I’m half-way through my voice message when an Atlanta area code calls me back. John-Allison Weiss is pulled over on the side of the road on their way to Brooklyn when they call me back. I do something I genuinely don’t do often and open with, “do I have permission to fangirl for a moment?” Weiss laughs gently and humors me. I’ve been following and adoring their music since their first album in 2009, and if you dig deep enough on the bowels of YouTube there is a music video I made for Doctor Who to “I Was an Island”.
So, in short, this is a pretty big call for me. But, for those not up to speed, let me tell you about Weiss briefly.
Originally from Flowery Branch, GA, John-Allison Weiss, who uses they/them pronouns, has always been known for their guitar heavy, indie pop songs. Whether focusing on the overwhelmingness of teenage feelings to the sadness coming with a breakup, Weiss has always known just the right thing to say or how to hit that one feeling you can’t quite eloquently describe with their songs. Their bio describes their tunes as “sad songs for fun times” which is a pretty accurate five word description of their entire back catalog (see: the entire New Love album).
Starting this week in Brooklyn, Weiss is hitting the road to celebrate 10 years of their critically acclaimed second album, Say What You Mean and their newest record, The Long Way which was released this year. To say that a lot has changed and happened in the 10 years since for Weiss is a little bit of an understatement. Ten years later in a different place in their life, they find it just as easy to play their songs as they did before.
“There are some of these songs that will always have to do with that time of my life,” said Weiss. “My style of songwriting, I just have always liked to write the universal way and how that ends up working out is that I find myself relating to my old songs in new ways over the years. It doesn’t feel that crazy to play these songs because I’ve kind of always been playing them all along in my sets over the years.”
Weiss’ album, The Long Way comes with a bit of a gap itself, being the first album they have released since 2015’s New Love eight years ago. Weiss smiles, and says that this actually feels like a first record itself since this is also the first album they have recorded since their voice dropped.
“The past records, especially Say What You Mean were so inspired by raw break up feelings,” said Weiss. “The Long Way was my first record in a long time, and I was writing songs with these themes like change and rebirth and finding yourself and what not.”
The cover itself is also an old childhood photo of Weiss back home in Georgia, decked head to toe in camo. In hindsight, it was an accidental but very appropriate nod to Weiss’ current adult aesthetic, and metamorphosis to trailer life as it is. Life’s funny like that sometimes in the best ways.
Weiss does a pretty great job of staying in contact with their fanbase and keeping them updated on their projects and along whatever the current tour is that they may be on, even showing insta stories of them screen printing shirts that are available to purchase for the tour. This DIY attitude has always been a part of Weiss’ work ethic and branding since the very beginning of their career to the point of even casting them as the poster child for Kickstarter back in the early aughts.
Weiss originally received fame from being one of the first to really utilize Kickstarter’s platform in the early days to their advantage by using it to fund their first album, … Was Right All Along. This led to obviously some pretty great street cred in the early wild wild west days of the internet, but getting to perform and work with legends such as Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sarah), Kevin Devine, and Lou Reed.
Yes. Lou Fucking Reed.
Weiss is an avid user of Patreon these days like many other musicians and creatives, which is not that far off from the platform that originally helped them hit the ground running. With social media being so commonplace compared to ten, fifteen years ago it’s up for debate whether or not it’s easier or more difficult to craft a social presence like we once did in the mid 2000s. Knowing what you know now, Weiss admits if anything they probably would have utilized Kickstarter more instead of trying to play the music industry mind games.
“I definitely think about it all the time,” said Weiss. “When I started this whole music thing it was the beginning of internet promo culture, and social media hadn’t yet become algorithm driven, and it was just people sharing pictures. Crowdfunding was how I was able to make my first couple records. But yeah, it’s interesting because I feel like from there I crowdfunded then saw a little popularity, and went on Warped Tour and went on some few really cool tours. And really kind of broke into the Alternative Press scene there, but [I’ve] had a couple small record label deals that didn’t pan out. But all along I’ve been sustained by the people who listened to my music. In a way, those first few records being funded by Kickstarter, I really kind of wish I had leaned into that from the start instead of spending the last 10-15 years playing the music industry game the way that the music industry wants it played.”
As mentioned recently, Weiss has gone back to their roots and leaned into Patreon to sustain themselves through the modern model of crowdfunding. We debated for a moment or two if the internet is more difficult now due to the magical algorithm and trying to fight the noise compared to back at the beginning of their career when honestly, you could post almost anything and have it seen pretty instantaneously. Woe are the days of just posting flyers in coffee shops advertising your upcoming shows. I argued that Richmond tries to keep this right of passage alive, we just have breweries in place of coffee shops these days.
Regardless, Weiss seems more relaxed and at ease these days. Trailer life and being a cat parent to their kitten Mouse are a good fit, as they happily mention camping in the California desert in the winter. As rent prices only get higher, I enviously compliment that they just might be onto something. As mid-30s queer millennial to another, I had to ask my go to question for folks our age. Knowing what you know now, what would you say to you ten years ago?
“For me it’s always going to be ‘you’re on the right path. Stick with it,’” said Weiss. “I think every weird twist and turn I took to get here made me who I am, so maybe if I go back in time to give advice to a past self it would be ‘you’ve got this’ for sure.”
Maybe just maybe, John-Allison Weiss really was right all along.
John-Allison Weiss will be performing with Future Teens on Sunday, November 19th, 2023 at the Richmond Music Hall located at 619 E. Main St, Richmond VA. Doors open at 7p. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at https://capitalalehouse.com/richmond-music-hall/ or in person at Plan 9 Records. For more information visit lowerkeymusic.com, or on Instagram at @johnallisonweiss.
Top photo by G Caliolo