A Chat With: Ralph
Back in April at the first edition of Santa Teresa festival in Sainte-Thérèse, Ralph and I sat in the venue’s odd greenroom bathroom for our long chat. We talked about how Ralph came about, her musical path, boys, women in music and much more!
Tell me a bit about how you started making music, how you became Ralph
We’ll condense the story but I did music for a while. I studied music in high school. I went to an arts high school which I was sort of in bands doing it for fun and then I met this guy. We actually went on a bad date together. He was doing music and he asked if I wanted to do music after our terrible date and I was like ‘ well what kind of music is it gonna be?’ and then it wasn’t bad and we made music together. He then phased out of the project and I took it on as my own and from there I inserted more of myself into it. I was like ‘okay well I wanna do pop music, but I wanna have some disco, some synth and some soul’ so I got to shape it, and with the album too, it will continue to be shaped
What type of music was it when you were with the guy?
It was more 80’s, and heavy guitar. He had really good ideas but he wasn’t the best songwriter so a lot of the songs were a bit flat, cool ideas but a little flat. I’ve been very lucky to work with wicked producers, actually Derek who played drums tonight wrote 3 of the songs on the EP. So, great producers really help to take what I want and listen to what I want and shape the songs. Its super important to have good people, especially when you’re a new artist and you know what you want but you’re still trying to make it happen, its good to have people around you who are like ‘okay cool what if we put this sound on there’. And its also good to know what you don’t want cause there’s a lot of people out there who can be like ‘what if we put a gun shot noise on there’ and you’re like ‘hm, no thank you’.
Want to tell me about the name Ralph?
Sure, so when I was working with the guy, we disagreed on everything and we were trying to figure out a name for the band and he wanted to be my name Raffa or my full name Rafaela. I was like ‘no’ cause I had done folk, singer-songwriter stuff before that and I always used my real name. I wanted to create a different music project cause this type of music is different from what people knew I was doing. I wanted to create a person that’s me but is different, and I like the idea of having a name that is gender ambiguous because then people are like ‘is it a guy? is it a girl? is it a band? is it a duo?’. We spent so long coming up with name ideas, I have a book somewhere with so many names and I think Ralph is the only one out of hundreds of names that neither of us hated. It then grew on me and after he left the project I felt like ‘oh I’m Ralph’ cause it’s so similar to Raf which is what my friends and family call me. It feels like me now so when people talk to me and they call me Ralph it doesn’t feel like I’m lying.
Tell me about the video you just filmed for Cold To The Touch
Yeah, I’m super excited for it to come out. So, my best friend Gemma does a lot of my visuals and she does a lot of my photography. She directed the Tease video and my label was very happy with the video and tons of people really liked it, I love it. We shot that in 10 hours over night from 10pm till 10am at this spa, and there was all these cockroaches. It looks really nice in the video but that’s because my art director make it beautiful. It was disgusting, that was water was horrifying. There was like clumps of hair floating around, the things you do for your art.
Anyway, so my label was like ‘we need you to make a video for Cold To The Touch cause it’s the song that’s going to radio next month’ and they were like ‘we love Gemma, do a video with Gemma’. So, my best friend is in L.A so we decided to shoot it in L.A and yeah its super cool. Its less narrative and it’s not about me and a guy, or just one relationship. Like my whole EP is about relationships like friendships, love relationships, relationships with yourself and I think the video is like that. There’s two identical twin girls, there’s me and a bunch of girls in a car, there’s these two queer guys making out and its about different types of relationships cause thats our lives. That’s what I see everyday; different types of relationships. And I think it’s important to include not just female/male relationships, that’s mainly what I write songs about, it’s generally about me and a man but I spend so much time with people around me that are not hetero, that its important to make sure to include that in my songs and think like that too. Like Bedroom Eyes, that song I played tonight I wrote that for my roommate Mat who’s queer and I made sure not to put any gender pronouns. There’s no her/his, cause its about him and boys dancing, so I was like ‘okay I want to write a song where it can apply to everyone’.
That’s amazing. And for the video like you said you were in the car with friends, you tweeted about that right?
I think so, or something like that. Its funny who I ended up being in the car with. So when I was in L.A a couple of weeks before making the video I was working with a producer called Stint who’s amazing, and I met a girl through him, who’s a friend of his and she’s a musician in L.A as well and she’s like my musician soulmate. She’s so cool and so good, so I asked her if she wanted to be in the video. I was like ‘look I know you have your own music projects and you have like 10 thousand followers on Instagram but do you wanna be in this scene in a car with another girl?’ and she was like ‘fuck yeah’. So that was cool cause it wasn’t just a stranger it was this other female musician that I really respect. And then the other girl in the car was this girl who knew the producer for the video and then turned out she knew my brother. She’s from Miami but she knew my brother and she’s the girlfriend of my best friend’s friend, it was like the weirdest connection. But it was really nice to make a video with two girls in the scene that I’m in, in this amazing yellow old classic car with these cool girls that aren’t strangers at all, they’re really wicked badass women that are stunning. It’s nice to surround yourself with people who are inspiring, not just random extras. Like I want to have people in my videos who have their own shit on the go, that’s what inspires me.
Yeah, something that’s more real
Yeah exactly! That’s why in the Tease video we had girls, except the one who choreographed it, none of them were dancers, they were all awkward but I loved it because it was real. It was a bunch of friends in a spa moving to music, there were no smooth moves, it was just moving to the song however they want.
You posted on Instagram your banker, are people starting to recognize you?
Eh, I guess, it does happen. Even just now, downstairs when I went earlier there was these two guys at the bar, my manager was telling me ‘these two guys at the bar were like oh my is that Ralph?’. And it’s so funny to me to have people get nervous or excited when they meet me because my personality is not intimidating. Whenever people wanna talk to me… like if I have a moment i’ll thank them and I always want to ask them their name.
But yeah it’s so funny I went to the bank and I wasn’t wearing any makeup I looked like shit cause I wasn’t expecting to see
anybody and I was putting in a check and the banker said Ralph and I said ‘yes’ and he was like ‘oh my god like Busy Man Ralph?’ and I was like ‘yeah’ and he asked me to sign his arm. I ended up signing a piece of paper and he took out the RBC iPad and took pictures on that of me and him.
It was so funny I was in this bar in Toronto and there was these two youngish skater boys who were “so cool” and they were talking and looking at me and they came over and were like ‘uh hey are you Ralph?’ and I was like ‘hey yeah how’s it going?’ and they just thanked me. Like I’ve done nothing like thank you, it was just really cute. It’s very surreal and flattering.
I can just imagine the skater boys with the long hair you know, being like ‘oh my god Ralph’
Yeah, ahah cause we did the house of Vans show a couple of weeks ago in Toronto and I’ve dated many skaters and because of that I’ve met the guy who like sponsors shoes so I get free Vans which is great. Honestly I earned it, I’ve dated shitty skater dudes but we did the house of Vans show because I’m friends with a bunch of people who work at Vans. Everyone in the audience was skate boys and so many of them are friends of mine who are like hot and cool guys, and they’re in the audience like ‘yas’. Like they’re singing, it’s so funny, they love it, they all love Tease. I got so many messages from my male skateboarding friends who were like ‘I really love Tease’ and they all want to know who its about and I’m like ‘it’s not about you, calm down’.
Yeah haha like you wish it was about you
They all secretly want it to be about them but it’s not, its about someone who’s super random and they would never know its about them
That’s so funny, speaking of skaters one of my friends and I, we’re both kinda like ‘oh they’re so cool’
Yeah, like I don’t even know why skaters are so attractive, there’s something about the style, I love the fashion, the actual look. And then there’s something about seeing someone being good at something, I don’t know. Whenever I hear the sound of skateboard wheels I’m like !!!! and sometimes its just a 12 year old boy. Ahaha the other day I was walking down the street with one of my best girlfriends and there’s this guy skateboarding towards us and we’re both like ‘hm’ but then I was like ‘no he’s like 12’ and she was like ‘no he’s hot!’ and I was like ‘babe, he’s a kid’ and he gets closer and he’s like 10, a little baby.
Classic boys ahah its like that, or boys in bands
Hm, see I couldn’t do boys in bands. The guy that Crocodile Tears is about was a drummer in a band and he was fucked, like so fucked and I don’t know, I find that guys in bands aren’t attracted to me cause they don’t like the competition. Like they want a girlfriend who’s gonna come to their shows and be like ‘oh my god babe you are so amazing’ where I’m more like ‘sorry got my own show bye’
Yeah, like ‘I’m gonna write a song about you’
Exactly! Wow and it’s so funny too, like guys are so nervous about me writing songs about them but they also want me to you know, it’s very odd. I think they think they can tell their friends ‘oh that songs about me’ but its ‘that song is about a shitty thing you did to me, everyone who listens to this song thinks that whoever its about is a piece of shit’, so if you wanna brag about it, go for it
Yeah, totally. What are your plans for a full album?
We have so many songs already written. I went to Europe and I wrote with a bunch of people in London, Berlin and then I went to L.A a couple of times because there’s a couple of producers there that are insane. So yeah, and I have my Toronto producers that I’m writing with also. At this point I’m writing as many songs as I can cause there’s not a date where it has to be done, I’m not there yet. I just wanna have a bunch of songs so when its time to put them altogether and pick, I know that i’ll love 10 songs. I want to love all of the songs and I want them all to make sense together on the album. I already have 4-5 songs for the album that I already know I love, Bedroom Eyes is one of them. It’s happening, I’m always writing songs. We were joking after the EP came out, me and my manager were joking and she was like ‘okay so now this year you have to do a bunch of fucked up shit so you can write good songs about it. Get your heart broken, date a woman, travel by yourself’ all this stuff. I’m trying to make sure that my content is broad and I really wanna try to do a duet with someone. I’m in the works, theres a dream duet artist out there.
Daniel Caesar. I’m aggressively pursuing him. I was subtly doing it but now I’m full on pursuing it. He’s one of my favourite artists. Either that or have someone wicked like my friend Charlotte Day Wilson, she’s such a boss. We were thinking of doing a song together for my EP but then her stuff just blew up so she didn’t have any time but it would be amazing to collab with a peer.
I like that they’re local artists
Yeah and they are genuinely two of my favourite artists right now. And like Charlotte I had dinner the other night, like she’s a peer, when I’m with her we don’t talk about music. It’s nice to have a friendship with someone that’s not just musically based but I don’t know Daniel yet. We have so many mutual friends and I’m just waiting. We’re gonna meet and he’s going to be like ‘oh my god you’re the girl who’s insane’ hahaha.
What are your thoughts about women in music and mostly in Canada?
I mean I’m a big, like you’ll see in the MTV Fora video, they made me do a collage and at the end it was literally just women. Like I’m a big supporter, especially because of music, there just aren’t that many women. There are but just not as many as men, um I think its important for the women in music to support and employ each other. I’m in a group in Toronto called Toronto Women in Music and its wicked, we have tons of meetings and a forum online where if you have a question or if you have a show or video or anything, you can post it. And its all women who are there to support. It cuts the envy and jealousy and you have this massive network of women in music who work at labels, who are musicians, who are dancers, and we all know each other and they come to the shows.
My manager is a woman, my label rep, my pr, my director, I wanna work with as many women as I can. That’s not to say I don’t like men, I love men, I have tons of male friends and my musicians are almost always men, its harder to find women who are free, and theres just less women. I’m trying to be as supportive as I can and show people that there are a lot of important women in music and we’re just as good as guys, we just need people to actually listen and people to give us a moment, to give us a chance and notice that women are powerful. Like my manager, she walks into a meeting with old dudes in music and she can kill it, she knows her shit, she’s not going to take the first offer like its impressive, its nice to be around strong women to continue to inspire me.
I love that! I’ve been interviewing a lot of guys and I just interviewed Zara Larsson and talked to her about one of her songs that’s about touching herself and I was like, its crazy that she’s 19 and she can feel good enough to put that on her debut album, to express herself like that cause guys do it all the time but as soon as you’re a girl you just can’t be sexual or anything
Yeah totally! for example the moment Selena Gomez put out a video where she’s a little sexualized and wears makeup and shows her skin, people are like ‘oh my god you were on a Disney show’ like are you kidding me! No one cares that Justin Bieber shows his dick in public. There’s an interview of Nicki Minaj from 2011 and she’s talking about women in music and she says it so perfectly. She’s like ‘people want me to be a boss and be confident and put my foot down but they also want me to be sweet and beautiful and kind’ and she’s like ‘I’m a human I cannot be all of those things, I cannot be kind and sweet and forgiving and quiet while also running my business and being a boss and being outspoken and putting my foot down.’ You just sometimes have to be like, ‘I’m gonna walk into a room and say that’s not what I wanted.’ You just have to be okay with being a bitch sometimes and you’re a woman and people are gonna be like ‘oh she’s such a bitch’ and a guy will get away with it. Don’t sacrifice what you need and what you deserve just because people will talk shit about you a little bit. I can say that now and its really hard to do because being called a bitch sucks, but I’m getting better and better at doing the hard stuff.
It’s important. And especially right now with so many upcoming young women in music with positive messages and everyone is kinda pushing it aside but we need to continue to make good music and be strong
Yeah strong messages too. I’m not writing songs to shit talk guys. I’m writing songs that are honest and autobiographical. I’m not making this stuff up and they’re empowering. And then the majority of my messages are from young gay men saying ‘thank you so much like I learned so much from your music.’ Its not just women who are listening to it and connecting to it which is amazing. I want everyone to listen to the songs and take something from it.
Check out Ralph's music here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1Ss8sy3C3XXQgxYRwjDln8