Get to Know Wallice [Interview]

Ben Higgins

Wallice is undoubtedly a name to pay close attention to in the indie-rock scene. The jazz school dropout made her debut in 2020 with her breakout hit “Punching Bag,” which landed her on Spotify’s Lorem playlist. Within a year, the rising star had amassed millions of streams, and a feature article with The New York Times. Today, Wallice stands strong with two EPs released, tours with indie stars such as Still Woozy and JAWNY, and much to look forward to ahead.


You’ve been passionate about music and singing since you were a child, but at what point would you say you had that “ah-hah” moment that led you to become the artist you are today.

I think it was when I was seventeen and still in high school. I recorded some songs I wrote on GarageBand using Apple earbuds with no metronome and put it on SoundCloud. My friend Marinelli – I’ve known him since middle school and he’s produced all my music that’s out – listened to it and Facebook messaged me and was like “Hey I want to start producing you.” Us starting to work together was very pivotal for me I’d say.


You tried out New York City and The New School Jazz program, which didn’t work out of course but I’m sure you’d agree you wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t made that move. What were some of the bigger lessons outside the classroom you feel you learned in NYC?

I think living alone away from my mom and my boyfriend for the first time was really important. I’ve been with my boyfriend since I was 16; he still plays guitar in my band today and we live together, so that year was our only time living apart and I was away from my mom too. I think that was really crucial, not necessarily for my musical journey, but for my growth as a human. I wouldn’t say The New School affected my music much, but I met a lot of cool people, like my friend Nathaniel, he goes by Fronky, and he records saxophone on a lot of my stuff and I met him there!

Your lyricism has thrived in vulnerability since the beginning of your career. Was it initially difficult to put yourself out there and show your emotions to the world?

I don’t really think of it as emotional vulnerability because that’s just what a song has to be in order for people to relate; it has to be truthful. I think a big part of my writing is attempting to be relatable without seeking it out. I’ve said it to friends but I don’t think making music is necessarily changing the world, so I don’t really get how some musicians have like massive egos. I guess in short, I try not to take myself too seriously when I open up.


Who have been your biggest influences as your sound has evolved?

These last few years, I’d say Mitski’s last two albums have been huge for me. I’ve listened to her since high school but only recently really dove into her work. And Japanese Breakfast's last album too; I love their music and they’re also half Asian indie artists and there’s not too many of us out there. Those are the big new editions for inspirations I’d say.

You’ve got this really interesting balance of mellow indie rock and distorted post punk. Do you feel like you have a sweet spot between the two and which direction do you see yourself heading towards creatively? 

I feel like this next EP is a bit more hard but also has a lot of pop influences in the chorus, which I don’t hate but I used to be very against that, but it will still have a lot of distorted guitars and lean into that punk sound.


You signed a deal with Dirty Hit Records back in 2021. Did any of the label’s artists reach out or play a role in you choosing Dirty Hit? 

I had the whole label talks and meetings with a couple companies, and initially Dirty Hit was kind of towards the bottom of the list, just because I wasn’t too familiar with them. But just talking to the A&Rs there it just felt right. They said everything I needed to hear without me telling them to. And I’ve ended up really loving them, and I’m so happy with them. I have a lot of friends that are not as happy with their labels, so I’m really glad I went with them.


You were a part of Pigeons and Planes debut See You Next Year project, where you got to collaborate with other rising artists such as redveil, Brevin Kim, and Dreamer Isioma, as well as the legendary Mike Dean. How did that come about and how was that experience?

Pigeons and Planes have been HUGE supporters of me since I dropped my first single. And when they asked me I just thought it was such a cool opportunity to be a part of, so I said yes of course. And then they said it was gonna be executive produced by Mike Dean, and honestly, I’m kind of oblivious when it comes to music facts and who played and produced what. So I didn’t know his name initially, and then when I was driving to his studio I listened to a Mike Dean Discography playlist and was like “OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?” It was really intimidating at first, but he was so cool which made it feel easy.


I’d love to talk about a recent song you released, "Japan." It really stands out from your other work in its musical style but also its lyrical delivery. Tell me about the inspiration that went into it and the writing process. 

So that was a song I produced with Tommy English, and I hadn’t done too many sessions with other producers besides Marinelli before this one, but Marinelli was on tour and I knew Tommy English’s work. So I went to his studio and he was playing that guitar riff and was like “What do you think of this?” and I thought it was so pretty and then it kind of just flowed out of me, like we wrote that song insanely quick. Then we brought it back to Marinelli to make it sound a little more cohesive with my music, even though it does sound very different. The lyrics came really easily, and it’s all about my perspective on growing up half Japanese half white, and I hope a lot of mixed people can relate. For me it’s about being too White for my Asian side and too Asian for my White side. So it’s about trying to navigate where to fit in.

Could you see yourself moving to Japan for an extended period of time? 

I’d love to live there for like three months. I’m always looking for an excuse to go there. Like for the music video I was talking to my management and I was like “Guys, I can’t make a song called Japan and not make the video in Japan, so I have to go… there’s no other possible way.” But I love Japan; I’m not fluent in Japanese but when I go there it comes back to me.


You mentioned a new EP, could you tell me more about it?

This next EP is called Mr Big Shot. I kind of went back and forth with the title being either "Mr Big Shot" or "Wallice." But I just felt like Mr Big Shot is very playful which ties into my music and visuals. I’m so excited for my first song “Best Friend,” which just released and is another song that I started with another producer and then brought back to Marinelli. It’s kind of this gritty, look at a recurrent theme in my music which has been friendship. I think this song can easily relate to both friendship and the friendship within a romantic relationship. I’ve had a couple falling outs with various friends throughout my life, I think it’s just part of life and growing up. Even though that friendship might not serve you anymore it’s still so easy to reminisce on it and miss it. We made a music video for it the day before I left for tour last month, and I’m so excited for the world to see it!

You toured with Still Woozy back in 2022, shout out to Sven and Tani and their whole team. What were some of the most memorable moments from that tour?

That whole tour was literally a dream. Everything was so smooth and their crew is so great. Sven is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I had listened to Still Woozy for so long, and I had said this a couple of the nights on stage, but in 2018 I sent a DM to Still Woozy and was like “I love this song of yours, I’d love to work with you one day,” and he replied, “Oh send me what you’re thinking and I’ll take a listen.” I never sent anything because I got scared and thought “nothing would be good enough for Woozy,” so it’s amazing that my first long tour was with him. The most memorable moment was probably playing Brooklyn Steel three nights – so insane. It’s such a cool place to play once, let alone three times, but the entire tour was awesome.


You’re a few weeks into your tour opening for JAWNY. How has it been different so far compared to your tour with Still Woozy? 

JAWNY is also so sweet and supportive, but the tour hasn’t been quite as smooth. JAWNY got sick for two shows so those got canceled, and then our van broke down in the middle of Toronto. So it’s been stressful at times but we’ve got such a great crew that it’s easy to stay in good spirits. JAWNY is selling the rooms out, but the venues are a little smaller with this tour, which makes it a little more hectic to be an opener because there’s less staff to help load in and set up so everything’s always running late. So it’s been a little more stressful but equally as rewarding and fun!


What’s been your favorite city to play in throughout your career?

I think it changes with each tour. Like on the Still Woozy tour Salt Lake City and Vancouver were my favorites. Then on my personal headliner tour Los Angeles was my favorite because it was my hometown dream venue. Then on this tour I’d say Cleveland and Boston were my favorites. It really changes depending on the energy the crowd brings.


From pretty early on in your releases it was clear you were a standout star, now with a fast growing fan base of half a million listeners behind you, what would you say is the big next step for your career? 

I’m really looking forward to having my own headline tour that’s like a real tour. And I really believe in this next EP and the music and I’m really hoping it naturally grows and people like it. Also, I plan to get a debut album out sometime which is very exciting.


Where would you like to be at 10 years from now? 

I’d love to own a house and get another dog. I’ve got a little pitbull right now, and I feel like she would love a little Dachshund sibling. It’s crazy to think about buying a house one day but I’ve always wanted that. But I’m really just hoping to be able to make music that I’m still proud of and not sell out is my goal.


Is there anything else you’d like to say to Sheesh before you go? 

Stream "Best Friend" and come see me live!

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