“The album is just a door into my brain” – An interview with Heather Baron-Gracie of Pale Waves

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It’s on the morning of one of those long, dog days of endless sunshine and BBQ vibes aplenty that so characterised this summer that Heather Baron-Gracie of pop-rock quartet Pale Waves picks up the phone. The group – who marry the aesthetics of peak My Chemical Romance with the sound of acts like The 1975 (who incidentally helped produce their early work and took them on tour) and Fickle Friends – are on their way to Standon Calling, the middle of a gruelling six-day festival shift that began four days ago in Benacassim, Spain and has so far taken them to Truck Festival and Tramlines. It’s all in a day’s work for a band who came 5th in BBC’s Sound of 2018 list, and whose debut album is just around the corner.

So how are they enjoying it? “Yeah we’re just so busy!” Heather enthuses. “It’s really cool to be playing all the festivals, because half of them I’ve never been to before, so it’s really nice to go there and see what they’re all about.” There certainly seems to be no stopping them. Across August the band found themselves at some of their biggest festivals to date, including Lollapalooza in Chicago and at Reading & Leeds. All this, of course, while promoting their upcoming debut album and accompanying headline tour. No mean feat, but one they are relishing.

When asked about the tour – which kicks off on September 21st, in Glasgow’s SWG3 Studio Warehouse – Heather’s answer is a simple one: “I can’t wait!” It’s not hard to see why, given that the group are looking to headline 14 dates in the UK and Ireland, seven in Europe, and 28 in America. But it’s not just the touring that’s got Pale Waves so excited for the Autumn – they are also palpably keen about showcasing their new music. “The tour’s the first time that we actually get to play new songs, and songs off our album, so I’m really really excited,” explains Heather. “We’ve been playing the same songs for ages now, so it’s good to keep it fresh.” Even more reason for fans on the south coast – who will already have been eagerly anticipating their October 2nd date at Southampton’s O2 Guildhall – to get excited about the tour, then.

But before Southampton, of course, is that Glasgow gig. “I love Glasgow, so I’m really glad we’re starting off there,” says Heather, the city’s stereotypically rowdy image apparently translating to a more intense atmosphere and more off-the-hook performances from the band. Coming just a week after the album, the SWG3 will be where most fans will look to see their new favourite tracks played live for the first time. But Heather’s keen to stress that she has no favourites when it comes to the tour: “All the ones in the UK are places that we love playing, so I’m really looking forward to all of them really!”

As we speak, the band are already putting the finishing touches to that much talked about debut album. While the tour will find Pale Waves at their unrestrained best, My Mind Makes Noises looks to take things in a far more personal direction. “It’s songs that we’ve had for years, and songs that we’ve had for weeks,” Heather explains, summing up the LP’s whirlwind of a track listing: “It’s basically a timeline for our band.”

As with their superb debut EP ALL THE THINGS I NEVER SAID before it, My Mind Makes Noises finds Pale Waves delivering the kind of super-personal balladry that almost anyone can laugh, cry, and sing along to – backed up of course by the group’s perfect sonic mix of synth pop and indie rock. But fans will also learn a lot about the band as a whole, says Heather. “The album is just a door into my brain, so anyone who listens to it will know everything about me – which is pretty terrifying!” But although My Mind Makes Noises takes its cues from that stellar EP, it thoroughly explores the wide array of sounds Pale Waves want to experiment with as well. “We’ve explored different sides to it, like R&B and more acoustic influences too,” Heather discloses.

The blueprint for the album is summed-up in its lead single, ‘Eighteen’. Glimmering ’80s synth reverberates throughout the track, rubbing shoulders with rippling guitar chords and Taylor Swift-esque vocals. All the while, Heather Baron-Gracie’s lyrics dive deep into one of her real-life bygone romances. “They were one of the most important people that I’ve ever met,” she explains to me, adding that she “wrote the chorus for ‘Eighteen’ so many times, until you got the finished song now. Definitely took me long enough to get there!”

The same could certainly be said of the band’s journey up to this point. Pale Waves began as the passion project of Baron-Gracie and drummer Ciara Doran, back in their university days at Manchester. “We met up straight away and we got along so well, and our friendship just evolved over listening to music, staying inside and just expressing one another’s love for it,” describes Heather. Before long, they had decided to go one step further and go from listening music to writing it. “We wrote ‘The Tide‘ and ‘Heavenly’, and we put those up online as demos,” quickly attracting the attention of guitarist Hugo Silvani. “We never wanted to be a two-piece,” says Heather – although she and Ciara dominate the group through their emo-throwback aesthetic, they preferred the idea of playing and touring with extra bandmates – so Hugo was swiftly snapped-up, and was soon followed by bassist Charlie Wood, discovered through mutual friends and an “amazing” demo session.

From there, the band never looked back, and have no reason to. Whether it’s touring with The 1975 or playing to an “unreal” crowd of “Brits abroad” in a Spanish gig that “was better than 90% of the UK festivals” mere days before this interview, the only direction has been up, and with the headline tour and debut album hitting fast, that trajectory looks set to continue. It certainly looks like one thing is for sure: Heather Baron-Gracie and co. are set to make serious (Pale) Waves in the in the music world for months and years to come.

My Mind Makes Noises will be available from September 14th via Dirty Hit. Information on Pale Waves’ upcoming tour is available on their website.

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I play/watch/listen to things, then write about playing/watching/listening to things. Special powers include downing two litres of tea at a time and binging a 13-episode Netflix series in only 12 hours. Records Editor 2018/19 OMG

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