“I feel like I've lived twenty lives in the past two years” says Ryn Weaver with a smile.
The 22 year old Californian is spectacular company. Whether describing how great James Murphy sounds “if you're ever feeling melancholy in the club” or why her Givenchy jumper is "playful in the same way Kubrick was playful with the fashion of the boys in Clockwork”, she's theatrical, quotable and fun. She also happens to be both extremely talented and heavily hyped.
Having emerged last summer with the bouncy breakup anthem 'Octahate' she’s now recorded her debut LP The Fool with a little help from producers Benny Blanco, Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos and Cashmere Cat (who she calls 'Kitty'). The result is a cinematic triumph that combines some of the key Florence/Marina/Lana tropes but has a vivacious spirit all of her own.
She meets Gigwise over coffee in a hotel suite in Kensington, high above west London's manicured playing fields (one associate asks “Cricket? I don't know what cricket is,” to which Weaver deadpans, “It's very, like, British.”) In person she’s an enthusiast: expansive and provocative, keen to set the record straight and equipped with a hair-trigger bullshit detector. To mark the release of her stunning debut LP in the US, she talks to Gigwise about getting drunk with Kendrick Lamar, being sick of mansplaining and why she's still furious she missed Kate Bush.
Gigwise: You lived in a Manhattan apartment with Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat. What did a typical day consist of?
Ryn Weaver: We're always playing Fela Kuti records, lots of Van Morrison. Kitty always brings some crazy electronic music that is the darkest shit you've ever heard: guns and weird half trap. We listen to a lot of Eno and there's an Eno [Oblique Strategies] card deck which we flipped through. Benny also has a trainer - Trainer Mike - and ten people would come to the house and we'd all pretend to work out.
I was living in the studio space so once everyone was up to make music that's the sign to get the hell out. I spend a lot of time on the roof. Kitty would be on headphones, I'd put on headphones, Benny would be in the studio. We ate a lot: always ABC Kitchen, really delicious farm-to-table food. With Cashmere there's also this place called Ma Peche which is a version of Momofuku: we'd go for lobster fried rice and buns. We'd play Mario Tennis a lot. That was a staple of my life.
You’ve said that going to Coachella every year was a right of passage. What were your defining moments even before you played the festival?
It was all a drugged up haze a lot of it. That's the truth. I spent a lot of time not knowing where I was honestly. I remember seeing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - it was the first time I'd seen a live show where instead of everyone playing it cool, they'd really try and rile up the crowd. And also very culty in a Sixties and Seventies way.
I loved seeing Tame Impala, Postal Service was big for me and Tegan and Sera. There was a Deadmau5 cube: I remember going wild to that. And Old Crow Medicine Show. One of the banjo player’s strings broke halfway through a song and he literally kept playing with one hand and was somehow restringing his banjo with the other. His fingers were going crazy and his eyes were bulging: I remember thinking "This guy is either coked up or just wild as all hell."
You dropped out of drama school in New York and threw yourself into New York nightlife. What were your big songs of that time?
When I was going out they would spin all the old Calvin like crazy. [Sings] "It was acceptable in the Eighties": that was a big one. ‘Teenage Dream’ and ‘California Girls’ as well but that was because I was dating someone at the time: I was a California Girl and I was a teenage dream. When I would come into the club, he'd always spin that song and point to me. Halfway through the night, everyone's so turnt and I'm like "YES! It's me you guys!"
What musical trend needs to die out this year?
Hipster R&B. More than anything. I love R&B and soul is the deepest rooted music in all of us. But I'm just over the trend and everyone's creating stuff that sounds the same. It's like futuristic R&B, with all these sounds in the background and people thinking "Ooh it's so ethereal and yet so industrial yet so... LISTEN TO ME SING!" It's so moody. And it's playing at a mood that I don't think is there. It's artifice and people are creating this character of "I am this industrial diva". And I just don't believe them! When I hear their songs and when I hear them speak they're a completely different human. I just want that to die out.
I think the whole resurgence of the Nineties needs to go away too but that's more of a fashion thing. I'm so sick of seeing people in their weird ironic clothes. Why do we want to be ironic all the time? There's a lot of things people do because they feel like it's in vogue and it's just bothering me. Do you know what's cool? Being you fucking self. Not copying everybody else on the road. And the dip dyed hair? Jesus Christ. Every one and their mothers has a weird pastel hair colour.
Sorry I'm sounding all sassy. But there are so many things where you're thinking "Is that played out by now? Can we start playing it out?" I just hear so many copycats these days that's all. I can't even really watch what's happening in new music for the most part. Half the time I'm on a blog anything I click on I'm like "Ick! More of this shit! I know exactly who you're copying." I know who they are copying because everyone is copying their contemporaries: if you want to be original how about you pick from a bunch of things, not just from what is in your immediate vicinity. I feel like everything sounds the same. But that's just me.
You're a huge Samuel Beckett fan. What would you recommend we read?
Everyone needs to read End Game. It's my favourite Beckett of all time. Maybe it's just because that's where my brain goes but it has a lot to do with co-dependency and the reliance of two people on each other and once what was voluntary becomes a chore. End Game is the one and only - obviously Beckett is so talented but that sticks out to me as his best work.
Can you recommend a good book?
I'm a big Hemingway fan and because of that I read this book called The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It's an incredible book. Basically she did all of this research about the first wife and documents what it was like being his wife with all the affairs. It's really beautiful. He was just this tragic man and she was this really sweet submissive who just followed what he did and was so in love.
I'm reading Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins - it's really neat but bizarre. I still haven't reached the ending as I'm still figuring it all out. It follows different storylines throughout and it hops so I'm still trying to piece it all together. It's really captivating. It's just very romantic and I like the way it's written.
Men Explain Things To Me I just read recently if you're looking for something a litle more sassy. It's writen by Rebecca Solnit and she's really smart. It tackles the anthropology of why a lot of women, even when they're right, are trained to question it double. Whereas a lot of men, even if they know they don't know the answer, are taught to pretend they do. It's also about how women hide their sexuality. It's very interesting and it translates to the silencing of women on a grander scale and what's going on in other countries. It's a really eye-opening read. I recommend that to men or women. Everyone should really read it.
What is the most memorable thing you've had mansplained to you?
My life is mansplained. My favourite was when someone was telling me what my music video was about. I remember someone on Twitter saying “Anyone who makes pop music is completely created through the man.”
It's interesting when you hear people talking about things based on genre, saying “If you make something that's pop leaning it's not credible.” I think it's almost more credible: half of the shit you listen to from the past, anything that's lasted, a lot of it was pop leaning. Even with the Beatles, when they were in their psychedelic phase: they still had beautifully structures! The music would stick with you. I like being able to hum my melodies back to myself because they get stuck in my head. It's an art form in itself being able to do that.
I get mansplained all the time, especially about my career. That's the most obnoxious because I think "You have no idea what I'm doing with my life. I'm going crazy right now which you also don't know." My labels always so mad at me because I'm always saying "I need final approval. Send that to me. I want to edit it." Actually I just got a creative director [Young Turks’ Mollie Hawkins] that I'm starting to work with as I've had no-one on my side helping me push the creative forward.
Another one was when Stereogum first posted about me, someone was mansplaining to everyone about my life saying "Oh she's an actress". I explained in the comments "I went to LA so I could make money to eat so I could make music." Of course I've done acting. I'm an artist. I like more than one form of art. Hopefully you're allowed to do that. You watch any of those videos of kids growing up who became rock stars: they were in theatre, they were trying to express themselves in anyway that they could. And there's nothing wrong with that.
People are skeptical and that's the world we live in. It's the internet age: everyone has an opinion and everyone feels the right to express it. But it is only ever an opinion. The girls say petty things every now and then. Like: "Oh what a slut." I'm like "Hardly... but actually sometimes. I guess it doesn't matter does it?'"
The only ones that I get that are infuriating are these boys telling me what my life is. I don't know what I'll do to you: I don't even want to block them as it gives them so much satisfaction. So I don't block anyone on Twitter: I just let them sit there and say 'Goodbye'.
Have you ever cheated death?
I suppose some nights when I've partied a little too hard and I feel my heart pounding in this way I feel like I am cheating death. Actually I cheated death when I fell asleep in a bathtub a couple of weeks ago. Someone came in and pulled me out. I was acting out a little bit. I've been so busy that the nights I get to go out now I really take advantage of.... but sometimes that's an issue. My drunk choice, my preference, is to take a bath when I feel drunk. I don't know why. Because you feel at one with the water, you feel less sick. But I haven't gone in a bathtub drunk since. Maybe I'm learning my lesson.
You were dressed in Chanel for your new music video of 'Octahate'. What fashion wise are you particularly enjoying at the moment?
I love fashion but it's not all about labels. I've been lucky enough to have people be interested in letting me wear their stuff. Eventually I just want to custom make everything because I love wearing things that no-one else can. One of one is really nice. The coolest moment of that for me was that I felt just like a psychedelic princess.
I got that Comme Des Garcons gold beret off from the Japanese runaway. It's so bizarre and made out of beads and with the stars on the dress it just came together so perfectly. I had this pair of red tights as well. And it looked: FIRE. I stripped down and I had a nice litte Dolce & Gabbana baby bodysuit. I felt so FRESH. But that will be the death of me. I got loaned the other stuff but I went in and splurged on that little bodysuit which was too much. I felt bad about it after but I've now got it in my wardrobe. Never regret a purchase I guess.
You’ve said you hated the original video for 'Octahate'. What didn’t you like about it?
The ideas were all mine and the rainbow tears were my idea. It was just execution.For instance the people who had the gloves and stuff? You weren't supposed to see their bodies. That was supposed to be edited out but that costs a lot of money. They were all supposed to have long black gloves. It was supposed to be more like the hand art in David Bowie's Labrinth or Shiva, the Goddess, the blue ones with the arms.
I was overly ambitious with the idea and so because of that we had to compensate on a lot of the art direction. I wanted to look really high end, high fashion and it ended up feeling more costumey as we only had one day. It was very clowny and I was like "I like playful, colourful but it needed to be very chic, effortlessly cool." I love the theatricality of it, the ideas were there - but it was executed at 20 per cent. I am a perfectionist so any time I saw it, I just start cringing. So I just had to for my own piece of mind just redo it because it didn't feel like aesthetically it fit the world I was trying to create.
How do you feel about the new video?
The new one a lot of people don't necessarily understand it. It's inspired by Daisies, a Sixties Czech feminist film. I love absurdism, surrealism. That's my weird old theatre roots I guess. But it's these two girls galavanting through life. It's playing with "What does it mean to be feminine, masculine?" We drew a reference point from that. The song itself is such a dichotomy between the chorus which is so aggressive and such a tantrum and the verses are heightened speech and jolly along. I like the idea of this dainty dinner party that goes a little awry. Through that girl, who became my best friend, through that awful ex in a very funny way. So I love that's it's us having to face each other at the table and through the mess comes this beauty and connection.
What’s the strangest gift you’ve got from a fan?
Someone bought me a stuffed animal frog and then they printed out the frog meme and tied it to it. And you know those rubber horse heads that people wear to festivals? Someone gave me a rubber horsehead with rainbow tears that they drew on it. It's incredible. I have it somewhere.
What question are you bored of answering?
"So this has been crazy right? How have you responded to it happening to quickly?' I'm like 'It has happened so quickly and it hasn't. It's happened so quickly as I've been rushed into all of these different things but I didn't skyrocket and have nothing to worry about anymore. I'm still promoting what I'm doing. It's happened very quickly but not in a universal 'I've blown up and I've had a number one single."
I'm at the beginning at a very long career road. I'm not a flash in the pan. That's not the kind of career I want. If that's what I wanted I would have hired people to write me major pop smashes. I'm writing stuff that's in my own lane, that I'm proud of and that a lot of people won't latch onto but maybe some will. I knew this going in - it just gets irritating when people talk about it like that. I've been doing the grunt work. I've been hustling. When everyone's like "Is it just a dream?" I don't want it to be a dream yet either - I don't want my first album to be the best one I ever release. I want to constantly growing and evolving and changing. I'm working my ass off. I'm not just sitting back and watching my Soundcloud.
This is a job. You ask any artist. I saw Kendrick Lamar last night and he's like 'You're doing the same route as me. When's your album come out?' I was telling him how long I'd been signed and he's like 'It's going to be a tough two years.' I was like 'It is! Thank you!' He's so cool. Again: cool artists that have something to say are real people. They're not playing this part. You meet him and he's a down to earth chilled guy, cracking jokes, so nice and asking everyone what they do. Just a good person that cares about the world and cares about issues that matter. Super thankful, gracious, smart and so nice. He had a full day of promo yesterday - you could tell he was tired - but again he was honest. I had a lot of fun with him last night - we all got drunk and had a good time.
What was particularly interesting about working with Gwen Stefani?
The coolest part of working with Gwen was when I was at the house one day when she was cutting vocals for one of the songs. She was just prepping me about touring. She was saying "You're going to lose your voice. It's really hard. Sometimes after my first gig back just starting I lose my voice. It's really scary". She talked to me about the fears I might have and my first video and she told me tricks about lighting.
She was super down-to-earth and willing to share the secrets of the trade. She's not one of those female artists that I feel like is fighting for her spotlight still. She's just living her life. The coolest part for me was meeting her and seeing she was a completely chill woman that's really interested in what you're doing. She was super excited for me and I'm like 'Thanks...Gwen Stefani!'
Other than that, what's the best advice you've ever received?
Say no. That sounds obnoxious but in the beginning... now I have a creative director and some of that helps me talk to people. There was a while where there so many people trying to get in my ear at all times. I'm like 'You need to be able to talk to someone.' I was just being carted around to all these different interviews. She's like 'You're allowed to say no. If you aren't feeling it today. If you need to sleep, don't burn yourself out. If you need the time, say no. And if you don't think something's cool and think 'This is bunk': be like 'I need approval.' Allow yourself to have that control and don't just be thankful to be there. Know that you deserve to be there and deserve to be able to dictate how it goes.
Which act do you still really want to see live?
Kate Bush: I lover her on so many levels. She just went off the fucking planet, with her guitarist, just 'Fuck this game'. Toured once and then 'Fuck this noise.' I feel you girl. It's a weird world. I like how in some of her interviews she's like 'My music should speak for itself. She didn't play at being anything other than what she was.' She liked what she liked and she didn't care. I was ready about to buy tickets last year and then all my music industry friends, of course, showing their muscles saying 'Oh I got you - don't worry about. I'll sort it'. Guess what? No-one sorted it and I didn't get a ticket. It was literally because of people flexing that I didn't get to go. I would die to see Kate Bush.
What's your Kate Bush track of choice?
'Jig Of Life' has been really big in my life and is my favourite song by her ever. Then 'Night Of the Swallow' is incredible, as well as 'Get Out Of My House' and 'Cloudbusting'. There are too may good songs really. I also love 'Be Kind To My Mistakes'. It was for a movie but I love the way it approaches a new relationship. 'Am I yours? Are you mine?' It's a really weird place. It's about saying 'It's alright darling. We can do this together. Or we can do undo this.' It's about feeling each other out and then saying 'But I'm going to fuck up. There are secrets too dark in both of us so be kind to my mistakes.' It's such a weird sexual song.
Kate Bush sets such a mood. It's the same as a Bowie or a Freddie for me. I love these big artists. I miss the theatre of music. I don't give a fuck about shoe gazing. I think it's cool if you want to look cool in every interview you ever have and you're so curated that you sound like an art project rather than a human. I can't do it. I like the mess of it all. I like things feeling large and crazy. I miss that. Everything feels so tame and safe. I miss people making larger than life choices. My music might be the most obnoxious thing to someone but it's because I wanted to make something at this point in my life where it changes and you feel the emotions. I don't care about looking cool on stage. I scream, my face gets all weird. I just don't care. I wish people cared less. I guess that's where I'm coming from.
The Fool by Ryn Weaver is out now in the US and will be released in the UK in August.