy set of shows across the US. As touring is a huge part of being a band, I ask Heather if she’s ever had an embarrassing tour moment. “I mean, I’ve had loads like being on the road, but I got really drunk one night, and it was in America, and I woke up and basically like you’re not allowed to, on the tour bus, you’re not allowed to be sick or have a shit in the toilet and I really needed to be sick, because I was hung over,” she recalls vividly, “I was like “oh my god, where can I be sick”. I woke up and it was literally like coming out my mouth, I was holding it down and I had to run out and the bus had pulled up at a hotel and there was loads of families there and young kids, and I just stepped out the bus and just threw up everywhere in front of them. I was like “this is not a good look at all!”' I don’t know about you, but I learned a lot from that story!
While a couple of drinks might slow Heather down, not much else has got in the way of Pale Waves’ success. When I last interviewed Heather, the band had just debuted ‘Television Romance’ and were kicking off their first headliner tour, and now they’ve toured with The 1975 and have become quite the sensation. I ask Heather if she feels like everything has calmed down now that the album is out. “Calmed down now the album is out and the album is finished. I feel like we had a lot of pressure and there was a lot of people waiting on that album, so it was a lot on our shoulders to deliver on our half,” she tells me, “so, now that we’ve got it out the way and I’m really happy with it and very proud of it. I feel like a lot of that pressure has been taken away, like prior to the album having to write it, that was a fucking nightmare and very stressful, because we were just on tour all the time and I was doing multiple things like loads of press, so it was really hard to find time to do anything. Sometimes you have to force, force being creative, but now I’m a lot more relaxed! Not completely relaxed, because I don’t think I’m ever going to be like that.” While it seems the band have coped well with the pressure, it’s nice to see that Heather (and the band) can take things a little slower.
If you haven’t given their debut album a listen yet, you definitely should. The album is a strong reflection of the band’s potential to prosper and perfect themselves. I ask Heather whether it helped centring the album on personal experiences as opposed to just love songs. “I feel like a love song is kind of easy to write, but when you’re writing about yourself and being almost over critical can be really difficult, but at the same time, I find it so much more rewarding finishing a song like ‘Noises’ or ‘Drive’, which is about me and doesn’t really … and isn’t sort of influenced by anyone else,” Heather tells me. It’s clear to see what Heather values most by her next answer, it’s refreshing to hear an artist be to open about themselves. “I feel a lot more satisfied writing those sorts of songs than songs like ‘Television Romance’. I am super proud of all my songs because I would never put anything out that I didn’t feel really confident in, but I feel like writing a song about yourself and your own problems is … I have to think about it a lot more, because it’s coming from me and I’m not talking about someone else.” Although the question has been answered, Heather and I continue to talk about mental health. She pauses to collect her thoughts, but her answer again displays her willingness to be transparent about herself. “I feel like a lot of people don’t really talk about that sort of stuff anymore either, especially pop artists you know or pop bands like an indie pop band. I don’t see a lot of bands doing that stuff, but like anxiety and depression and insecurities is such a big thing in my life that I feel like I have to talk about it.” You might not be into the band, you might not like their music, but you can’t help but respect Heather’s honesty.
If you’ve been following Pale Waves then you’ll know the band are fond of putting out music videos. The first was ‘Television Romance’, and now there’s a whole line up of videos to sink your teeth into. I ask Heather if she enjoys being able to translate music into an alternate creative outlet. “Definitely! I love creating music, but I love photography, I love films, I love reading, so I really enjoy making something musical into a visual element. When I finish a song, I can’t help but picture music videos. I just really enjoy creating that side of the song. I really love getting dressed up and stuff so like for ‘Noises’ that was one of my favourite videos to make because I always like going into different characters, like ‘One More Time’.”
With Pale Waves’ fanbase growing, a lot of similar bands have started showing interest in their music. A pre-interview chat with Heather had me discover our similarities in music, which built the basis of my next question. While we’re both fans of MUNA, I ask Heather if Pale Waves would ever consider touring with them, or bands like Pvris. It takes her a few seconds to place the name Pvris. She’s certain she’s heard it before and a few questions about Lynn Gunn’s hair colour later, we’re both on the same page. In short, she answers yes, especially after noticing fans of Pale Waves seemed to really like Pvris, but based on her own choices were a little different. “I’d love to tour with Paramore. Taylor Swift, fucking would love tour with Taylor Swift. I’d just watch the show every night though – that’s what I’d be most excited for,” she says enthusiastically. I must confess, I was pleased to hear the unexpected name of Taylor Swift thrown into the mix. I casually comment how people are surprised to find out that I like Taylor Swift given my own alternative dress sense and Heather picks up on it, driving our conversation in a new direction. “But that’s cool though! I mean, that sums up our band. We dress like dark vampires that’ll scare you in an alley way, but we write the most fucking uplifting pop music. It’s just fashion thought innit.” I couldn’t agree more, it is just fashion though, innit.
Naturally, the interview starts to draw to a close, but I do have one last question for the lead singer. Pale Waves are becoming a huge focus in the music industry, but I’m interested to know if the band, or Heather specifically, ever felt pigeonholed based on the fact they’re a female led band with a female drummer. “To be honest, when people do say stuff like that or say stupid shit along the lines of,” she pauses before continuing, “well, they try and pigeonhole us a lot. Like, I don’t really value their opinion because I don’t really pay attention to people like that, because I don’t necessarily get along with those people because they’re very sort of traditionally minded” she tells me. Just as I think she’s neatly finished the question, Heather continues to elaborate. “You can’t wear dark clothes and like that sort of music, you can’t wear that much eyeshadow, and those people are always the most boring-est people. Is that even a word ‘boring-est?’ Most boring... what is the word then?! I don’t know I’m fucking dyslexic over here” she laughs. While she turns to me to clarify, I wholeheartedly agree with her comment. Heather’s got it right - it’s time to stop with the restrictive tropes in music. Bands should be able to make funky pop music, dress like The Cure, and have a good time.
Pale Waves will be back in the UK touring with The 1975 next year. In the meantime, check out their debut album My Mind Makes Noises.