Answering the video call a few hours into the release day of second album ‘Who Am I?’, Pale Waves singer Heather Baron-Gracie was ecstatic with multiple interviews and the viewing of a huge billboard of the band in West London. But who can blame her? Since their debut album, ‘My Mind Makes Noise’, was released in 2018, they have been making waves as a band known for their honesty, clever lyricism and loveable personalities. More importantly, they are known for creating music that resonates.
"I think that's one of the best things about this career," she explains when talking about the fans feeling represented through their music. "You sit in a room and have these ideas for songs, or you channel from your personal experiences, and then you create them and bring them into this world. It's about how they impact people's lives for the better - usually - and it creates an understanding for them, it creates comfort for them, it creates representation for them."
With such a loyal fan base, the songstress admitted how much she has been missing the interaction with fans during this pandemic period. "I really do adore seeing our fans, and just like giving them a massive hug. But I guess it has to be a hug through the internet for now until it's safe."
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Since starting the band with fellow band member Ciara Doran in 2014, the music has flowed perfectly between creating anthems for the ones with no voice to piano ballads that peel back the layers of what has been going on behind the scenes. It wasn’t always this easy for the four-piece though. When coming up in the Manchester music scene it took time for the collective to find their sound, specifically playing multiple times in the basement of Manchester's very own Night & Day Cafe to really create the sound that listeners now love.
After putting together music for the world to see, it was time to upload it and this is quite the story. - "As soon as we released 'The Tide' and 'Heavenly', the demos of them, we put them on SoundCloud and then literally the next day, we woke up, and we looked at our email. We had so many major labels emailing us and we were literally like, what the fuck, this is so weird. This is so strange. All these majors like Sony, Virgin, etc. They all wanted to meet with us, and I was like, how have these people found us, we had just put it on SoundCloud. But it created such a buzz. So many people enjoyed that music, and it just got out. That's when I feel like we started to make a name for ourselves."
Continuing on, she mentions: "We then started playing venues all around Manchester like the Castle Hotel, Sound Control, Night & Day Cafe, Gorilla, like we played near enough nearly every venue. Sometimes we played venues to literally no one. But I think that really creates a sense of appreciation for any artist, like you don't take anything for granted. That's when we started to sort of get recognition and build our fan base, the more music that we released, the more people seemed to really invest into us."
"Now we have such a hardcore and dedicated, passionate fan base and they're absolutely incredible. I think it's because they have a healthy representation in many ways, and they find comfort and I know that a lot of them have met their best friends because of Pale Waves."
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That graft of performing in every venue in Manchester led them to performing on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury in 2019. It was quite the show - indeed, this writer was actually in the crowd. That hardcore fanbase were soaring with happiness to see the band live, the Northern band going to life in that performance; indeed, these recollections touch on a quite different subject.
Over the years, it has seemed that society prefers artists and bands from London or the south in general, but whether it’s a band like Pale Waves or an artist like Yungblud, the world seems to be more accepting of Northern creatives. Heather provides the perfect answer.
"It's just society in general, accepting people and not just in terms of music, but just accepting people for who they are and acknowledging them. But I completely agree. I feel like there is always that kind of battle between Northerners and Southerners. But for me, I'm probably biased because I am a Northerner, but Northerners have this sense of ability to just power on and to just really work hard and not let anything get them down or drag them down. I really love that about Northern people."
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The new album provides that sense of powering on when the going gets tough, but then again Baron-Gracie has become an inspiration in her own right in this new album. By creating the anthem that is ‘You Don’t Own Me’, which delves deep into being a woman in today’s society, which can include sexism and body image, she’s able to be an inspiration for the ones who feel they are outcasts.
The 11-track production demonstrates that love of early 2000’s rock and 90’s pop punk, which fits perfectly into the songwriting. That feeling of freedom and rebellion is felt here just like it was in Avril Lavigne’s music, which is where some of the inspiration comes from. The songwriter delves deep into her own experiences in life, but doesn’t hold back when discussing how she’s changed in a short space of time.
"I feel like I've changed for the better in ways that of how I view life and how I view situations. I feel like I really neglected myself and I didn't love a lot of parts of me. In fact, over time, I disliked most of me, and in the past year and a half, I've really worked on loving myself and becoming my own best friend, because I think that's truly important. You have to accept who you are and what you look like. I really struggled with that for a long time and it took me awhile to get here."
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The quartet are here to stay, that’s quite clear. They’re not just a band in the limelight, they are fans of other artists and magazines too. When they are featured on the covers of magazines, they react to the same way we would - in awe of the fact they are featured and can’t quite believe it.
Whether it was One Direction's manager contacting them when they were on the come up, or when Heather makes a trip to Tesco and has to explain to someone why she’s dressed in her favourite goth clothing, she and the rest of the band will never change.
That is what fans love the most, it’s why this new album is so good. The representation for the ones who are considered not normal. A quote from Baron-Gracie herself is the perfect way to sum up her, the band, their new music and their outlook on life.
"I kind of always felt a bit of an outsider myself. I know what it feels like to feel different. Or, you know, have people say to you: you're weird. And that's not the case at all. Everyone's unique and everyone should love that about people and people shouldn't try to make everyone the same because we're not meant to be, we're all meant to be different."
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'Who Am I?' is out now.
Words: Josh Abrahams
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