Toronto pop aesthete RALPH is making moves.
New EP ‘GRADIENCE’ is out now, a dose of theatrical dark-pop that moves from glam exuberance through to biting introspection.
Moving on from the world of her 2017 self-titled EP while staying true to her roots, this new EP finds RALPH spreading her wings.
Clash sat down with the pop wonder to find out what makes her tick.
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Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Cecilia’
I’ve always wanted to write a song where the hook was someone’s name. There’s something so timeless and classic, plus I think there’s potential to write something really witty and catchy (a la Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, The Knack ‘My Sharona’, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rihannon’).
‘Tommy’ was largely inspired by some of my favorite name-hook songs including ‘Cecilia’, because the rhyme just felt easy and extremely ear-wormy. I’ve been listening to Simon & Garfunkel since I was a kid, and this song always made me feel good and got stuck in my head. It’s not complicated and it’s not overly emotional, but it’s memorable.
I often find myself inclined to write intricate lyrics that tell stories, so it’s a fun challenge for me to try and write simple choruses that are focused on simple, catchy phrases or rhymes (or names!)
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HAIM – ‘Something To Tell You’
I love HAIM because they have this special sound that only siblings can achieve, this unifying of voices that creates a chilling harmony because they are literally pieces of each other – I hear it with the Staves and First Aid Kit too.
Obviously I’m not in a sibling band, but I’m always inspired by beautiful harmonies and I wanted this EP to really lean into heart-warming harmonies and layered vocals. It reminds me of the folk music and singer-songwriter tunes I grew up listening to and singing.
‘Took The Fun Outta Love’ was especially inspired by HAIM, Fleetwood Mac, and Maggie Rogers, with a simple chorus concept that repeats itself and really drives home the sentiment. We also added in stacked vocal moments that feel almost like they could be live off the floor, since we wanted the vocals to feel honest and almost retro, and not overly produced.
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Conan Gray – ‘Maniac’
I am obsessed with Conan Gray and I love this song because it tells such a detailed, personal story. He really creates these vivid moments for listeners, with specific descriptions of his complex love story.
I’ve always been a fan of narrative writing and autobiographical lyrics, so this song served as inspiration during my writing sessions for ‘Gradience’. I love that he took an emotional moment from his life and made it into an upbeat song. I think a lot of people assume that emotional songs have to be slow and sad, but they don’t!
I tried to do something similar with ‘Mood Ring’ – there’s still a darkness and a moodiness, but it’s got a pretty fast tempo and playful rhythmic melodies. There’s a power in making a sad, or hurtful situation into something strong and dance worthy.
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Harry Styles – ‘Watermelon Sugar’
I fell in love with Harry’s album when it came out, I thought there was such consistency within the album and each song flowed so nicely from one into the other. Inspiration wise, there was definitely an audible 1970s vibe, channeling both disco, folk-rock, and sounds of the psychedelic, which really resonated with me.
I channeled that sort of dreamy, psychedelic feeling as we were writing ‘Strawberry Meltdown’ last summer on a very hot July day. I wanted a song on the album that wasn’t about love and relationships, I wanted it to be light and universal and fun. I kept thinking about how hot I was and how my brain felt like it was melting, and I said that to my producer Derek.
At first we sort of joked about it, then we actually started using it as a lyrical jumping off point. I imagined these two people in the suburbs on a scorching day, where the sun is so bright it makes the pavement wave in front of your eyes and they start questioning what is real and what is a heat-stroke induced hallucination. We had a lot of fun crafting these weird dream-like moments, where ice cubes melt on their skin and waves of strawberry ice cream flow down the street.
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Heart – ‘Strangers Of The Heart’
I love Heart because they give off this effortlessly cool, bad-ass vibe, but they also have a softness in a lot of their songs. We’re all familiar with their classic hits, like ‘Barracuda’ and ‘Magic Man’, but when I was going through their discography awhile back, I discovered ‘Strangers Of The Heart’ . Even the name felt like this epic 80s/90s love ballad (yes, borderline cheesy but that’s what the 80’s were all about). It’s all about love lost and the memories that remain after a relationship is over, which is a topic I think many people can relate to.
I told my friend Nate that I wanted to write a song reminiscent of an 80s love ballad and I had a title in mind – ‘Rules of Love’. A couple days later he played me these chords he had written with my ballad in mind, and they were so perfect that I got chills. We wrote the lyrics in about 30 minutes, they just flowed so effortlessly as we talked about our personal memories and experiences. I love our line “and the light always hit in the living room at noon, remember making up on the couch… it was velvet.”
I think it paints such an illustrative picture for the listener, and the word “velvet” is my subtle little nod to the 80s inspiration, as the fabric was such a trend during that era. The song feels heartbreaking but hopeful, and it’s actually my favorite track off the EP.
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‘GRADIENCE’ is out now.
Photo Credit: Joe Bulawan