Pale Waves are a brilliant contradiction. They dress like goths but make pop music and they’re introverts but they’re aiming for popularity. Basically, they’re not meant to fit in a box and they shouldn’t have to either.
Frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie started writing songs as a way of expressing her emotions without having to vocalise them publicly. Interestingly, those songs are now being heard worldwide as Pale Waves songs, a band that she created with three close friends.
They’re a product of a generation that grew up in the ‘90s, exposed to a huge breadth of music. Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne were favourites of Baron-Gracie, My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco were playing on the radio but her Dad was also wheeling out ‘80s rock. Somewhere in between all of that is where you’ll find Pale Waves.
The sound has resonated quickly and just a year after the release of their first pieces of music, the band has announced an Australian tour. Next month, they will come here for the first time. Ahead of the visit we spoke to Baron-Gracie about pop music, people’s inability to box them in and the debut album.
How are you going with the album? You’re touring so much at the moment.
It’s an odd experience. I’m so used to living out of a suitcase and not being able to set up. When we came to London to record the album it was just really odd to be able to do the smallest things like set your clothes out in drawers.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to tour lots and then come back and centre yourself for an album. Have you been spurred on from the tour or has it been weird for you?
We’ve definitely been encouraged by how busy we’ve been because it’s proven to us there are a lot of people waiting for the album. We were pretty eager to get going. When we have one day off or two days off and go back to see our parents, you feel in reality. Like, doing normal things like going to the shops. You’re so used to someone telling you, ‘this is what you’ve gotta do today’ and then you’re on your own and have to go to the shops.
How does it feel to get in the car and have your own life for the day?
It’s weird, it’s strange. I don’t know if I like it or not.
Is most of the material for the album coming from your day-to-day life or the life you lead with Pale Waves on the road?
Probably the life with Pale Waves just because that is pretty much the life I live. I think we only have five or six days off this year.
Do you get exhausted or are you running on adrenalin at the moment?
Most days, I’m running on adrenalin. I’m super excited but you do jhave the odd days when everything gets too much and you’re a bit exhausted. It doesn’t really happen that much though because there’s so much to do all the time. You don’t have time to think how tired you are.
I love something you said to The Fader about how you’re an introverted person and then you start writing songs to put your emotions somewhere and then you have to start explaining it to journalists and beat the introvert inside of you. How has talking about these songs been for you?
It’s been odd actually. I never thought about it. Before Pale Waves, I didn’t think I would get press and people would want me to talk about the songs. I was like, ‘yeah, this feels good, I’m writing songs to express how I feel because I don’t want to talk about, and then all of a sudden I’m in front of everyone and having to dissect these songs.
Is there something nice though about releasing these songs and having people relate to them? Does it feel like your emotions are justified?
Yeah. There’s nothing like writing a song and then having people come up to you and say they relate to it so much and that it’s really helped them through a difficult time. We get that quite a lot with our fanbase. It makes everything a lot more rewarding and makes everything worth it.
Beyond the charts and ones to watch lists, fans are the tangible thing you can connect to.
Yeah we have such a great fanbase for how young we are. We’ve only released a handful of songs and we have such a dedicated fanbase already. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
So often when people who write about new bands, they compare their look or their sound to other bands and try and figure out who they are before the band is fully developed. You guys contradict everything though. People think you should sound like this or look like this and it’s brilliantly confusing. Has it been interesting to watch people try and put you in a box?
It really is. People just can’t understand that we wear heavy eyeshadow and lipstick and play pop music. Is it really that difficult?
People should be able to figure that out by now. Everyone in their 20s has grown up listening to hip-hop alongside My Chemical Romance at the same time as Britney Spears. It’s all confused. Did you grow up with a handful of influences like that?
Yeah. My Dad listened to a lot of ‘80s music. I fell in love with artists like Avril Lavigne. I listened to a bit of everything and that’s how I was influenced. We love the dark fashion but I also love pop music. I don’t think you have to dress a certain way to write any sort of music.
Did you sit down at the beginning of the band and make a mood board of what you want Pale Waves to be or did it happen organically?
It all just happened organically. We developed together. Our image developed naturally. There’s people out there that think we were put together as a band which is really hillarious. It’s a compliment because they think we’re perfect.
It is a compliment. It’s like they’ve held auditions and found the perfect band but none of that has happened for you guys.
Yeah because we have a good image it’s like we’ve been picked but no. We were all friends and we started a band.
People have been impressed by your music early on and it’s taken off relatively fast. Is it easy to get caught up in the hype?
Yeah. If you dig into it too deep then the pressure can really get on your shoulders but I just feel like I always have pressure on me so I’m sort of used to it now. I just want to deliver an album that I think is great and the people that I value around me like our manager, my friends, my family…if they think it’s great then that’s all that matters really. And obviously the fans too. I just want to give the world great music.
You can get unnerved by the pressure or you can get ambitious by the pressure. I think I even heard you guys say that you’d like a number one album this year which is great. Do you have high expectations for yourself?
I think everyone should do. People get shocked by things you say but if you’re not striving for the best that you can be then why are you even doing it in the first place.
By taking the pop lane too, the sky is the limit. Bands sometimes shy away from the charts because it could ruin their credibility but you don’t care about that.
I think pop is changing anyway. There are a lot more bands coming out that are pop artists and so it should be. Pop is the main genre. That’s what’s played on the radio. Everyone loves pop. Pop is great.
A lot of people love to compare you to The 1975 because you’ve got a connection and I don’t really agree with that sound-wise but from the perspective of breaking into the charts as a band, that’s something you could do.
Yeah, they definitely influenced the pop band and I think that they are great. There really needs to be more of that.
Do you plan to release your album this year?
Yeah, that’s the plan. We’ve got about two weeks left so if that all goes well then yeah we will.
You’re heading to Australia. Will we hear any new material then?
Yeah you will. I think we’re going to switch the set up a bit anyway. So yeah, you definitely will hear some new songs.
Pale Waves will hit Australian shores later this month. You can check out all the tour details here.
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