Catching Up With Allison Weiss: The Sideways Sessions

Allison Weiss has done a lot of stuff since we last spoke to her almost two years ago, back in January 2012, so we decided it was time for us to catch up with her again. She really has been very busy. She released The Teenage Years, a monthly song series running through January 2013 wherein she re-recorded songs she had written between 2004-2007, as well as Say What You Mean, her second full-length album, and performed at Warped Tour, SXSW, and a bunch of other locations with the likes of Tegan and Sara, Laura Jane Grace, and Mal Blum, just to name a few.

As if that weren’t enough, today she releases a brand new full-length album: Say What You Mean (Sideways Sessions), an acoustic re-imagining of the critically acclaimed Say What You Mean. If you like girls, feelings, and nice sounds in your ears, I think you’re gonna like this record. The familiarity of the original album is comforting, but the new tunes and decisions in each song will keep you on your toes and make you feel like you are experiencing something brand new. You can buy the album right now! Allison describes it like this:

The Sideways Sessions started out as a Kickstarter reward, but we got a little carried away. My producer (Chris Kuffner) and I ended up making an entirely new version of Say What You Mean. It was pretty cool to get to rework the songs in such a different way. I took it as a chance to embrace my love for the alt-country/folk world.

Grace once described Allison as “the kind of musician you will probably fall in love with,” and that is a very accurate statement because Grace is always right. So prepare to fall in love, is what I’m saying. It’s gonna be great (unless there’s a breakup) (but then Allison will write about it so it’s still gonna be okay).

Photo by Mitchell Wojcik

Photo by Mitchell Wojcik

So, tell me about Say What You Mean (Sideways Sessions)!

Well, it started out as a Kickstarter reward, but I just got carried away and we made an entirely new version of the record I just put out, [Say What You Mean.]

I’ve been listening to the new album nonstop! I tried to decide which I liked better and I can’t.

It’s hard, right? That’s the problem. I feel the same way and I made them.

You’ve re-imagined your songs before, specifically with The Teenage Years. What makes you want to do that?

…Maybe it’s just a thing that you just do when you’re new and you’re a baby, which I guess I am. Because you put out versions of songs and then you’re not quite sure if that was the right one so you just do another one.

The Teenage Years in particular, all those songs had technically come out before but all the versions of them that I found were recorded on my Macbook in my dorm room or some sort of friggin’ low-fi thing I did when I was literally a teenager. So for [that project] it was more about wanting to give those songs a proper chance, a proper shot at being recorded and heard. But the Sideways Sessions was just like a fun crazy project, like, why don’t we just do these again a different way.

Is it strange for you to have everything you’ve done so clearly documented on the internet, seeing as you grew up so much on Tumblr and Kickstarter and social media in general?

It’s almost not even strange until people point it out to me. Do you know what I mean? It is crazy that technically a person could go to my Tumblr and go to the archives and look at the stuff that I was posting in 2007. I was sort of just figuring stuff out and it’s all there on the internet. So it’s kind of weird, it’s kind of interesting, but it’s kind of cool, you know? With a lot of the stuff I do I try and think of it from a fan standpoint, because I grew up being such a big music fan. I was the kid who would get to a show seven hours early and stand in line to get to the front. And so the things that I do I try and think, if I were a fan of me, what would be the most fun way to do this? If I had a favorite band that I could look back on the archives of their career, I would do it, and I think it would be kind of awesome.

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Looking back on all your work, it seems like your style has evolved in a very noticeable, obvious way. Was that a natural shift or a more pointed progression?

I think it was natural. I mean, it feels like it was really natural to me. It feels like I’ve just been making the music that I loved and wanted to make at the time. And as I grow up as a person and as I meet and connect with more musicians and I learn more about the recording process in general, things just unfold and become what they are now.

Speaking of change, I’ve gotta ask you about your move. You just moved to LA from Brooklyn, and I actually also just left Brooklyn and am having all these feelings about it, so I wanna know why you moved to LA and if I should one day move to LA.

Honestly, I moved to LA because it’s just so nice over here. [Laughs.] I like the sun and I like the outdoors. I grew up in Georgia where I always had water around, where I always had the woods to go running in. And I guess I just sort of like started missing those things when I was living in Brooklyn. So I moved out to LA. I don’t live right in the city. I live sort of on the outskirts, the eastern side of town where I can have a house up in the hill, and it’s no more expensive than rent for my tiny Brooklyn apartment was, and I feel like that’s pretty cool. I just wanted a place to be able to come between tours that was always going to be nice and I was always going to be able to relax and really have space to write music and create stuff in.

You are doing a good job selling it. Two of our Autostraddle team members just moved out to LA from New York a year ago and they are both just like, “We’re really happy. There’s a lot of sun. Everything is nice. You should all come here.”

It is really nice. The thing about it is that when you’re in New York, no city can ever compare. And you get such an attitude about living in the greatest city in the world. But it turns out there are some other incredible cities. I mean, I loved New York. I loved living in Brooklyn. It was so cool to have everything I wanted a walk away, or a stop on the subway. But I was just ready for a change.

Photo by Mitchell Wojcik

Photo by Mitchell Wojcik

Even after living on the East Coast and now the West Coast, do you still identify as a Southern person? Is that still part of who you are?

It really is, and I feel like I’ve been feeling it a lot more lately. I definitely ran out of there and I went to Brooklyn and I really claimed Brooklyn as being me. But I guess the older I get, the more I grow up, I really feel connected to the South and the way I grew up. I know there are a lot of shitty things about the South, especially for us homos, but I still really love it. And there are some nice little blue havens in the big red sea that is the Southern United States.

Now I hope you take this as a compliment, because I mean it as a compliment, but when people I’m dating ask what kind of music I like, I always say “Sad Brooklyn Lesbians.” And I used to include you on that roster, but am I allowed to anymore? Because I feel like you’re not that sad anymore and now you’re not even in Brooklyn.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been a Sad Brooklyn Lesbian! I guess I was technically, but I don’t know. Maybe you should branch out. Maybe it’s not just about Brooklyn anymore, maybe just sad lesbians in general. Although Sad Brooklyn Lesbian sounds way cooler than sad lesbian.

I feel like it’s a real thing! I’m dating this girl right now who’s an actual musician and when we first started talking I made her listen to “How To Be Alone”. And she listened to it and she was like, “Vanessa, that is the saddest song I’ve ever heard. No wonder you cry all the time. Is this really all the music you listen to? I’m so sad right now!” And I was like, “Oh, no, that one’s upbeat! That’s uplifting!” And she was like, “Uh, okay.”

No, that’s the exact emotion I wanted her to feel. But it’s okay. I mean, that song in particular is so funny because it’s so upbeat and fun and then you get to the half of the song where you’re like, “Oh wait, shit is about to go down.” And then it gets really intense.

Seriously. Oh, so yes, speaking of being sad. You’re in a relationship now, right?

Yes.

As an artist who once told Autostraddle that you write about breakups, what does your creative process look like when you’re happy?

The thing about it is, as happy as I am, I always still have the things in my past that I experienced that definitely still affect me in serious ways. I’ve just always been obsessed with relationships and how they work and how they don’t. I paid really close attention to other people and I paid really close attention to what people go through. And it just affects me very deeply, I guess. And so I don’t think it’s hard to write breakup songs because I still think about that sort of stuff. It’s just part of who I am, I guess.

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So no matter how happy you are for the rest of your life, you will probably still be able to write break up songs?

Well, I don’t know for the rest of my life… You dwell on your own sadness when you’re young and then you start growing up, I guess, and I don’t know I feel like most people when they get older learn to deal with their emotions better. Like one of the reasons that some of my older songs are so sad is because I literally had no other way of figuring out my problems. Now I’m like an adult and I think rationally and I’m like, oh, I can see both sides of this situation. And it sucks because I just want to cry and write emo songs. But I have to think about things a little bit more now.

How would you describe your music?

Well, when I tell strangers, I just tell them that I write catchy indie pop. And then they always say, “What’s your band name?” And I’m awkwardly like, “It’s Allison Weiss. My name is Allison Weiss. That’s my band name.” And then they’re not impressed. But I just… I write really catchy songs about feelings. I think I’m just a person who feels a lot and happens to have been born with the ability to write songs about it. So I mean, maybe instead of loving Sad Brooklyn Lesbians you just love music about feelings.

I don’t think anyone in my life is going to be surprised when I tell them that. Thank you for helping me work through this.

You’re welcome.

allison_weiss_merch

What do you get up to when you’re not making music?

Right now I’m doing a lot of home improvement stuff. I’m learning a lot about myself and learning that I’m pretty good at sanding things, I’m good at painting things. I’m kind of a handyman right now. I don’t want to brag, but I can do some things around the house. It’s pretty cool. But other than that, I went to school for graphic design and so I’m just sort of an artist in general. I like to draw and design things. I just helped out my friends at Everyone Is Gay with their Indiegogo project. It was really fun. They’re so awesome.

Yeah they are! Do you have any other friends working on projects you’d like to give the Autostraddle community a heads up about?

You know what I could shout out? My dad and Coffee Collar. That’s what I’m going to shout out. My dad is an entrepreneur and he has a lot of ideas and he gets really excited about things. There’s an endless list of stuff over the years that he’s quote, “invented,” but never really done anything with. So the newest thing is the Coffee Collar. And he found this website, quirky.com, that I guess allows people to submit ideas and have the public vote on them. And if it’s a good enough idea, then they’ll make it. So he’s trying to make the Coffee Collar happen. I think it’s kind of cool. I guess it’s a wristband that stretches enough that you can put it around your coffee cup and you have a – what do you call it? Like a cozy for your coffee? I don’t know what they call those things, those cardboard sleeves.

Yeah, I checked it out. I’m really into it. I think he should offer a lot of different colors. I feel like if it was black or bright pink I would wear it.

My favorite thing about my dad’s project is that he just cut the top off of a sock and put it around his drink. [Laughs.] I don’t want you to think I’m making fun of my dad, because I love the shit out of him, but that is funny. It’s amazing. He’s asking me to help him out and make him some graphics. So maybe I’ll make a black one and a pink one.

Oh my god, will you make a floral print one also if you’re going to do that?

Yes, that’s a really good idea. I would wear a floral print one.

Same. One hundred percent. Now is the part of the interview where I ask if you have any pets and then hope that you do.

I do. I have a cat. Technically she belongs to my girlfriend, so sometimes I refer to her as my cat roommate. But I guess I’m allowed to say that she’s my cat, which is cool, because I’ve always wanted a cat. Her name is Umo, she is a tuxedo cat and she’s extremely plump and she’s the best.

Aw, she sounds so cute. Will you send me a photo?

Yeah, absolutely.

allison_weiss_cat

Finally, what are you excited about for the future?

I’m excited to be in California where it’s so nice all the time. I am excited to be hitting the road again soon. I’m touring in December and then also end of January and February. So lots of touring. I’m excited about making more music. I’m kind of excited about everything. I mean, everything is great. I have an office/writing room now so I can just sit and make music all day, which is still hard for me to wrap my head around. I feel like I’m still like, “I don’t have a job,” but I do have a job and it happens to be writing music. It’s totally amazing.

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Vanessa is a queer feminist writer, NYU grad, crush monster, and Jewish Grandma In Training. She has a radical brain, a mushy heart, and a million floral print dresses. She's currently on a big adventure but she'll be back one day, pinky swear. In the meantime, she can sometimes be found on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 198 articles for us.

10 Comments

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    I bought my ticket for her upcoming tour yesterday and put on Say What You Mean when I got home. My roommate’s boyfriend asked me who I was listening to and responded “Hmm. Catchy.”
    So yes, I would agree with “I write really catchy songs about feelings.”

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    Really excited for Coffee Collars. Will buy one so that the next time Vanessa casually suggests that I listen to “music about feelings” I will have something on hand to soak up my tears.

    also great interview. made me want to learn to sand things.

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    Saw her play acoustic live in Leeds, afterwards my gf made me go speak to her. I was super dorky, told her that I was an island had given me new faith in current music (true btw), rather than running for the hills from an awkward weirdo she was really charming. Then I ran away. Sideways sessions totally reminds me of her sound that night, which finally converted my missus to being a fan. It’s awesome.

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