Artist To Watch: Ryn Weaver
On June 24, a previously unknown singer-songwriter calling herself Ryn Weaver uploaded a gleaming state-of-the-art pop track called “OctaHate” to SoundCloud and became a literal overnight sensation. The song, produced by Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos, Cashmere Cat, and Benny Blanco and co-written by Weaver and Charli XCX, racked up 30,000 plays on the first day and crossed the 1 million mark within two weeks, buoyed by rave reviews and a small army of adoring celebrities on Twitter — everyone from Paramore’s Hayley Williams to How To Dress Well’s Tom Krell to Weaver’s good buddy Jessie Ware. It all seemed too good to be true — and indeed, instantly people started to wonder whether Weaver’s music was really the result of an organic friendship with Blanco as she asserts and not the product of behind-the-scenes major-label dealings. That’s to be expected in the era of Lana Del Rey, but all evidence suggests Weaver’s grassroots backstory is genuine — it’s just that her grassroots support comes from famous, talented people who’ve thrown a lot of effort into helping her bring her vision to life.
It’s a striking vision, after all. Even at a time when it seems like every upstart on SoundCloud is pushing sparkly pan-genre synthpop, “OctaHate” stood out for its sleek exterior and the effortless manner in which it swung from playful sway to magnificent sweep. The rest of Weaver’s new Promises EP shows her applying that aesthetic to different moods — the sky-high self-destruct anthem “Promises,” the pensive then cathartic slow-build club ballad “Sail On,” and the floaty, shimmering “Stay Low” comprise a hell of an introduction to performer once known as Aryn Wuthrich and FemFemFem.
Another fine way to get to know Weaver: Read the interview below. She called from L.A. last month to discuss her instant success, her musical vision, cynical trolls, and where things go from here.
STEREOGUM: What are you doing out in LA?
RYN WEAVER: I’m actually writing for someone else’s project. A very sassy, secret lady.
STEREOGUM: I saw an Instagram of you and Charli [XCX] singing something in the studio the other day.
WEAVER: Yeah! We were working together on this project, actually. We had a couple of days in together. I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t yet.
STEREOGUM: So let me get this straight: You started out there in California, and you ended up moving to New York?
WEAVER: Well, yeah. It depends on timeline. I was born in San Diego. And I went to college at NYU. And I dropped out after two years ’cause I wanted to make music. And I was actually in acting school because it was the program that I got into that I got the biggest scholarship and I didn’t want to be an actor, so I dropped out and moved to LA to try and make music. I also dropped out to run away a bit from this guy that I was with that was kind of awful that that song is actually about. And so I kind of ran away to the other coast, and tried to feed myself by doing little acting gigs here and there while I was making music. And that’s pretty much kind of what happened, and I was just hustling and teaching myself how to produce and then just making enough money to eat while I crashed on people’s couches.
STEREOGUM: So actually, a lot of your musical development has happened when you were back in California.
WEAVER: I suppose. I’ve been writing music my whole life, though. And singing. And I’ve had weird little bands that didn’t really go anywhere, and I had a band actually at NYU, I just had no time for it. But yes, as far as like, I guess my growth, well basically I showed Benny [Blanco] a SoundCloud that I’d been working on of stuff I’d been doing, and he really liked my ideas and my writing and first he was actually just gonna work with me as a writer and try and publish me, but then he was like, “I wanna make you an artist, I wanna make people hear what you have to say with your voice,” you know, so then they all went back to New York City ’cause he … is this confusing you? They come here half the year, Benny and the people he works with. And so then I stayed in California and moved back in with my parents and starting working on this EP.
STEREOGUM: So when you showed Benny that SoundCloud, was that the FemFemFem thing?
WEAVER: Yeah, it was. And I showed him some other things I’d been working on that were just on my phone too. And yeah, it was just that, and it was really happenstance ’cause I met him two years prior in New York City through my ex-boyfriend, and so it was kind of happenstance that we ended up being in the same place, same time, California, and I came to his birthday, ’cause I was actually living up and down the coast, so I was just bouncing around and living with all sorts of different people, and you know, it’s crazy how like one little decision to stay in LA an extra night could change a lot of things. [laughs]
STEREOGUM: Yeah, totally. So you mentioned that the song “OctaHate” was kind of in response to that previous relationship. But the title is interesting. What is OctaHate, exactly? Does that have something to do with the number eight?
WEAVER: You know, it evolved into something, but it was originally we were using a thing called an Octatrack to produce the song we were making, and so then we titled the track “OctaLoser.” I brought the track home, wrote it up, finished it, sent it back to them, and it was actually more of like a self-deprecating thing, ’cause it was my first thing I sent back to everybody and I was nervous that no one would like it and I was self-conscious and weird. I titled it “OctaHate” ’cause it was like “ah I hate it, you’re not gonna like it, yadda yadda,” you know, and eventually when it came to let’s change the title ’cause this doesn’t make sense, I was like, actually, it makes a lot of sense to me, ’cause I was like, it’s kind of like hate times eight, and I feel like hate is actually pretty close to love, and I was in a very weird position with that old relationship. And then I liked the idea of like, “octa” like an octopus, like two people that can’t let go of each other, you know? So it took on a lot more meaning I think as time went on, and I got attached to that title.
STEREOGUM: How did you decide which songs would be on the EP? Are those the most recent, or are they the ones that hang best together, or what?
WEAVER: We have a bunch of songs, and I have a lot of songs that are gonna be going on the album, but these all just felt right together, in my opinion. And I felt like that really encompassed the time in my life when I was making the EP.
STEREOGUM: On “Promises,” you sing, “I cross my heart and hope to die/ Unless I happen to lie.” Is that addressing the same relationship?
WEAVER: No, actually. That song actually kind of encompasses my whole experience with the EP. And it was, you know, you wait your whole life to do this and all you ever tell is “I’m gonna make music, and that’s gonna be my life.” And then, I mean, you know, I’m not gonna say I didn’t work hard to get here, and I’ve been working my whole life, but when such an opportunity lands in your lap and all these people want to work with you, and it’s not like I was signed to a developmental deal, they were like, “No, we’re not gonna develop you, we want you to make what you make, and we want to help produce it,” and so I hit this roadblock of self-consciousness that I’d really never had, you know what I mean, I just kind of froze for a while, and it was like about a year, it took about a year for us to actually finish this four-song EP, ’cause I used to just sit there and they’d be like “Send us stuff” and I’d be like “Okay” and then I wouldn’t like anything and then I wouldn’t get back to them, and it took me a while to, I don’t know, get acquainted with the idea that people cared about what I had to say at all. You know? And so “Promises” for me was about more me not keeping promises to myself, and the promise to myself that this is what I’ve always wanted, but I can be self-destructive and I can be a runaway, and so I ran away from the things at hand, the tasks at hand, and I went out and I was irresponsible, and luckily they all stuck with me ’cause they cared, but it’s more about me — more than not keeping promises to them, not keeping promises to myself.
STEREOGUM: It definitely seems like you’ve captured the imagination of a lot of very talented people. When “OctaHate” came out you already seemed to have a lot of very talented people at your back.
WEAVER: Yeah. I’ve been very lucky. Jessie [Ware], actually, being one of them, has been a really cool mentor. She’s been working with Benny on her new album and we were both crossed over at the time and she saw me and I was just this wreck, and she’s like “What’s wrong?” and I’m like “No one’s gonna care about anything I do, I’m gonna embarrass myself,” you know, but I mean, I think your first release, and she helped me kind of realize, she was like “My first release, I felt the same way.” If it’s what you’ve wanted your entire life, like, it’s pretty scary doing your first real thing and being like, “What if I blow it?” So she was there for me from the beginning and telling me everything was good when I was crying in the corner, and so it was really nice to have her support, especially right after I put it out, it was like my sister, you know? It was really nice.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, that’s very cool.
WEAVER: But what was cooler is Hayley Williams tweeted it, and I love her. [laughs]
STEREOGUM: Yeah, she’s awesome.
WEAVER: No, it wasn’t cooler. I love Jessie, but Jessie’s my friend, and I don’t know Hayley, and I was like, that’s crazy, I love her.
STEREOGUM: Right. And I know I saw that Tom Krell from How To Dress Well tweeted at you also.
WEAVER: Oh my god, yeah, I know, and I love How To Dress Well. It was just — it was so cool. I don’t know, man. I’m living in la-la-land right now, it’s not real yet, it’s really cool, and I mean, I only hope the EP can follow up at least enough for people to listen and maybe vibe on it, but I’m feeling great.
STEREOGUM: What’s the deal with your label, Friends Keep Secrets?
WEAVER: Here we go. In the beginning I was originally going to be just published by Benny, and he was going to help me find a record deal with other people, and then I think it happened where he was like, “But I really wanna help make this,” because he saw what I wanted to do, and so then he started a little indie label, and Cazzy [Cashmere Cat] is signed to it and a couple other people now, and that’s Friends Keeps Secrets. And it’s all his little passion projects and people he cares about and people he mentors and tries to teach, ’cause you know, originally, he was mentored by Dr. Luke, and I think he likes finding new talent and people that he believes in and really helping them get to where they wanna get.
STEREOGUM: You mentioned Dr. Luke, which is obviously like, this huge pop hit maker, but one of the things that really stood out to people about “OctaHate” when they first heard it was that it seemed kind of like it existed in its own space, you know, it didn’t sound like anything exactly on the radio or like on the indie rock websites or whatever, but I guess, how do you define what your sound is or like, do you even try to define it?
WEAVER: You know, I don’t try to define it yet. I definitely, quite honestly though, I’ve never defined it as pop. And a lot of music a listen to is I guess pop from the old days, but a lot of it’s more alternative and rock. I’ve always appreciated the poetry of things and different melodic structures over being — I mean, we won’t say that the song’s not hooky, but I mean, I think I am, I don’t really feel that I’ve ever wanted to fit the pop lane. And it’s cool if like, I actually was, when everyone started calling me a pop star, I was like, “That’s so bizarre!” And I see it, ’cause the song is poppy, but I don’t draw influence from pop, or at least the pop of today. You know what I mean?
STEREOGUM: Yeah, that makes sense. What’s some of the pop of the past that inspires you?
WEAVER: Well, I just love female singer-songwriters. Joni [Mitchell], Carole [King], Carly [Simon], Tori [Amos], Fiona Apple, Joanna Newsom. I love Bowie, I love Led Zeppelin. I learned so much from my dad. He’s a big music head. I just always listened to all kinds of genres. So I think maybe that’s what it is, is it’s just, I think we live in a generation where you can be influenced by absolutely everything, so it’s really like, it’s boutique genres. You get to kind of create exactly what you want based on everything you’ve ever listened to. And so I think that’s where I stray from pop a little. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music.
STEREOGUM: Are there any plans to start doing live shows soon?
WEAVER: Yes! There is a tour, figuring all that out right now. We were originally just gonna let it sit online, the song is gonna pick up steam, and then put out an EP probably sometime next year, but it kind of moved quicker than we thought. So now we are working on getting a show together, and I think that’s gonna be happening in the next month or so. And from there, I don’t know. We’re doing everything as it comes, you know? It’s kind of … I don’t know. It’s exciting and it’s weird and it’s a bit more rushed than we thought it would be. I mean, but that’s the best problem you can have. So I’m super excited, and yeah, I think sometime probably September is when we’re thinking.
STEREOGUM: Do you think some of your collaborators will be involved with the live show?
WEAVER: Well, we’re all setting it up, but I feel I want to be triggering a lot of things for my live show, I wanna be using things like that, and I want a band that, you know, might not be dictated by — it’d be hard to get all of them to come play with me. I mean maybe for a couple shows, but I think I’m gonna get my own band together.
STEREOGUM: So it’s not like you’ll be incorporating Michael [Angelakos] into the band or something?
WEAVER: Damn. I mean, if he would. [laughs] But you know, he’s working on his own projects right now too. And we’re all just working on so many things, I wouldn’t want to pull anyone from making their things happen to help make me happen.
WEAVER: Oh god! Before I knew you don’t talk to them. Now I’ve seen a lot of mean things, and now I just don’t read.
STEREOGUM: I know you tweeted about feeling frustrated about people kind of just assuming certain things about you.
WEAVER: Well, you know, people are gonna assume whatever they want. I’m working with big people. People are gonna want to say that I was created, and people are gonna want to say, ’cause, you know, people grapple with things when they don’t know what’s happening, and they like to play it down. But I don’t know, it’s not a big deal. You know, obviously my audience and my target audience are people that care about what I have to say versus brushing me off and saying I’m a bubble pop star. So you know, I don’t pay attention to it anymore. At first, I kind of took it as a personal thing, I was like, “But you don’t even know me!” But I learned hate is free, and it’s better than free, ’cause it makes people feel better about themselves for a moment or two, so hate on, haters.
Promises is out now on Friends Keep Secrets. Get it at iTunes.