Interview: Pale Waves

This article was first published to The National Student on 18th December 2017

Remarkably, considering how inscrutable their cultural presence is, Pale Waves sold out their first headline tour.

Everything, from their interviews, to the two songs with black space artwork available in October, and their all-business social media presence, is small and unassuming.

Besides their background (singer-guitarist Heather and drummer Ciara met in 2014 while studying at the University of Manchester, soon connecting with bassist Charlie and guitarist Hugo), the most frequently discussed aspect about them is their relationship with The 1975, one of the most assuming bands of the decade. So how did they feel about that so consistently discussed link?

It’s because of who they are. They’ve only produced two tracks and we’ve gone on tour with them, it’s not like we’re a different part of their band” said Heather, with matter-of-fact resignation. “Because The 1975 are so popular, people wanna mention it all the time. If we worked with someone else for two tracks, why would it be such a big deal?

Ciara, with telepathic timing, added “we don’t resent it, we love those guys. It’s just that when people give us criticism for kind of leeching on them-” before Heather takes over: “that was never anyone’s intentions. We just love them, and they love us, and we wanted to make some art together.”

Our EP is finished basically, it’s just being mixed, we’ve recorded all of it. And we’ve wrote like half of our album” said Ciara, answering the hanging question of when that art’s coming. “We’re going to release our album next year fingers crossed, we just need it to be perfect. We’re not going to wait too long, because it’s in quite high demand. Somehow!

Given their stint in America, their own headline tour, and the downtime in-between, they must have found inspiration for dozens of songs. How would they choose what went onto the album?

I like watching a band grow, watching the music develop and change” Heather tells me. She continues, “obviously when you write a song you get really excited about it, and so you want it to be everywhere-”, before Ciara cuts in “-But if you hold onto those songs that you think are better than the old ones, wait until the second album ‘cause then you see progression and better writing.” It’s important that they show who they were when they started, as well as where they are now.

This self-awareness comes out on multiple topics: one is what advice they’d give to students who wanted to start a band. “Don’t rush anything figure out what you want to do, how you want to be seen. And just spend the time on getting it right” Heather tells me, getting straight to a principle that appears to consume Pale Waves: managing expectations.

So why next to no interactions with fans or idols on their twitter page? Why only announcements and PR pictures. “I like mystery, I don’t like it when people know every single thing about you” answers Heather.

They know a lot about us just through our music… I don’t feel like you have to create conversation with every single person, because when someone goes to your profile, all they see is this conversation, and you’re not instantly impacted by what they look like or by what they’re doing.

It’s a rare position on social media to see a new band take – instead of showing delight at the creator-audience relationship it creates, they’re concerned. Not that they begrudge it: they would rather “connect with people in real life-”,says Ciara, before Heather finishes that new train of thought “- [it’s] a big thing for us, like we love it. Every night when we can go out we just will, and talk to them”.

Heather and Ciara seem uniquely observant. When asked about how their listening habits stretch beyond their obvious affinity for 80s music (“It’s the best decade for music”), Ciara launches into a passionate defence of listening in general:

If you listen to a variety of music, you’ll be so much more creative. ‘You could listen to people talking on a tube, or you could watch a film, and get inspired by anything. You can get inspired by the door making a noise… People have ears but sometimes they don’t use them…[To] actually take things in that could really be useful to you, not even in the music industry, just in everyday life.

Since discussing music, even with musicians, is often esoteric or repetitive, how would they feel if asked about politics. It comes up often in interviews discussions with many artist, but usually only with those that write songs about it.

Heather hesitantly began “Yeah like… we try… we’re here to talk about the music more than other sort of issues really.” before Ciara took over animatedly: “Stuff like “Labour” and “Conservative”, stuff like that I would not be interested in talking about, because I’m more interested in society, and how people treat each other, and the way people are viewed. Because, to me. that’s more personal, and we really care about that, especially being girls in the music industry.

As if summing up, Heather added “We wouldn’t bring up politics if we wasn’t asked.” Which is fair – as they quickly confess, people don’t ask them those questions. Maybe because they don’t expect answers – despite the chips on his shoulder, nobody asks Ed Sheeran about his thoughts on taxes. With Pale Waves, their strength in emotional observation hasn’t transferred into anything fiercely political. Even when it feels increasingly vital to have a stance, stating their politics makes an artist stand out. Despite their distinctive gothic-grunge make up (black hair, bright eyes), neither Heather and Ciara are completely comfortable with being seen.

We don’t wanna give it all away live, and all away on social media” Heather told me. “We’re quite restricted people.

People should listen when they start talking more. Their earlier inscrutability won’t last, once debut EPs and albums are behind them. But that won’t have been a marketing choice; the heady youth in their music is being written by canny adults full of empathy, and fresh perspective on their own origins.


My Best Albums of 2017

This article was first published to The National Student on 30th November 2017

Unintentionally, not a single artist on my list is from Britain. And only one is from outside of North America.

It’s a reflection perhaps, of how consumed my anxieties and anger has been by the age of President Trump, that I’ve also simply chosen to briefly forget (where I can) that the UK is simultaneously hurtling towards a cliff edge in so many ways. Maybe because the U.S. feels more distant, yet its music never does – whether in circles of critics or artists, converations find a way to turn towards America. And whilst few of these albums are directly about politics, they and so many other great offerings from this year foudn themselves on repeat because they represented more than escape from our darkest timeline. These artists’ and their frankly stunning music have this year brought sincerity, vulnerability, optimism, the deliriously mad, the surprisingly nuanced, and an entire Dulux warehouse’s explosion worth of colour, in an effort to both reflect the changed world, and improve our understanding of it. So, without further ado:

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Live Review: Pale Waves @ The Joiners, Southampton (23/10/17)

This article was first published to The National Student on 30th October 2017

For Pale Waves to sell out even a small venue such as Southampton’s Joiners on their first headline tour, with just two officially released songs, says more about the precision quality of their record sound than it does about the actual live show.

Granted, those two songs (‘There’s A Honey’ and ‘Television Romance’) are deliciously addictive pop gems, with the uncertainty, longing, and relative sadness of their lyrics all coated in the sugary tones that brought us The 1975. Yet with just those two songs, you maybe can’t blame the mixed age crowd for being shy to engage in sing-alongs. Not that they were asked to.

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Interview: Priests

This article was first published to The National Student on October 19th 2017

Washington, D.C. (post) punk band Priests really do feel like the kind of band that the polarised, post-truth world of 2017 needs.

Fiercely DIY (releasing their music through their label Sister Polygon) and tapping squarely into the Washington tradition of politicised punk they wrap their messages in music that is full of as much melody as it is riffs and intense hooks.

In the best post-punk tradition they play with the expectations of the genre, contradicting seriousness with an immense sense of fun.

After bubbling away on the underground for years 2017 saw the release of their debut full-length album Nothing Feels Natural, which immediately became one of the most vital releases of the year. Priests are the complete package for what we need right now.

Currently out on the road, once again, across the UK we managed to catch a quick, but enlightening, chat with Katie Alice Greer and Daniele Daniele from the band.  Continue reading

Two creators, credit enough for one: Mother! & misogyny

This article was first published by The National Student on 28th September 2017

Mother! is the least “meh” movie of the year. 

I still can’t believe a major studio released this ever, let alone in 2017. Is it flawed? Yes. It’s drowned in metaphor, and its structure is designed in full-on worship of “film-as-allegory”. The subtext doesn’t just become text, it becomes a sledgehammer that smashes you in the face, and proceeds to ask, “do you get it?”*.

The setting and protagonist are scant of mundane details, to a difficult-to-relate-to degree, were it not for the permanent POV of Jennifer Lawrence’s protagonist. She and Javier Bardem’s ‘Him’ are not a warm and loving couple, but neither is it a screaming daggers relationship. The film is also not nearly as tense as it thinks it is, and as delightful as Michelle Pfeiffer’s scenes are, they’re hilariously awkward, not unnerving. Aronofsky doesn’t quite balance his Hitchcockian instincts with his jet-black streak of humour. And, the obscenely bananas finale is cruel beyond the exploitative. This is a horror movie for horror movies.

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Interview: The Big Moon

This article was first published by The National Student on 7th July 2017

A few weeks after their show at Radio 1’s Big Weekend, The Big Moon are taking a break. Glastonbury is ahead (though now behind), and in the middle of the summer is a U.S. tour with Marika Hackman. So how do the four girls take a break?The Big Moon 3

“I like to do normal stuff, since being in a band isn’t really normal, it’s a bubble life. When I’m back I just like do DIY, lots of projects, being outside, gardening, building shit. So, to just do normal stuff, because I feel like I’m cheating life sometimes. If I build a shed I feel better about it.”  Continue reading

Album Review: MisterWives – Connect The Dots

This article was first published by The National Student on 5th June 2017

There must be a German word which expresses the feeling of listening to Connect The Dots, the sophomore album from New York-based, indie quintet MisterWives.Source: Stitched Sound
Unfortunately the rough translation would need to be something like “the sick feeling of disappointment when you realise you’ve either grown out of sparkly, colourful instrumentation and imagery laden lyrics, or this band was always an Imagine Dragons-esque embarrassment waiting to happen”. Place your bets on the latter.

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Film Review: American Honey

This article was originally published to The National Student on 10th October 2016

When Star (Sasha Lane) meets Jake (Shia LaBouef) he proposes that she join him and his friends in their work as a travelling magazine sales crew, in Andrea Arnold’s latest Cannes triumph. 

Their instant spark convinces her to abandon the broken and impoverished home life she leads in Kansas, and set out with the team. Under the watchful eye of the white trash queen bitch Krystal (Riley Keough), she travels the south and Midwest of America, selling subscriptions and experiencing a greater amount of life than she previously had. But as she pursues a relationship with Jake, her newfound freedom and family is placed in increasingly precarious situations.  Continue reading