“The whole concept of [the music] was that it comes from a time when you used to make mixtapes on cassettes for your friends or your girl. It didn’t matter if it was REM followed by De La Soul; it was just the music that you love. The person I was talking to said, ‘Oh yeah! I used to do mixtapes too. We played them and played them until the ribbon broke.’ When he said it, I was like, ‘Thank you for just giving us the name!’”
Welsh trio, Until The Ribbon Breaks, formed in high school and began making music together that blends a dizzying array of genres. By employing various multimedia tools, they craft music that is as cinematic as it is sonically complex, staying true to the concept behind their name. Their sound is so compelling that they were cherry picked by Lorde to open for a recent show in Los Angeles, which was incidentally, the band’s debut live performance. This past week they released their first full length, A Lesson Unlearnt, which is already receiving widespread praise from critics. They are currently on a month-long sold out North American tour supporting UK behemoth, London Grammar, and opened last week for Run The Jewels at The Regent in LA. Upcoming stops include Rough Trade in NYC on January 28th and Schuba’s in Chicago on February 2nd as well as an appearance at the Coachella Music Festival this coming April. The band recently took time out of their busy schedule to chat with The Untitled Magazine about how they got to where they are now.
Peter Lawrie Winfield, Elliot Wall, and James Gordon of Until The Ribbon Breaks interviewed by The Untitled Magazine:
The Untitled Magazine: So how did you guys get together and decide to form the band?
Peter Lawrie Winfield: I met Elliot in – I think you call it…
Elliot Wall: High school, it’s high school.
PLW: What grade though? When you’re 14.
PLW: Yeah, I was a freshman and Elliot was also a freshman. We met in school. We were both always in the music rooms. Elliot and I were always in various crap bands. We tried our hands at hip-hop, a ska-punk band, and later on I decided to go and make some music that I loved. I was kind of bored and tired of making music that was A). For other people and B), That I didn’t particularly like. So during that process, I reached a point in my production and engineering where I just needed another opinion. I needed to get some other heads on it, and James was one of those heads, so here we are.
UM: How long have you guys been making music together, collectively?
PLW: I don’t know, actually.
EW: It’s been a really nice organic process. We’ve been working as a band for about a year, since our first show. Basically we made a studio record before we were really a solidified band. Then afterwards, there was a stage of realization of ‘Ok, we need to do this live, so let’s rip it apart, again.’ So we kind of got to make the album twice in a way, because we made it in the studio, and then we learned how to perform it and really create it.
UM: As a group.
UM: So you guys were on tour last year with Lorde, and that was also your U.S. debut?
EW: It was our debut debut. Our first show ever was with Lorde, in Los Angeles.
UM: Wow. How was that experience?
PLW: We rehearsed every day for six weeks, as if we were getting ready for a Beyoncé tour. So we definitely felt ready. It was a bit of a drop in the deep end, but one that we are grateful for, definitely. It’s nice to have that much pressure to deliver.
UM: How big was the audience for that?
EW: First day was about 12,000 or 13,000, I think. At The Fonda in Hollywood.
UM: Wow! So you guys are living in LA now?
EW: Yeah, we moved there in March from New York.
UM: How long were you in New York for?
PLW: I moved to New York on my own last July, then these two came and met me there.
UM: Where does the name Until the Ribbon Breaks come from?
PLW: I was playing some of our music to one of my friends, and one of them asked me if it was on purpose that it jumped from genre to genre. I said the whole concept of [the music] was that it comes from a time when you used to make mixtapes on cassettes for your friends or your girl. It didn’t matter if it was REM followed by De La Soul; it was just the music that you love. The person I was talking to said, ‘Oh yeah! I used to do mixtapes too. We played them and played them until the ribbon broke.’ When he said it, I was like, ‘Thank you for just giving us the name!’
UM: Can you guys tell me a little bit more about the EP that you released last year? It feels like you’re going with a theme of modernity and technology, with track titles like “2025” and the EP titled A Taste of Silver.
PLW: Yeah, that’s totally going on. There’s a thread through the whole record of a prediction of the apocalypse: apathy, indifference – all those joyful, happy topics. So yeah, you’re correct. That is definitely a theme that runs through the EP and through the record.
UM: Is there a reason why that’s the theme?
PLW: Because the world is entirely fucked.
UM: Do you feel that way?
PLW: No. That’s a very pessimistic way of looking at it, but I feel like on some levels, for sure, yeah. I feel like we are all knowingly doing things that are detrimental to the planet and to ourselves, as a species. But we do them anyway, and we do them indifferently, and we do them apathetically.
UM: You were talking earlier about being in all these different bands playing different genres. Do you currently categorize your genre as anything?
PLW: That’s a good question.
EW: See, I hate that. I said this to Peter yesterday. I really hate it when people ask me what the style of music is, because I don’t think it falls under a category. I think it falls under many categories.
PLW: If you had to. I hate it equally, but …
EW: Ah, I don’t know. I know we don’t like the word R&B, but I think it’s kind of got an R&B…Ugh! No! No, it’s not R&B! I’m not picking one.
PLW: (Laughs) Look what you started.
EW: Anyway, you go.
PLW: I love the difficult questions. They’re the best.
EW: It’s kind of pop-y. It’s got pop elements.
James Gordon: I’d call it more alternative than pop.
EW: Alternative? You’d put it in alternative?
PLW: Yeah, me too. Sometimes people describe it as “future” this or ‘future’ that.
EW: Yeah. Future R&B.
PLW: Which is ridiculous because we make it now. We don’t make it in 10 years’ time. I’m even getting rock as well, just because we’ve got a guitar in the video! Now we’re electronic rock? I’m going to say it’s…It’s Nothing Step.
UM: Nothing Step?
EW: Yes. Yes.
UM: That’ll be this new genre.
EW: That kind of makes it sound shit. Because it’s nothing.
PLW: Everything Step?
EW: Everything Step – that’s what it is. We’ve all agreed on Everything Step.
PLW: Jukebox Step, boom! Jukebox Step.
EW: That’s what it is!
PLW: Jukebox Step, that’s what it is. Alternative Jukebox Step.
EW: Yes! I’m so happy about this.
UM: Can you guys also tell me about your new song with Run The Jewels? How did that collaboration come together?
JG: I was doing a session with a rapper called Mr. MFN eXquire who I really like. He’s got quite a Biggie tone about him. I did a session with him to make him some beats. He asked me who my favorite rapper was. I said El-P. He said, ‘Oh, he’s one of my best friends, I’ll tell him.’ And right then and there, he emailed him, and sent him the song “Pressure.” That alone was good enough for me, that my favorite rapper would hear something that I’d made. But then El-P emailed me to say that he liked “Pressure.” And I was like, thanks, that means so much man, and then a couple of months later, he sent me an email – we were in rehearsals at the time actually – and he said, we’re making the first track on the Jewels record and we need a hook. We need it within 24 hours. And so I did a hook on their first album.
EW: Bolted to the studio.
UM: That’s impressive.
JG: And then I basically asked him to return the favor, when the time was right. I’ve been listening to El-P since I was 16 years old, and you know what? With him especially it really is a case where you should meet your heroes. ‘Cause he is the nicest. And Killer Mike.
EW: Both of them. Both of them coming out for the video was amazing.
JG: Absolute gentlemen. Just the nicest dudes. And their success at the moment, I couldn’t be happier. They’re both, what? 40? And they’ve both been putting out records forever, amazing records, that for whatever reason have been slightly overlooked.
EW: Maybe don’t print their age.
JG: They do. They’re like, ‘I’m a fucking 40-year-old rapper.’ So the fact that it’s blowing up for them now is amazing. Great for rap. Great for music, great for them.
UM: Who are some of your musical influences or favorite musicians?
JG: I went through a long period of listening to just film music when I was in music school, and I know there are specific film composers who are very influential in terms of creating a world sonically. I think there’s a lot that you can take from films.
UM: I read that you guys projected films when you were writing your music. Did you curate a list of movies to play?
PLW: A lot of times it was just things that have enough montage sequence in them. I don’t think it’s very inspiring to write a song in front of a piece of footage that involves two people having a silent dialogue. So for me it was anything that is constantly moving and doesn’t necessarily involve people: nature programs and documentaries – so Terrence Malick films and documentaries about space. I just find it very inspiring for the composition of music.
UM: With a lot of your music videos that you guys put out, even when it’s just remixes that you do or re-imaginings of other songs, you’re always splicing stuff from films. How do you go about curating that?
PLW: I have a huge filing cabinet in my head of films and scenes that I remember. And usually when the music is finished, I do that in my head: doggy paddle, through my memory until something clicks.
UM: You have your album coming out this week? What can we expect from that sonically?
PLW: Future Jukebox Step.
UM: Will it be similar to your EP?
EW: The EP will have expanded.
PLW: Basically what we’re saying is some of the songs off the EP are on the record.
JG: It’s expanded and grown – just gone further down the road, and become wider and richer.
UM: Do you have any other projects, other than your album that you’re working on?
EW: Art. Can we say art? We’ve been making some art prints for each song.
UM: Please elaborate!
PLW: Okay. So for each song, we’ve been making these multimedia art pieces that incorporate some of the lyrics and pictures and inspirations, and they light up. The idea is that we’re going to do a gallery exhibition. Part of the appeal of this project is that it involves multimedia.
EW: We have to do this now. Now that you’ve talked about it!
PLW: Yeah. This is why it’s good.
UM: So you guys haven’t started yet.
EW: No we have, we’re like halfway through.
JG: It’s fun, because we’ve got literally no idea what we’re doing. We’ve never done art before, so there’s no pressure on it.
UM: Why did you guys decide to do this?
JG: Because I have an idea of the album being more than just an album, of being a gallery exhibition. Say we’re playing in one room, you walk through the videos – this is in my head; I’m not saying this will happen, I mean I hope it will – and in one of the rooms are these art pieces, so like ten art pieces, one for each song, and then another room is video projections, and then the final room we’re playing. That’s a thing I have in mind. So you enter the world of Until the Ribbon Breaks.
UM: That sounds really cool!
EW: I like it being made a tangible thing. Because we’re all from a time when we had a physical product to take home like a CD. So it just adds another dimension.
PLW: So. I told nobody this, but we want to do a double A-side. Two songs, and they both come under the title R.I.P which I want to stand for Rest In Picture. One of the songs is attributed to Robin Williams, and the other song will be attributed to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The actual sonics will be samples of dialogue from their films, so the musical bed, hopefully, will contain elements of them speaking. It might be a series that we can carry on. It’s just another way to combine film and music.
UM: That’s a very interesting idea.
PLW: Well, we’re going to see. That’s why I wanted to tell you, because you’ll get me off of my lazy ass, and actually do it.
EW: It’s not a lazy ass, actually. I retract your statements.
EW: It’s not lazy at all.
PLW: Well I’m good at having ideas, but I’m not so good at sitting them through.
EW: You are, they just take longer than they should.
UM: Well that’s like most people, they have good ideas, they just never follow through.
PLW: James is a follower through. James is a ‘Come on, why haven’t we…come on, come on!’ Which is great.
JG: Monday it starts! Rest In Pictures.
UM: So what do you guys have coming up this year?
JG: The art prints. Some new music as well, just because we always have to be making new music.
– Photography and styling by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
01/21 – Sound Academy – Toronto, Canada*
01/23 – Olympia – Montreal, Canada*
01/24 – State Theatre – Portland, ME*
01/26 – House of Blues – Boston, MA*
01/27 – Terminal 5 – New York, NY*
01/28 – Rough Trade – Brooklyn, NY+
01/29 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC*
01/30 – Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA*
02/02 – Schubas – Chicago, IL+
02/03 – First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN*
02/06 – Roseland Theatre – Portland, OR*
02/07 – The Fox Theatre – Oakland, CA*
04/11 – Coachella Festival – Indio, CA
04/18 – Coachella Festival – Indio, CA
*supporting London Grammar