How Pale Waves created a pop-punk throwback with new album Unwanted
For their third album, Unwanted, Pale Waves had every intention of making music that wasn't only fun to play live but also representative of their influences. The Manchester-based group — vocalist-guitarist Heather Baron-Gracie, drummer Ciara Doran, guitarist Hugo Silvani and bassist Charlie Wood — joined forces with producer Zakk Cervini (Sleeping With Sirens, Waterparks) and penned an album that the group declare as their “strongest release to date.” Unwanted shows a sonic shift from their early material, which was more synth-pop inspired, in favor of loud guitars, pummeling drums, massive choruses and an emphasis on heaviness paired with the group’s love of pop punk. The arrival of Unwanted couldn't have been timed better as the group are currently on tour with Australian pop superstars 5 Seconds Of Summer, gaining a whole new audience in the process.
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On lead singles “Lies” and “Jealousy,” Pale Waves are firing on all cylinders while holding nothing back, with in-your-face lyrics giving fans a taste of what's to come. Even with the sheer intensity of their new material, the group still take time to offer introspective, personal and uplifting ballads, most notably on “Reasons To Live,” a song that represents the power of love in trying circumstances. Perhaps the most emotional moment of the record comes with “The Hard Way,” an evocative track inspired by the tragic suicide of Baron-Gracie’s classmate who was the victim of bullying. The song at its core is rooted in the importance of helping those who are being mistreated and being kind to others to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. Honesty has always been a strength for Pale Waves, and with every song they have released so far in preparation for Unwanted, it's clear that this will always be paramount to their distinct sound.
Unwanted is arriving just a little over a year since the release of 2021’s Who Am I? This is a considerably quick turnaround between records, and there seems to be a renewed energy within the band this time around. Where does this new energy come from?
HEATHER BARON-GRACIE: I feel like a lot of the energy was channeled because of the pandemic. We felt really deprived from playing live music, and I feel like that really sealed the direction of which this record went upon. We wanted to make music that was fun to play live, hence why we went heavier and more alternative. We were just desperate to get onstage again, and we knew that once we released our new album that we wanted to just have fun with it.
Speaking of those heavier, more rock-driven elements, what kind of music inspired this sonic change?
Consistently throughout my life, I always listened to more alternative and heavier music. I like to listen to music where real instruments are being played. I want to hear a guitar, I want to hear real drums, and I’m not the kind of person that listens to a lot of synth-pop or something. The first album [My Mind Makes Noises] was very '80s influenced, and the second one [Who Am I?] was very '90s and early 2000s influenced. This album is very much a throwback to alternative and pop punk. It’s the album that we always wanted to create, but we never felt like we were ready for it until now.
That must have been really liberating. Would you say that this is the most excited you have ever been to release an album?
Oh, my God yes. I feel like this is the strongest record that we have ever put out. I’m so thrilled to put it out and am so excited for everyone to hear it.
What made you decide to choose “Lies” and “Jealousy” to be the lead singles for this album rollout?
I feel like “Lies” was a nice introduction because it wasn’t too much of a change but also influenced the direction that we are going in. It’s like the first stepping stone and is a buildup to “Jealousy,” which is overall a heavier aesthetic, but we also didn't want to throw our fans into the deep end, so “Lies” was the shallow end of the pool to ease fans in.
Out of the three singles you have released so far, “Reasons To Live” is a standout track. This song in particular feels like it comes from such a personal place that touches on dark topics but still has an optimistic tone. Do you look at this song as a symbol that hope is always possible after a trying situation?
I think so. Overall, I try to be as optimistic as I can because if you don’t, the world is going to eat you up in a way. “Reasons To Live” is the perfect balance where the verses are darker and hold negative connotations and the chorus is this uplifting and hopeful message that runs throughout. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s just about being at that low point and finding that someone or something that pulls you out of it.
You're currently on tour with 5 Seconds Of Summer. Do you feel like you are reaching a new fanbase that is just now discovering your music for the first time?
100%. The majority of people that we meet after shows are like, “Wow, I was just introduced to you guys, and now I’m a massive fan and have followed you on every platform,” so it’s a really incredible opportunity for us, and we’re loving every minute of it.
What have been the highlights of the tour so far? Have you been playing any of the new singles?
We’ve been playing “Jealousy,” “Lies” and “Reasons To Live” from the new album. I think “Jealousy” has been the song that has gone down the best so far live. People seem to love it. I guess there are a lot of jealous types in the audience. [Laughs.]
Switching gears back to the recording process for Unwanted, it seems like working with producer Zakk Cervini this time around was a match made in heaven. What was the recording process like?
Zakk was the perfect match for us. The first time that I met him, I knew that he needed to produce our next record. He’s just a breath of fresh air, is so positive, talented and just the most genuinely nice guy ever. For the first time ever, I actually enjoyed recording. All of my other previous times, I was so stressed out or having a freak out every minute, but with Zakk, it was just so natural. We all knew what kind of record we wanted to make with Pale Waves and were on the same wavelength. There were no clashes, and it was just so easy. Zakk really helped us create a solid piece of work that we are so happy about and wouldn’t have been the same without him.
It has always been beautiful to see how outspoken Pale Waves are in the fight against injustice and being role models for your fanbase while offering a place of solace through the music. In 2022, where this is crucial more than ever, what do you think is the most important thing you can do with your platform, and what message do you want to give your fans to inspire them, whether through hope or action?
I think the most important thing we can do is continue to use our voice and speak about the things that we feel passionate about and the things that are going wrong in this world. We want to grab as many people’s attention as possible and fight for the things that are wrong in this world. We try our best to create a safe space for our fans and community where people can feel accepted, valued and not judged.