Shortly before starting work on her debut album, Ryn Weaver chanced upon an image of the tarot card The Fool: a man optimistically walking off a cliff. So when the California-bred, New York City-based 22-year-old started shaping the songs that would make up her debut, she decided to capture the spirit of that image and use her dreamy lyricism to spin a story of her own wanderings. “So much of my album has to do with running away and refusing to settle in one place,” Weaver explains. “It’s about the good and the bad of going out on your own.”
With hitmaker Benny Blanco (Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5) and Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos collaborating as producers, The Fool features Weaver’s breakthrough single “OctaHate”—a track that shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart soon after its release last June and earned acclaim from the likes of Stereogum, The Fader, and New York magazine (who praised “OctaHate” as “something entirely new and not of this earth, yet also instantly familiar and gushing with warmth”). In just over a week, the track racked up a million SoundCloud plays. And by the start of the new year, Weaver had graced Time’s “15 Musical Artists To Watch In 2015” and Huffington Post’s “25 Artists You Need To Start Listening To In 2015” round-ups, as well as made her late-night television debut by performing “OctaHate” on the Late Show with David Letterman.
The Fool first began to come to life when Weaver wrote “OctaHate,” a luminous and epic piece of electro-pop whose title translates to “hate times eight.” “In some ways ‘OctaHate’ is a breakup song, but really it’s more of a reflection on leaving someone who wasn’t good to you,” says Weaver. “After that I kept going with that thread, and the songs became a story of the journey that I’m on now.” In crafting that story, one of Weaver’s main ambitions was to present a new perspective on “what it means to be a woman in this day and age.” “Women are usually taught to want to settle down, and that’s something that just doesn’t make much sense to me,” she says. “The album came from this idea of, ‘Maybe I’m foolish to give up having some stability, or maybe the foolish thing would be settle at this point in my life.’ I don’t think there’s any real answer.”
The Fool bends genre, slipping from synth-drenched alt-pop to dusky folk with seamless grace. “I’m more of a storyteller, and I use whichever elements of instrumentation and sound I need to best tell my story,” says Weaver. “I like to pull from all over the place, in terms of melody and groove and tone, and then tie that together to set the mood that needs to be set.”
On songs like title track “The Fool,” with its shimmering synth riffs, Weaver’s lyrics conjure up the quiet ache of regret that sometimes accompanies fierce independence (“I tend to stack the deck with wild cards/You’re betting all you’ve got on a broken heart”). “Pierre,” meanwhile, matches its cinematic arrangements, stomping beats, and airy but operatic vocal work with a more free-and-easy breed of romanticism (“On the Fourth of July I met a man Pierre/Lied about his age, but I didn’t care/Spoke in broken English but the heart was there”). And on “Traveling Song,” with its spindly folk guitar and madcap references to Apollo 13 and turtle soup, Weaver gracefully claims the role of a wide-eyed but sharp-sighted troubadour (“Nobody knows where they are going/Oh, how we try to wrap our minds/Over the edge of all our knowings/Be it a bang of the divine”).
Growing up in San Diego and raised in a home full of Bowie and the Beach Boys and the B-52s, Weaver first started experimenting with songwriting as a child. “I’ve been writing my whole life, although it was mostly poetry when I was young,” she says. “And I’ve always loved to sing—I was that little girl running around the house, making up songs as I went along. And then when I got a little older, I used to make my mom bring me to karaoke bars and convince them to let me sing, even though I was a kid.” Weaver spent much of high school playing in bands and writing songs, painting and drawing and studying Kabuki theater, then headed off to college in Manhattan where—one Halloween night—she crossed paths with Benny Blanco. Back in California about two years later, Weaver reconnected with Blanco in L.A., and the two soon started working on music together.
A hyper creative spirit who mines much of her inspiration from poetry—“I love the Irish poets, writers like W. B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde,” she says, “I love all that romantic imagery and flowery language”—Weaver notes many of the songs on The Fool were carefully crafted from a jolt of pure feeling. “I love to sing when I’m on the precipice of some intense emotion, like when I’m crying,” she notes. “What comes out of that is real feeling, and it doesn’t have anything to do with any particular genre or musical style.” And with such a spectrum of emotion imparted on The Fool—everything from to heart-crushing melancholy to sheer joie de vivre—Weaver hopes that soul-baring might be a balm for those who listen. “I think a lot of people who make music or any other kind of art are very much bothered by the way the world is, and so they analyze the hell out of it to try to have a reckoning with the people who might understand them,” she says. “You’re letting people into this incredibly dark part of you, hoping that there’ll be others who find some solace in what you’ve created. It’s a very weird game, and I don’t even know why I do it, other than that I just completely need to.”
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