Pale Waves have something special. When speaking with Billboard, lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie is in the middle of discussing how the U.K. band’s upcoming debut EP came together when a timid and clearly overwhelmed fan (tears staining her cheeks) approaches her. “Are you OK?” Baron-Gracie inquires, checking the fan’s bewildered state. To which she responds, “Can I hug you? I’m just so excited to see you perform. Oh my gosh.”
That is the power of Pale Waves, an alt-pop quartet equipped with shimmering, danceable pop tunes that carry tremendous songwriting heft. Those kinds of one-on-one interactions, which are beginning to happen more and more frequently these days, have directly translated into tangible results and a conceivable superstardom.
To date, Baron-Grace, Ciara Doran (drums), Charlie Wood (bass) and Hugo Silvani (guitar) have collected more than 10 million streams off the back of three songs, “There’s a Honey,” “Television Romance” and “New Year’s Eve,” the titular cut of a debut EP set to drop early next year. They’ve also got the backing of Matty Healy, leader of fellow U.K. pop/rock sensations The 1975, who produced the band’s first couple singles and brought the band on tour in North America.
Currently out on the road on their own headlining dates, winding well into 2018, Baron-Gracie admits that it is only recently that she realized their hard work was actually paying off. “A lot of the time, I’m very unaware of where we are and how well we’re doing. I just see this as four best friends that met in Manchester and still are doing what we love,” she says. “I never really look at it from another point of view until I hear what other people say about us, which makes me step back and think ‘Oh, God, our band is actually becoming something.’”
How do you handle your rising celebrity status?
I don’t know. It’s pretty crazy really. I went back home to Preston [in Lancashire, England], where my parents live a few months ago. We went into town, and I got a few people coming up to me. That was a really surreal moment. That’s where I grew up, and I had walked around town for years. And now, all of a sudden, I have these kids coming up to me asking me for a picture and saying that they love my band. It’s a weird but amazing thing to watch.
In an interview with The Edge, you stated the songs on your upcoming New Year’s Eve EP were “quiet old songs.” How did they still seem relevant to record now?
I like the fact that they are on the EP, because they were relevant at a time. They remind me of a time where I was like that, innocent, and the position I was in. I never really want to let those songs go. For them to go on our first EP is really special. A lot of the fans have heard these songs. I think they’re really going to be overwhelmed we put them on there. A lot of people thought we’d pick them up and throw them away, but we didn’t. We gave them back to [the fans].
You have another new song coming out soon called “My Obsession.” What inspired it?
It’s my favorite song. It’s a very complex song, and it has a lot of influences. The main influence behind it is my grandparents. When you see the video, you’ll be able to tell that. I was influenced by how I watched my grandad react after my grandma passed, and how he dealt with that. “My Obsession” breaks my heart every time we play it.
With NME, you spoke about your love of pop music and how it makes you feel. What pop artists, albums or songs make you feel something?
I love a lot of ‘80s artists like Prince and Madonna. “Purple Rain” is one of my favorite songs of all time. But I love The Cure. I love songs that give you melodies that you can sing at any time, but within those melodies, there are things that break your heart. I really love listening to things where people tell a story, and you can tell their singing the truth and they mean it.
The 1975’s Matt Healy co-produced your first two singles and directed your “Television Romance” music video. What did you take away from working with him?
He is a very direct person. We’re similar in how we are so passionate about our own band, and how we want to make everything perfect. He tells you how it is. He’s very driven. And I love being surrounded by ambitious people. He showed us that it is possible to go from being a small-town band to being one of the biggest around right now.
You’ve been performing another new song called “She” in your live set. What is the backstory?
That’s quite new. We’ve not had it for that long. We’ve only ever played it live once. We’re going to start playing it more on our next tour. It’s a very personal song and a bit more intense. I’m not trying to hide anything or say something with sweetness down on top of it. It’s very stripped back and raw and mainly about the emotion in my vocals. It’s one of my favorites to play. I always love playing sad songs.
Speaking of “intense,” you teased that you expect your full-length album to be far more intense and dark. Where do you see your music going next?
I can really see the difference of how we are writing now to how we were when we wrote the EP. At the start of the band, I didn’t really want to reveal much, so I painted that with metaphors and hide in a way where people couldn’t tell what I was saying. For the album, I’ve full-on unleashed everything. Once people hear the album, it’s stepping into Heather’s world, and they’ll really understand me as a person. It’s really exciting but scary at the same time.
In what ways have you four grown over the past four years?
We’ve experienced so much together, not just realizing who we are as musicians but realizing who we are as people. We’ve grown up together, and we’ve done so much in that time that we are so close now. They’re my best friends, and I couldn’t ever see myself being as close with anyone else as I am to those three. We’ve done so many weird, strange things. You’d be surprised what you have to do in a band. [laughs] We’ve toured and been to so many places together. We spend pretty much every day together. When we’re not together, it feels weird.
How did the visuals for “New Year’s Eve” and “My Obsession” come together? Who directed?
It was a man called Stephen [Agnew]. I always knew how I wanted “New Year’s Eve” to be. I wrote a treatment and sent it out to a few directors. Stephen came back with exactly how I envisioned it. We instantly connected. He was such a loving, kind director. In “My Obsession,” when I had to get full-on naked and into a bath with a mannequin, it didn’t feel weird. [Laughs.] I’m really happy with how both videos turned out.
We actually shot both videos within the span of two days, and we were dipping in and out of each video. As you can imagine, that was a bit of confusing time. We did it just before we had to fly to America, so we finished “New Year’s Eve” around midnight, went back to the hotel to get our bags and drove straight down to the airport. It was a rough few days, but I’m really happy with the outcome.
Growing up, you dealt with social anxiety quite a bit. How do you balance that with a burgeoning music career?
I guess there’s a lot of pressure within this day and age — to look good all the time, to not say the wrong thing. If you do say the wrong thing, it’s always there. People don’t let it go. Everyone’s only human. With musicians and actors and actresses, many people don’t see them as real people. They say these horrible things online and think it won’t hurt them. It does. Sometimes, you do see stuff like that. People get so offended by things that don’t really matter.
I won’t put anything mean on the internet, because there’s just no point in it. There are a lot of times where I don’t like big crowds or family gatherings, awkward things like that. Ciara helps me with things like that. She takes it all in control. She’s good in social situations.
Have you and your band dealt with hateful comments online much?
Yeah. The worst comments are on the YouTube videos. I tend not to look online anymore. It’s just a bad place. We get so much love, and that’s so rewarding. At the same time, when love arrives, hate arrives, as well. We never expect everyone to love us. Hate is what comes with being in the public eye. I don’t get too tied up about it. In fact, I find it quite funny when people get so worked up about people making music. It’s like, “Oh, you need to relax. What are you doing? Stop it.” I don’t understand it.