In the wake of their 2018 debut My Mind Makes Noises, Pale Waves was constantly on tour. Their sophomore record quickly took shape once they found a break from the road. In a mere three months, Who Am I materialized. The four-piece has already released two singles ahead of the album's release in February. Their latest visual is for “She’s My Religion,” an ode to frontwoman Baron-Gracie’s girlfriend, Kelsi. Director Jess Kohl creates cinematic vignettes of mundane moments shared between the couple, and in doing so sheds light on what truly matters in a relationship.
“I feel like [Kelsi] was the inspiration for giving me the confidence to be so open about my sexuality and be proud of it,” she explains. “Finding the right kind of love inspired me and taught me that I should be proud to be who I am and voice that to the world. I feel like it is a really important song for a lot of people in the LGBTQ community.” This kind of direct lyrical content is a first for the band, who have historically avoided the use of gendered language in their songwriting. While that lent a feeling of veiled mystery to their songwriting, the switch flipped has suddenly shed a beautiful light on the truth and all its perfect imperfections.
By contrast, Pale Waves’ previous single “Change” was hard-hitting with the frustration of a back and forth relationship. “I have experienced that back and forth, but with ‘Change’ I took inspiration from a lot of people in my life. I spoke to people about heartbreak and their experiences and what it was like for them,” says Baron-Gracie of the writing process. “The thing that inspired ‘Change’ at the start were the people around me. I wanted them to be something they were not, and they didn’t live up to the expectations that I had set for them. So it’s not as literal. It’s not entirely my story. It’s a story from a lot of people in my life, so I can’t take credit for all of it because I took inspiration from so many people.”
Upcoming single “You Don’t Owe Me” is a song that Baron-Gracie says is going to be fun to play live. She says it’s the angriest song on the record and an anthem for women. Live music may not be in the cards in the near future, but we can expect a music video around its release, and plans for some livestream shows are in the works.
For Baron-Gracie, choosing a favorite song off her upcoming record is an impossible feat. “You’re asking me to pick my favorite child! I have eleven children, so it’s difficult to pick one,” she says. When pressed to choose, she says her current favorite is “Wish U Were Here.” “That track is about missing someone so much, but life is getting in the way and you can’t be with that person. I think I like it because it’s even more stripped back than the rest of the album. The majority of that song, instrumentally, is just guitars, drums, bass, and my vocal. It’s really raw and really real. I’m drawn to those kinds of songs where you’re listening to the song rather than loads of instrumentation.”
Baron-Gracie’s playlist has been packed with artists from the '90s and '00s ike The Chicks, Shania Twain, Michelle Branch, Courtney Love, and Keith Urban. All of these influences can be heard on Who Am I, an exciting contrast to the atmospheric '80s synth sound on their debut record. When asked what listeners can expect from Who Am I, Baron-Gracie responded, “They can expect more of my story, experiences, and more of my opinions. Throughout this album there are so many different subject matters and so many different things that I speak about. It’s not just the same thing, so they can really expect to go on a journey.”
The idea of going on a journey is crucial in a record that details the highs and lows of finding yourself. It’s a journey that Baron-Gracie went on herself right before the pandemic hit. “For a lot of people, I think the pandemic emphasized the need to work on themselves,” she explained. In a normal world, she would've been back on the road, but lockdown allowed her to take the time to work on herself. While she found more of herself, she notes, “I don’t think we ever truly find ourselves. It’s sort of an endless journey. You can have a rough idea of who you are and what you like and your emotions and how you react to things, but as people we’re evolving every day. We surprise ourselves on a daily basis.”