Pale Waves want to be the biggest band in the world, but you probably already knew that. Their ambition has been clear since the opening shimmer of their signature banger ‘There’s A Honey’ dazzled into view back in February 2017. Their drive has been constant, from fearlessly supporting stablemates The 1975 on their trek across American academies and arenas with only one song to their name, through to releasing a steady stream of stone-cold pop classics, doused in red, black and blue. At every turn, they’ve commanded the spotlight and asked for more. They’ve been relentless, uncompromising and constant in their need to be heard. It’s why they’ve spent the past six months almost always on the road. It’s why their name is on the bill for pretty much every festival happening this summer.
All that, though, was leading to this - their debut album. Titled ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ and released on 14th September, the fourteen tracks come just a year and a half after that debut single, but the difference is huge. Pale Waves don’t just dream of being the biggest band in the world; they’re doing everything in their power to make it their reality.
“It feels crazy,” starts vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie. “Even when I’m listening to it on my phone, it’s still so odd to picture us with a full-length album of Pale Waves music. We’ve worked so hard for this to happen and now it’s actually, finally here,” she grins. Excited and nervous, but not in equal measures, you can tell the next few months are going to be tough for them, but the record is done, and now, they just have to wait.
Pale Waves have constantly been writing, eager to make sure they got their biggest, best and brightest ideas onto ‘My Mind Makes Noises’. A lot of songs were started “but we haven’t finished most of them,” Heather admits. “We’ve got loads of ideas, but we were strict. We knew what vibe we wanted to go with, so it was easy to figure out which songs were going to work and which ones weren’t.”
“People have got this idea of us writing the same song but with a different title, which I think is funny,” she muses. “It’s just that we love major chords. We love pop music.” No song on ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ sounds like another. Not really. Sure, they’re all massive, immediate gems in pop’s crown jewels, shaped with that same magical Pale Waves toolkit, but each one has its own glimmering charm. “At the end of the day, we could do whatever,” she continues. “As long as it’s got my voice on it, then I guess it is Pale Waves, isn’t it?”
“We wanted to dive into different aspects of our sound,” Heather continues. “We wanted to show different personalities to our writing,” but none of that came from simply wanting to prove people wrong. Their world expanding at each twist and turn, every song still sounds like Pale Waves. “You shouldn’t listen to those people. We write pop music, and we want to sound like the same band. I’m sorry if that offends anyone. We have the same writers. We’re going to have a consistent sound. And I think that’s a good thing to do. We want to be recognisable. I wouldn’t want to throw some jazz number on the album... not yet anyway,” she smiles. “We’ve got a lot of groundwork to settle in before we start throwing those crazy shapes.”
“‘My Mind Makes Noises’ tells their story so far. You’ll recognise ‘Kiss’ as well as slightly reworked versions of ‘There’s A Honey’ and ‘Television Romance’, but apart from that, it’s all shiny and new. It’s looking towards a future where the name Pale Waves is up in lights. There are hints of what’s to come; whispers of a world bigger than even they could imagine.
“With this record, it’s going to display what we’re going to do on the next album and in the future,” says Heather. “We’re always growing as artists, growing as people, and that’s going to influence our writing.” The band are also ever-growing. “It’s going to be even more different on the second album, but it’s still going to sound like Pale Waves,” she promises. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Pale Waves had a pencil-sketch plan for what their debut album should be before they started. The reality “is better”, says Heather, and not just because it actually exists. “We got to the studio, and I had a mini breakdown because I didn’t think we had enough songs that were good enough. Pressure really helped me. I needed the pressure. We got to that mental state where we all started to go a bit insane. We’d been in the same building for over a month, every day from 10 am to 11 pm, and as you can imagine, we were all going a bit mental.
“At times it was really hard. Not just hard on me, but I could see it taking its effect on Ciara [Doran, drums]. We all heavily depend on her. She essentially writes the music, and she helped produce the album [alongside Jon Gilmore]. I was feeling stressed, and I could see it in her eyes as well, but you know what? It’s just so worth it now. That’s all part of making an album. We knew it was going to be stressful, but I never expected it to be as stressful as it was.”
No matter how hard it got, the band never thought about tapping the brakes. They’ve been hurtling forward since day one, always been in control of their ridiculous pace. “We knew our album had to come out around September or we’d be leaving it too late. I see a lot of bands doing that nowadays, and I think it’s a big mistake. You need to push yourself. At times, when we were recording the album and things got tough, I had to take myself aside, walk around outside and ask myself, am I really going to push myself this far? And I did. Every time. Because it’s the right time for us.”
Every song on ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ is vital. Lyrically, musically, cinematically, they all have something to add to this ever-growing always-exciting world. If one was to be the record’s beating heart, though, sort-of-title-track ‘Noises’ shimmers with extra weight. “That’s such an important song to me,” offers Heather. “I wrote it when I was going through a difficult time. I was struggling with how I looked and how my body was. A lot of our fans are young, they’re growing up, and they’re figuring out who they want to be. It was important for me to write a song on self-esteem and mental health issues because I know people struggle with that. They need a reason to escape that nightmare in their head. They need someone else to say, ‘You know what? It’s okay ‘cos I’m feeling the same’.
“I know how some people see me onstage,” she continues. “They see how I dress and how I am sometimes, and I know they think ‘You know what, she’s confident and believes in herself’, but I think the people that try and present themselves as the most confident are always the ones that lack that assurance and self-esteem. I’ve struggled with that growing up and still do to this day. It’s slowly getting better, but I wish I had somebody to say,” she pauses. “I wish I had ‘Noises’ as a song in my life when I was seventeen. It would have helped me.”
Heather wrestles with self-doubt throughout the album. There’s uncertainty. There’s confusion. There’s loss, and feeling lost. One track, ‘Drive’, she describes as “part two of ‘Noises’”. “That’s where I am right now,” she explains. “I’m twenty-three, I don’t feel quite as sad, but I still feel the same. I needed to make that bold step because it’s going to serve my songwriting in the future. I do believe that the older you get and the more songs you write, you allow yourself to open up more. The easy thing to do is write about love. I feel it’s a lot more difficult for me to write about myself, how I feel, what I struggle with, what my flaws are and what my insecurities are, rather than talking about another person and how I feel about them.”
That soul-baring honesty lets people latch onto Pale Waves as they head to the stratosphere. It’s never been success at any cost, though.
“I’ve had so many messages, and I’ve seen so many people online really thanking us for ‘Noises’. That absolutely melts my heart because I write these songs because I need to express myself, but I also want to be there for other people.”
It’s the most personal song Pale Waves have released to date, and it comes at a time where they’re going to new places, playing to fields full of people who are basically strangers to them. Rather than hide it on the album, they’ve put it front and centre so the world can find it. Fearless but also coming from the gut, “it just really felt like the right time to release it,” says Heather. “We’d previously released a lot of songs that were about romantic relationships and I wanted to release a song that wasn’t just about that.”
And obviously, having learnt all the words, you know the title of the record comes from the song. “Ciara got ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ tattooed on her arm and to me, that put the nail in the coffin. The album had to be called that; it means so many different things to me. There are so many things going on inside my head, good and bad. My head just constantly feels like it’s a train that’s going full speed ahead. Sometimes that can be bad, sometimes that can be good, but that sentence just summed up the album. ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ is basically my world, my diary that you’re stepping inside. It’s all the noises that my mind has made.”
This excerpt is taken from the August 2018 issue of Dork. To read the full thing, order a copy direct below. You can also subscribe to Dork here, read online via Issuu here, or pick up a copy from independent record stores and venues around the UK. Pale Waves' debut album 'My Mind Makes Noises' is set for release on 14th September 2018.
Featuring Pale Waves, Maggie Rogers, Death Cab For Cutie and more.