What’s in a Pop Name? How Toronto’s Raffaela Weyman Settled on RALPH
"I like that it was the name of one of my favourite characters from The Magic School Bus"
The Internet has taught us that there’s a simple process for choosing a successful pseudonym—and it’s usually a combination of the street you grew up on, the name of your first pet, your birth month and what you ate for breakfast this morning. Sadly, out in the real world, this model doesn’t always work. When you’re choosing the name you hope your global fans will be screaming at you from a crowd, you’re going to want to dig a little deeper.
RALPH, Canada’s favourite on-the-rise pop princess, has her sights fixed on Gaga and Snoop-level success. And it seems like the 28-year-old Toronto native, who in her Instagram profile describes her sound as “〰 *🔮synth-pop-disco-soul🔮* 〰,” has what it takes to get there. Her deep, seductive, Stevie Nash-esque vocals and upbeat ’80s-inspired beats ensure that RALPH’s songs are great on their own, and she has over 10 million Spotify streams to show for it. But it’s her creative, fashion-forward, choreography-filled music videos (a speed-dating-inspired video for “Lond Distance Lover,” a senior citizen-filled pool party for “Something Better” and face masks in a Russian spa for “Tease”) that really stand out in the sea of female pop performers. And the name RALPH might have a little something to do with it too.
So let’s talk about your stage name, RALPH. I feel like your given name, Raffaela Weyman, sounds like such a great pop star moniker already.
Does it? I’ve done music for a long time, and I’ve done it under a lot of different names. I was in a band out of high school, and then I did stuff under Raffaella Rosemary, which is my first and middle name. When I transitioned into doing my RALPH stuff, I wanted to separate myself from my past musical projects. And also, I wanted there to be a separation between who I was on stage and who I was with my friends and family. I wanted to have the privacy of having my own name and having it be a personal thing. Something that not everyone knows or calls me. I think it can be hard to constantly be “on.” It’s nice to have a small way to disassociate with who you are as a performer, go home and really be yourself.
I think maybe we all need that. Maybe we should all have separate names for our professional and personal lives.
And you know, I think that’s a really good point. There’s this huge movement right now around honesty. People are more interested in celebrities being real. And I think they’re embracing having famous people on Twitter be like, “hey, I struggle.” And I think that’s so wonderful, and I’m happy to be very real. Because it’s always going to be a challenge to balance the line of giving yourself and being yourself.
And social media is a great example of that. Social media is where the line often starts to blur. Do you have a hard time knowing who the real you is because of the image you project online? Everyone seems to be losing the place where the line starts and stops.
And the question is always, do I want to be that person? I remember a friend, someone not music but someone that I’ve known for years, sending me a DM saying, “ oh my God you always look so good you probably wake up like that.” So I sent her a picture of what I look like waking up — and when you have bangs, it can be bad — to say, “just so you know this is what I look like when I wake up.” I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t put work into looking a certain way. I think it’s important to preach that.
When fans greet you, do they call you RALPH or Raffaela? And which do you prefer?
If you’re a fan, it’s RALPH. If we’re just going to have a one-off interaction, RALPH is great. It’s weird when fans try to add me on Facebook—and I’m hard to find because I’ve changed my name. I always just say, “no no no. There is still that boundary.” With social media, I think everyone feels like the person you admire is just a hop, jump and skip away. If you can DM me on Instagram, you have a direct line to me.
But, if I’m having an interview with someone and we’re talking intimately or I’m working with a producer, Raffa is great. If we’re going to have a personal conversation and you really going to get to know me, you need to know me as Raffa. And if I’m crying in the studio in front of you, I think you need to know me is Ralpha. Wait, Raffa. See now even I’m getting confused. It’s funny, friends I’ve had for years are now always getting confused.
I can see that. Obviously, the names are similar. How did you come to RALPH? Is there a story there?
So the project started with this producer called Johnny who I had gone on a date with. The date didn’t work out, but when he sent me a track to potentially sing on, I was really interested. It was kind of 80s pop, which is really different than the folk stuff I was doing at the time. When we were coming up with a name to put on it, he really wanted it to be Raffaella. But I really wanted it to be something different. A moniker. At some point, we had a list of names. There were so many names…
Carmel was one of them. We are both Italian, so a lot of them are very Italian-inspired. Milita was another one. And RALPH, I guess because it’s almost a shortened version of Raffaella. I liked that it had gender ambiguity. Was it a man? Was it a woman? And I like that it was the name of one of my favourite characters from The Magic School Bus. He’s this very chubby excitable guy.
But it’s funny how many times I’ll go into a venue, and the sound guy will go up to one of my male bandmates, and say, “hey nice to meet you.” They never think it’s me.
So who is RALPH then? Is RALPH you, or is RALPH the band?
RALPH is me. It’s my project. I’m really lucky to have a great band behind me, but when I get on stage, I’m RALPH.