Culture, Interview, Music

“I’m not just going to be a plain beige wall”: Pale Waves’ frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie on their most honest album yet

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Featured Image: Jordan Curtis Hughes

A band where their name more than likely precedes them, Pale Waves, has built up a well-earned reputation for their signature goth-pop sound and purely for being themselves. The latter is a quality often lost in the scramble for fame, but this four-piece has made it clear that their focus is writing music that speaks from the heart and courageously connecting it with their fans. The band consists of frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie, drummer Ciara Doran, guitarist Hugo Silvani & bassist Charlie Wood.

Since their formation in 2014, and after several successful singles and EPs, they finally unveiled their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises in 2018 – an intricate indie-pop masterpiece and a melting pot of the likes of The Cure, The Cranberries, and their own imagination. Their efforts were rewarded with a top 10 position in the UK Album Charts.

They’ve also become known for being a mainstay on both the gig and festival circuit, their last was supporting Halsey on her the European leg of her ‘Manic’ world tour. Unfortunately, Pale Waves (except for Baron-Gracie) were involved in a tour bus crash on their way to Berlin but thankfully survived. Their path to success hasn’t been easy, but with a second album on the horizon, it’s an indication that they’re back, better than ever.

Despite setting the standard high with the debut, they’re set to surpass it with the release of their second album, Who Am I, next month. It’s poised to be even more honest than the first, discussing themes such as love, depression, and coming out the other side. It’s also taken more of a pop-punk turn – so all Avril Lavigne admirers can rejoice. So far, they’ve released the heartbreak-centred track ‘Change’ and ‘She’s My Religion’, which discusses a real relationship, and most recently, ‘Easy’, which celebrates how love can uplift you. Their music videos are just as honest, especially the ‘She’s My Religion’ video, which depicts Baron-Gracie’s own relationship, sans overdone embellishment. The new releases have already been exceptionally well-received by fans, ‘Change’ has racked up 2.5 million shares on Spotify alone, indicating the anticipation for their forthcoming album.

aAh! Magazine caught up with Heather Baron-Gracie over Zoom to find out more about how their latest album is as much a reflection of her personal journey as a musical one, the significance of butterflies, and her admiration for her fans.

Jordan Curtis Hughes

Over the past year, you’ve toured with Halsey, survived an unfortunate bus crash, and are ready to release an album next month. On a moment of reflection, how has this year been?

“I mean, probably a similar answer to what most people would give due to the Pandemic, you know. Just eventful. Quite challenging and stressful, but if anything, it’s made me grow as a person even more. You know you try to take positives from any negative situation, but yeah, if I could describe it as anything, I’d say challenging.”

How have you found managing the challenges?

“A lot of meditation, a lot of yoga, a lot of things that bring me peace and clarity. You know, reading, taking myself away from situations, and giving time to myself. I feel like it’s hard to take time to myself, especially during the middle of an album campaign, but it’s really important to find time to give to yourself as a person.”

The album seems to contain themes of growth and change, and there’s a recurring motif of a butterfly. Was this intentional?

“With the butterfly, there are a few reasons behind it. My mum’s really obsessed with butterflies, I think because her mum was obsessed with butterflies. So, she associates them with her mum. So throughout my life, it’s just been a constant theme. You know that is all around my mum’s house, the purple butterfly is literally everywhere. I’m like, ‘Mum you need to give it a break.’ But it’s quite sweet actually. But then, I also love the metamorphosis of butterflies, how they become something beautiful and transition into it. So, it’s made a lot of sense because I feel like I was really neglecting myself and self-caring as a person at one point. Especially, when we were touring 24/7. I was really abusing myself rather than taking care of myself, so I feel like you know it’s a representation of my growth as a person too.”

This rawness seems to come across in the album, was it a case of exploring yourself as a person while creating the album at the same?

“Oh yeah, 100%! I feel like this is only the first step too. I feel like the new material that I go off and write soon is going to be even more real and even more opinionated. I feel like I’ve just gone on the growth and the journey now. I hit twenty-five, and I guess I just had that epiphany that a lot of people have in their mid-twenties, like ‘Oh sh** I need to get my act together.’ And that’s been expressed through my music as well.”

The lyrics appear so honest too, do you have any favourites from this album?

“I’m trying to think. I really like in ‘She’s My Religion’, “She’s no angel but she is my religion.” I just love how those two things go together, although people hear, ‘She’s now in jail.’ I guess it’s the way I’m singing it. I just find that so hilarious. ‘She’s now in jail, but she’s my religion.’ Aw for f***s sake. But I really like that lyric, in particular. Have you heard the album?”

I have, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I think it’s your best work yet.

“Aw, that’s good as you’ve obviously listened to Pale Waves for a while, so I’m glad that you like it! I like a lot of lyrics in the track, ‘I just needed you’ because I feel that sums up a lot of change in my mindset, in my priorities. And you know, I’ve sort of realised that materialistic things definitely can’t give you long-lasting happiness. It comes from within, and I was sort of finding short-term happiness in things that were about to expire soon or just weren’t exactly beneficial to me, more so toxic than anything.”

You’ve recently been featured on the cover of Gay Times and so many fans have identified with you too. How does it feel to be viewed as a role model, and did you ever think about it before releasing the new material?

“You know what, I didn’t really because when you start a band, you want to become successful. You want success. You want people to hear your music and relate to it. But nothing is ever confirmed, you know. You have to work for it. I felt like I didn’t really think about it that much because I was just concentrating on people hearing our music. If anything, I feel like this album or the tracks that are released so far like, ‘She’s My Religion’ have really elevated that because people are really going to connect with what we’re saying. They did before, but I feel even more so now because I am being even more real and more authentic. Even more true to myself. The message there is so much stronger than it was before, I think. So, people are looking up to me even more because I am sort of something that they need to find comfort in because I’m public about things. I feel like I want to represent the LGBTQ community in the most honest and real way, rather than trying to be playful – or overly sexualised or something, which I feel a lot of artists do. But it’s a lot of pressure. I’m just human, and I make mistakes and f*** up, but I can just be myself, and hopefully, that’s good enough.”

I’ve previously read that you kept this in mind while filming the music video for ‘She’s My Religion’, as the over-sexualisation aspect was something that you consciously wanted to avoid?

“Yeah 100%! Obviously, the ‘She’s My Religion’ video does represent a real relationship. You can see from the video my real girlfriend and partner. So, it represents our relationship, and obviously, sex is in that relationship. So, you can’t ignore it because people are just going to say that it looks like a friendship. So it has to be in there, but I didn’t want to make the whole video about it. But I wanted it to be in there because it’s part of a real relationship, but I didn’t want it to be cliche and overly sexualised like, ‘Let’s get the whips out and everything.’ A lot of artists do and I think it’s just to gain more popularity, but it’s not the kind of artist I want to be.”

If anyone’s felt the same as you have, what words of advice would you offer them?

“I would just say that life is a really tricky thing, and there are going to be lots of ups and downs, and the journey to finding yourself is really difficult. I don’t think that we as human beings can ever fully be aware or know ourselves inside out because we’re surprising ourselves each day by the way we react to certain situations or how we feel about certain things. We’re growing every day, and we’re adapting every day. You’ll sort of never fully know yourself, I don’t believe anyway. But it’s really important to sort of embrace yourself, whereas when I was younger, up until recently, you know, I hit twenty-five. I was really ignoring that and neglecting that. But I’m far much happier now. Now, I’ve sort of embraced it and just don’t be intimidated by the process. It is going to take you a while to get there, but it’ll be worth it in the end.”

Looking ahead, hopefully, touring is going to resume at some point. Which track are you looking forward to playing live most, if you have a favourite? 

“I think live, ‘You Don’t Own Me’ is going to really exciting to play because it’s such an angry and aggressive song, but it’s so powerful, and it’s a massive f*** you to all men. Not just men though, in general, all men who have been sexist or have been awful in any way towards women. Even the older generation of women, it’s not just men, it’s women too. Women have said awful things to me about the way I dress or the way I look, or the way I act. So, it’s a massive f*** you to those people who are trying to conform us and confine us into being one person. You know, if we don’t look or act a certain way, people get so offended, and it’s like, ‘Wow! I’m not just going to be a plain beige wall!’ If anything Pale Waves fans are not those sort of people, you know. They’re the people that are so unique, and they believe in the right sort of things. So, if anything, they are going to connect to that song so much and live, there’s going to be so much energy and passion from them. So, I think that’s going to be a really amazing song to play live.”

I can imagine it’ll be really good live.

“Exactly! I can’t wait. I’m just going to bounce around the stage!”

I feel that Pale Waves shows have become known for their energy and community feel if you know what I mean?

“100%! I’ve had a lot of fans feel that way too, and I’ve seen so many fans meet their best friends through Pale Waves shows and music. I think that’s incredible and so nice to feel that I can be a part of that, joining them together. You know, you look out into a Pale Waves crowd, and everyone looks different, and it’s amazing! Everyone looks unique, and I feel like they are really expressing themselves through how they dress and their make up. It’s incredible because I feel like society as a whole really looks down on anyone wearing slightly out-there makeup.”

Is there anything which you’ve never been asked but wish that you had?

“Oh god. You know, I’ve done that many interviews, that I’ve probably been asked the majority of acceptable things. I’ve been asked some really appalling things in my time of being in Pale Waves. Honestly, I couldn’t even repeat some of the s*** that people have asked me. It’s so funny. I don’t actually know. It’s a tough question, you’ve put me on the spot. I’m sorry I can’t give you an answer, but I don’t know what I would tell. People already know so much about me.”

It must be quite strange having everyone already know so much?

“It is you know. I feel if anything, I’m quite a closed-off person, but I’ve learned to be open for my music.”

You can stream their latest track ‘Easy’, on all major streaming services and look out for their forthcoming second album, arriving 12 February 2021. You can preorder, Who I Am?, from the Dirty Hit store here.

Keep up with Pale Waves:

Spotify | Youtube | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Website

About the author / 

Camilla Whitfield

Fourth Year BA English with Overseas Study | Music Editor | Manchester & Leipzig | Music & Gig Enthusiast

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