You could call Allison Weiss an internet sensation. You might say she's a social media savant. Perhaps it would even be fair to champion her as a Kickstarter poster child. But whatever you do, don't call her a "songstress."
Confounding the typical, reductive pigeonholes that contemporary punk is guilty of lazily attributing to any combination of earcandy and estrogen, Allison Weiss is taking over the globe one URL at a time with her growing catalogue of accessible, addictive tunes and endearingly quirky swag. The Brooklyn, NY-based singer-songwriter chatted recently with Punknews interviewer G'Ra Asim about her upcoming second full-length, sharing digs with fellow musicians and making the leap to the musical big leagues.
What would you like to accomplish musically on your forthcoming album that you may not have on previous releases? Are there any major stylistic developments you expect this record to showcase?
Ever since I started making music, I've had a tendency to play everything faster and sing everything louder than I recorded it. My last few albums were much more acoustic, whereas this new one is really driven by big drums and electric guitars. I've embraced my love of 2000's pop punk and 90's garage rock and actually created a record that reflects my own personal tastes in music. To me it feels like the first time I've ever really tried to make something loud, fast, and fun. Lyrically, the songs are still about relationships, but I like to think I've grown up a lot. You'll hear what I mean.
As you've gained prominence over the years, a lot of your press has focused on the angle of your shrewd use of social media to promote yourself. Do you ever get tired of being so heavily associated with the Internet?
I don't think I really have a choice. I love the internet and I think the internet loves me back. It's because of the internet that I've been able to get myself where I am today. I'm honestly stoked that it's worked as well as it has. When I was still in college and I couldn't tour, the internet was all I had to keep my music on peoples' minds. I'm not that sick of talking about it just yet.
Why did you choose to make your Teenage Years collection a time-release project? What is different about the process of recording and releasing an album track by track rather than the more traditional route?
Originally the Teenage Years was part of my Kickstarter project. I have a ton of older songs that a lot of my fans love, but they just haven't made it onto any of my records so far. The plan was to let fans vote and choose which four would make it onto an EP. At the end of the voting process, I felt re-connected to all these songs and just decided I'd record them all. I had wanted to do a monthly song series for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Plus, it's given me an excuse to work with a ton of different producers. Approaching each song as a separate thing rather than part of an album has made me a lot more experimental with my choices. It's fun to see how different each song can sound from the last.
You've been writing and performing music since high school, but it was only shortly after your graduation from UGA in Athens that you moved to New York and pursued music as a career. What has surprised you the most about the experience of being a full-time musician? Would you say you were prepared, or that you've learned on the fly?
Honestly I never feel like I'm fully prepared for anything that happens. It's funny, because I know I've been doing this for so long, and yet I feel like such a tiny baby. Luckily I've got friends who've done it all before and can sort of guide me down the right path. I think the biggest surprise is that music can be a job. I'm still having trouble accepting the fact that practicing guitar counts as working. I'm constantly like, "This is my life?!"
On your website, you mention that you're roomies with Rachel Browne of Field Mouse, a project for which you also play bass. What's it like living and collaborating with another musician?
Playing bass with Field Mouse was so much fun and taught me a lot about being in a band, which is something I hadn't done since high school. Rachel and Andrew work so well together. I loved backing them up. As far as Roommate City (that's the name of our apartment) goes, I couldn't ask for a better situation. Though we don't really collaborate musically, Rachel once let me borrow her Telecaster for six months while mine was broken. I also remember the first week I moved in, I went through this really difficult breakup and while I was bawling on our kitchen floor (we didn't have a table yet), Rachel made me a spinach wrap and forced me to eat it. She's the best roommate I've ever had.
The success of your second Kickstarter campaign has afforded you the opportunity to expand your team and delegate some of the responsibilities you'd previously handled alone. How would you compare being totally DIY to working with a publicist and booking agent?
Well, I actually don't know yet. I've just started working with a booking agent, I got a publicist on board for the new record, and I'm looking for management. I'm in this weird in-between phase that's even harder than being DIY. I've done everything myself for so long that I'm super picky about who I'm going to choose to be on my team. I'll let you know how it works out.
What has it been like touring with a band more consistently? It seems like your show has evolved a bit since the days when you were playing primarily solo shows. How has full band touring influenced how you write and arrange new material?
I think my songs were always meant to be played with a band. I started out playing pop punk in high school, and I've always beaten the hell out of my acoustic guitar. The transition from acoustic to electric has been really easy. As far as writing goes, I definitely think a lot more about different sections of the song. When you've got so many more instruments the possibilities are endless. My goal is usually to craft a short and sweet pop song that hits hard, keeps your attention, and accurately conveys the feeling that I felt when I was writing it. Plus, playing with a band is just so much more fun. My drummer beats the shit out of his kit. I love how that feels.
Around when can we expect a single from the new album?
I'm aiming to release something from the new record later this fall, but nothing is set in stone just yet.
There's been an ongoing discussion on Punknews about the persistence of sexism in the punk scene. A lot of the talk about it was partially catalyzed by a series on I Live Sweat in which female musicians described their less than welcoming experiences performing for largely male punk audiences. What is your perception of the state of female artists and their contributions to contemporary punk music? Since the archetypical rock singer-songwriter is conventionally associated with straight, male demographics, do you find that there are consequences to the fact that you represent a deviation from that?
It would be nice if it didn't matter, but people love to point out when there's a girl in a band, usually being surprised at how well she can play. It's pretty depressing, but I think the only way to fight it is to try and do my best to motivate young girls to pick up instruments and start bands of their own. I think the main consequence I've experienced is being branded as a girl with a guitar. Reviewers will use words like "songstress," which always feels so insulting. Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I'm playing soft, pretty ballads. I think when you're a lady in this scene, you always have to prove yourself. Nobody ever believes that you can do it until they see you do it. So I just have to keep doing it.
Your website alludes to a forthcoming DIY documentary about your overseas tour dates with Lou Reed. What motivated you to want to document those shows particularly?
I'm not sure if I'd really call it a "documentary", it's more of a short film recapping the tour. It's a lot of scenery, songs from the road, snippets of performances, etc. I tried to film as much as I could, doing it all myself on an iPhone 4. I plan to write an instrumental score and also include some mp3s from one of the French shows. It should be pretty cool.
You're known for being a proud pizza aficionado. What is the best place to get pizza in New York City?/
Anywhere, after 2am.
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