A dexterous quartet hailing from overseas in Manchester, England, Pale Waves are carrying away fans in their indie-pop fueled tides, even in the US. Just entering their fourth proper year as a band, the four have hopped on tour with The 1975, slated numerous festival slots, and engrossed viewers in their dark-yet-enthralling music videos. Having been repeatedly coined as “gothic pop” due to their upbeat, hooky romanticism with a gloomier, riffy edge — also stemming from their personal makeup and style choices, a stark contrast to the stereotyped “bubblegum pop” visuals — Pale Waves just recently released their debut EP, All The Things I Never Said. With sphinxlike vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie at the helm, she took some time to discuss beginnings, artistry, pegging genres and exploring the US.
Pale Waves have been a band in some form since around 2014. Can you give our readers a little bit of background on how you guys came together?
Yes! So me and Ciara went to the same university in Manchester when we were 18, and we met on the first night basically. Then, we started writing music together instantly and we decided to make a band. We did decide that we never wanted to be a two-piece — and then we put some tracks online and Hugo had heard them, and he wanted to start a band, so since he was kind of a fan it, worked out. We stole Charlie from another band [Laughs]. We heard about him through a friend and went to watch his band play and immediately thought, “We need him in our band!” So, that is how Hugo and Charlie came into the band.
Nice, and that is actually kind of funny. I have heard a couple of different times where people were fans, initially, of a group that was coming together and ended up in the band, so I love when that happens.
Yeah! It’s really cool.
Now, you guys just dropped your debut EP about two weeks ago. What was the writing and recording process like for that? Were they songs that you guys had kind of compiled over the years, or was it something that you guys just sat down recently and wrote?
It’s a combination between both, really. Like “Heavenly” and “The Tide” — they were the first songs that we ever even wrote as a band, when we were like 18. Then, “New Year’s Eve” is quite recent. We had that not as long ago, too. Then, “My Obsession” is quite old, as well. We had them all wrote and finished.
Obviously when you go into the studio you end up changing parts and whatnot, but no parts were really significantly changed. And then the recording process, I feel like we had a good recording process. It was, well, being in the studio is always sort of intense, but it’s really worth it at the end when you get to hear the actual version of it.
Absolutely! And can you tell me, how did you guys end up getting drawn to Dirty Hit Records? I know Matty Healy [The 1975] has said quite a few times that he is a fan of you guys, so I didn’t know if you guys kind of came together after you got on or did he have any influence in getting you guys onto Dirty Hit?
No, not Matty himself. We did a show for our fans in Manchester, which is a great location. And ahead of that, we knew Jamie [Oborne] and he was at the show and he thought that we fit it perfect. And then we and Jamie reunited, and he came down a few days later to come sit in our rehearsal room and then he signed us up straight away basically.
That’s awesome! In terms of your sound, you guys have been referred to a few times as gothic pop — at least in part stemming from your visual aesthetic. I was wondering how that categorization sits with you. Is that a term you don’t like?
Yeah, no, like, some of things we get called are interesting. I don’t know. I guess some people are kind of into the whole goth look and the pop music. I guess it sort of works for us, it is not something we did on purpose. It just sort of happens since we dress like we do but also do pop music.
I feel like pop music has opened doors a bit in a few different directions of — not just the visual representations — but what passes and intermingle musically. There are so many different variations within pop itself.
Yeah, it has definitely been broadening out. A lot of pop bands are coming out now with different things. I love pop music, so the more pop music in the world, the happier I am.
Who are some of your favorites right now? Who are you listening to?
There is a girl that we saw playing live at SXSW called Morgan Saint. She is really cool and she has got an EP out. It is very pop. And then I am listening to a bit of Paramore, Blink-182. [Laughs] I guess I have got quite a mix of things that is sometimes quite emo and sometimes pure pop.
For sure. I was also wondering, well, visually your music videos are stunning; they have garnered a lot of praise within themselves. I was wondering how involved you have been in the conception of the music videos.
They are all pretty much my ideas.
Oh, really? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I actually don’t know! I sort of just really listen to the tracks and just, I know what it is about since I wrote it, obviously, and then I make a visual representation of that. Sometimes, like randomly… I don’t know, like the “Heavenly” video. I sort of got influenced by me being held back by a lot of things and traps, and then I put that into a visual image of me being actually, physically held back by all these strings.
I also noticed that between “Heavenly” and “My Obsession,” both have, in their own way, this inanimate, doll theme; between the marionette and the mannequin. I was wondering if there was some sort of significance within that for you.
Yeah, yeah I don’t really like to involve another human, so I tried to figure a way around that. I sort of think that I am more interested in unique things rather than just of the straight up, simple go-to idea.
You guys are back in the US right now on tour. What are some differences between your tours in the US and the UK? Obviously, you are from the UK, but what is the reception like for your EP over here?
Really great! They fans here are amazing and really enthusiastic, also very polite and thankful for our coming over here. We are really happy to be here and coming to a different country with people coming out to your shows is mind-blowing. So, we always love coming to America.
You guys are scheduled for a couple festivals in the UK and the US; are there any in particular that you are specifically looking forward to?
Obviously Reading and Leeds because that is basically the big one from the UK. And then we are doing that one in Chicago — Lollapalooza.
Yeah, Lollpalooza looks really good this year.
Yeah, the lineup is great. Hopefully we will have some time so that we can run off and go see some of the artists.
Before I let you go, for your US tour, what are you most looking forward to?
Well, I was really excited for L.A. and that was yesterday. That was amazing. We are really excited for New York, as well. And I really like Seattle, I am excited to go back there.
I haven’t been to the UK and I haven’t been to Seattle. Are there some similarities between the two, do you feel like?
Yeah, there are quite a few. It is quite dark and gloomy and a bit grey — I guess that is why I like it! It reminds me of the UK.
And obviously L.A. and New York are both hallmarks for the US. Are there any places in particular that you want to explore within New York?
I don’t know. I think I am just going to get to the venue and like walk around, just see what it is all about!
Catch Pale Waves performing at The Foundry in Philadelphia on April 12, and at The Bowery Ballroom in New York on April 13.