LA-based musician, Wallice, opens up about her new single "Wisdom Tooth", writing relatable songs, signing with Dirty Hit and more.
Drawing on elements of pop, rock and indie music, rising alt-artist Wallice is part of a new generation of artists who can’t – and won’t – be boxed into one sound.
Pairing accessible, relatable lyrics with dramatic melodic deliveries, it’s no wonder that Wallice has quickly been gaining legions of fans around the world. In fact, she’s just signed with The 1975’s indie label, Dirty Hit, home to Beabadoobee, Wolf Alice and Rina Sawayama, and Oscar Lang, as a testament to her talents.
Debuting last year with “Punching Bag” – a chirpy, scrappy lo-fi story of unrequited friendship – she then followed up this year with the autobiographical “23” and revenge anthem, “Hey Michael”, before dropping her successful ‘Off The Rails’ EP. New tune “Wisdom Tooth” is a nostalgic coming-of-age tale that marries two rites of passage: getting your wisdom tooth removed and growing apart from that someone special.
Notion sat down with Wallice whilst on her recent visit to London to dive deeper into “Wisdom Tooth”, playing The Great Escape next year, excavating her personal experiences with music and much more.
“Wisdom Tooth” has just dropped – a coming-of-age tale that was written the day before your wisdom teeth came out. But the song also has a double meaning about how growing apart from someone can be a necessary form of growth. A lot of your music centres around themes of friendship and growing up – did you always intend to make your music relatable or were these topics you needed to get off your chest for your own personal sake?
I have been with my boyfriend since we were 16 and he is really wonderful– I don’t have too many love life complaints. I do however turn my tumultuous friendships into songs that sound very romantic, like “Punching Bag” and now “Wisdom Tooth”. I wrote this song the day before I got my wisdom teeth out because I was so nervous. The doctor called me in the middle of my writing session and said I would have to get a bone graft because the hole my teeth would be leaving was too big. He didn’t think my jaw would be able to fill it naturally, so they filled the holes with other peoples bone powder which sounded pretty gnarly. I don’t think I set out to necessarily make relatable songs, but I usually make a song based off of a real feeling and expand upon that. I’m so happy that my songs are considered relatable though I think that’s what many lyricists always want.
Before you started releasing music and using writing as a form of catharsis, how did you tend to process emotions and experiences?
I’ve been writing music since I was 13. It started with a boy who didn’t like me back in middle school. I’ve played various instruments since I was six, and I think even instrumental music is so expressive and has that same catharsis that comes with writing lyrics and songwriting in general. I don’t necessarily remember a time where I wish I had an outlet for my emotions because I’ve always had music in my life. I also always grew up with my mom being a hobby painter or ceramicist, so art was in my house from a young age. I’ll always be grateful for that upbringing.
“Wisdom Tooth” was written with your longtime collaborator and friend, marinelli. How did you two meet and what do you love about working together?
We met in middle school when I was 11 years old. We knew of each other for a long time through our band and orchestra program at school, and I always knew him as the percussionist with the huge curly hair with the cool substitute teacher mom. We didn’t start working together until I was 17 and in my last year of high school. I put out a song I wrote on GarageBand that was very poorly recorded with my apple earbuds and no metronome. Somehow marinelli heard that and liked it. He Facebook messaged me that he wanted to start producing music. I was the first artist he ever produced, and he is the first producer I ever worked with. Now, six years later, we have made many songs together and he is still my favorite collaborator because we have grown so close. He is one of my best friends that I see most days of the week – even when we aren’t working together.
You’ve recently signed to Dirty Hit – that must have been such a big bucket list goal ticked off! How did you know Dirty Hit was the right home for your music and for you as an artist?
I think every artist has the dream of signing to a label when they are young/first realize that they want to be a musician – maybe before they even know what “signing a record deal” means. The music industry is very hard to break into because there’s not one specific path that guarantees success, and every working artist has reach their success in a different way. Approaching being an artist can seem daunting and it’s hard to know where to start. I’m so grateful to have found Dirty Hit as my home – I had quite a few meetings with some wonderful people at different labels, but everyone I met at Dirty Hit was so cool and everything they stand for as a label aligns with my own business values. They are an indie label that I feel really puts their artists first. I also have loved the artists that they work with for years now, so it’s so exciting to be a part of their team.
You’re playing at The Great Escape next year in Brighton. What can people expect from your set and what kind of energy do you like to bring to your gigs?
I’m so excited to play The Great Escape! I just played my first festival this month, and I would say it was my best show yet. I try to bring a lot of energy onstage even though it leaves me out of breath singing by the last song. I’m currently working on my second EP which is almost done, and I’m so excited to play these songs live. They have so much energy and are my favourite songs I’ve made so far. My bandmates are some of my best friends, and it’s so fun performing with them on stage. I hope that energy translates to the crowd. I also just recently went to England for the first time and I had an amazing time – I can’t wait to go back next year!!
Which of your songs best defines you as an artist?
I think “23” is a great introduction to who I am. It’s very autobiographical about my thoughts and feelings, and has my classic “jazz school dropout” line. It was also one of the first songs I made that I finally felt was authentic to the sound I was looking for for so long. It’s very indie rock and reminiscent of the alternative artists I grew up listening to. I’m so proud of it. I am proud that since writing and releasing that song, I have moved out of my “momma’s” house but unfortunately (and responsibly) not gotten a dog yet. Even though at this point I’m nearing 24 years old, I still have similar feelings to when I wrote the song. I love seeing my growth as an adult this last year. I also love all the messages I still get from people telling me how much they relate to this song.
Having written music since you were a teenager in high school, did you keep your talents to yourself or did you take part in school shows? What was the turning point when you decided to pack your bags, move to California and chase your dream?
I actually was born and raised in Los Angeles which is funny because a lot if people I meet say they don’t know many people who were born and raised in LA. But honestly most of my friends to this day are people I’ve known since high school, or even before. I went to a performing arts high school and have been playing instruments since I was six. I didn’t really share the songs with anyone outside my family until the later part of high school. I was always just in the school orchestra playing cello. In high school, I was part if the rock band club where some friends and I formed a band and performed an original song at a school performance. The last year of high school was when I started working with marinelli as well, and the music I was writing was able to be recorded and sound much more professional than I was ever capable of making in the past.
Which artists shaped your sound back then? Who are you most influenced by now?
I feel like my music taste hasn’t changed much since I was in high school. I listened to mostly Dr. Dog, Radiohead, and a lot of jazz standards and bossa nova. Slightly more recent additions and big influences on me are Japanese Breakfast, The Drums, Big Thief, Sam Evian, and Mitski.
What’s next? Are you working on an album or EP at the moment?
Currently working on my second EP with marinelli which we’re finishing up by the time I go on tour in January! I’m so excited for this new EP, I think it has so much energy. There’s one song in particular I can’t wait to release and make a video for. It’s my favorite song I’ve ever written.
What has been your biggest pinch-me moment so far?
I was able to work with Jonny Pierce from the drums in a session recently, and I’ve been listening to his music since I was in high school. It was so exciting to work with him. When he was singing suggesting melodies in the studio I was internally fangirling like OMG that sounds like a Drums song because Jonny was singing it. That session is tied with playing 88rising’s Head in the Clouds Festival this last month at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It is an amazing festival where every artist who played was of Asian decent. It was an overall amazing experience, and a dream come true to play such a special festival.