Posts Tagged ‘Hugo Silvani’

Pale Waves Come into Their Own on <i>Who Am I?</i>

Pale Waves from the band’s very beginning. They had the dark, brooding look of an ‘80s goth act, but a discography full of danceable pop hits. Even while receiving acclaim as the NME Under The Radar Award winner before their debut album’s release, they caught heat from critics for sounding too much like other indie-pop artists. With all of the discourse on the individuality of Pale Waves (or lack thereof), their second album “Who Am I?” amplifies the qualities that caused fans to label them as the next big thing

Pale Waves are looking forward to calmer waters in 2021. Last year promised so much—the release of their sophomore album and an ensuing world tour, for one thing—but amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK indie rock band found their usually steady boat rocked by rough seas.

A near-deadly tour bus crash last March wasn’t the only life-altering event that they endured (drummer Ciára Doran, lead guitarist Hugo Silvani, and bassist Charlie Wood were lucky to escape with their lives). Self-identity struggles plagued Doran and lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie, and the usually tight-knit duo found themselves butting heads over their next album’s musical direction. Add in a life-threatening virus that completely changed how records are produced, and the physical and mental impact of numerous setbacks was taking their toll.

And yet, hope sprung eternal. The pandemic’s arrival allowed Doran, Silvani, and Wood to recover from their injuries. For Baron-Gracie, the global shutdown provided the opportunity for some long-overdue self reflection—a period that has not only led to Pale Waves’ frontwoman being more open about her sexuality and inner demons, but one that lit a creative fire.

Born out of that soul-searching is “Who Am I?”, Pale Waves’ second LP that is equal parts post-grunge and pop-rock, a middle finger to societal labels and a haven for anyone who feels lost or alone. Speaking to us over Zoom, Baron-Gracie revealed the unusual influences behind the album, discussed comparisons to The 1975, and shared why the foursome are closer than they’ve ever been.

Pale Waves excels at making the personal feel relatable on “Run To” and “Tomorrow.” While “Run To” is told from Baron-Gracie’s perspective and “Tomorrow” is a collection of stories from others, both songs take an optimistic view of the growing pains that arrive with coming of age as an outcast. With catchy and relatable one-liners like “sexuality isn’t a choice” and “everything is going well / except my mental health,” the band reaches through their past of stifling small towns and feelings of hopelessness to uplift fans who know their feelings all too well.

“Who Am I?” opens with “Change,” a track that trades the ‘80s glam synths of Pale Waves’ debut album My Mind Makes Noises in for a ‘90s-inspired acoustic guitar. The switch-up is perfect for frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie’s vocal prowess, with the singer’s voice landing somewhere between the pop-with-an-attitude of Avril Lavigne and the raw emotion of The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan. This isn’t to say Pale Waves floats by on the nostalgia factor alone—the band translates their many inspirations into their own brand of indie pop that feels perfectly fit for 2021, with their lyrics bouncing between relationships, identity and mental health. On an album centered around a question of identity, the band is at their strongest when shouting out the answer. Few songs on the record compare to “You Don’t Own Me” in terms of pure anthemic pop-rock, as Baron-Gracie defiantly asserts, “You don’t own me / and I’ll do whatever I want to” in the face of everyday misogyny. 

A leather-clad Heather Baron-Gracie stands in front of a packed house, Her dark bangs framing her big, green, extravagantly kohl-rimmed eyes. Baron-Gracie is the lead singer of the Manchester, England–based emo-pop group Pale Waves, and onstage she’s flanked by guitarist Hugo Silvani and bassist Charlie Wood, who look eerily alike, with Ciara Doran completing the quartet on drums. As they launch into moody songs inspired by the likes of Cocteau Twins and the Cure, the scene is a bit dark, but once the swirling guitars and synths come in, all the gloom and doom is left behind. In other words, that dark-eyed image belies the band’s sugary hooks. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

If Tim Burton had ever gotten his hands on a John Hughes script Edward Scissorhands’s Day Off Pale Waves would have fit right in on the soundtrack. Baron-Gracie’s dark, honest lyrics: “Oh, baby, won’t you stop it?/You and I haven’t got it/Television romance.” It’s a newfound professional hazard.

“A lot of people think that some songs are quite positive, that I’m saying a positive thing in ‘Television Romance,’Baron-Gracie explained before the show. “It’s not a love song! It’s the complete opposite — me rejecting someone. Jesus Christ, some people are so oblivious these days.”

The origin of Pale Waves goes back to 2014, when Baron-Gracie and Doran met while studying at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) in Manchester. The pair clicked instantly, staying up and playing music together late into the night, with Doran adding live drums on a few of Baron-Gracie’s solo acoustic tracks. “We’re just the perfect soul mates in music,” said Baron-Gracie.

They bought cheap electric guitars and pedals, and recorded early demos of “The Tide” and “Heavenly,” which attracted significant internet buzz, and got the attention of Silvani, who joined the band on guitar. “We never wanted it to be a duo,” said Baron-Gracie. “We always wanted, like, two other members.” The lineup would be complete after Wood joined the fold in 2015. The girls’ friendship serves as the backbone, and helps them keep the younger boys in line: At 23, they both have a few years on Silvani, 21, and Wood, 20. “We’re the mums,” said Baron-Gracie.

After playing gigs all around England, the band caught the eye of Jamie Osbourne, who signed Pale Waves to his label, Dirty Hit Records, and took over managing duties. Since then it’s been a roller-coaster ride, with the band jumping from tiny gigs in its home country to touring with labelmates the 1975 (also from Manchester), including an opening slot at Madison Square Garden last fall.

All the Things I Never Said, released in February, is a sort of Pale Waves timeline pairing the early infectious hits with newer songs like “My Obsession” and “New Year’s Eve” that have much darker undertones, lyrically. “This is the first introduction of my music,” said Baron-Gracie. “And I write music because I don’t want to talk about it in conversation, so it’s all the things I’ve never said. But now I’ve said them in music form.”

Ciara always laughs at me because ‘My Obsession’ is like my child,” Baron-Gracie said, calling it her favorite track on the collection. “There’s something about it that’s just so emo and, like, Eighties ballad.” At first listen, one might assume it’s about some sort of till-death-do-us-part, all-consuming crush: “And I swear that I’ll never stop loving you/And I’ll die by your side if you want me to.” But as is often the case with Pale Waves, first impressions can be deceiving.

“They always presume, don’t they? Yeah that frustrates me,” Baron-Gracie said. “The main influence is my grandparents, their relationship, and how I sort of watched when my grandma passed away, my grandad sort of died with her in a way,” she said. The song is really about loss and Baron-Gracie bearing witness to what it’s like to lose the one person you love the most. It’s also just really catchy.

At present, the Pale Waves catalog remains tiny, totaling just seven songs with the release of their newest pop single, “Kiss,” this week. “It still feels like we don’t have much music out for how much we’re doing. I kind of like that,” Baron-Gracie added. “I’d rather give less and make people want more rather than overwhelm people with so many unreleased Pale Waves songs.”

The band wrapped up its first U.S. headline tour last month, and has a full slate of festival dates on the calendar, including spots at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands, plus a handful of dates opening for Chvrches’ U.S. tour this August. It’s also hard at work on its forthcoming debut full-length, hopefully set to release sometime this summer via Dirty Hit/Interscope. Baron-Gracie isn’t shy to admit that the band wants it to reach No. 1, despite its emotionally darker material.

“It’s still pop songs though,” she said. “It will always be pop.”