Each step Pale Waves take seems to take them to some higher goal, to some glorious victory. At times it feels effortless, with each new song going viral, adopted as an anthem by an army of fans.
But it’s not quite as easy as it seems. Speaking to Clash backstage at VEVO’s Great Escape takeover, singer Heather Baron-Gracie is simply glad for an escape from the studio – in the darkest room in the remotest part of Wandsworth, no less. “We’ve been basically locked in a dark room for the past three weeks, and we’ve got another two weeks left,” she sighs. “We’re busy working on the album. We’ve tracked about 80% of it!”
The remaining 20% it seems might well be the vocals. A ball of electricity onstage, Heather’s studio approach is a little more intimate. “I tend to do it with just me and the producer,” she reveals. “They can come in if they want to – I’m not too protective over it, but I’d rather not have loads of people listen to me. When you’re doing vocals it’s kind of isolating, in a way. If everyone is listening to every word you’re singing then it throws me off a bit. I’d rather just not have people there.”
The band have hopefully memorised the lyrics already, Clash offers.
“Ha!” she exclaims. “I’m going to quiz them on it tonight!”
Despite being the conduit onstage, Heather insists that Pale Waves was always conceived off as a group project. “I grew up writing songs, being a solo artist, and then I got into this band in college – this pop-punk band – and it was just some friends messing around, and that put me off ever going back in a band. It was fun, but I’m just such a driven person, I know what I want, and I was surrounded by people that really didn’t share the same vision.”
“It took Ciara a good while to open my eyes up to being in a band, because I was so convinced I didn’t want to do it any more. But we wrote music together instantly, and then after a while I realised that… why would I be a solo artist when I can have my best friend in a band with me? And then my two other best friends as well.”
“I couldn’t write these songs being a solo artist,” she insists. “I need them around me to cope with the pressure, and everything else.”
A fastidious reader, Heather is busy ploughing through a photographer tome by John Pilger. She’s fascinated by moments, by the instinctive drive that moves through the camera. What makes now the right moment, then, to release fabulous new teen-pop drama ‘Kiss’?
“To be honest, ‘Kiss’ coming out was a pretty last minute decision. It wasn’t as planned as the other singles. We had it recorded, mastered, and finished for a good six or seven months, but we’d never found the right time to release it. And then we planned out where and what we want to do, and it just became obvious that it needed to happen right now or else it just wouldn’t happen.”
“And it’s a weird one actually because I wrote it about four years ago when we started Pale Waves,” she continues. “I started to try and get into the mindset of being a songwriter for a band, rather than a solo artist. If I was to do music by myself I would write differently. So it’s quite a naive song, but I think you can really tell that.”
The song owes a debt to the cinematic world of John Hughes, and began as part of a college project. “I had to write a soundtrack to a film… and it was The Breakfast Club,” she says. “I wrote the music for ‘Kiss’ to that as a trailer. I cut the trailer, and then I had to write music and then Ciara heard it and was like: that is actually a great song, we should probably take it! And we did!”
Online now, ‘Kiss’ has had a fantastic reaction from fans – but Heather has weaned herself away from social media overload, wary of the anxiety it can cause. “I kind of pushed myself to stop because… with love comes hate, as well, and there are some hateful comments,” she sighs. “Everyone can’t like the same bands. It’s more healthier for me to not really look into it as much.”
So she’s entirely focussed on the band, on her music, and on each live show. “Like, every time I’m still wondering if people are going to turn up,” Heather exclaims. “You don’t really grasp how many people will be at the festival that are into your band, if they’re actual dedicated Pale Waves fans or just people who are just walking about.”
“It is really exciting because you’re in two minds – are people going to turn up, or maybe they won’t turn up…! But we played Live At Leeds last weekend and people DID turn up! It was crazy, it was absolutely rammed – it was insane!”
Clash catches Pale Waves’ precocious, primed, poised set a few hours after our chat. With love comes hate, as Heather rightly points out, but with show by stellar show passing by, it seems that love is winning out.
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