Pale Waves are a four-piece band, hailing from Manchester, mentored by the highly revered indie-rock band The 1975. I remember when I first discovered Pale Waves’ music; I was listening to 80’s new wave bands like The Cure on YouTube when I saw the thumbnail for their song “Television Romance” as a recommended video. The picture was of a woman with short black hair, dark grungy makeup and gothic attire (which I later learnt was the lead singer, Heather Baron Gracie). I prayed that their music would be just as captivating as their style.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but felt that it was safe to assume that their music would be slow, melancholy dark wave, similar to that of bands like Lebanon Hanover. Instead what I heard was something completely different. I was beguiled by how they had blended dark atmospherics with pure synth pop. Pale Waves are clearly the sort of band who delight in subverting expectations.
I was surprised to hear their announcement of the ‘DIY Class of 2018 Tour’ so early on. At the time of the announcement they had only released three songs: ‘New Year’s Eve’, ‘Television Romance’ and ‘There’s a Honey’. It seemed like a risky move to go on tour before releasing the full album ‘All the Things I Never Said’, however, I could tell from those three songs alone that I was going to like whatever else they produced so I bought myself a ticket.
Given the sudden surge in their popularity with the release of ‘Television Romance’ gaining them over 4 million views on YouTube, I was surprised and extremely excited to hear they were coming to a small, local venue: The Westgarth Social Club.
On the day of the concert I bagged myself a spot at the very front of the stage on the left-hand side so I would be directly in front of their keyboardist/guitarist Hugo Silvani. The full line-up for that night was Bloxx, Our Girl, and headliners Pale Waves, with all three of the bands being fronted by women.
Bloxx kicked off the evening’s proceedings including a mix of released and unreleased music in their set. Standouts from this band were their angst-filled song ‘Coke’ and exuberant ‘Your Boyfriend’. Their latest single ‘Novocain’ even had people dancing. This was impressive for any support act as I’ve often seen situations where the bands are booed from the stage. It was a pleasant change to see a crowd enjoying a lesser-known band so much.
Brighton rock band, Our Girl, were up next and opened their set with ‘Being Around’. I have to admit I thought they were extremely talented and I thoroughly enjoyed the lead singer Soph Nathan’s hypnotic and heartfelt vocals. After this second stellar act the stage was prepared for the band we had all been waiting for – Pale Waves!
I was in awe of Heather Baron Gracie’s outfit, she was sporting a leather jacket, blue checked trousers and creeper shoes, and played what looked like an almost coffin-shaped guitar. The audience also seemed to be in deep admiration of her.
Ciara Doran’s punchy snare leads us into their debut single ‘Television Romance’ as the opener, occasionally drowned out by the rapturous audience as everyone sang along. This was followed by their upbeat number ‘The Tide’. Although this track had only been released a couple of weeks prior to the gig everyone knew it well from their older demo before it was reinvented with more catchy, twinkly riffs for their EP.
The fans couldn’t get enough of Heather’s eye-rolls and puppet-like vogueing but there is still a freshness and vulnerability to her. Her vocals soar over the power ballad ‘My Obsession’. This was my favourite song from their set; its emotional lyrics cut deep. The song deals with the darker aspects of love using romantic, yearning lyrics like ‘You’ll always be my favourite obsession’ and ‘I’ll die by your side if you want me to’. The song felt honest, reflective and endearingly open. Their recent single ‘New Year’s Eve’ is an earworm of a melody capturing the teenage naivety and angst of an overhyped party.
Pale Waves ended the night with their final track ‘There’s a Honey’. This track pretty much sums up Pale Waves sound: dreamy synths, cheery nostalgic guitar and a bouncy bassline. At this point the whole crowd was jumping along, and I was wary that being on the second floor in a room this packed might result in the whole floor caving in under us. Luckily it managed to withstand the craziness of the crowd.
I felt like the show didn’t last nearly as long as I had wanted it to. Before the crowd left all the bands were kind enough to greet everyone. I was one of the first to rush over to Pale Waves to ask for a picture with them before a long queue formed across the entire room as people waited to meet them. I was pleased to find the bands were engaging with the audience as it’s accustomed for artists to rush off after their set to avoid being swamped by fans. It was clear these people were still extremely down-to-earth and grateful for the support they were receiving. By the end of the night I was exhausted, ears-ringing, but on a high from the amazing performances.
It’s easy to get lost in the dreamlike sound of Pale Waves yet the lyrical openness packs a punch. There is nostalgia running throughout every song and clearly driven influences from 1980s artists like The Cure with a modern twist- the result is mesmerising. In a live setting they are just as intriguing with their black-clad appearances contradicting their dance-friendly sound; it’s an intricate blend of happy and sad. It’s definitely the right time to be making funky, eighties inspired indie-pop.
I was in the middle of one of my usual YouTube binges, when in the background of a Gothic makeup tutorial, I heard some music that really appealed to me. It had a kind of dark wave, electro Goth vibe to it. Immediately, I thought “I need to know who this band is!” A quick look in the description revealed to me that the song was ‘Svea’ by Foghorn Lonesome, something I later found out is that ‘Svea’ is the name of Eric Sparkwood’s grandmother.
Eric Sparkwood is the face behind Foghorn Lonesome. He started in 2011 as a one-man band in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2016, he played his first show with Jessica Isaksson on vocals and Nikita Smirnov on bass. In 2017, Krzystof Rozwadowski and, long-time producer, Tomas Rosenberg joined the band.
After speaking to Eric Sparkwood I could understand how the music came to be. It was clear he uses his life experiences as influence in his music. Even as someone with such talent to produce this music, Eric revealed to me that he does have his struggles. He came across to me as someone very kind, thoughtful and dedicated to his music and fans.
How did you come up with the name Foghorn Lonesome?
“I never reveal that actually. But with a quick Google search I’m sure people can figure that out.”
What made you want to start creating music? Is it something you would like to pursue full-time?
“I started playing bass when I was 16 and joined my first band. I guess it felt like the natural thing to do at the time, since I’d been constantly listening to music as a kid. I have mixed feelings about having this as a full-time thing since the music industry is in bad shape these days.”
I’m curious to know more about how you feel about the music industry. What do you think the main issue is nowadays?
“I think the main issue is that artists don’t get paid. We’re not signed to a label, but usually they tend to make most of the profits. I grew up before the internet and the MP3, so we had to pay for all of the music we wanted. Most people today don’t. But I’ve let go of all that. Sometimes I offer free downloads on the music on SoundCloud. I’m very grateful if someone purchases the music off Bandcamp or iTunes, but it’s fine if people don’t. The most important thing is that people have access to the music. Today’s mainstream music isn’t for me. But I do wish I could write three-minute pop songs. Then maybe I’d be summering in the Hamptons.”
How did you meet the other members?
“Jessica and Krzystof answered an ad I had online for new band members and I already knew Tomas since he produced all my music. The debut album was done and recorded by the time the band was put together.”
How would you describe your music?
“Melodic, varied and dark I suppose.”
What are the current projects you are working on?
“At the moment, we’re rehearsing for a show in March. I’m also off and on working of two new songs: ‘Strawberry Moon’ and ‘Stockholm, You Have Let Me Down’. There are demo samples of them on SoundCloud. I’m also working on another song, which at the is titled ‘Dumb Boy’, but the song isn’t the priority right now. I’ve also been putting tigether an acoustic rendition of a previous song. But I’m in no rush to finish them. I’m rarely in the mood to work on them.”
Do you have a favourite song you have produced or that you recommend people listen to first?
“No, I don’t have a favourite song. If someone was going to be introduced to Foghorn Lonesome, I would recommend songs like ‘Svea’, ‘Uliecry’, ‘All I Want Is Some Love’, ‘Night & Gale’, ‘Winter Blue’ and ‘Like A Storm’. Choosing just one is difficult.”
Where do you get your influences from?
“I would say my personal experiences are where I draw most of my influences. I think all of the music I’ve been listening to in my life has gone into my musical DNA. But when I discovered Diary of Dreams back in 2003 I was introduced to a new genre that kind of combined electronic music with gothic music. So when I started Foghorn Lonesome I knew that these genres would come together in my music too”.
Foghorn Lonesome seemed to disappear for a while, but you are back with new social media pages and working on a new gig and some songs, was there a reason you took a break from your music?
“My girlfriend left me and I hit rock bottom. Then I hit a level lower than rock bottom and did some things I’m not proud of. Eventually, I started working on new music.”
Do you find that writing helps you deal with that?
“I’m not sure, but usually I would say no. The problem doesn’t go away just because you express it. Sometimes it can make you feel worse. You just get reminded of it when working on the song. Especially when writing the lyrics.”
I’ve listened to your song ‘Like A Storm’, and something that always fascinated me was at the end of it you have a monologue with you crying in it. I wondered if you were crying for real during that recording. Could you talk a bit about that?
“The crying is real. It was the first thing I wrote and recorded for the song. It’s a very personal song, but in that part I took things one step further and let it all out in the moment there. When I recorded that part my sound card wasn’t working because it was old. So the only way for me to record it at the time was through the microphone in my laptop. But the only way to activate the microphone is if you record a video. Then I removed the video part and just kept the audio to use in the song. I still have the video of me sitting in front of the computer crying recording that part which I won’t be showing to anyone.”
What is the song writing process like for you?
“I always start working on the music first. Then the lyrics. Sometimes I have to put some more effort into it. Maybe I’ll go sit at the cafe and listen to the song and try to come up with lyrics and vocal melodies in my head. When I’m really into working on a song I will listen to it a lot. I’ll listen to it when I’m out for a run or on the subway and at the same time be thinking about the lyrics. Usually you reach a point where things just feel done. Then you know it’s time to stop. You can rework things forever if you wanted to.”
You seem very interactive with fans through social media and I noticed on your Instagram page that you have some fans who got tattoos of your lyrics, how does it make you feel to know that your music creatively inspires and also connects so strongly with people?
“It means I must be doing something right. It’s a great honour of course. James Hetfield of Metallica said it well when he said: “It means a lot to me when my darkness can connect with your darkness and make it ok.” So if my shit can help someone else cope with their shit better then that’s a good thing.”
Do you have other hobbies outside of music that would help rejuvenate your creativity?
“I try and run often. I go running for an hour. I get energy from that. Sleeping is probably the best thing I know. It’s the closest to death I can get.”
You recently became a grandfather, how that make you feel?
What is your ultimate goal as a band?
“I don’t think there is a goal. We’re lucky if we can get a gig somewhere. It’s difficult for all bands to get anywhere. Originally my goal was mainly to release an album and hope some people would enjoy the music. Both of which I have achieved.”
Where has been your favourite place to perform?
“We’ve only had three gigs so far. The first one was the best. It was at Klubb Död here in Stockholm. We might be doing a festival in August.”
Would you like to travel and perform in other countries?
“We’ve looked into it. Unsuccessfully so far. Again, it’s hard to get gigs.”
How do you think your music has evolved?
“That’s hard to say. Two songs have been released since the debut album, ‘Like A Storm’ and ‘Neon Thighs’. I think they sound like they could’ve been on the album in the sense that they’re similar in style. Now I’m working on some new music. I don’t know. It sounds similar I suppose. I guess I haven’t really evolved. Hah.”
What has been your greatest challenge?
“Finishing the debut album was a long and tiring ordeal. It demanded a lot of patience. Something I don’t usually have.”
More of a fun question: What would you do if you had £10 million?
“Pay off my debts and buy a house far away from everything and everyone.”
So recently in my hometown, Middlesbrough, a pub called Doctor Browns banned female-fronted bands, with the excuse that ‘women can’t sing rock’. You can read more about the incident here.
I personally thought this was a sexist and unjustified complaint. Fair enough, if you don’t want your business to fail then you only hire the best musicians. But saying ‘women can’t sing rock’ and therefore aren’t welcome to perform there is discriminating.
They claimed customers ‘didn’t like’ previous female rock singers they hired – I don’t think this justifies an outright ban on female rock singers. This simply suggests they didn’t hire a good enough singer.
Banning all other female singers based on someone else’s less-than-impressive performance is incredibly unfair. People shouldn’t be refused a chance based on their gender.
I found it appalling that gender discrimination is still happening in my area. I personally believe women can be incredible rock artists, so I thought I’d respond to this by listing some of the best female rock artists I know.
I realise genre of music is rather debated, but I’ll just say these are the artists that are loosely described as rock. Obviously their music may incorporate other genres, but in my opinion they deserve a place on my best female rock artist list. So here it is, my favourite 20 female rock artists in no particular order:
#1 Siouxsie Sioux:
Siouxsie was an obvious choice for me to mention on this list. As the lead singer of one of my favourite British bands, Siouxsie and the Banshees, I think she represents the best of female gothic rock. Siouxsie has been adored since the 70’s with her iconic look and haunting music – and all but invented goth.
#2 Stevie Nicks:
Stevie Nicks is an American singer best known for her work with Fleetwood Mac. She had a chart topping career and is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Rock and Roll’, so she definitely earned her place on my list of the best female rock artists.
#3 Lzzy Hale:
Lzzy Hale is the lead singer from the band Halestorm. Lzzy pretty much sparked my interest in rock music. She has one of the most powerful female vocals I’ve heard. I’ve seen Lzzy sing live and at the time she had a bad throat, but powered through and I can honestly say she still sounded better live and I couldn’t even tell she had been ill.
#4: Amy Lee:
Amy Lee is the lead vocalist of Evanescence. Critics vary on whether Evanescence should be classed as a rock or a metal band. Personally I refer to them as symphonic metal, but I think Amy Lee still deserves a place on this list. If you check out other symphonic metal bands you will see the majority are female fronted, such as Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Delain and so on… all which deserve a mention as they are amazing bands, but I’ll try to keep this list to strictly rock.
#5 Patricia Morrison:
Patricia Morrison is probably most known for her backup vocals in The Sisters of Mercy, and although Andrew Eldritch takes main stage as the lead vocalist, I think Patricia Morrison still deserves a mention for her musical talent and contribution to goth rock.
#6 Taylor Momsen:
From the sweet little actress who played Cindy Lou in The Grinch to the lead singer of the American rock band The Pretty Reckless, Taylor Momsen has come very far. Taylor Momsen is a talented actress and model, but the music she produces is worth some recognition for her contribution to female-rock.
#7 Hayley Williams:
Hayley Williams is known as the lead vocalist for Paramore. Their music has vastly evolved over time. I started listening to them back in what I like to refer to as my ’emo’ days, but I still have lots of appreciation for the music they are creating today.
#8 Avril Lavigne:
Often referred to as the ‘Pop Punk Queen’, but releasing many tracks I would consider punk rock and alternative rock, Avril Lavigne has been massively successful. The Canadian singer is known for presenting a ‘rebellious’ attitude and looking eternally like a teenager, how does she do it? I grew up listening to Avril Lavigne and she has always been one of my favourite artists.
P!nk has released some incredible pop rock tracks and is an all around badass. She definitely represents the best of a girl-power attitude, just check out her motivational speech to her daughter here. I personally find her inspirational as an artist so I had to include her in this list.
#10 Emelie Autumn:
Emelie Autumn’s music is very different from any other music I have heard. Sometimes describes as ‘fantasy rock’, her creative and unique music alone earns her a place on my list. This quirky style of music is not for everyone, but I adore it and her work and talent is still to be admired.
#11 Dolores O’Riordan:
Dolores O’Riordan is an Irish musician known for leading the rock band The Cranberries. They have had worldwide success and produced some iconic tracks such as ‘Zombie’.
#12 Courtney Love:
Courtney love gained a notable presence in the punk and grunge scene in the 1990’s and rose to prominence as front-woman for the alternative rock band Hole. She had a highly publicised life after her marriage to Kurt Cobain (lead from Nirvana).
#13 Chelsea Wolfe:
I hadn’t known about Chelsea Wolfe long, but I fell in love with her haunting music. She is continuing the evolution of goth rock with her modern experimental sounds. If you are looking for a modern gothic artist then she is worth a listen.
#14 Ellie Rowsell:
Ellie Rowsell is part of a four-piece band called Wolf Alice who have been going since 2010. Their early work sounds folk-tinged but has evolved to a more rock-orientated sound.
#15 Natalie Bassingthwaighte:
Natalie Bassingthwaighte is known as the lead singer of electronic rock band Rogue Traders. I listen to their most popular song ‘Voodoo Child’ on repeat. For me it is a song that never gets old and will always be a favourite. I also come across a lot of fellow Whovians in the comments of this music video from when this song was featured in a Doctor Who episode.
#16 Debbie Harry:
I couldn’t miss Debbie Harry off this list. Most known for being part of the rock band Blondie. They pioneered early American new wave and punk scenes from the mid-late 70’s.
#17 Tina Root:
Tina Root is the vocalist of the band Switchblade Symphony who were prominent in the goth scene throughout the 90’s. As this is mostly an Alternative/Goth based blog I think it’s important to mention female vocalists who have had impact on the goth rock scene. Again, this is something that might not appeal to everyone, however, as this is the type of rock music I prefer to listen to, it’s worth a mention.
#18 Johnette Napolotano:
Johnette Napolotano is best known as the lead singer from American alternative rock band Concrete Blonde. Concrete Blonde built up their popularity in the 90’s with their top 20 singe ‘Joey’.
Chibi is the lead singer of The Birthday Massacre, a band well known in the Goth scene. The Birthday Massacre’s musical style has been described as new wave revival, electronic rock, gothic rock, and dark wave. As an ongoing goth band and one with an amazing sound, Chibi deserved to be mentioned on my list.
#20 Theresa Jeane:
Last but definitely not least, Theresa Jeane is the lead sing from The Nearly Deads. I found this band a few months ago and have loved their music ever since. They appealed to me when I found their song lyrics relatable and was pleased to find they are rather interactive with their fans on social media. They quickly became one of my favourite alternative rock bands and I’m looking forward to seeing what their future in music will involve.
I think this list proves my point that women are totally capable of being successful rock singers. If you want to share your opinion on this debate or if I missed any of your favourite female rock singers off the list, then feel free to leave a comment. I’m open to discussions and hearing new music.
So I thought I’d do something a bit fun and light-hearted based on the daft comments I receive regularly for being a goth. Over the years I’ve learnt not to take things people say too seriously, usually people don’t mean any harm by it.
Here’s some of the regular comments I receive and my thoughts on them:
“Oh, I went through a Goth phase. You’ll grow out of that.”
It’s not a phase, it’s a way of life. Do not try to tell me what I will or won’t be interested in. Goth is not just for teens, there are plenty of Elder Goths out there!
“When are you going to stop dyeing your hair?”
Also anything along the lines of changing my hair can be annoying. I often get comments like “If you keep dying it then it will fall out…Your natural hair was such a lovely colour…don’t get it cut like that it will look ridiculous.” It’s my hair so I’ll do what I want with it, the way I look has no impact on anyone else. If I decide to shave my head tomorrow then why is it anyone else’s concern? It will grow back, if not I’ll buy a wig…
“Don’t get that pierced/tattooed.”
I find these types of comments usually come from concerned family members. I’m a girl with 7 ear piercings and I’ve been told if I get more piercings then I’m going to ‘overdo it’. In the past I was going to get a septum piercing to which I was told it would look like a ‘bull ring’ in my nose.
I also have a few tattoo ideas lined up, to which I’ve been told “You’ll look common” or “People won’t want to hire you for a job”. Sometimes they are worried for my safety, and try to talk me out of it by telling me all the possible infections I could get. But usually their reasons are just superficial. But as most goths know, we don’t look like this to please other people. We choose to look like this because it makes us happy.
“Don’t wear that, it looks boyish”
I’m sure goth guys also get the opposite with people telling them they look ‘too feminine’. I’ve personally been told not to wear certain things because they don’t look flattering enough. One time I was told not to wear a pair of my favourite shoes to a family event because they were ‘too boyish’. News flash: I don’t want to look girly! I don’t care about which gender my clothes were ‘meant’ for, I wear them because I love them.
“You’d look so much prettier without all that makeup”
I think this applies to everyone, not just goths in particular. I don’t wear makeup to look pretty. I wear it because I feel it completes my outfit, I like being creative, and most importantly I enjoy wearing it and the way it makes me feel. It also annoys me when people assume you are wearing it to impress someone. Just no! I’m not going to change who I am for other people, so why would I put makeup on for the sake of them? I wear it because once again it’s a thing that makes me happy!
“Are you into BDSM?”
Please, please, please stop asking us this! First of all, I’m not going to answer that. Secondly, a person being goth doesn’t determine whether they are ‘kinky’ in the bedroom or not.
“It’s not Halloween yet”
Well, Ministry would seem to disagree with you there…
This one is just a classic. For some reason people seem to think they are being funny and have thought up a really clever original phrase to say to us. Nope, I’ve heard this one tonnes of times before. If anyone knows when Halloween is then it’s me.
“Who’s funeral is it?”
There was a brilliant quote being spread round the internet: “If you can dress like this without going to a yoga class, I can dress like this without going to a funeral.” That pretty much sums up my thoughts on this comment.
“Are those your real eyes?”
This may sound like common sense, but honestly some people genuinely believe that bright red contact lenses are my normal eye colour…
“You look so scary”
Sometimes I will actually take this as a compliment, makes me feel like I’ve reached full goth potential!
“You look dead”
Well I am a future corpse…
“You should get a tan, you look so pale and sickly”
Believe it or not I don’t want to risk skin cancer or to end up looking like an oompa loompa, so thanks but I think I’ll stick to my ghostly complexion.
I’ve never understood why people feel the need to shout this at me. Yes, I know I am a goth, well done for noticing 👏. I don’t take the word as an insult, it was my intention.
“Look its a vampire!”
I wish I was that awesome!
*Insert sarcastic voice* “Where did you get your coat from?”
Questions are fine so long as you are genuinely interested. But otherwise I don’t see the point in asking. This seems to be a thing chavvy teens love to do. Best one I’ve heard yet was: “Where’d you get your bag from? Toys R us?”. Personally I wish Toys R Us sold goth accessories, it’d be a lot easier to shop!
“There’s holes in your jeans”
Thanks for pointing that out, I never noticed that when I bought them…
“Do you worship the devil?”
This is unfortunately a stereotype that comes with being a goth. I’ve had people genuinely ask me if goth is a satanic thing out of pure curiosity. Just to clarify, not all goths are Satan worshippers! Goths can be any religion, just like anyone else.
“Do you cut yourself?”
Hold your horses! Firstly, you should never ask something this personal to anyone, mental health is no joke! Secondly, the stereotype that all goths are depressed is so wrong. We don’t dress in black and listen to this sort of music because we are all mopey. Honestly, if I were to stop being goth I’d be even more miserable, expressing myself in this way makes me happy.
“You have terrible music taste”
I could say the same to you. Everyone has their own taste, just because we don’t listen to mainstream tunes on the radio doesn’t mean my music is any less enjoyable than yours.
I hope you enjoyed these and maybe got a laugh out of some of my experiences. If you have any others, please share them in the comments!
I’m always so excited when I find a new band I love and desperate to share my enjoyment of their music with other people.
So when a new song, ‘Choke’ by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me, appeared in my recommended on YouTube, I was more than willing to give it a listen.
The thumbnail stood out to me, as it had what looked like a skull but the artwork reminded me of that on Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album cover – two things which strongly appealed to my gothic nature.
The band itself is an indie rock duo composed of vocalist and bassist Dallon Weekes, formerly of The Brobecks and Panic! At the Disco (another band which I love!). Also, drummer Ryan Seaman, formerly of Falling in Reverse.
The band name I Don’t Know How But They Found Me is a line taken from the 1985 sci-fi film Back To The Future, and so the release date (26th October) of this song is a direct reference to the film as it is the date Doc Brown and Marty McFly intended to travel to in 2010.
This is the second single in a project inspired by a series of 1980-90’s talent shows that Weekes discovered.
Weekes said that ‘Choke’ was written to describe how disenchanted he had become in Los Angeles. He said that he loved the place, but the culture was hard to navigate as he didn’t fit in so it never felt like home.