…No, not the piano playing dog from The Muppets, the new pop princess you’re about to be obsessed with.
By Randi Bergman
Ralph a.k.a. Raffa Weyman is just the woman we need to get this show on the road. And by this show, we mean this year/this fight/this time to get mega introspective about our complexities and our relationships. Is it crazy that we got all that from an EP of pop songs? Maybe. But listen to Ralph’s just-released debut, and you’ll get what we mean: it’s glitzy in its slow synth perfection, but it’s also so goddamn real. Case in point, the lyrics to her latest single, “Tease:”
“I’ll confess your sweet talk had me weak in the knees. But my friend got the same text, cut and copied. Cause you’re writing love notes to every girl on the block. Baby, you should know us girls we talk.”
Boy, bye. The video for “Tease” is equally impactful, and features a bunch of BFFs bonding in the most aesthetically pleasing spa in existence. Shot in Toronto, where Weyman calls home, the video is just a taste of the burgeoning pop queen about to dominate our summer playlists. We caught up with Weyman about fuckboys, vintage clothing and posing in front of billboards with her face on them.
Has working in fashion had an impact on your sense of style as an artist?
As a kid I was obsessed with dress up and had a huge costume cupboard in my basement, so my love of fashion and experimenting with outfits isn’t really surprising. I started working at American Apparel when I was seventeen, wearing high waisted spandex leggings and dressing the mannequins every day–it was like playing barbie for adults. After that I dabbled in styling and costume design a little, doing music videos and short films for friends, as well as most of my own shows, shoots or videos. I think my retail experience definitely helped fuel my passion for aesthetic creativity and individuality–as both Raffa and Ralph, I’ve developed my own personal style and embrace the idea of standing out.
While we’re on the subject, that video is so aesthetically amazing–can you tell us about the concept and how it came together?
My best friend Gemma Warren is an insanely talented photographer/creative director who does the majority of my visuals. She loved the song “Tease” from the moment she heard it, and has such an amazing eye that it just seemed natural for her to segue into video directing for me. Inspired by our visit to a Korean Spa, Gem wanted to shape the video around a group of women dancing and bonding, as it’s traditionally a place where people gather to cleanse (emotionally and physically) with their friends. We also wanted to largely employ female creatives for the actual shoot, so we contacted female producers, assistant directors, art directors, stylists, and makeup artists.
Can we discuss the subject matter in “Tease?” It sounds like something we are all familiar with…
Ha, yes, unfortunately I’m sure many can relate. I wrote “Tease” after a series of encounters with men who would flirt and text for weeks… until I found out they had serious girlfriends they had conveniently failed to mention. Not only was I annoyed about being led on, but I was also frustrated because I felt like a shitty female ally. I wanted to write a sassy, witty song that addressed the situation and underlined the importance of female friendship, but was still fun to dance to.
Okay, “Crocodile Tears” too. That sounds painful…
“Crocodile Tears” is a little different. It’s less ambiguous and is directly about one single person who really screwed me up for awhile. When someone cheats on you, it hurts–I felt like a fool. But at the same time, it’s an opportunity for you to realize your own strength and worth–that’s what I really want people to take away from the song. I wrote it after drinking a lot of wine with my friend Tom and I just wanted to be honest and emotional; I still feel that way every time I sing it.
Has this album helped you come to any grand realizations about dating fuckboys?
I don’t love the term “fuckboy” because I feel it lets men off the hook and ignores context. It sort of glosses over the experience of being in a casual relationship and trivializes the real issues of commitment and honesty, often devaluing an intense situation that might have been full of real feelings and confusing moments. Three of my songs (“Crocodile Tears,” “Tease,” and “Busy Man”) are about dudes who were similarly manipulative in the way they dealt with me, ranging from cheating to disrespecting my time. There was always a level of lying and self-gratification that was hurtful, even if it wasn’t intentional.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from many years of dating is that it’s so important to call people out. If I don’t say, “hey, I feel you didn’t deal with this in a respectful and conscientious way and it hurt my feelings,” then they’ll never know and I’ll never have closure. Confrontation is intimidating and I think we’re scared to come off as crazy or needy, but the most important thing is walking away and feeling no regrets that you didn’t say what you were thinking.
Who are your influences? Musically, visually…
Cher is magical. I find myself googling “Cher outfits” more than I will admit. Prince, too, he’s my second most googled. Stevie Nicks will always be one of my biggest icons, I saw her live recently and she is such a badass, she’s almost 70 and her voice is still so powerful and she’s so funny and full of wisdom. Sade is another big role model–her look is iconic, and her songs are hugely influential in their unique melodies and lyrics. Additionally, I’m obsessed with the weirdness that is Kate Bush (“Running Up That Hill” is one of my favorite songs ever), Joni Mitchell (her narrative songwriting taught me so much about words and the importance of lyrical stories), and the Rolling Stones for their insane performance energy and commitment to personal style (even into their 70s).
In the vein of contemporary music and imagery, I’m really inspired by Charlotte Day Wilson, Anderson Paak, Sylvan Esso, Lion Babe, HAIM, Maggie Rogers, Solange, Jorja Smith, and Carly Rae Jepson. I’m also a huge fan of Arianna Grande’s last album–the songwriting and the structure of each track blew my mind. Who is writing for her and how do I get into a room with them?
When did you you know you wanted to become a musician?
I’ve always loved the spotlight. As a kid I’d make skits with my cousins and was always the sassy lead actor. I attended an arts high school and was in casual bands after that, but my “aha” moment was in Montreal years ago. I went to see Patrick Watson perform for Montreal Jazz Festival and it was the most unreal concert I’ve ever been to. It was a free outdoor show in hot, hot July, and by the time he went onstage there were about 80,000 people in the audience. The energy I felt within that crowd was insane, his performance was so intimate and joyful and we all fell under his spell. I remember thinking “Oh, I want to do this. I want to make people feel electric and engaged, but I also want to feel it within myself.” Since then, I haven’t stopped trying. I even got a tattoo of his lyrics to remind me of that moment.
If you had to soundtrack any movie, which would it be?
Oof, that’s hard. Either Risky Business from 1983, because it has a good mix of sexy/fun scenes that I would love to write sensual synth-pop songs to. There’s this one scene where Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay get it on while riding a public train, I always thought it was so incredibly hot. If I were writing a song for that scene, it would be heavy on the lush synth keys, with lots of breathy “oohs” and maybe some gated synth snare a la Phil Collins towards the end.
The other option is Earth Girls Are Easy. It’s this amazingly absurd semi-musical about valley girls and aliens in Los Angeles during the late 80’s (also: Jeff Goldblum and Gina Davis at peak hotness), the outfits are fabulous, everyone is gorgeous and I would die to write songs for it. There’s this one scene where Gina Davis is getting a makeover in her friend’s beauty salon, and all the girls have long, bejeweled nails and they’re wearing crop tops and sneakers and they’re dancing. It’s basically my Instagram aesthetic in one perfect moment.
Everyone is naming you an “artist to watch”–is that super surreal?
Absolutely. I’ve worked really hard over the last couple years but you never know what will happen when your music is released. I feel incredibly lucky to be receiving such supportive praise from others, my heart grows every time a cute lil’ fan slides into my DMs or a blog shouts me out. Both i-D and the Fader recently featured my songs, and I was so excited–being on a list next to Princess Nokia and Lorde is crazy. I think the most insane thing to date was the billboard of my face at Dundas Square in Toronto (thank you Spotify!) I went down to take a picture with my parents (LOL) and I was like…. this is the definition of surreal, what is happening right now.
It also must be strange because you’ll seem like an overnight success, but you’ve been working at this since at least 2014, right? Any advice for how to #makeit?
Even though I’ve been singing and writing music since I was 14, it does feel like that last couple years have been the most important. I think the change was finally finding a project I felt strongly about… you need that if you’re going to surrender your life to music. My advice: don’t be afraid to cold call managers, musicians and producers you admire, you never know what will happen. Utilize social media, it can be your best friend! Keep your expectations in check but always stay hopeful and focused. Surround yourself with people who are just as hungry and driven as you. Care less about what others think.
In your wildest dreams, what is 2017 like?
In my WILDEST DREAMS, I will collab with Daniel Caesar (I am in love with his music) and Carly Rae Jepson will also reach out and be like “hey girl, I feel like we could do some damage together.” Then Chelsea Handler will finally answer my tweets and I’ll be on her talk show, where we’ll laugh and drink and discuss politics, sex and dogs. I will sign a record deal in the states and/or in the UK and will continue songwriting in Los Angeles and London, where my writing and production skills will get better with each studio session. I’ll meet Dev Patel at a party in Laurel Canyon and we’ll fall in love, but then we’ll break up because we’re too busy and career focused and I’ll write a bunch of songs about it. Gucci will reach out and offer to dress me for my shows and press events. I will make enough money to actually HIRE all my talented friends and we will create fucking rad videos and photos that will be premiered on my favorite sites. I will play tons of shows, big and small, and enjoy the feelings of excitement I get every time I’m onstage. I’ll have 10 songs for my next album that I adore and feel proud to put out into the world.
Photography by Gemma Warren
For more on Ralph, click here.