Allison Weiss's 2009 Kickstarter campaign to make …Was Right All Along launched the DIY musician's career and cemented her reputation as a savvy and hard working self-promoter. In the months that followed, she toured with Lou Reed, spoke at SXSW and moved to Brooklyn, where she recorded her second full-length Say What You Mean (out April 16, 2013). She signed with No Sleep Records and has headed south for a months-long tour, with stops again at SXSW (where she will perform at a showcase for the first time) and a lengthy stint on the Vans Warped Tour.
Punknews staff writer Allyson Rudolph caught up with Weiss on day one of her tour to learn more about her move to No Sleep, her commitment to talking about pizza on the Internet, her first ever AOL screen name and how she's feeling right this second.
How's the tour going so far?
Well, it's day one. We are almost to the DC area, we decided to drive down a day early to beat traffic and things and just get a head start. So far so good. We've only been in the car for like, five hours.
Right off the bat, Say What You Mean deals with a lot of insecurities common to young peopleâthe "Am I Making It Up?" question and all of those desires and fears that come up when you're in your twenties and dealing with love and feelings and stuff. I'm curious about who you're writing for, whether you're writing for you, your peers, your past or your future?
On this record in particular, I'm definitely writing for me. It sort of came about right when I moved to New York, I went through this breakup that really sort of destroyed me, and I had plans to work with my friend Chris, who ended up producing the record. We had plans to make a couple songs together, but as soon as I moved to New York and went through this breakup I immediately started writing songs, and so me and Chris got together and worked on an EP, and the songs just kept coming and everything sounded so great, and so we just decided to add six more and make a full-length out of it. But definitely as far as the songwriting goes, it was me thinking about relationships in a slightly different way than I used to. Because I think that in the past when I was just a teenager listening to pop-punk, writing songs in my bedroom, it was a lot of inspiration-based. I only wrote when I was super sad and everything came really quickly and everything was very, like, me talking directly to the person I'm singing about. But on this new record I went through this breakup and I sort of started reevaluating the way that I thought about relationships and how they work and how people can be together for a certain amount of time and then it's just over. I tried to figure out a lot of my own problems through all the songs on the record.
You talk about your songs and your writing like a writer. In a separate interview, you said the "Nothing Left" song felt like a thesis statement for the record and the New York Times compared you to Randy Newmanâwhat's the songwriting process like for you?
It's different every time for me. Sometimes a song will come out of a melody that I think of when I'm just walking around, sometimes it'll come from some sort of words that just pop in my head, and then other times I literally have to just make a list: what are some things that I want to write about? What's going on right now? What do I want to say? With this record in particular, before I wrote any of the songs, I was in a place where there was so much happening. I didn't know what to write about because I guess when you're feeling this big huge emotion it's hard to put that into three-minute pop songs so I found myself making lists, trying to break down my own feelings, and figure out each little part and trying to tackle it one little piece at a time.
You were a huge Kickstarter wunderkind in 2009 and now you're with No Sleep. How's the transition to a label gone?
The label thing is really new so far, so it's sort of still like we're exactly where we were. Just now it's all starting to switch over and I've found that I'm able to start letting other people handle things for me so I can get back to focusing on writing songs and making music, which is pretty nice. That's definitely my favorite part.
Do you think that the Internet will continue to play a role in your future albums and your tours now that you're signed?
Oh definitely. I just happen to love the Internet. I've always loved it, ever since I was 13 and got my first AOL screen name. So using the internet for me is just a thing that I will always do. I like blogging when I do, I like interacting with fans online. I just like being a person on the internet, so that's works well, for me.
Can I ask what your first AOL screen name was?
I think it was evilfish101.
Your Kickstarter prizes seem like an awful lot of work! How did you come up with all the pizza parties and mixtapes?
Mixtapes were a thing that I'd done for my previous Kickstarter that I did back in 2009, so that was a thing I'd done before that I knew I liked to do. Pizza parties started because I really like pizza and I talk about pizza on the internet a lot and have sort of gotten a reputation for being a pizza connoisseur. I thought it'd be fun to offer a pizza date hangout reward thing. The thing about the Kickstarter rewards is they are a whole lot of work. I have to do that as soon as I get back from tourâI have to pack all those orders and make a lot of those things, I have to design a lot of stuff from the road. It's funny, going into it you come up with all these rewards and you get really excited about it, and then the time comes that you have to fulfill the rewards and you realize how much work you've created for yourself and it's a little intense.
Maybe I shouldn't have been because of how well your 2009 Kickstarter did, but I was surprised at some of the levels of funding you got. Were you surprised at all by your first Kickstarter, or at any other point on this journey on the Internet?
Oh yeah, 100%. I'm always so surprised and confused when people are willing to, like, give me such large amounts of money, you know what I mean? Because I, obviously, am doing a Kickstarter for a reason, because I'm a DIY musician. I always say that music is the job you pay to have, so anytime anybody can contribute a lot to a Kickstarter project, I'm just like, "How do people have jobs where they can just spend this kind of money? This is incredible." But you know, maybe that's what my life would be like if I wasn't a touring musician, maybe I would give a bunch of money to touring musicians I loved. Anybody, all those people whose support…I have so much respect for them and I love them because they're what keeps me able to do what I do.
You're heading back to SXSW this yearâare you speaking or just performing?
Just performingâI have a few showcases.
You were a panelist before in 2010; are you excited to be going back without having to do panelist work this time?
Yeah, I'm pretty stoked! Because last time I was just a panelist, I didn't get to play a showcase, so this will be my first time actually showcasing at SXSW, and I'll have my whole band, and I'm really excited about that.
I didn't realize you didn't actually get to perform the year you were a panelist! Was that weird, talking about your music and not playing?
Yeah it was weird, because I was on this panel and there were a lot of people that came to the panel, and every time they asked me where I was playing I had to tell them I wasn't, which felt like, it felt weird to be on a panel and not actually playing a showcase.
I was reading a 2012 press release when your Making It Up EP came out you said that your favorite moment is right now. How's today? Has it been a good year since that EP?
Right now is just as good! I'm always excited about the now. You know what I mean? This record for me, although it's technically my sixth release, it feels like my first because for so long I've been doing everything myself. You know, I basically would make a record and I'd put it on the internet, I'd put it on iTunes and I'd do my best to promote it all alone. But this time around I decided, as you probably saw on the Kickstarter, that it's time to take it to the next level. So I've been working so hard all year to put together the best team that I possibly can, and get people behind me who believe in what I'm doing as much as I do. So, I'm excited to take it to the next level. I feel like 2013 is going to be the year. Or, I mean, a year. I'm sure I'll say the same thing about 2014. I'm one of those people who think that every year is the year, you know?