“Me and Ciara wrote a bunch of demos, and I just wasn’t connecting to them,” Heather Baron-Gracie begins. “We were having difficulties and clashing a bit on where we should take this next album.
“Me and Ciara…” she pauses, letting out a deep exhale. “I respect her so much and I think she’s so talented. But we both like different music. She loves pop – like, pure pop. I love alternative rock, country. She hates all that… Well, she doesn’t hate it, but that’s not her cup of tea really. We were butting heads, and I decided that I needed to go away alone to write the album.”
Speaking about the genesis of their hugely-awaited, forthcoming second LP, having just played a series of arena shows in support of pop sensation Halsey, Pale Waves’ recent artistic trajectory might be slightly more rocky than you’d expect for a band who, objectively, have smashed the first portion of their career. Heather describes the conversations as being “really tough” on her bandmate. “She really took it to heart and thought that I didn’t want to write with her anymore,” she recalls. “She said, ‘Do you not respect me anymore? Do you not think I’m talented?’”
“Ciara is honestly going to be an amazing producer one day,” Heather continues, firmly. “She’s already started creating tracks for different people, which is really cool. But this album is poppy, but it’s also very alternative; it’s very rock and it’s very raw. It’s not very dressed up in a lot of production. We needed that space from one another, and it’s actually made us closer.”
“This is my time to really speak up about my sexuality, and be open about it.”
— Heather Baron-Gracie
Decamping to Los Angeles on her own, Heather says the decision changed the course of the album, and led the band to make what she describes as “the best thing we've ever created”. Indeed, the singer speaks of Pale Waves’ upcoming release with the same confidence and swagger that she’s developed on stage over the last year. “That first album has given us this foundation, and done so much for us,” she reflects. “It's got us to where we are now. But I'm just excited to release the second album, because this second album... it’s just something else.
“It's a beast of its own kind,” she beams. “It's a lot more open, and I’m less hidden. It's a lot more vulnerable; I actually sound like I have a voice in this. I've talked about real shit that's happening with the world, it's not just a few romantic songs with some fancy metaphors to hide behind. It's me talking about things that are going on in society, and things about me that people might find uncomfortable. The subject matter is a lot more intense, but really important.”
The band have been playing new track ‘Tomorrow’ live on tour recently. An alt-rock banger, the song’s verse harbours a lyric – “sexuality isn’t a choice” – that’s set to become the crux of the album. It was also painted onto the back of Heather’s jacket when the band sold out London’s Kentish Town Forum last autumn.
“This is my time to really speak up about my sexuality, and be open about it,” Heather says, referring to another new track ‘She’s My Religion’, which she teased on social media recently with the caption: ‘gay anthem’. “That's what's so different with this second album,” she continues. “I'm a lot more open about that, and I feel like it's going to really help the fans too. We have so many gay and queer fans and you need a place to go and to feel connected, and I can [provide] that. I might as well speak the truth with what's going on in my life.”
“I'm a very closed-off person, and I don't really like opening up,” she continues. “The only time I'll open up is in the music. [On album two] I knew I had to embrace myself and give myself to people more in the music. That's what I did on this album. There are so many gay anthems!”
If the Manchester quartet’s new effort does what Heather hopes - and believes - it should, then the as-yet-untitled release should turn Pale Waves into bona fide big time stars, ones who really mean something to an increasingly large amount of people. Yet, though the singer is still as likeable as those early days, timidly playing ‘There’s A Honey’ to crowds far larger than their minimal experience, there’s an undeniable confidence to her now, too.
“I do reflect when I'm in bed at night,” she admits, “I’ll see a picture or video of our last UK headline tour, and think, 'Oh my god, that is crazy!'. We've played with each other to no-one, and then one day I've looked out and there's thousands of people on so many tiers, screaming my lyrics back at me,” she beams.
“I just think, 'How the fuck did this happen?!' And we're only on our first album! Wait 'til they hear the second one... It's gonna shake the world up.”
As featured in the April 2020 issue of DIY, out now.