Pale Waves Interview: Mental health, mental fans, mental future

Heather Baron-Gracie is a tiny woman with a whole lot of influence. As I arrived at the Academy to have a chat with her before the final night of Pale Waves’ UK and Ireland tour, already a sizeable group of hardcore fans were beginning to converge outside. Chatting excitedly, playing cards and carefully watching the door to spot anyone of interest, the cold weather was not deterring them one bit. It’s the message behind the foursome’s songs that have garnered them this posse of young followers.

Lead singer Heather, and her best friend, drummer Ciara Doran, established the band in 2014 while studying at university in Manchester. They were then joined by bassist Charlie Wood and guitarist Hugo Silvani to complete their line up. Signed only last year, they opened for label relatives, The 1975, in Madison Square Garden last June, and frontman Matty Healy has also directed their music video for the single ‘Television Romance’, as well as producing two tracks on their debut album. Healy and Baron-Gracie also appeared on the cover of NME together last October, so to say the two bands are closely aligned would be an understatement. ‘My Mind Makes Noises’, their aforementioned first effort, contains many songs about Heather’s struggles with her mental health. “I think these days you don’t really get people talking about mental health issues in mainstream pop music,” explains Baron-Gracie. “It’s frustrating because people tend to stick to this set formula in pop, and it’s important to talk about these issues, especially when you have a young fanbase. I’m really glad that I wrote those songs.”

This young fanbase can get a little overwhelming at times, she admits. While she is hesitant to call herself a role model, she admits that their teen followers do idolise her in a way. “I’ve had a few experiences with fans when I thought they were going to try and take me away! I totally get it, though, I talk about all my stories so obviously, they feel like they know me.” She also recounts a rather interesting anecdote of two fans who snuck backstage in an effort to meet them, only to be rumbled by their tour manager. “He was like ‘What are you doing?’, and they were like, ‘Oh we’re studying.’ ‘Well, then where are your books?’. He got them out pretty quickly!”

She tells me they are currently in the process of writing their next EP, which they plan to begin recording in February. The subject matter this time will be a bit more mature, it seems, as they plan on getting more political. “Just the lyrics, I think, it’s not something we’ve really touched on before.” When asked about the prospect of being on the end of a Trump Twitter tirade, she welcomes the idea: “I hope he doesn’t like me because I certainly don’t like him!”. While her lyrics can be dark at times, there is a mischievous air to Baron-Gracie. She is eagerly awaiting her takeaway to arrive while we’re talking, but luckily enough I’d brought supplies. If you’ve ever wondered how quickly she can peel an orange, she does it in an outstanding seven seconds. (Their tour manager Darren didn’t fare so well, giving up when the stopwatch passed ten.)

Other topics we touch on in our chat include Gemma Collins (she loves her, and apparently she’s amazing on Celebrity Masterchef), James Corden (she’s promised me she won’t do a Carpool Karaoke when the time comes), what Matty Healy smells like (“really blokey in a way”) and the correct pronunciation of scone (it’s “scon”, she insists, which is obviously incorrect.) While Dublin is their last Ireland show for a while, she tells me they are heading to America for a few weeks, before another stint supporting The 1975 again on their next tour, which includes a stop at the 3Arena. It sounds exhausting, but she has high hopes for the future. In ten years? “Hopefully arenas, our own shows in arenas, that’d be amazing.” Drummer Ciara then arrives, armed with the long-awaited takeaway, and our chat comes to an end, but not before an urgent discussion of Halloween costumes. On a parting note, Baron-Gracie declares: “I’m going as Edward Scissorhands. I might as well because everyone always calls me that anyway.”

Pale Waves are supporting The 1975 in the 3Arena on 10th January 2019.