Pale Waves – Interview 2019

Since we last interviewed Pale Waves, in 2017, the Manchester four-piece have been making much bigger waves with their infectious and upbeat indie-pop. Label mates with The 1975, they only performed their first headline show two years ago, and since then their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises, has reached the top ten. Having already performed in New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden with The 1975, they are about to go out on tour again with them, including a date in Brighton. We caught up with guitarist and frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie, to talk about The 1975, and the whirlwind that has been the fast and furious rise of Pale Waves.

What are you doing?
I’m actually staring at my laptop, writing some new music.

You write a lot?
Yeah, 100 percent. If anything comes into my head I feel the need to explore it more. Usually it’s lyrics that come into my head rather than melodies. I get a lyric or a sentence stuck in my head, and then I feel the need to go to an instrument and explore it more, and put a melody to it.

You’re back on tour with The 1975. They seem to be the band of the moment.
Yeah, they definitely are.

It must be a bit strange to be supporting them again, after a period of doing your own headline shows?
The last support tour we did was supporting them in America. It does feel strange doing a support tour again, but at the same time these shows are massive, and we’re all really excited about going to these massive venues. It’s actually nice doing a support slot. We’ve been on the road for so long, playing headline shows of over an hour. These will be nice and relaxing, just playing 30 minutes. There’s less pressure.

How did you hook up with them?
We’re on the same label and with the same management. We’re in contact with them quite a lot. They heard ‘There’s A Honey’ and ‘Television Romance’ as a demo, and they wanted to produce them straight away. That’s where our friendship formed, and evolved from there really.

I saw a tweet that you sent recently that said your first headline show was two years ago. Only two years!
Yeah! It’s been wild. I think it was just 120 people.

Since then, you’ve had a top ten debut album and were NME Under The Radar Award winners…
The NME Awards was the first ever time we had gone to an awards ceremony. It was really strange. We work every day pretty much. We’re always busy. It’s been satisfying watching it grow, after putting in all this work. If we didn’t progress it might have been a bit disheartening. We’re away from our families pretty much all the time. It makes it worth it when you see that progression.

You and Ciara Doran seem to have a very strong bond. How did you meet?
We met at University (BIMM) in Manchester. The band started out with me and Ciara for a good while. We spent a lot of time writing music together, and then Hugo (Silvani) joined, and then Charlie (Wood), and it then felt like a proper band, really complete.

Where does the name Pale Waves come from?
It came from a painting that my grandmother did. It’s a picture of the sea and waves and this giant ship on it. I just liked it.

What was BIMM like?
I only really went to university to meet people that were like myself. I didn’t really know what sort of music I wanted to make, or even if I wanted to be in a band. I just knew I needed to go and meet people who shared the same passion as me, and commitment. I’m glad I went. That’s how I met Ciara. I didn’t get much out of the course, but it was worth it. I got to meet people.

You have been playing guitar since a very young age?
Yeah, when I was eight years old. My dad plays guitar. I grew up watching him playing guitar, and I wanted to do the same. He taught me some basic chords. And I also got some guitar lessons, did that for a few years with a professional guitarist. I sort of took over him, bless him!

You have two guitars in the band, which sounds like it really works for you.
I definitely wanted two guitars. If I’m singing, Hugo can play and I don’t have to be playing all the time. It’s really powerful. Guitars can give that power. I feel like it’s too weak sometimes, if it’s just one guitar.

You recently released a couple of covers for Spotify Singles, and a new version of one of your songs ‘One More Time’.
We did ’22’, the Taylor Swift song, and a cover of ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham! One of the best Christmas songs, and it’s not a clique. It’s romantic, but also about Christmas.

Why ’22’?
Taylor Swift is a great pop artist, and a great writer. We’re fans of pop music. We just thought ‘why not?’ And we did ‘One More Time’, as a live recording in the studio. It was pretty straightforward. It’s not like playing live, but compared to recording we only needed a couple of takes. You don’t have to worry about how you look, or having to entertain the crowd. You can just stand still!

What’s the plan for the year ahead?
After touring with The 1975, we’re planning on recording new music and have loads of festivals planned. We’re going back to Japan, maybe our own tour of the UK. People are very greedy these days. It’s good to keep feeding them. We don’t want people to get bored.

People often paint you as goths. What do you think of that?
We never made a conscious decision to dress dark or to look like we were interested in gothic fashion, and play indie-pop for the shock factor. It’s just what we are genuinely into. We like Robert Smith, and The Cure. We like Avril Lavigne. They are quite hard core with the fashion sense. It’s what we feel comfortable in. I prefer wearing dark clothing. You’ll never catch me in a yellow shirt with flowers on it, or something.

But people call you goth-pop, in a lazy way…
Yeah, they do. They just want to put us in a box.

Jeff Hemmings