Artist Spotlight: Pale North

The duo look back on how they’ve changed alongside their music

Brie Anna Rose and Frank Hops of Pale North get cozy in a bathtub. (Aly Laube)

A lot has happened for the two members of Pale North since they started playing music together in Grade 9. Back then, drummer Brie Rose’s only experience with instruments was through Rock Band and guitarist Frank Hops was champing at the bit to get on stage.

While they’re still best friends today, most aspects of their lives have changed since the release of their debut record, Wasted Years Together. Hops went through a period of rapid change and struggled to find a balance between his priorities. For Rose, the past two years have been marked by her coming out as a trans woman—an experience she says will be more identifiable in their next album.

“Now that I’m out, there are a lot of songs about LGBTQ acceptance, a lot of songs about homophobia and transphobia and stuff, a couple songs about feeling complete loneliness and despair,” she says. “A lot of the lyrics that I’ve written come from a different place, because I’m not the same person who was scared about the future because of work and whether I’ll be successful or not. Now I’m scared of being accepted and surviving, and it’s a different kind of fear that pervades on the new album.”

Rose says this theme was even present in certain songs on Wasted Years Together. “Snake Lake”, a song Rose and Hops wrote together, “came in the wake of the whole PWR BTTM fiasco”—meaning, when the lead singer Ben Hopkins, once widely accepted as a LGBTQ+ icon, was called out for alleged sexual assault.

“They were like, my favourite band as a closeted homosexual, and that happened and I was so salty, so we sat there and angrily, happily, wrote lyrics about basically hating everybody who is fake and abusive with their power,” says Rose.

When they recorded their debut album last year, they did so with the same youthful enthusiasm that defined the early days of their friendship and collaboration. Wasted Years Together was a 10-track collection recorded in a parent’s basement and mastered by a friend. Like many break-out records from the suburbs, what Wasted Years Together lacks in high-fidelity pop gloss it makes up for with genuine sentiment and a carefully crafted sound.

However, the band is now ready to leave that sound behind and pursue a new style with the release of their next album this summer.

“At the end of Wasted Years Together, it’s sort of a hopeful vibe. We’re complaining about the things that we don’t want to happen, the things we want to happen, the things that are okay and the things we want to change, and the next album is sort of about getting back in touch with reality,” says Hops.

The next Pale North record will include 11 tracks, many of which will be extra long. Listeners can expect experimentation with multiple sections, tons of instruments, and jam-inspired—though carefully chosen—arrangements. Overall, the next album is predicted to be lighter and more influenced by midwest emo than the first, while still maintaining the punk spirit and fuzzy production that keeps the band true to itself.

“We’re going kind of off the deep end with some of the ideas, so we’re scared that absolutely no one will like it, but it’s fun,” laughs Rose. “It’s fun to do what we want to do and make something that’s more lasting.”

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