Though the gothic subculture might be intimidating to some, the frontwoman of Manchester band Pale Waves is far from it. With a bubbly and slightly ethereal voice, Heather Baron-Gracie brings a delicate sonic contrast to her band’s hyper-emo appearance. Both on stage and off, Baron-Gracie rocks dark black eyeliner circling her eyes, black clothes and a mess of black hair. Her musical counterparts complete the outfit with a similar edge. Drawing inspiration from 80’s punk bands like The Cure and stylistic aspirations from early punk rock princess Avril Lavigne, Pale Waves are creating their own musical identity, with a focus on self-expression. “Our image and who we are as people is very open. We don’t really do the “normal” thing, I suppose. We like to dress quite gothic and out there,” Baron-Gracie says of Pale Waves’ attitude.
Since releasing their debut EP All the Things I Never Said in early 2018, the band has been propelled to massive success, catering to a gothic-infused fan base who aren’t afraid to belt out catchy pop-driven choruses. “I love modern day pop stars,” Baron-Gracie admits. “I love Avril Lavigne, Charli XCX and Lorde. Our band listens to a lot of 1980s artists as you can tell. We love The Cure and Madonna,” she adds of Pale Waves’ musical inspiration.
With melodic goth-pop songs like “Heavenly” and “Television Romance,” a Pale Waves show looks something like a 90s punk rock concert drenched in waves of glittery pop anthems. “You can tell when someone is going to a Pale Waves show because they have all the dark clothes on and dark, heavy makeup,” Baron-Gracie says of Pale Waves fans. “It feels like a family or a community, where everyone is just being themselves. People find comfort in how we’re not afraid of wearing whatever we want.” Additionally, of her gothic family of fans, she says, “I want fans to feel like our shows are a safe place. Everyone is there for the love of music.”
With a style all their own, blending mainstream pop sounds with a dark exterior, Pale Waves might not be afraid of going against the grain, but they are feeling the pressure from fans ahead of the release of their debut album. Shuffling in and out of the studio since releasing their EP, Baron-Gracie says it was only recently that she recognized how real the album is. “I actually stepped back and I could see it all coming together,” she says. “It’s stressful but I guess it has to be stressful. Especially when it’s the first album. It’s the most important one, really,” she decides. Compared to the band’s four-song EP, recording a full-length album is admittedly an enormous undertaking for the band, but the timing feels completely right to Baron-Gracie. “We wouldn’t want to wait any longer. It feels like there are a lot of people waiting for the album,” she says. “We ‘re a band that has been releasing music quite slowly and painfully for our fans and all four songs on the EP feel as though they serve a similar purpose. On a 14-track album, you get a lot more room to be creative and show different sides to your music.”
Though the highly anticipated album isn’t due until later this summer, Pale Waves have released a new song today called “Kiss” to satisfy their fan’s appetite. Written nearly four years ago, Baron-Gracie is relishing in the idea of bringing this “old” song to the forefront to show off her artistic development. “The song itself is so naive. You can almost tell I was quite young when I wrote it. I kind of like that though. It’s like, “The Tide,” “Heavenly” and “Kiss” show that side of me and “New Year’s Eve” and “My Obsession” demonstrate the progression that I’ve had as a songwriter,” she explains.
Though the song has been recorded for quite some time, Baron-Gracie says that performing live allows her and the rest of the band to fall in love with songs all over again. “We’ve known these songs for years. We’ve lived with them and listened to them a thousand times. But, for the audience, they’re hearing it for the first time. It’s quite an odd experience to see everyone’s excitement,” she says. The catchy new song “Kiss” might feel like a continuation of the typical ‘Pale Waves’ sound, dripping with melodic hooks and saccharine storylines, but fans should gear up for a more eclectic collection of music from the band later this summer. “I think the album will allow Pale Waves fans to understand there’s a lot more to us,” Baron-Gracie says of their upcoming album. Until their debut album is released, fans can get their Pale Waves fix at Lollapalooza, Outside Lands and select shows supporting CHVRCHES.
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