As a young 5-piece shoegaze band, Pastel aren’t letting the pandemic slow them down. Fueled by two Mancunian cousins – the Lead singer (Jack Yates) and rhythm guitarist (James Yates) – an Irish lead guitarist and songwriter (Aaron Tormey), and two Welsh boys on bass guitar (Liam Oshea) and drums (Rhys Wheeler), the band have recently been labelled a “wall of sound to be reckoned with” on BBC Radio Manchester. After watching a virtual jam session of James and Jack, I can see why.
The brotherly duo feed off one another’s ideas, bouncing between instruments like two balls in a pinball machine. Armed with two guitars, a reverb-filled microphone and a set of bongos, the boys hosted a Glastonbury-worthy performance from their living room. Pastel’s newest release ‘She Waits for Me’ blends long strides of guitar with an echoing symphony of vocals to form a fusion of psychedelic lullaby and punchy rock anthem. Based in Swansea, Pastel have recently signed to the independent record label and clothing brand Spirit of Spike Island.
I spoke to James and Jack to uncover Pastel’s secret to thriving in lockdown, and what bands we should be listening to.
The Indiependent: Your new single ‘She Waits for Me’ has had a groundbreaking response for Pastel on Spotify and YouTube. How do you feel about this success given that you had to cancel the final dates on your UK tour?
James: I feel like the success is well deserved. The stuff that we put out before wasn’t as professional and the quality of our recordings didn’t reflect our true potential. We always knew how good we were, but it just took the right recording for others to see that.
The Indiependent: Just before lockdown you signed with the label Spirit of Spike Island, who are known for “championing a new breed of musicians in Manchester”. What do you think makes Pastel stand out?
James: We are just cool as fuck. Our influences thread through our music.
Jack: Other bands attempt to be unique for the sake of it, whereas Pastel take the best parts of the best bands and create something beautiful without caring what people think.
The Indiependent: How do you think the political climate and social isolation has benefitted you as a band?
James: The mass of people self-isolating at home has definitely helped increase our listeners, and also signing to our label couldn’t have come at a better time. As frustrating as it was having to cancel the tour and stay inside, without our song to release we would have faded into nothing.
Jack: Yeah, it’s almost magical how fate has controlled every aspect of the band really, and whenever something bad happens, something twice has good follows. Hopefully now when we come out of lockdown, we will be in a stronger position than we were before.
The Indiependent: How have you found ways to be creative during lockdown and what advice would you give to fellow artists who are struggling during this time?
James: Jack and I have written a few songs together. I think the important thing to remember is that people in lockdown don’t want to hear songs about being trapped in their four walls being sad. Advice I would give to others is probably to your music as a positive escape and try to create things that you would want to listen to right now.
The Indiependent: After gig venues and clubs open back up, where are you most excited to perform and why?
Jack: Anywhere. Honestly anywhere, I just can’t wait to play a gig.
James: I don’t mind where I play, but I’m buzzing for London in our tour in October.
The Indiependent: After being played on both BBC Radio 6 Music and BBC Radio Manchester, Pastel was compared to Oasis, Brian Johnstown Massacre, Ride and early The Verve. Name one artist you are inspired by, one you have been listening to lately, and one you would love to collaborate with if given the chance.
James: Inspired by The Charlatans, the last thing I listened to was Happy Mondays and I think we’d collaborate well with The Verve.
Jack: My favourite artist of all time is Shack, I’ve been listening to Goat and definitely The Verve.
The Indiependent: And finally, what is in store for the future of Pastel? Are there any upcoming EPs or an album on the horizon?
James: There is an EP coming out in September or October.
Jack: And then we are going on tour around the UK afterwards.
Interview conducted by Harriet Fisk.