Pop songstress Ralph released her EP Flashbacks and Fantasies on Wednesday (Nov. 13).
The six-song compilation is the Canadian singer-songwriter’s second EP, and first collection of tracks to be unveiled since her debut album Good Girl dropped last fall.
A classically trained vocalist known for her disco-pop bops, Ralph — real name Raffaella Weyman — created Flashbacks & Fantasties out of a desire to experiment with her sound and showcase her evolution as an artist.
She released the EP independently, allowing herself to let go of the pressure she had previously felt to create a pop radio hit, she says.
“When you go into the studio with a really intense preconceived goal, it can almost produce things that feel less organic or true to yourself,” she explains. “I think that this EP is representative of the fact that I don’t have these constraints of people being like, ‘This is what we want from you.’ I have the freedom to go into the studio, and I could write a flop, and people could be like, ‘What the f–k is she doing?’ Or it could be cool.”
With experience in musical theater, jazz, folk and hip-hop, Ralph was able to blur genre lines on Flashbacks & Fantasies, sublty sneaking in each of her different inspirations without feeling the need to create one cohesive goal or sound.
“I listened to a lot of Miley Cyrus‘ last EP,” she reveals. “I thought it was really cool. I liked that that she had a bunch of different sounding songs.”
After spending the summer touring with fellow Canadian pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen, Ralph is ushering in an era of carving her own path. She’s already working on new music — most recently writing a track inspired by Noah Cyrus‘ “f–ckyounoah” — and she begins her first North American headlining tour next year, playing shows in states she’s never even visited.
Ahead of the release of Flashbacks & Fantasies — as Ralph debates on what to wear for her release party — Billboard chatted with the singer about the inspiration behind her songs, touring with Jepsen, and loving Lizzo.
What was the creative process behind this EP?
“No Muss No Fuss” is the oldest song on there. My songs are mostly autobiographical, but this was inspired by a conversation that I heard two girls having in a cafe near the studio I was at in Montreal. They were talking about when you really like someone and then it falls apart, and you feel pretty hurt, but you get over it. But by the time you get over it, the person is reinterested in you and keeps popping up around you. It’s this sassy, cheeky song that’s like Mariah Carey‘s “Obsessed” meets Ariana Grande‘s “thank u, next.” Why are you so obsessed with me? But I wish you well.
The other Ariana song I equated to my EP was “Thinking Bout You.” I was post-breakup, doing laps around this park with the wind in my hair and listening to that song, and thinking it was this beautiful, powerful, sad, cinematic pop song. When I was writing “Looking For You,” I realized I had never really done a cinematic pop song before, so I was like, “This is what we need to do.”
I wrote “Gravity” in Toronto. I had listened to a lot of music podcasts where they feature different artists and they unpack one song. I’ve been really enjoying that because I think it makes me more of a critical thinker when it comes to songwriting. I was thinking about that and I was listening to “One Kiss” by Dua Lipa. At that time I felt like everyone was listening to “One Kiss,” and I was like, “What makes ‘One Kiss’ a universally great song?” My brother said that it was the fact that the content isn’t overly complicated, so I was like, “Here’s a cool challenge. Write a song that isn’t overly complicated.” I went into the studio with this game plan to write a song where the BPM was going to be 118 or higher, which is a challenge for me because I haven’t really written anything that’s super fast. I wanted to explore new depths within my dance-y Ralph world.
With “Headphone Season,” I had just finished organizing and performing at a pro-choice benefit concert here in Toronto. I spent a lot of time around fired up women, thinking about what it means to be a female-identifying person in this climate right now. The song is something we can all relate to in the sense that we’ve had strangers on the street, on the subway make a comment about how we could improve our appearance that would benefit them or make them feel more comfortable. It’s like, “In what world would I do something for you because you asked me to strange person?” The headphone line is so apt because even today I was on public transportation and I put my headphones in. I didn’t even listen to music. I just put my headphones in because I feel more safe when I look less approachable. I’m hoping that there are a couple of lines that really resonate with people, if not the whole song.
Did you make a conscious decision to release an EP instead of waiting to release another album?
It was a conscious choice. You see more and more big artists doing single releases, EP releases. I don’t think that an EP reflects anything negative anymore. No one can really focus very well these days. I find that a 10 to 12 song album is really hard for people to listen to. You end up having four to six songs that people really listen to. We were like, “You know what? It costs a lot. It’s a lot of time. Let’s just do an EP with songs that we feel really strongly about instead of trying to getting caught up in the ‘We need to make an album to prove ourselves.'” We dont need to prove ourselves.
Were there any artists you had on repeat while creating this EP?
A lot of contemporary pop, top 40, because I wanted to see what was charting and why. Maggie Rogers and Lizzo are two artists that I admire because they’re doing really, really well on Spotify, on the radio, on YouTube, but they’re really honest about their sound. It’s so unique. I think they have a lot of control in their own image and their own sound, which is inspirational for me. Lizzo’s got really beautiful self-love ballads, which was also appealing to me.
You did a premiere with us back in March 2018 where you said that you hope to befriend Carly Rae Jepsen one day. A year later you just wrapped up a tour with her. What was it like to be able to work with her?
I’m just amazed by her. I would go out and watch the show every night. She always performed with the same energy and the same joy. She’s been on a world tour for a year, and that takes a lot out of you. Her stamina was impressive. The way she still connects with her fans and the way that she creates a really loving family atmosphere with her tourmates and bandmates was also really impressive to me. Every night she was like, “I love your outfit. You guys sounded so great.” I always notice when I’m opening for someone and they say onstage “Thank you so much to Ralph. What a great opener.” Like you have no obligation to say that, but as an opener, I always really appreciate and notice when a headliner takes a moment to just say thank you. You can just tell she’s a true professional, and very grateful and conscientious that everyone around her feels good. That’s something that I’d like to carry into my future tours.
Speaking of your future tours, what are you most excited for on your upcoming one?
I’ve only done shows in San Francisco, LA, and New York, so I’m really excited to meet my fans in different states and to travel and play music in America. Touring is a sign of success, that people want you to be in different places. I’m really thrilled there’s enough interest in the states. My struggle now is finding the outfits. My reoccurring theme here is “What am I going to wear?”
RALPH TOUR DATES
Dec 5 – Toronto, ON @ ModClub
Dec 7 – New York, NY @ Berlin
Feb 5 – Nashville, TN @ The High Watt
Feb 6 – Atlanta, GA @ Vinyl
Feb 8 – Washington, DC @ Songbyrd
Feb 9 – Allston, MA @ Great Scott
Feb 11 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
Feb 12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage Lounge
Feb 15 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachtend Tavern
Feb 16 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas
Feb 17 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Feb 19 – Denver, CO @ Globe Hall
Feb 20 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Cour
Feb 22 – Seattle, WA @ Columbia City Theatre
Feb 23 – Portland, OR @ Holocene
Feb 26 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
Feb 27 – Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan
Feb 29 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
Mar 2 – Dallas, TX @ Dada
Mar 3 – Austin, TX @ Stubbs Indoors
Mar 4 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall
Mar 10 – Victoria, BC @ Lucky Bar
Mar 11 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore
Mar 13 – Calgary, AB @ Dickens
March 14 – Edmonton, AB @ Temple
March 16 – Winnipeg, MB @ Good Will SC