Artistically, Raven Hollywood doesn’t seem scared of anything, though he has a lot of feverish curiosities. He represents a creative dualism that is always moving, always re-shaping but, as a result, never specifically grounded or tied to anything – well, except when it comes to matters of the heart and Raven’s close relationship with partner and popular Seattle musician, DoNormaal.
Raven, who has released several songs recently, remains an enigmatic figure in Seattle music but one who is constantly thinking, reconfiguring, and pushing toward some eventual end point – only to start anew almost immediately after. So, as 2017 winds down and 2018 begins, we thought it would be fruitful to talk with one of the city’s most numinous figures.
You’ve gone through a few name changes lately – why?
My real name is Raven Matthews. My mom named all of her kids interesting names with the intention that we could use them as stage names. Both my parents are artists and all my sisters are, too. So I always liked Raven but I felt like I didn’t want to have my full name be my stage name for privacy issues but I also wanted to establish a difference between who I am and what my artist persona is. I wanted there to be a distinguished separation so I wouldn’t lose track of myself.
So I took off my last name and I just wanted to be Raven. But it’s going to be hard to find Raven when you search for that, so I went by RVN. But there’s another artist in town that goes by RVN and there’s a clothing line that goes by RVN, too. So I recently just changed it to Raven Hollywood, which came to me a few years ago as a potential name, so I just kind of went back to it.
Right now I feel pretty comfortable with Raven Hollywood and it goes with this combination of being a northwest musician but also having this clash with glam – glam and grunge – a contrast between the music industry glamorous and this grey in Seattle. But I also don’t want to fall into the expectation of that indie band gloom, this blanket that almost covers up individuality.
You seemed upset about the recent passing of Lil Peep – did you feel a strong connection to him?
When I first heard of Lil Peep – Christy [Raven’s girlfriend, aka DoNormaal] showed me one of his songs and I was immediately interested in his songwriting and felt like we probably shared similar influences. So there was this kindred spirit element there. He was a bit younger and so throughout his career both Christy and I stayed keeping tabs on his progression, interested in what he was doing stylistically. He was working with Lil Tracy, who is originally a Northwest artist, and a friend of ours, Fish Narc, who, in the last couple of years, moved out to L.A. to produce for those guys. There was always this one-degree of separation. I had a lot of respect for his emo hip-hop fusion.
Particularly with Lil Peep, I just felt like he had a way of writing and phrasing and putting together his metaphors and music and conveying his raw emotion that felt very inspiring. And seeing how he connected to the youth and their sense of being a lost generation and feeling depressed and anxious all the time – things that are increasingly prevalent in our world – was intense. His passing felt like a blow to identifying with different frustrated and outcasted sensitive souls.
What is 69/50?
It is the chemical combination or spiritual combination of the frequencies of DoNormaal and I and our relationships. From the moment we met each other, it felt like there was a historical meeting from the mind but from different experiences. 69/50 started as our relationship but as we started to put shows together and create community and solidify our philosophy, it grew beyond a relationship into a collective. And any local artist that felt similar, we try to embrace and give them opportunities to perform.
As an artist, what do you feel most connected to?
I guess I feel most connected to the job of the songwriter – putting together concepts for the structure of a song and also the lyrical element but also creating textural sound landscapes for those lyrics to sit on. Creating an overall tone or overall world that my music exists in that people can only find by visiting that world. It grows as I learn more about the different tools.
I’m teaching myself how to play guitar. I’m trying to improve on how to sing better. I’m trying to have more tools. I feel like a modern day composer but I’m also teaching myself these things. So I feel drawn to art as an energy and as long as I’m here on this earth. There’s an amount of drive and inspiration but a limited amount of things you can get done. I’m drawn to filmmaking, acting, music – I guess I just do whatever feels most appropriate in the moment. It’s a changing thing.
You’re often experimenting with your appearance – like putting a bloody octopus on your face. What compels you to be so visually outlandish?
I think, going back to childhood, there’s a bit of always being weird and feeling like an outcast but finding I could find my way into social dynamics by being funny or getting people’s attention. Or doing other things people might not want to do. And I guess there is an attention-seeking element, too. I don’t know what it stems from. There’s just a draw towards things that seem dangerous or experimental. There’s something absurd and funny and tragic about life. I try to cover as much as I can.
But I do also take myself pretty seriously. And I’m trying to get into comedy. It’s a weird balance…of making productive and inspiring art or indulging in spectacle and absurdity. I don’t want to fall into any category. I’m not this pretty boy lead singer guy. No matter how much I want to be this perfect sex symbol there’s always going to be a delinquent nut job in me that wants to express themselves as well.
What have you learned about yourself in the last year that you particularly appreciate?
Honestly, that’s a real good question. I need a more positive outlook on myself. I need to appreciate those things. In the last year or so, it’s really hard not to just think how you want to change or how you want to grow. I’m hard on myself. I guess I end up appreciating what I’m doing. I’m a fan of myself. And I always enjoy seeing the things I create. But I’ve learned that I need to be self-disciplined and force myself to work. When I get into the work, I can get into an obsessive zone and really create a lot of cool things. But I have to keep on myself and be consistent, put myself into the process. You have to force yourself in even if you don’t feel like you want to. Make it so you’re just one step from creating. That’s been helpful to learn and I can always be more productive if I initially push myself.
What’s coming up in 2018?
I’m going to be continually doing a monthly show at Chop Suey, booking friends and peers and talented people building that legacy alongside DoNormaal for 69/50 as a source of live music curation. And then, as far as music, I have another album coming up that I’ll be releasing singles for on SoundCloud. I also have the first installment of a series of comedic shorts on YouTube under the name of The Raven Show. I hope to film more of those episodes and maybe do a national tour with some people. I believe there is a cultural and art renaissance happening here in the Northwest, and I think 2018 is going to be a very productive year.