Pale Waves: "We want a Number One album for sure"
With a 1975-produced contender for Banger of the Year, Pale Waves could be the most exciting act of 2017.
Published: 8:35 am, March 27, 2017
It’s a Friday morning, and Heather Baron-Grace is getting to grips with a brand new role. It’s been a matter of weeks since Pale Waves’ definitive opening statement to the world ‘There’s A Honey’ unveiled itself, and things haven’t been the same since. An immediate and indisputable heavyweight of a track, it not so much grabbed attention as it made everyone stop what they’re doing and dive in - and that sort of moment doesn’t happen often. Now, on a Friday morning in North London, Heather finds herself coming to terms with it all - in the midst of staying in a one bedroom hotel room with the rest of the band, trying to get some sort of sleep with a noisy neighbour next door and recording sessions in full swing. It’s all happening would be the ideal way to phrase things - but that’s just what Pale Waves have been waiting for.
“I was just stunned,” explains Heather, looking back over a coffee in the chilled gardens of a local shop. “I wasn’t prepared for it and didn’t know how people were going to react. I was quite on edge, but at the same time, it was so good to be in that position because people had been waiting so long for it. I felt like, frustrated in this square box because nobody was hearing the new Pale Waves, well - the actual Pale Waves, so I was excited but nervous.”
Bristling with infectious energy and dazzling in its wide-eyed ambition and dreaming, ‘There’s A Honey’ is a jolt from the blue that immediately has tongues wagging. Effortless in its charm, unquestionable in its urgency and stunning in its wide palette of colours and views - it’s the sort of track that bands would wait years to release, with most never getting close to touching it. For Pale Waves, it’s a bonafide sign that they’re about to become an extremely important band - and for Heather, it’s something that would have seemed a world away when she first picked up a guitar.
“Yeah, I started playing guitar when I was like ten years old because my Dad played it and he was like ‘come on, play guitar with me,’’ recollects Heather. “He didn’t have anyone else to play with because nobody else in our family is musical really. It was just him and me, and thank God I did because I’m not good at anything else!”
What started as a family singalong developed into an all-encompassing passion, taking up any spare hour in the day with practising and writing songs. It allowed Heather to create and inhabit a world that had music at every turn, one lead by heroes such as The Cure - with Robert Smith’s presence and songwriting proving hugely influential when looking out from a childhood in Preston.
“I played music a lot on my own until I got in the band because the friendship group that I was in wasn’t very musical,” notes Heather. “When I went to college, whenever I would have some time I would just go down to the music basement and sit there on a piano. Thinking back I was such a loner, but that was what I enjoyed. I didn’t want to go to the cafe and socialise I wanted to go down and play. I don’t enjoy that sitting around on the grass outside and just talking; I wanted to go off and do my own thing.”
Going off and doing her own thing led squarely to the bright lights of Manchester, a city that’s renowned history reads like a manual of creatives all painting their own version of the city on its streets, in its bedrooms and in everything it touches. It’s while at University there that Heather met Ciara Doran - in turn sparking off a friendship that finally brought together a passion she’d been looking for all this time. It’s at that moment that Pale Waves was born.
“We met up for the first time after speaking online because I saw her and thought, ‘Oh, she seems like she has my sort-of vibe’. I felt like nobody got me until I met Ciara; it was like meeting someone who was the same as me. It’s a perfect tag-team really, she’s got her half of the talents, and I’ve got mine and then put together it’s just one big mess that is beautiful at the same time.”
“We started playing together and writing together, and it just went from there really,” continues Heather. “We did a few shows, and then we looked for a guitarist - and Hugo [Silvani] was already into us and what we were doing, so when we posted online about it I just had this really strong feeling towards him. We looked at a few, and I was just like, ‘It’s Hugo, It’s Hugo’. We got him in, and Charlie [Wood] we knew through mutual friends, and now we’re all just best friends.”
Taking the foundations both of them had grown up on, Ciara’s encouragement to weave into more melodic pop tones was a notable first for Heather - opening her eyes to exactly what Pale Waves were all about, and the sort of band they were destined to aim for. “At the start, I had never played an electric guitar before Pale Waves,” points out Heather, “so at the very start I was playing my acoustic guitar in these weird tunings, but Ciara wasn’t about that. I was giving her songs that sounded like they were done by Daughter and stuff like that, and she was like, 'I don’t think we should do this.'
“We went and got an electric guitar and all the pedals, and it then evolved over time. Now we’re all about the big chorus, and it comes from the moment we made a conscious decision to make that type of music - and we’ve never looked back.”
Jumping between laptops and guitars in their Manchester rooms, taking snippets here and there and moulding them into storming pop anthems, Pale Waves aren’t so much a band as they are a force - a stream of sky-high moments that make them not just great, but vital. Sounding like a message from the future yet possessing everything that makes them instantly classic, it’s feeling that came to the fore when they stepped out as a band and onto the live stage. From small nights at The Castle, playing to five people and a half-empty room, to selling out The Deaf Institute - it’s an indicator as to how feverish things are about to become.
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For Heather, it’s an experience which finds her placing personal moments right in front of complete strangers - something that vastly differs from those solitary moments in the college music room. “When you go out on stage, it’s quite vulnerable, but you realise that, wow - this is my job now and I have to go out and do it. It’s nice, but it’s an odd experience because you’re pouring your heart and soul out to all these people - which is usually not the sort of person I am.
“These are my best friends, and it helps to have them there. If someone says they don’t like Pale Waves, we all just go down there!”
Everything they are and everything they represent soon picked up attention (without the need for a Pale Waves-styled attack on the front row), with acclaimed label Dirty Hit (y’know - the home of The 1975, Wolf Alice and The Japanese House among others) making their feelings well and truly clear. The world needs to hear Pale Waves, and they need to hear them now. Sitting around tables and discussing their future seems a world away from those bedrooms where it all began for Heather and Ciara.
“We keep talking about it actually,” notes Heather. “Like we’re having meetings now with eight adults sat around the table, and me and Ciara are there thinking, ‘God, this is all about us, and they’re taking us seriously.’ We’ve wanted people to take us seriously for so long, and people usually don’t do that, especially when they ask what you do, and you say you’re in a band! It’s pretty amazing; we have people really taking care of us and doing the things that we don’t have to do anymore.”
That Dirty Hit world has led to a relationship that many can hear blossoming through their speakers when ‘There’s A Honey’ is in full swing. It's one that finds touches of The 1975 sprinkled on the Pale Waves cake - adding another layer of sweetness to the mix that has us going back again and again for more. That dedication to creating something refreshing meant that when the opportunity came to work with Matty and George from the band - it was an open process that could have gone either way (if that was ever in doubt).
“We recorded everything in a studio with an engineer, and they were played ‘There’s A Honey’ and some other tracks, and they were like, ‘This is really fucking great!’,” remembers Heather. “They asked if they could do something on it, and were very much like, if you hate it you hate it, if you love it you love it. They did that and some other tracks, and it was clear that it was really working, so we’re just going to carry it on!
“They’re genuine and honest guys who just want to make amazing records, and they get our sound. Some producers want to change us and don’t listen to the band - but with Matty and George they listen, they get it and are just chilled.”
It’s a seal of approval that only sits as another tick to a checklist that Pale Waves have picked up and devoured in one go. Creating their own landscape of scorching hot pop weavers all with a seething undertone of making the darkest corridors fly like a dazzling cloud of daydreaming royalty - Pale Waves are sitting on the cusp of something special. For a band to be all of that, with just one track out, is a signpost for something we’ll be talking about for years to come. As Heather finishes up her coffee and prepares to head back to the studio, there’s a glint in her eye that already sees what Pale Waves could mean.
“It’s really special, and I don’t know how to describe it really,” she confesses, looking at the journey that’s lead up to this point and where Pale Waves now stand. “It feels like there’s more pressure with it now, and you start to wonder whether people will like the new stuff - but if they like ‘There’s A Honey’ then they’ll like what’s coming.
"We want a Number One album for sure and we want to be an amazing band, y’know? We want people to watch us and feel it and think, ‘These guys are really good’.”
There’s going to be plenty of that going about, Pale Waves are about to cause a tidal storm - and we’re all invited along for the ride.