Before she began working on her first album, singer/songwriter Ryn Weaver received a tarot reading in which she was dealt The Fool: a card that signifies new beginnings and endless potential, a devotion to following your heart wherever it wants to wander. So when the California-bred, New York City-based 22-year-old started shaping the songs that would make up her debut, she decided to capture the spirit of that card and use her dreamy yet piercing lyricism to spin a story of her own wanderings. “The Fool’s shown walking off a cliff because he’s walking his own path,” Weaver explains. “He’s an eternal traveler, and so much of my album has to do with running away and refusing to settle in one place. It’s about the good and the bad of going out on your own.”
With hitmaker Benny Blanco and Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos collaborating as producers, The Fool features Weaver’s breakthrough single “OctoHate”—a track that shot to No. 1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart soon after its release last June and earned acclaim from the likes of Stereogum, The Fader, and New York magazine (who praised “OctoHate” as “something entirely new and not of this earth, yet also instantly familiar and gushing with warmth”). And while the album’s hewn with a pop magnetism now signature for Blanco—who’s previously produced for artists including Marina and the Diamonds, Icona Pop, and Katy Perry and who’s noted that “Ryn’s music sounds like butterflies in your brain”—The Fool brilliantly bends genre, slipping from synth-drenched alt-pop to dusky British folk with seamless grace. “I’m more of a storyteller, and I use whichever elements of instrumentation and sound I need to best tell my story,” says Weaver. “I like to pull from all over the place, in terms of melody and groove and tone, and then tie that together to set the mood that needs to be set.”
The Fool first came to life when Weaver wrote “OctoHate,” a luminous and epic piece of electro-pop whose title translates to “hate times eight.” “In some ways ‘OctoHate’ is a breakup song, but really it’s more of a reflection on leaving someone who wasn’t good to you,” says Weaver. “After that I kept going with that thread, and the songs became a story of the journey that I’m on now.” In crafting that story, one of Weaver’s main ambitions was to present a new perspective on “what it means to be a woman in this day and age.” “Women are usually taught to want to settle down, and that’s something that just doesn’t make much sense to me,” she says. “The album came from this idea of, ‘Maybe I’m foolish to give up having some stability, or maybe the foolish thing would be settle at this point in my life.’ I don’t think there’s any real answer.”
On the album-opening “Runaway,” Weaver channels the tension of what she calls “my itching for freedom” with breezy lyrical elegance (“And maybe I’m crazy/For claiming my freedom/For loving and leaving/A sick little heathen”). From there, The Fool charges on with both a childlike sense of wonder and a depth of emotion that suggests some shattering experience in trouble and heartbreak. “A lot of these songs were very much informed by my time of living out of my car, being a bit of a wanderess,” Weaver says, referring to the period after she’d dropped out of New York University and spent a while vagabonding around California. On songs like “The Fool,” with its shimmering synth riffs, Weaver’s lyrics conjure up the quiet ache of regret that sometimes accompanies fierce independence (“I tend to stack the deck with wild cards/You’re betting all you’ve got on a broken heart”). “Pierre,” meanwhile, matches its cinematic arrangements, stomping beats, and airy but operatic vocal work with a more free-and-easy breed of romanticism (“On the Fourth of July I met a man Pierre/Lied about his age, but I didn’t care/Spoke in broken English but the heart was there”).
On “New Constellations,” The Fool turns philosophical as Weaver meditates on “what it means to find what you’ve been looking for—does it mean you should settle for that now, or should you raise the bar and keep on searching?” (the song’s opening lyrics: “I can only imagine the day that they said/“No! The world isn’t flat, it’s a circle instead/You can run to wherever you want to now”). And on “Traveling Song,” with its spindly folk guitar and madcap references to Apollo 13 and turtle soup, Weaver gracefully claims the role of a wide-eyed but sharp-sighted troubadour (“Nobody knows where they are going/Oh, how we try to wrap our minds/Over the edge of all our knowings/Be it a bang of the divine”).
Growing up in San Diego and raised in a home full of Bowie and the Beach Boys and the B-52s, Weaver first started experimenting with songwriting as a child. “I’ve been writing my whole life, although it was mostly poetry when I was young,” she says. “And I’ve always loved to sing—I was that little girl running around the house, making up songs as I went along. And then when I got a little older , I used to make my mom bring me to karaoke bars and convince them to let me sing, even though I was a kid.” Weaver spent much of high school playing in bands and writing songs, painting and drawing and studying Kabuki theater, then headed off to college in Manhattan where—one Halloween night—she crossed paths with Benny Blanco. Back in California about two years later, Weaver reconnected with Blanco in L.A., and the two soon started working on music together.
After posting a batch of songs to SoundCloud under the name FemFemFem (and tagging those songs #FairyPop), Weaver teamed up with Charli XCX, Michael Angelakos, Benny Blanco, and Cashmere Cat for “OctoHate.” In just over a week, the track racked up a million SoundCloud plays. And by the start of the new year, Weaver had graced Time’s “15 Musical Artists To Watch In 2015” and Huffington Post’s “25 Artists You Need To Start Listening To In 2015” round-ups, as well as made her late-night television debut by performing “OctoHate” on the Late Show with David Letterman.
A hypercreative spirit who mines much of her inspiration from poetry—“I love the Irish poets, writers like W. B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde,” she says, “I love all that romantic imagery and flowery language”—Weaver notes that many of the songs on The Fool were carefully crafted from a jolt of pure feeling. “I love to sing when I’m on the precipice of some intense emotion, like when I’m crying,” she notes. “What comes out of that is real feeling, and it doesn’t have anything to do with any particular genre or musical style.” And with such a spectrum of emotion imparted on The Fool—everything from to heart-crushing melancholy to sheer joie de vivre—Weaver hopes that soul-baring might be a balm for those who listen. “I think a lot of people who make music or any other kind of art are very much bothered by the way the world is, and so they analyze the hell out of it to try to have a reckoning with the people who might understand them,” she says. “You’re letting people into this incredibly dark part of you, hoping that there’ll be others who find some solace in what you’ve created. It’s a very weird game, and I don’t even know why I do it, other than that I just completely need to.”