GETTING TO KNOW WALLICE
AFTER SUPPORTING ONE OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN MODERN MUSIC, THE INDIE POP/ROCK ARTIST IS ABOUT TO TAKE HER TURN IN THE SPOTLIGHT
If you were at the momentously sold-out / two-night run of The 1975 here in Manila, the you probably didn’t escape Wallice’s refreshing and modern take on indie rock, and found yourself bobbing-along to her infectious repertoire of fun anthems. Needless to say, it’s never an easy feat to warm up the stage for big superstars, but it’s a fair assessment that the singer/songwriter/musician was able to hold her own, and leave a good impression with Filipinos in the process.
With an abundant collection of quirky music videos and hit singles released in the last two years, Wallice is going to be releasing an all-new EP this June 23rd called Mr. Big Shot under the Dirty Hit label. In foreign shores, she has swiftly become an artist to watch, with her tongue-in-cheek, self-effacing anthems that resonate with the younger generation audiences. And at the moment, she is gearing up for a string of headlining shows in the US and in Europe.
But before we get to more details about the future, PULP.PH sat down with Wallice and chatted about her beginnings and how the journey has been so far.
PULP: So tell us how your journey in music began… was there a particular instance or moment that made you fall in love with music?
I grew up playing cello, and my first instruments were recorder and trumpet, and they were just under a public-school program that was very classical music-based. In middle school, when I was 13, I heard Lana del Rey’s “Video Games” on the radio and it made me want to start singing… I can remember that very day.
PULP: Cello eh?
I know! It’s not very common… but I have recorded cello on my songs “Little League” and “Funeral” in Japan; you can hear it very faintly.
PULP: So how did that transition into you wanting to write your own songs?
I wrote my first song when I was 12 or 13, and it was about the boy who didn’t like me in middle school. And my mom was like “This is amazing! You have to record it!” So she put me into performing arts high school and so I have to credit her for giving me the confidence to pursue a career in music, because I don’t think a lot of people have the luxury of having a parent support them to get into music; and my dad wasn’t as supportive as well, but my mom was always like “do what makes you happy.” SO I’m very lucky that she was open-minded and supportive.
PULP: So how did your taste evolve? From Lana Del Rey, you got into… Weezer?
My first iPod when I was like 8 or 9, had Weezer, Blink-182, the Black Eyed Peas and No Doubt, and I’ve kind of had the same music taste my whole life… by high school it was Radiohead and Lana Del Rey and Coldplay, so it was very alternative rock, and pop from Gwen Stefani.
PULP: How was studying jazz in school? Did it lay certain foundations that you’ve been able to use throughout your career?
Yeah, in high school I had jazz choir and I immediately fell in love with that and I knew I wanted to go to college, so I was very studious, but at the same time I wanted to go to jazz school because it was very technical – you had to have a very good understanding of music theory to be able to study it, so I chose that not really for the jazz degree but just to be able to learn and understand music more in general… but then I was there for a year, and I decided that it wasn’t really for me and not really worth the time and money that it cost to attend, so I dropped-out and moved to L.A.
But I think a lot of what I learned somehow made it to the back of my brain, where I can’t access it immediately, but it does help me figure stuff out – like I can read music, and I feel I know a little more about theory than most rock people do…
PULP: Were you already writing music during this period?
Yeah I had a bunch of songs on soundcloud.com, it was a pretty popular platform during that time… I was always writing.
PULP: Well it’s one thing to write songs, compared to recording songs and performing songs… how did you transition from those phases?
Well I only had a couple of shows I had done before the pandemic, and they were completely different songs of mine that I don’t think exist anymore on the internet; I’d go on facebook and try to get 10 people to pay 10 dollars to catch me live.
But during the pandemic, I released a song called “Punching Bag,” and it was a good time to explore music and I was able to build a following then. So since then, it’s what kickstarted my touring life: I’ve always dreamt about it – so I just did it and figured out the rest along the way.
PULP: So how did you build your team?
I’ve worked with the same producer (I’ve known him since I was 10…) and so we’ve been working together since we were both 17 when I was working on my soundcloud material, and from 2017-2019 I had some songs on Spotify that didn’t really garner any plays, so I took it down and eventually reset and started with “Punching Bag,” based on the recommendation of another friend; it really is like a game: how to market yourself and figure out the rest that comes with it, but yeah it ended up working out
PULP: What was your first experience out on the road like?
The first tour I ever did was 5 days in the West Coast – we just took two of our cars and we used the headliner’s amps and drum kit and brought our own guitars. Our first month-long-plus tour was last year, opening for Still Woozy, and for that we had a medium-roofed van.
Starting-off was really hard: driving across the country in a van, paying for gas and hotels and your band members every night – it costs a lot more than what you usually make. I don’t think a lot of people realize that touring is so expensive, very much like this tour with The 1975… but it’s very worth it to build a new fanbase.
PULP: You seem to be a rocker trapped inside a pop-artist kind of package…
Yeah I always try to sort of veer away from the pop lane, so I make sure I keep some indie rock in there, and though the music is very polished, I do want the D.I.Y. vibe to really stand out…
PULP: Speaking of indie rock, the music videos you’ve put out seem to be very kooky! You never know what to expect…
“Best Friend” is the new video and it probably had the least involvement from me since I was busy touring, but every single video I’ve released in the past, I was very hands-on with: I styled the whole thing, pulled the whole crew together, did hair and makeup, and I either came up to the director or discussed with the director a very specific idea which I already had, so I do love having a big part in making them; I love bringing humor into my lyrics and visuals, and being inspired by movies and television, I like very cinematic music videos.
PULP: Well, now that you’re opening for The 1975, what are the immediate contrasts in touring and performing live?
They have everything planned down to the last minute… and it’s so much different playing huge venues like this, compared to the 300-1000 cap venues that I was used to; it’s nice because there’s so much more crew that are hired to carry your gear and get everything set up on stage… before I had to do so much more physical labor before and after my sets. So I can sit back a little… be a little spoiled, because I have to go back to the more DIY kind of ethic next month.
PULP: Any changes on your rider now? If you had carte blanche on your rider, what items would you put there?
We have a pretty chill rider! (laughs) Recently we added a candle to the rider, to make the room smell nice… but I’m not really high maintenance. We have a bottle of gin that we usually never drink, chips and guacamole and a fruit plate. Very simple.
PULP: So what’s next?
I have a new song called “Loser at Best” that’ll be coming out this month, and next month, my third EP will be released and it’ll be called Mr. Bigshot and at the end of this month I’ll be going to London, Glasgow and Manchester, and by the end of next month I’ll be on a headlining tour in the US, so I’m very excited to play cities I’ve never played yet. And by this summer, I’ll be writing my debut album.
PULP: You were initially pegged as a bedroom songwriter/musician, but has your opinion now changed on it? Because you’re playing more shows, do you prefer it more now?
I honestly love playing live, even when I’m very tired, as soon as I step out onstage, I immediately get filled with energy and adrenaline. A lot of these The 1975 shows are amazing, but the energy I get from my headlining shows – with people knowing the songs and singing along – it’s just a different kind of joy.
PULP: Well, what’s one thing everybody should know about you?
I am very hands-on with most aspects of my career – I think a lot of people, once they reach a certain level of success – they tend to delegate tasks to other people… or maybe I’m just too controlling (laughs)! But I am very chill, and I try not to take myself too seriously: music is so important to many people, so most of the time, I just try to appreciate everyone who enjoys the music.
And I am very good at sleeping. I mean I can work and focus, but I have gotten really good at switching it on and off. PULP