Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
RALPH is fresh out of a high fashion photoshoot when we connect for our virtual interview. Still sporting her chic threads and editorial makeup, the singer tells me in between bites of her first meal of the day (popcorn) about how she's been spending her time in quarantine. For RALPH — real name Raffa Weyman — this long stretch of downtime hasn't been...great. A perpetual hustler, the Canadian artist prefers to keep herself busy and productive by any means possible, whether it's by falling back into her childhood hobby of visual art or executing an imaginative visual masterpiece with very limited resources.
That same nonstop drive shows up on camera and behind the scenes of RALPH's latest offering "Tommy." Quirky and undeniably catchy, the song follows a meet-cute between two would-be lovers at a party as RALPH bemoans the lost opportunity to shoot her shot. And the accompanying music video, premiering right here on Refinery29, turns the romantic moment into an ode to the passion and style of Marie Antoinette; RALPH transforms into the French royal aristocrat herself, donning heavy six-pound wigs and extravagant gowns to play the part.
Watching the effortlessly artistic music video, one would never know that it was essentially a DIY project from RALPH and her team of talented creatives. The splashy visuals, marked by glamorous 18th century French-inspired stylings, were a labour of love for the Toronto-based artist; she dreamed up the idea years ago and was only able to bring it to life through intentional collaboration with people in her creative network. "Tommy" is a testament to the RALPH's steady determination and a glimpse into the expansive creative network that she is building from the ground up, one project at a time.
We linked up with RALPH to hear more about her unique ideation process for the new single as well as the singer-songwriter's sprawling vision for herself, for her record label, and for her community.
Refinery29: What was the inspiration for “Tommy?” Is Tommy a real guy?
"I wrote 'Tommy' last July with my producer Derek Hoffman during the time period where we could still do in-person sessions. I've always wanted to write a song that had a name for a hook because there are so many classic, excellent songs like 'Oh Cecelia,' 'Rhiannon,' and 'Sara' by Fleetwood Mac that are just a fun way of creating a catchy hook and telling a story. Derek and I were running through different names trying to figure out what could work, and he was the one who came up with Tommy. And I loved it; the name Tommy signifies this cool, mysterious person that might be a little douchey while also being hot and irresistible. After that, the rest of the song kind of fleshed itself out, and it just ended up being simple. Sometimes, you just need a really simple, uncomplicated lyric that's just a catchy earworm."
The video for the song is a callback to the drama and glamour of 18th century France. Where did the idea come from? And what was it like to bring that vision to life on set?
"A year and a half ago, I went for coffee with my hairdresser and a director friend of his, Renée Rodenkirchen. We had this concept of an old, heavily stylized look with a contemporary pop culture twist for a music video: Marie Antoinette in a big wig, riding a motorcycle. Unfortunately, we didn't have the time or budget to make it at the time, but almost two years later, we decided to bring back the idea for 'Tommy.'"
"We had to beg, borrow, and steal to make this video look expensive. I have to give credit to the people behind the scenes who didn't get their full rate: people like our stylists, my little brother [Teo Weyman], who worked as the DP, an old friend who produced it and ended up waiving his fee, my cousin who was the PA, our dancers. This video wouldn't be what it is without people believing in it enough to make it happen. I'm just really proud of the whole team."
You launched your record label, Rich Man Records, with your manager and business partner Laurie Lee Boutet over a year ago. What has your experience as your own boss been like?
"We launched it, and then a few weeks later, the pandemic hit, so we had to focus on preserving ourselves mental health-wise and preserve RALPH as an artist who isn't touring at the moment. Our goal at Rich Man Records is to work with pop artists and help them with single releases, but it's also a cool way for us to release music under our name together and really be in complete control of what we're doing. I'm making my work up to my own standards, which gives me so much room to move. There's no exec questioning our choices, and that creative freedom is awesome because you don't get that with labels."
"The more I create for myself, the more I want to help other people bring their visions to life. Rich Man Records isn't just about me and Laurie doing our thing; we also want to bring young artists in and hook them up with the right folks to work with while also giving the people that we know and support jobs. I want the label to be this creative house where we can work with good people and help them safely figure out their careers."
What can RALPH stans expect from your upcoming album?
"Every artist is different. Some artists are releasing music right now like this is a pandemic album! But I don't want my album or my songs to be rooted in the pandemic or signifiers of this traumatic time. I want them to be timeless, to stretch on past this time and still be relevant forever."
"I always aim to please the fans who know me as a pop artist — I gotta give the people something to dance to! — but for this project, I also leaned into the folksy, singer-songwriter vibes of my self-titled EP (2017). Fans might be surprised by what's coming; there's even a piano ballad on it that's extremely bare bones. I'm giving you RALPH, but there's also a sonic evolution, with transformation and maturity. "
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.