If you heard “Drew Barrymore” by Bryce Vine, chances are you became an immediate fan. The smooth, sultry record embodies all the emotions that come with love and lust — from the hookups to attachment issues to simply enjoying each other’s company.
Real name Bryce Ross-Johnson is a singer-songwriter who was born in New York, but grew up in the Fairfax area around Park La Brea, before The Grove was The Grove. He jokes, “It was a dingy area actually, Fairfax was not poppin’. It was me and a bunch of Korean families,” he adds with a chuckle.
After “Drew Barrymore” took off, Bryce signed to a major label and released his most recent single “La La Land,” tapping Bompton rapper YG. It was the two artists’ both differences and similarities that made the record what it was — attracting audiences from all different walks of life. At the end of the day, Bryce just likes to do things “that make him feel good with people who make him feel good, while trying to make other people feel good.”
With that comes his love for art, expression, and musicality in each record he creates. L.A. Weekly sat with Vine to discuss signing to Sire, getting YG on the record, and what to expect on his forthcoming album Carnival.
L.A. WEEKLY: Why should people fuck with you?
BRYCE VINE: I’m just trying to make people feel better. I like writing songs that make me feel better. Music was that for me growing up, that’s why I started writing songs. I make decisions based on how important the memory will be or how helpful it’ll be. Even going to Costa Rica, I booked that last night because I knew my best friend who never has time was going to go. I like to do things because they’re worth doing. [laughs] Then I can write about it later.
What does your best friend do?
My best friend I’ve known since we were 14 years old. He renovated his family farm in Michigan into a sanctuary for abused animals. He’s been doing that for 3 years. Goes and rescues pigs — mostly barn animals — and educates people on how the meat and dairy industry mistreats animals. He’s vegan obviously, but not one of those crazy, in your face, points a finger, blames you kind of person. He shows you what they’re like. One of his videos went viral a year ago, and now he’s filming for his show for Animal Planet. It airs in January. We grew up in the same house, my mom raised us both.
What are you most excited for in Costa Rica?
I don’t know what to be excited for, I don’t know anything about it. Everyone talks about how beautiful it is. Our [me and Dan’s] days somehow lined up. There for four days, then to Miami for eight days.
What’s in Miami?
I like to write there, because you get a lot of different vibes in Miami. You get a little bit of culture: Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Portugese, South American, all that. You got the beach where it feels a little tropical, then you can go to Brickell and feel the city. It’s just a fun place.
How does Miami compare to L.A. There’s beaches here too!
Yeah but it’s blue-er water. It feels more like a getaway. LA is polluted as fuck. [laughs]
How would you describe your sound?
It’s a mixed bag. It depends on what it is that day. I listen to a lot of different stuff. Fela Kuti is one of my favorite artists. Rancid is one of my favorite bands. If I hear something I like, I try to figure a way to use whatever the formula was in that song.
I love that your name Vine is inspired from Vinyl because you like jazz. How does actual musical instrumentation play into your sound?
Constantly. Me, my DJ, my drummer and producer whom I work with on all my songs, we all went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. My DJ scratches, but he plays trumpet on stage. I play guitar and keys. I make a lot of beats from scratch and my producer makes it sound how it sounds. The musicality is what I think diversifies me from other rap-sounding artists. We are musicians and we love doing music.
I saw “Drew Barrymore” has over 5.6 million streams on SC alone. That’s nuts!
No, would have never expected it. I mean, I thought it was dope. When I was done, I was like “oh yeah, this is dope. I hope other people think it’s dope.” Just to clarify, I was 29, unsigned, and had been making music for a while [since 13]. I had little groups of fans in different places. From a high school punk band to Berklee to sleeping on couches at my friends places. [laughs] To trying to work on music to finally not having to work a job anymore, then finally getting signed to Warner and the first single going platinum. It was such a weird long road before all this stuff happened super quickly. [chuckles]
Where were you working before?
I’ve had many jobs. I’ve driven for Lyft. I’d play my music in the car and see what people said. I even used some stories from driving Lyft. I’d drive at night at lot because traffic in L.A. is evil in the day. I’d use some stories I heard from people in song lyrics. Then I was a barback at Black Cat in Silverlake, it’s still there. I worked at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, that’s my favorite bar in LA still.
How’d you find your way to Warner?
When I put out “Drew Barrymore,” I was still unsigned. In one week all of a sudden, I had labels reaching out trying to sign me for the first time ever. I had met labels through the years but it’d always been a struggle. They didn’t quite get what I was going for. I met Rani Hancock through my producer, we vibed immediately. She had just become the head of Sire Records and I was her first signing. We just vibed on books and sci-fi because we’re both super nerds. She went to Berklee too, so the head of my label and me went to the same college.
I met a couple other labels that week, but I do things with based on who I want to build my life with. I remember I called her right before I signed the deal — I was still terrified. I was about to sign myself to a label and you never know how that goes, people get shelved all the time. I called her like “hey you’re serious about this right? I want my music to mean something.” She said, “I plan on going global, that’s all I can say to you.” I’m like “alright, I trust you.”
Has Drew Barrymore heard it?
I don’t know! I feel like she must have by now. But people still come up to me now, “yo I just heard your ‘Drew Barrymore’ song for the first time a week ago.”
Talk about enlisting YG on “La La Land.”
Me and my buddy JP wrote “La La Land.” We were kind of joking around about Hollywood and Los Angeles culture mostly, and the conversations you have. When the song became what it became, more of an anthem type groove, we’re like “we should get a feature.” Because it was a short song anyway, like 2 minutes. I’d been a fan of YG since “My Hitta,” he just represents a different side of California culture than I do. ‘Cause I’m like a suave hippie. I wear tie-dye and he’s a Blood, so I wanted to give that too. That’s included in my realm of musicality and what I grew up listening to. We sent it off hoping he’d be down and he was down. He had never heard of me but he went and looked me up, saw what I was about, and decided to do the song. He’s a cool dude.
What’d you think of his verse when you first heard it?
Thought it was out of place a little bit. It goes from super smooth to YG heavy. But again, I knew what I was getting into getting YG on the song. It’s a little out of nowhere.
How’s the fame and attention treating you?
It’s cool. I feel like this is the sweet spot, I can walk down the street and be completely unbothered depending on where I am. I don’t have to hide in plain sight, but I still get to have songs that are doing well and people listen to my music! That’s something I’m gonna miss at some point.
What’s the best encounter you’ve had with a fan?
There was a girl who brought me a little booklet to take notes in to write songs in. She told me she got a vaccination shot, an accident that turned her into a quadrapalegic for 4 years and a parapalegic for 2 years. Then she was walking, talking, jumping around at my show. She said my music helped her get through it.
It’s so crazy what people’s stories are. It really humbles you when you realize someone you’re walking past on the street has a story that’s probably 10 times harder than yours. I don’t know how I’d go through something like that, deal with it, and still be able to… she had this great warm energy.
Another one was this dude Calloway Mills, I can’t forget his name. He’s been to every show I’ve played in the general vicinity of where he lives in Indianapolis. Some of these people come great distances. He was at the very front row of the Cleveland show. Really smart clearly but he told me he’d been to jail before, had trouble in his life. Even mentally, he knew he wasn’t all there. I threw him the mic from the stage because he was singing every word to every song. In front of 800 people, this awkward dude turns around, gets on the barricade and starts singing all the words to the crowd, confidently! Some shit it took me my entire life to get comfortable doing. [chuckles] That was crazy.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
You can have a great life and treat people well. You can work at something and eventually it’ll probably work out. You can stick with the same friends, who knows where they’ll end up. Life is enjoyable man! Life is meant to be enjoyed if you’re given the opportunity, so I want to give people a soundtrack to do that with.
What can we expect from The Carnival end of July?
It’s a lot of songs with different moods. I wrote a song called “San Junipero” inspired by an episode of Black Mirror I really liked, about two people falling in love in a hopeless place. I have a song about after you break up, you go out with your friends and try to piss off the other person by looking like you’re having fun online. It’s life songs, things I think a lot of people go or have been through. It’s supposed to make people accentuate the good feelings and decrease the bad ones.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I want to travel the entire world, see as much of it as I can. I live to understand and grasp how big and diverse our world is. The people, the culture, the colors, sights and sounds are what drives me to do all the things I do — to be able to when I die say I saw most of the world. Met good people… it’s a good way to stay humble.
What can we expect at your show at Fonda end of July?
A lot of energy! [chuckles] The crowd is crazy, you’ll see. They come there and just relieve all of whatever they’re going through for an hour. I’m doing the same thing, but it’s double-energetic when they’re doing it back at you. It’s me, my drummer Al, my DJ. We have musicality, we have lights going. I’m gonna play all the songs from the new album. I’ve never really known how to describe the show. When people come there, they get it.
How’s it feel to perform in your hometown?
Amazing. When I sold out Troubadour in February, I was like “I fucking love LA.” [laughs] I’ve been back and forth with this city, a love/hate relationship, but that was a big one. My dad was there, my whole family came through.
Talk about enlisting the opener Carlie Hanson.
She’s dope. She’s like Billie Eilish funky vibe, but with a ’90s rock thing going on. Like Avril Lavigne of the 2019/2020’s. She’s cool.
Anything you want to let us know?
Carnival, July 26! There’s 11 tracks, but don’t quote me. There’s a voicemail message we threw in from someone very recognizable, like a little intro to “Drew Barrymore.”
Bryce Vine plays with Carli Hanson at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 27th at the Fonda.