Pale Waves sound nothing like you'd suspect from the press shot making the rounds. The black eyeliner and white face powder should prepare your ears for the Cure, or My Chemical Romance (depending on your birthdate), not the unapologetic pop music that kisses your tuned-to-darkness ears. "I grew up listening to what my parents listened to," singer-guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie tells Orlando Weekly from her home in Manchester, England. "My dad loves music and we'd stay up late on the weekends and just play records! He introduced me to most artists that I adore."
Clearly that meant a lot of '80s music, early Madonna and Prince specifically. There's charm in the fact that their music is so nakedly pop. Pale Waves' newly released debut, My Mind Makes Noises, is mainstream catchy and radio-ready enough to make Taylor Swift sweat. There's no irony in their love for a good, friendly melody and they don't bury it beneath crunchy guitars or angry vocals; Pale Waves are as true-blue pleasing as Casey Kasem's Top 40 on a Sunday morning. Yet their approach to the timeless genre is gender-neutral modern, with an intentional omission of pronouns in their lyrics. "I like everyone to relate to what I'm saying. Sometimes if I mention a gender, people may feel a bit excluded," says Baron-Gracie. This sexual ambiguity only adds to the intrigue, with a bit of welcome mystery surrounding the frontwoman and lyricist.
An affinity for '80s pop music, fluid sexuality and English blood running through their pale veins – much like fellow Mancunians the 1975. The bands are buds, and even toured the States together recently (with Pale Waves in the support role). "It's inspiring watching artists that are from a similar area to yourselves, knowing they were once a small band and now they've taken over the world," explains Baron-Gracie.
Comparisons between the bands are inevitable, especially since two of the album's singles were produced by their famous friends. "People love to compare and it's not a bad thing at all," says Baron-Gracie. "I think the 1975 are truly amazing!"
What is also amazing is the fact that Baron-Gracie is able to front a band at all, let alone to do it with such confidence and ease. For one thing, she battles with anxiety and is painfully shy: "Music is what makes me feel most comfortable and most confident. I know it's contradicting but I feel my most confident when I'm on stage." For another, she had major health issues as a child and was forced to spend a lot of time in bed. "If anything, having that experience in my life makes me appreciate everything even more!" she says. "I'm more than lucky to be able to walk, never mind live a normal life, so I'm very thankful."
This upcoming U.S. trek will be the band's biggest headlining tour to date. After that they'll be heading back out with the 1975. See them in a small club while you still can.