Toronto might just be entering its musical renaissance period. And while international superstars like The Weeknd and of course, Drizzy the 6ix God, may be leading the movement, it’s the young breakouts that are keeping it going.
With the debut of her self-titled EP, Ralph has burst onto the scene in a big way; seemingly popping up out of nowhere with bright, summery synth hooks, imaginative visuals, and a voice made to carry you to the nearest dance floor.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Toronto-native singer Ralph at the launch of the new Toyota C-HR to chat about growing up in Toronto, how it influences her style, and what some of her favourite spots to have a good time are (Hint: patios).
So tell me about Raffa, the woman before the phenomenon known as Ralph?
“Phenomenon!” *laughs* I’m from Toronto. I grew up with a pretty creative family, so they were always very supportive of their kids working in arts, which was really helpful. You know, it’s really nice to have the support of your family instead of them trying to force you into doing a law degree and you’re like, “No, I wanna be a musician.”
What part of the city did you call home?
The Annex — Bloor and Bathurst. My dad worked in film for 30 years, my mom was an artist and a teacher, so the Annex kinda fit their liberal kind of vibe. It’s a little fancy now, but they still live there in the same house.
How do you feel going back to your old ‘hood and seeing how much it’s changed?
I think change is inevitable in a city. It’s fascinating to watch neighbourhoods just kind of evolve and change. My biggest pet peeve is that I don’t think [the city of] Toronto does much for social landmarks. Like, we just knock down things and we don’t even think about keeping the history of our city alive. That sucks, you know? If we keep building up condos, the city’s gonna lose its flavour.
What kind of flavour does Toronto bring to your music?
Because I’ve lived here for my entire life, everything in Toronto reminds me of something. Every park, every piece of art, graffiti in an alley — everything has a memory attached to it because I’ve been here so long. I’m constantly inspired every time I go out. You get to know people very well; the complexities and relationships with different people. This city just endlessly provides inspiration. Also, there are so many wonderful, talented creatives in Toronto, and since I’ve been here for a long time, I know so many of them, and we have great relationships. I’ve been able to utilize [those] and have had so much generosity thrown my way from people who were like, “Yeah, I’ll help you out on this, do it for free, and I hope you can do something for me at some point.”
Do you yourself want to continue that tradition of helping out other Toronto creatives?
Totally! I’m a huge Toronto advocate. I think this city has so much talent and creativity. I love utilizing as many people that I can in my projects that I have relationships with who have helped me out — “Keep it in the family.” And I want Toronto to be taken seriously as a place of talent. That means making good videos, making good songs, collaborating with artists internationally. That’s one of my goals — to keep putting Toronto on the map.
If you could work with any contemporary Canadian or Toronto-based artist, who would it be?
There’s two, and even if you hadn’t thrown in the “Canadian or Toronto-based,” it would still be these two.
Daniel Caesar. I really love him. I think he’s an incredibly talented singer-songwriter. I’m a huge, huge fan. And Charlotte Day Wilson. I would love to have a song produced by her. She produced her own album and not a lot of people know. I mean it says it on the [album] artwork, but she produced and plays all the instruments on her album — she’s incredibly talented.
Where do you like to eat? How do you feel about all these Instagram food trends like the Phoritto?
Well, I mean, I’m always curious. I get it, you gotta keep people on their toes. Everyone wants to discover the next food trend. That being said, I can’t say any of the new food trends have blown me away.
I’m picky with food… I’m not a big junk food person. I really like eating healthy, and I think as a singer, it’s me being able to take care of my voice and overall health.
There are some really good places in Toronto. There’s a place on Dundas called VEGHED, which is this tiny little place that is so good and owned by this lovely family — they make bowls of green goodness. Hanmoto off of Dundas is really great; small shareable dishes. Bar Isabel is amazing if you wanna drop some cash…
What are your favourite chill out spots in the city?
Rhum Corner’s a really good spot for food and drinks on Dundas, too. It’s a Haitian rum bar. They always have good music and it’s not overwhelmingly busy.
During the summer, I am at the [Toronto] Island all the time, so I am devastated right now that I can’t go [because of the flooding].
Trinity Bellwoods is a bit insane now, so I find Christie Pits is my new spot. It’s also a really good date spot, because you can bring your own stuff and hangout forever, or for an hour if the date’s not good, and then be like, “Gotta go! Bye!”
Scadding Court pool is pretty great, too – the pool at Dundas and Bathurst. They play good music, and you can sneak some food and drinks up to the pool. It’s rammed during the summer, but it’s really fun ‘cause you go and it’s like, “Oh, everyone that I know’s in one place.” It’s basically Toronto’s hottest bar. I love to go by myself with a book or a crossword and lie in the sun by myself just doing my own thing, but it’s also really fun to go with a bunch of friends.
Best turn up spot in the city?
Geary, one street north of Dupont. It’s all of a sudden become the place for these amazing late night parties. Sometimes it’s disco, sometimes it’s house, sometimes it’s just a dance party. Geary is a hot spot to go that’s different in Toronto.
Cold Tea in Kensington is also a really good spot. They have a patio. Anything with a patio.
House parties, too! I live with my two best friends and we have a big patio, so we’ll have a party here and there. When we have full house parties, it gets rammed. We have a lot of space, though. It’s a big old house by the train tracks… I live a block away from my parents.
What’s your fondest Toronto memory?
Probably pool hopping. To me, that’s such a huge Toronto thing. I don’t know if any other city does it as big as Toronto, but I’ve been pool hopping since I was 14. Every time you do it, the cops come and everyone runs and someone falls from a fence, or you gash your arm open, or you go with the person you like and make out in a pool. To me it’s such a Toronto thing to do when it’s really, really hot and it’s 3 am — everyone’s just there.
Who’s your favourite Toronto artist? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.