As years in the music industry go, few compare to the one just experienced by Manchester’s Pale Waves. February’s EP was swiftly followed by debut album My Mind Makes Noises which flew straight into the UK top 10, facilitating a world tour this autumn spanning Europe, the Americas and large parts of Asia.
“It’s been mad,” a chipper sounding Heather Baron-Gracie says, “I’ve seen so many bands play at the Ritz in Manchester and always thought I’d love that to be me one day so playing sold out shows there and other iconic venues like Shepherds Bush in London has just been so surreal… you definitely feel like something must be going right.”
Not taking the rapidly growing popularity of the band for granted, Baron-Gracie seems acutely aware of the struggles that up-and-coming bands face. Despite mainstream success, they remain something of an oddity for a four- piece guitar band in that both the lead singer and drummer are female.
“The music industry can be quite an intimidating place especially for women. When me and Ciara [drummer and co-songwriter] started Pale Waves, we had a lot of men talk down to us and not really value us as musicians. They didn’t want to see beyond the image”.
It’s easy to see why this would be frustrating. Baron-Gracie’s neo-gothic aesthetic is certainly striking but the instantly infectious pop that has characterised most of the band’s music is likely to subvert the expectations of first time listeners.
Ever the optimist, Baron-Gracie seems set on turning the adversity on its head. “I feel like it’s getting better though,” she says, “I’ve been amazed at the number of young girls who have come up to us and said we’ve inspired them to pick up a guitar and have now started a band… I feel like the more successful female artists there are on the scene, the more things will continue to improve”.
As for her own musical inspirations, the mix is an eclectic ride through the last four decades with Avril Lavigne, Madonna and Prince cited as key pillars of influence. “I also really love Robert Smiths whole persona, his dark makeup and massive hair and how he’s not bowed down to social pressure to tone things down as he’s got older”.
My Mind Makes Noises is certainly not a million miles away from a Wish era song by The Cure and another EP is already in the works. Currently set for recording in February, Baron- Gracie emphasises that she doesn’t want to play with the band’s existing sound too much. “We’re only as big as we are now because people have liked the stuff so far and we owe it to them to not drift too far from that… I don’t really get it when bands get big and feel the need to reinvent themselves”. Shade. Thrown.
But more fundamentally it’s pretty clear that Baron-Gracie has a genuine affection for pop, having just covered Taylor Swift’s 22 for Spotify, she strikes me as an artist both proud and wholly at ease with where she and her band sit in the musical landscape. Given the sizable following amassed over the last year it’s easy to understand why she wouldn’t want to upset the apple cart too much.
Pale Waves will return to Sheffield on the 25th of January 2019, supporting The 1975 at Fly DSA Arena. They are also confirmed for Reading/Leeds next summer.