Norwich Box Office - UEA LCR and Waterfront tickets

Pale Waves

Thursday 03 October 2024, 7:30pm - 11pm

The Waterfront

Tickets

Tickets are subject to 10% booking fee

£22.00 (General)

14+ (under 16s to be accompanied by an adult)

Feeling naked, dressed up head to toe / It’s been a while since I’ve been this vulnerable,” sings Heather Baron-Gracie – of the British alt-rock four-piece Pale Waves (Heather, Ciara Doran, Hugo Silvani, Charlie Wood) – on “Seeing Stars”, a gorgeously melodic slice of dream-pop about opening yourself up to love, heartbreak and self-discovery. In many ways, these are the themes that define their fourth album Smitten: vulnerability, love, sexuality, queerness, finding yourself, moving on, growing up. “I was reading a lot of sapphic poetry and queer films and just being ultra queer,” Heather says today. “I feel like that unlocked a lot of my past experiences with women that have been in my life, that I’ve been in relationships with and that I’ve been in love with.”

While Pale Waves’ first three albums focussed on the band’s immediate present, Smitten is a lot more preoccupied with past lives – some more recent than others. Written two years after Unwanted, and after the tour that followed, Heather found herself in a headspace where she could finally breathe, and reflect, like peeling through the pages of a long-forgotten teenage diary and being surprised by what she found. “I found myself writing about not just a certain time period, but my whole life, from years ago,” she says. “When I fall in love, I fall deep, and it’s interesting to me that you can feel so fascinated and smitten with someone and then they can become a total stranger. So I feel like Smitten really summarised perfectly what I felt for others at a certain point.”

So much of Smitten captures the excitement and euphoria of early queer relationships; some of which come alongside confusion and pain. On lead single “Perfume”, an infectious 1980s-leaning anthem reminiscent of bands like The Cure and The Cranberries, Heather sings about being totally enamoured with a person: “My mother says that when I want something I never let it go / Call me obsessed but I don’t mind just as long as it’s all mine.” Elsewhere, on the bright, guitar-laden track “Gravity”,

she laments being yanked in different directions by a lover who can’t choose between their relationship or her religion: “She’s pulling me like gravity everywhere she goes / Am I in too deep, or out of my reach? Little does she know”. “Some of the songs reflect my current feelings, while others draw from my formative years of figuring out my own sexuality and the duality of being with women who were also trying to navigate their own,” Heather adds.

On “Miss America”, a song about appreciating her current partner, Heather swivels the lens on her own past behaviour and how she’s grown. “She was patient with my selfish mind, I was crazy and I didn’t even realise,” she sings in syrupy tones over pummelling drums and thick, explosive riffs. “So take me dancing, take me out, paint my body with your mouth, take my tears and dry them out.” “I feel like I’ve strengthened as a person, mentally,” Heather reflects now. “I’m able to manage and cope with things a lot more. And weirdly, everyone’s noticed that within me. Not drinking has helped me become a better person. I feel like that allowed me to see things a lot clearer, and reflect on previous experiences and be like, ‘Oh I was definitely in the wrong for that.”

Sonically, Smitten sees the band go back to their beginnings. Deviating from the rebellious pop punk sound of 2022 album Unwanted, this new record is full of vivid, earwormy hooks, thwacking snares and jangly alt-pop that sounds fresh out of Manchester, where they’re from. This isn’t an LA-influenced album. “I kind of wanted to go back to our roots,” says Heather. “There’s a bit of each album in this. I really wanted to take it back to the purest version of us – and even myself.” Recorded in Eastbourne in the UK, by the sea – alongside London producer Iain Berryman (Wolf Alice, Florence and the Machine, Beabadoobee) – there’s a sense of authenticity and organicness at the heart of the album. “I’m not really trying any crazy looks or doing anything special [this time] – I’m just doing Heather.”

Vocally, too, Heather leaned into what felt most natural, allowing her voice to flow freely, oftentimes channelling the soft and dreamy but strong sounds of Garbage’s

Shirley Manson or The Cranberries’ Dolores O'Riordan – women she grew up listening to and idolising. “They don’t have typical generic voices,” says Heather. “They have this sense of freedom to their voice and they don’t try to be anybody else and I think I learnt a lot about myself vocally on this record and did what felt natural. I’m not a singer singer – I just try my best. So there’s a lot of ridiculous yodelling on this album. Weirdly, my voice wants to do that; it feels really natural to me.”

Ultimately, Smitten is Pale Waves at their realest and most grounded. The songs sparkle with an intense emotional resonance that was only possible to express from a place of relative calm. “For this fourth album, I didn’t really feel the pressure,” says Heather. “I had a lot of time to try things out for size. Me and the band figured out what works for us. Smitten is different [from anything else we’ve done] because you can hear the freedom that we all feel – it’s not trying to be anything. We wanted to put that into existence.”

    

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