2020 was a blight on history for anyone in the music industry, but for UK rising stars Pale Waves it didn’t take a pandemic to throw things seriously off course. In February, the band were forced to cancel a series of shows after a bus crash in Sweden saw the members involved lucky to escape with their lives.
From there, the group sharply shot off to LA to record their forthcoming sophomore effort, only for the global pandemic to force three quarters of the band to head for home.
“So many people want to move on from this. We’re so over it. Nobody that’s alive right now will ever forget being around for this experience. Over here in particular it’s just been horrendous,” says frontwoman and chief songwriter Heather Baron-Gracie, who joins us over Zoom to update us on the current rollout for Who Am I?, the band’s new album.
“The process was difficult ‘cause the pandemic hit, and half of the band went home, so it was just me and the producer in a mask and gloves finishing the record, which was super strange.
“If I can take anything good from the process, it’s that it enabled me to have a break from touring. We would have come off tour, gone into the studio and then gone right back out again, so there wouldn’t have been a chance to step back from it all and work on myself. We all needed that, both mentally and physically.”
That break from the bustle and grind of the music industry was pivotal in Baron-Gracie’s introspective deep-dive, a chapter which she tells us is the central theme of the new set of tunes.
“I needed to go on a journey to become a better person….My behaviour wasn’t the best.”
“In the past year and a half I definitely analysed my life and my behaviour and I needed to go on a journey to become a better person….My behaviour wasn’t the best. That title came about because I was dying to go on that journey, and I knew that I needed to change.
“The more I approached who I am, the more my eyes opened to concepts to write about, the more I wanted to find out new things, the more I wanted to read new books…it opened this new pathway of stuff to create.”
The sophomore record is always a difficult one to approach for bands, but that rang true significantly more so for Pale Waves. They received adoration from the press upon their inception, with the ever-so-small The 1975 firmly cheering them on from the stands.
There’s a lot to live up to for group, but Baron-Gracie is adamant that there was no pressure this time around, pointing to the female powerhouses of the ’90s as her chief inspiration.
“I didn’t feel pressure at all. People are sort of asked to come out with a new record, and to come in with a different sound and different influences, but that felt super easy for us. We wrote this in a few months,” she says.
“We did a very ’80s era style on the first album…but here I wanted to take listeners back to what I listened to in my childhood and that was a lot of female artists like Courtney Love, Alanis Morissette and Avril Lavigne…it’s an album for the childhood version of me.”
Who Am I? certainly finds Pale Waves on a more experimental kick, combining the best parts of dream pop, indie rock and electronica into a hooky melting pot.
It might sound like a slight left-turn to some, but there’s no denying the self-assuredness that exudes from this record, something that can only be gained by experience.
“I’ve had a lot more experiences, I’ve travelled the world and met lots of people…as a result there’s just a lot more to talk about now,” says Baron-Gracie.
Following on from a year that saw Pale Waves take more than a few hits, the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is brighter than ever – and armed with this new album and perspective, the world is truly theirs to take.