First, a few things we know for sure about electronic producer/singer/songwriter Ramsey: She was born Rebecca Fisher in Las Vegas 20 years ago, has the kind of exaggerated lips that a lot of people in this town pay money for, sports an intricate web of tattoos on her hands, and is in possession of one of those how is this huge sound coming out of this tiny person? kind of voices.
In person, she’s fresh-faced and strikingly young-looking, although in most of the photographs available of her on the Internet she’s darkly fierce and ultra-sensual, like a cyborg priestess plucked from a Robert Rodriguez flick. Here, at a restaurant in Silver Lake on a Wednesday afternoon, she eats Brussels sprouts and says this dramatic, highly costumed image is basically a fluke, just a representation of who she chose to be during a few photo shoots, rather than an accurate summation of who she really is. Which of course begs the question: Who is she?
These days she goes only by the name Ramsey and makes music that is a fusion of spare, slithering drums, raw lyrics and electronic crescendoes. Her work has racked up more than 2 million plays on SoundCloud in the last eight months, and her first 10-track EP will be released before the end of the year. While she’s poised to break and says she “absolutely” wants to be a pop star (“so I can buy my mom a house”), she is also reluctant to endure the standard pop commodification process.
“They don’t know what box to put me in right now,” she says between bites. “They’re trying to push me in a certain direction so they can make sense of it; at least that’s how I feel. ‘Try and be more Evanescence.’ It’s like, ‘Ughhh. Fuck you.’”
Ramsey arrived in Los Angeles after a stint in Oregon working on her college pre-recs (she graduated high school when she was 16) and waiting tables. She didn’t know anyone in town, and her first job was stocking shelves at the Vons on Sunset and Hillhurst. (“It was horrible.”) She used the mental free time to dream up song lyrics.
She had always been into singing and performing, putting on shows for her family as a child, performing in the school choir and playing in bands during high school. A friend had uploaded a copy of Ableton onto her computer, and when she wasn’t at Vons she was in her WeHo bedroom making music. She’d hole up for 16 hours a day, sometimes forgetting to eat. She soon made friends, quit the grocery store, moved to Hancock Park, earned a better-paying gig writing one-off songs at 500 bucks a pop for a YouTube performer, and got connected to a social media manager who believed in her music.
Incorporating heavy electronic elements, her songs are like digital séances, outfitted with quietly stripped-down moments and heavy with mood. With a laugh, she says she suspects it all might be a bit much for her parents. The first track she released, the pulsing incantation “Wrong Heart,” came out eight months ago and has nearly 300,000 SoundCloud plays, although the warm internet welcome and a rash of publicity hasn't totally fortified her confidence.
"I’m sensitive as fuck about my music," she says. "If one person doesn’t like it, it hurts."
As a result of her marathon writing sessions, Ramsey is now sitting on a stockpile of fresh music, enough for two albums, and she’s jonesing to release it. Her most recent single, “See You Bleed,” came out earlier this month and finds her wailing over a thundercloud of electronic cacophony as if she's trying to bring down the sky. The accompanying video, in which she alternately writhes and cowers while looking like a gothic cross between late-era Miley and Fiona Apple's "Criminal" video, does little to shift the dark image.
Ramsey has always been into the blues, citing influences including Nina Simone and Janis Joplin and noting that her current output is as dark as it’s ever been. Much of it was inspired by a “typical unhealthy relationship” and its subsequent breakup, a situation that keeps on inspiring new material even as it slips into the past. She says that her music got dramatically better and that exceptional, synchronistic things starting happening in her life when she left her ex.
“These are fuck-off lyrics,” she says. “It’s stuff that I would never say or can’t say. It’s like you’re someone else in your music.”
While Ramsey produces all of the beats and every component of the music herself, live she focuses on singing and performing, playing with a DJ and a drummer. The stage is her happy place, where she gets the biggest thrill and all the best feelings. Her hope is that the future holds unlimited opportunities to inhabit this territory. She’s not sure what else she would do with her life.
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Although she loves fellow sonic shape-shifters Lana Del Rey and Björk, Rasmey says she tries not to listen to music that has influenced her, lest it seep into her own work. Instead she focuses on reading, which helps her find the right words to incorporate into her lyrics. She finishes eating and pulls a book called The Miracle of Mind Dynamics: Use Your Subconscious Mind to Gain Complete Control Over Your Destiny out of her bag.
“This has all happened very quickly,” she notes of her unfolding career. “It’s weird.”
While this woman may not believe herself to be the darkly mystical creature her branding suggests, she certainly seems to be using all of her powers to summon stardom.
Ramsey performs at the Mint on Friday, Aug. 26, with Alice Underground, Sugar Fly , Liz Gherna and VinylHead. Tickets and more info.