It doesn’t always happen that your parents fully support your goal to become an artist. But luckily for Wisp, her father told her that “college will always be there for me and to pursue my rockstar dreams.” Sooner said than done, the mysterious singer has signed a deal with major record label Interscope at just nineteen years old and is releasing her debut EP, Pandora, today, April 5. But if you spend some time on TikTok, you’re probably familiar already with her massive hit Your Face, which has garnered forty-seven million streams on Spotify so far.
But don’t get confused, because there’s another viral star on the social media network with the same name: Wisp the cat. When asked about the topic, the up-and-coming singer comments that “it’d be super cool to collab with her, whether it’s just me meeting with her or us making a cute TikTok together.” How fun would it be? While we wait for that crossover, we delve into the shoegaze singer’s mysterious universe through songs like Luna, See You Soon, Mimi, or Pandora, which gives its name to the entire EP. Far from the Greek myth of the woman who unleashed all evil by opening that damn box, the record’s title “was named after Kraus, who is the producer who worked on that song with me, and he named it after the video game Pandora Tomorrow.” Very Gen Z, isn’t it?
Ahead of the release of her debut EP, Wisp spent some time with us to discuss her love for the shoegaze genre and how it eases her soul, the way she’s worked with different producers to craft her sound, her favourite viral videos on TikTok right now, and her upcoming American tour, which kicks off in Austin, TX on April 19th, and finishes in Los Angeles on May 23rd.
Hey Wisp, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. You’re a very mysterious person, is there any way you’d like to introduce yourself to our audience?
Hi, it’s such a pleasure to speak with you as well! I’m Wisp, my real name is Natalie, and I’m a shoegaze artist from San Francisco, California.
It’s funny that when you look for Wisp on TikTok, there’s another famous account: Wisp the cat. How do you feel about that? Any collab/crossover soon?
I’ve seen Wisp and she is the cutest cat ever. I love her so much, she always pops up on my for you page. I think it’d be super cool to collab with her, whether it’s just me meeting with her or us making a cute TikTok together.
As a curiosity, do you like cats or any other animals? Do you have pets?
I LOVE cats, they’re one of the favorite animals ever. I also really like marine animals like whales and sting rays. I grew up wanting a dog and a cat but never had one. After tour, I definitely want to get a cat, either an orange tabby or a black cat!
At just nineteen years old, you’ve signed with major record label Interscope, which has also supported very young artists since the beginning like Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. How do you think this will impact the future of your career?
Signing with Interscope has given me resources to create better music and collaborate with some of my favorite producers. I think of me signing as a way to enhance what I could’ve done independently such as making sure tour is well produced or my music videos being pleasing to the eye with the help of other creatives. I could see myself staying signed or branching off to be independent. At the end of the day, as long as I am able to make music that’s the best it can be for my listeners, that’s my top priority.
You’re about to release Pandora. With that title, I understand you have a thing for myths and legends?
I do! I grew up loving mermaids, which is why a lot of my visuals connected to my music are underwater themed. I would watch mermaid shows and rewatch the fourth Harry Potter movie for the merpeople because I thought they were so cool-looking. I had Greek mythology and fairy tale books I grew up reading too.
Also, Pandora was the one opening the box that unleashed all evils in this world. Are you reclaiming that figure? And what will that EP unleash in terms of your artistry and personality?
To be honest, the lead track in the record, Pandora, was named after Kraus, who is the producer who worked on that song with me, and he named it after the video game Pandora Tomorrow. But it kind of worked out in its own way because it ties in with a lot of the themes the EP portrays, such as greed and sorrow.
This is your debut EP. What has the process of crafting your sound been like?
A lot of the process has been at the comfort of my own home, as well as days in the studio with several different producers. It’s been such a pleasure working with Max (Photographic Memory), Kraus, grayskies, and Elliot on this EP. I have such different connections with each of these producers, and every time I am in the studio with each of them, the vibes are unmatched. Because they all have such distinct styles, I find that my connection with them each are so unique and refreshing, which has made songwriting such a fun experience.
Speaking of Enough for You, you explain that it “is about feeling undeserving for others because of how you perceive yourself due to insecurity and shame.” Do you speak in first person? Is music a way to understand your feelings, and even manage or overcome the negative ones?
Kind of, I think. I wrote it in the perspective of me talking to my internal self, a dialogue of self doubt. I find that when I feel the most emotional, I make the best music. Even before Wisp, every time I was having negative thoughts, I’d just pick up my guitar and put it into song. I think it’s because you could feel the emotion translate into music and it helps connect to listeners more, especially when they can relate to the music. It touches my heart when I can speak to others through my music, and that feeling is even better than me releasing stress through music on my own.
It’s somewhat surprising that in the age of sped-up versions going viral on TikTok, you take a completely different route and go for shoegaze instead. Do you think this slower genre helps you calm your spirit in the fast-paced world we live in?
Shoegaze has always helped ease my spirit as well as ascend it. The first taste I had of shoegaze was so mind-opening that I’ve been hooked ever since, making it my favorite music genre, which is why I decided to create my own. A lot of shoegaze is also hype, so being a pretty diverse genre I am able to listen to it for every feeling or scenario.
Also, I’m curious to know, do you have ‘formal’ music studies? Do you play any instruments?
I do! My parents put me into a lot of extracurricular classes as a kid and some of those were violin and classical guitar. I played for my school’s orchestra as a violinist for about five years, then I started taking classical guitar lessons. I started playing electric guitar and bass guitar when I was fourteen too, and those are the instruments that have stuck the most with me. During quarantine, I’d also write a lot of songs on my acoustic just for fun.
What are some of your earliest memories of connecting to music and thinking, “I want to do that”? Has your family been supportive in your decision to becoming an artist? Not all of them agree with that path for their children, or they might be worried that they won’t make it and don’t have a back-up plan, for example.
I did ballet competitively for most of my life and my favorite aspect of that was performing. I loved being on stage and showcasing what I had learned and worked hard on. Listening to more music and discovering the genres I grew to love strayed me into the music world and wanting to play instruments. I took a class in high school called Modern Band, where my classmates and I were required to form bands and play for the school festival (I went to Wallenberg High School, so the festival was named Wallapalooza). During that time, I already knew no matter where my career was headed for, I’d want to be part of a band even as a hobby.
My parents have always been super supportive of my creativity. I grew up with them reminding me that they want me to do what makes me the happiest. Knowing how rare this opportunity to make music full-time is, my dad told me college will always be there for me and to pursue my rockstar dreams.
You’re inevitably linked to internet culture. On your TikTok, you’ve recently posted the viral video of that girl crying her heart out outside of a Taylor Swift concert, which is hilarious. What are some other favourite videos/audios/viral moments as of recently?
I’ve been loving all the meme videos people use with the song recently, and I thought the Taylor Swift fan crying was such a funny template, glad you enjoyed it too! As for TikTok trends, I’ve been watching every hopecore video that pops up on my page. They’re just wholesome clips that remind viewers how loving the world and people can be, and I think it’s great that more positive messages are being spread on TikTok. I’ve also been trying to learn some Spanish words, so all of those quizzes really help.
In April, you’re embarking on a North American tour that will last over two months, which is a thrilling but hard experience. How are you preparing for it?
I’ve been spending a lot of time with my friends. I just moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco a couple months ago, so getting adjusted has been a really fun experience, and having found my group here has made everything a lot less stressful. I’m starting tour rehearsals soon as well, which I am super excited for! Most of the time I’m in the studio making music, which also serves a double purpose keeping my head in the game besides producing new material.
You say Your Face is one of your favourite songs to perform live. Why is that?
I can feel the energy in the crowd boost during that song, and it’s also just such a fun song to sing, plus the chords are really satisfying to play. Encores are one of the best parts about concerts and that’s the go-to encore song.
To finish, wishing you the best of lucks both on the release of Pandora and the upcoming tour.
Thank you so much for this interview!