The Fuzzy, Nostalgic, 90′s, VHS Aesthetic
Best interview we’ve ever done. Or close to it. The band who’s signature sound is electronic pop and R & B infused over hip-hop beats, well they wouldn’t describe themselves that way. Allow me to start over. With a sound that’s not to be categorized (there, that’s better), Until the Ribbon Breaks (full explanation on their name below) knows no bounds when it comes to the art of music and conversation. Nothing during our talk was off limits as we touched on everything from covering a classic, Blondie’s “One Way or Another,” what current movie director they’d want to score a film for, and what would go down during an evening spent with Hitler. Yes, that happened. To say we got in-depth is an understatement. UTRB is made up of Pete Lawrie-Winfield, James Gordon and Elliot Wall, who all spoke. All photos below were taken during a live show at Rough Trade NYC by our very own Rick “Platano in Gotham” James.
The Soul Dynamic | How did where you grew up influence your music?
UTRB | James | Each of us probably all have a different musical upbringing and the things that were around us, and so on, but I can speak for myself, I come from the country side in the southwest of England and down there, there’s not music that comes through. There was more when I was really, really young, but when I was at the age that I would go to gigs, not many bands really came through Exeter, which is where I’m from. On the other hand I had a really rich musical upbringing at school and music college and had really good music teachers. I really kind of came into it from the classical world. But in terms of the culture in England, as soon as you start to venture out of your small home towns, for me it was going out to Leeds – Leeds and Manchester were two places that were obviously very influential for me as a musician. That was when I started to go out and play in bands and sort of feel what it’s like really to exist in music in the UK.
The Soul Dynamic | Cool. Anyone else want to take that or should I go onto the next one?
UTRB | Pete | Sorry this is Pete, how are you man?
The Soul Dynamic | I’m good, very excited to be talking to you guys and excited to see you play later.
UTRB | Pete | Oh thanks buddy. Yes, just a quick one on living in Britain. I think the music that comes out of a certain place is very influenced by the weather and the architecture and environment that you make the music in. Hence reggae from Jamaica, or really miserable singer/songwriter music from Britain (he laughs). I don’t think bands, like early Radiohead, would of come out of anywhere else other than where they came from you know, from the middle of no where, the same as Nirvana coming out of Seattle, I think where you’re from definitely influences you.
The Soul Dynamic | Cool that leads into my next question, for you guys what’s been your biggest influence actually pushing you to become musicians?
UTRB | Pete | Personally speaking I can’t escape the fact that my parents are both musicians by trade and so were their parents. There were always instruments in the house, there was always music playing, instead of getting a babysitter while they were at work, my sister and I would go sit in an empty theater and watch them rehearse for the show, whatever it was, ballet, opera or the orchestra. So I think that certainly music was always there for me.
UTRB | Elliot | Hey man, I’m not sure why, but I always wanted to play drums. I had a couple suitcases, like wooden suit cases that I used to hit in my room when I was about eight. I used to hit them with the windows open and tell the girls I had drums (Pete chimes in, “nothing’s changed”).
The Soul Dynamic | So you’d just invite girls over by telling them you were playing the drums tonight or what?
UTRB | Elliot | Yeah that’s it, I’d make them all sit on the drums. No, myself and Pete both went to a school that had a really, really good music department and I was able to play every single morning, even when I didn’t have a drum kit, every single morning I was able to go in the music room and play music with loads of different people, and we were always pushed to continue playing music.
UTRB | James | And for me it’s actually similar to Elliot, but less on the girls buzz (Elliot “it was the boys”), no not the boys either (everyone laughs), meaning that when I was younger I just really wanted to play the drums whenever I went to see a band. You look at the drummer it’s like that’s the coolest fucker in the room. And you want to…not in this band, the coolest fucker is the keyboards (everyone starts giving him shit), no I started learning the drums when I was eleven, and I set the drums up in my garage. My mom made the mistake of buying me a drum kit and I used to bug her all the time about playing them really really loud. And I used to pretend, I used to put my headphones on and play to an album and play all the drums through it and pretend I was playing a gig, imagine I was playing for thousands of people.
The Soul Dynamic | Hell yeah, I like that you were envisioning that from an early age.
UTRB | James | Yeah big time, it was really sad, I’d go to the drum kit thinking I was really on stage (Elliot, “Yeah, man same!”).
The Soul Dynamic | That’s how you gotta do it though.
UTRB | James | Yeah man. I really wanted to perform and work in music at a really early age, it was sewn in deep.
The Soul Dynamic | Awesome. We have this thing that we do called versus. It’s five quick questions, like Kanye vs. Jay-Z or Arcade Fire vs. Vampire Weekend, and you guys just spit out who you like between the two. Here we go:
So the Superbowl is tomorrow, maybe you give a shit, maybe you don’t: Patriots vs. Seahawks | Elliot | Patriots, but I don’t give a shit!
Favorite English Dish vs. New York City Pizza | Shepard’s pie, Shepard’s pie!
Genre of music, which was better: 80’s vs. 90’s | Pete (Someone shouts 90’s before Pete answers) | 80’s is the worst decade of music that’s ever, that there’s ever been in the history of music, I hated it so much (the band went with the 90’s even though there was a little 80’s love).
The Soul Dynamic | I like it, there was some solid work in the 80’s, but I hear you (there was a ton of back and forth here before landing on the 90’s).
UTRB | Pete | No (more laughter).
Women: Blondes vs. Brunettes | We’re going brunettes, cause two of us have brunettes.
The Soul Dynamic | I like it, I like it. That’s the right answer.
UTRB | Are you a brunette then?
The Soul Dynamic | I am but I love me the brunette ladies, especially when they have crystal blue eyes to match.
UTRB | Ohhh! Are you talking specifically about your girlfriend now?
The Soul Dynamic | No, no I’m not. Haha!
UTRB | Oh yeah, ok, so who’s your Hollywood crush, come on let’s have it?
The Soul Dynamic | I love me some Salma Hayek man.
UTRB | Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.
The Soul Dynamic | She’s amazing, love everything about her. What about you guys, Hollywood crush?
UTRB | GROUP | My fiance. Rihanna. Taylor Swift. If were talking actresses, Tom Cruise.
Bands: The Rolling Stones vs. Beatles | Pete | We hate that this is a thing, can we say neither? I really love one Rolling Stone’s song, and that’s it.
The Soul Dynamic | Which one is it?
UTRB | Pete | “You can’t always get what you want…” But I categorically don’t like the Beatles. (Elliot, “I’m with Pete there).
The Soul Dynamic | Ok, so we’re going to go with neither.
UTRB | Pete | Neither Simone.
The Soul Dynamic | Nice.
Drinks: Hi-Ball of Bourbon vs. Pint of Beer | Bourbon. None of us drink beer actually.
The Soul Dynamic | Signs of a true band, there you go.
UTRB | We’re British, it’s not strong enough and it makes you fat.
The Soul Dynamic | Alright, that is the end of that line of questioning.
UTRB | Can we play another fun game like that?
The Soul Dynamic | We can if you want to.
UTRB | Yes please.
The Soul Dynamic | Ok, I got one. Are you guys film buffs?
UTRB | Yes.
The Soul Dynamic | Which one was better, Casino or Goodfellas?
UTRB | Casino (all the way around).
The Soul Dynamic | That was the right answer. All right, I’m going to move on (laughing). But if something strikes you, let me know and we can get into it. On your record (A Lesson Unlearnt, their Debut LP), you worked with Homeboy Sandman, Run the Jewels , you’ve done a Blondie cover, remixes of The Weeknd London Grammar, Phantogram, Tegan and Sara – what is it about your sound that lends itself to so many genres?
UTRB | Pete | We, the name Until the Ribbon Breaks, comes from the idea that we don’t have a genre, and we do not give one solitary fuck about that. It’s actually intentional in terms of, Until the Ribbon Breaks being from a time where you made playlists from cassette, and it didn’t matter what genre any of the songs were from, as long as you liked them and you played them, and played them until the ribbon broke. So we are intentionally genre free.
The Soul Dynamic | Fucking love that answer. Yes! All right I can’t ask you the next question cause it was about your name. So the creative process. It’s not necessarily an easy one, everyone has their own flow they follow, I read that you guys like to project films and then put your own score to it via your music. Can you go a little into that process and why it’s successful for you guys?
UTRB | Pete | I have a university degree in film making and what I learned in those courses was how to smoke loads of weed, no (more laughter), what I learned in those courses was how to edit film to music. And in that process I had so much fun playing with which one works with which, picture and sound, and how and why they complemented each other, and I fell in love with that process, that marriage of film and music. So now we use it in our writing, use it in producing, use it in recording, we use it on stage. I think visuals are made better by music, and music is made better by a visual accompaniment. It compliments each other, so why not use it in all areas of the creative process, rather than just the final result.
The Soul Dynamic | Actually that made me think of something. Going back to our little game from earlier (the guys give me a collective, “ahh yeah!!”), what is your favorite soundtrack?
UTRB | Elliot | (James shouts for Elliot to go) Ohhh! The Lion King. No, I’m going to take Jurassic Park, not any of the new ones.
UTRB | James | I would probably say Blade Runner.
The Soul Dynamic | Oh nice! Pete?
The Soul Dynamic | Oh he’s great. All right, let’s do this then, let’s take it to another level. If there was a director out there right now who came to you with a film idea, what director would you most want to work with? If they said, “Hey, score our film and do the fucking soundtrack,” who would that be?
UTRB | Elliot | Michael Moore.
UTRB | Pete | That’s so difficult right now. It’s going to have to be Terrence Malick, it just really is. I say that, but then I’d like to make something…that would be amazing to make, a really beautiful, amazing introspective soundtrack, but I think that wouldn’t be a challenge. There’s almost a part of me that would like to make a huge Hollywood film. And then with the soundtrack you could make it weird. You could bring some depth to a maybe a slightly a shallower film with the soundtrack. Which I think would be a bigger challenge than making a cool soundtrack to an indie film. So I’m going to say the director of Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón, I think he’s going to go on to some great things.
UTRB | James | I mean, similar, I think it would be challenging to score Christopher Nolan or something. Like a big, epic…between us I think we do have enough skills where we could arrange stuff like strings, and do like big big sounds, like orchestral stuff. We could do that kind of weird, big, epic stuff.
UTRB | Elliot | No Country for Old Men, I think it would be interesting to attempt to soundtrack that film, because there’s not really a score to it. So for me, it would be the Cohen brothers.
The Soul Dynamic | Blondie. Two part question. How did you guys come up with the idea to cover “One Way or Another?”
UTRB | Pete | It’s one of the few things we do where we were approached to see if we would be able to do a version of “One Way or Another” that fit in our world. I’m gonna have to give complete credit to James Gordon on that one, he did the production on that. He’s on my left (keep in mind we’re on the phone).
UTRB | James | Actually, truth be told, it wasn’t like we were specifically asked to do that one. Maybe there was a choice, but the reason why we chose to do that one specifically, it just leant itself to a certain type of imagery and feeling and aesthetic that fit into our world very nicely really. In terms that it can sound quite dark, it can sound quite big and epic. Where as the original is much more of a juxtaposition (Elliot, it’s in a horribly major key as well), you could maybe argue that we’ve made it truer to the lyrics and the meaning. Possibly, depending on how it’s interpreted from the original.
UTRB | Pete | I would love to hear you say that to Blondie, I actually would. That would be amazing.
UTRB performs “One Way or Another” for the first time live.
The Soul Dynamic | That would be amazing. Well actually you answered the second part of that question, which was, basically, you can’t really cover a classic without putting your own spin on it. So my question for that and you kind of just touched on it just now, what made you decide to go with such an anthemic route? You guys have a beautiful take on it by the way.
UTRB | Pete | Thank you. I think similarly to our answer about wanting to score a Hollywood epic rather than an indie film is because it would be expected of us to want to do something that’s more avant-garde and left field and stranger. I like to think we shouldn’t wear our seat belts, we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to anything at all. I think we should be up to the crash.
The Soul Dynamic | Let me ask you this. When you guys are making music and shit’s just not going your way, how do you push through creative challenges?
UTRB | James | It usually goes this way. Basically it goes, we’re making something and we really like it and then we decide that we hate it and it’s really shit.
UTRB | Pete | I have a nervous breakdown.
UTRB | James | Pete has a nervous breakdown and starts walking outside the studio, pacing, thinking everything’s fucked and then, and then suddenly it’s amazing again. And it’s like the best thing you’ve ever done – and then Elliot comes into the studio (laughing). What happens then, and this is fucking brilliant and really useful, really, really useful and I think it’s a big asset the way we’ve developed this process. But Elliot comes into the studio and he basically says, “Guys that’s shit.”
UTRB | Elliot | Not always!
UTRB | James | Well not always. But usually there’s something in it, maybe drums or maybe the rhythm or maybe the tempo is really loads too slow, but Elliot has like this kind of objectivity, boldness, the honesty of someone completely fresh to come in and be like, “Guys this part of it needs to really change.” And then we change it and then suddenly it is really good.
UTRB | Peter | Elliot’s major skill I would say, is he has a real pop sensibility, he doesn’t care about noodling, he just wants to get to the point. The point being some kind of hook or lift.
UTRB | Elliot | Yeah exactly. I want to be able to walk in and there to be goosebumps. Goosebumps is the important factor.
The Soul Dynamic | So basically Elliot, you come in there and you’re like “All right guys, we need to finish this shit now.” Done.
UTRB | Elliot | Yeah. Or start again and put a hook in it.
The Soul Dynamic | If you guys could hang out with anyone dead or alive for one night, from any era of time, who would it be?
UTRB | Pete | This maybe a controversial answer, but I would like to spend the night with what is probably the most categorically destructive mind of our history – I’d like to spend an evening with Adolf Hitler. Just so I could try and, I mean what a fascinating insight into such an evil morality, you know. I’d like to ask someone how they could possibly fathom what they think is ok. And I think that would be more interesting than spending an evening with someone who’s points you agree with. Anyone who’s entirely on the opposite plain of your thinking.
UTRB | Elliot | I’d like to get fucked up with Amy Winehouse. I heard that when she got fucked up she’d jam, so that would be sick, so a little jam with Winehouse.
UTRB | James | I’m still thinking about mine, this is a really interesting question here, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it before ever. I’d quite like to go way back and like hangout with some of the old classical heads, maybe the old romantical, maybe Rachmanioff’s and stuff and see how they jam. Sergei Rachmanioff would be my answer.
UTRB | Pete | I’m going to have a terrible night with Hitler.
The Soul Dynamic | Yeah you are, that is a very interesting answer though.
UTRB | Pete | Don’t you think it would be fascinating though?
The Soul Dynamic | Of course. I mean, like you said, you’d be able to sit down and maybe – I’m sure you couldn’t do it, or maybe you could – sit down with him and convince him otherwise. Or at least get into some heated debate as to why he was totally wrong.
UTRB | Pete | It’s why people have a morbid fascination with serial killers you know. It’s fascinating, it’s morbid fascination, like how can you think like that? And that’s interesting.
The Soul Dynamic | No, to figure out how that’s even a reality and to figure out how anyone, like you said, even got to that point within their mind and within this existence. It’s thought provoking. All right let me go here then. You guys are genre-less, so for the genre-less people, and I wasn’t going to ask you this question but now I’m going to ask you because you have no genre, who is moving you guys (musically speaking)? Obviously for you guys, I think it would be some of the people you’re working with already, cause they’re doing some great things right now, all the bands I listed off earlier. Who right now for you is just fucking making you excited, like what’s going on?
UTRB | Pete | Really not much at the moment. I don’t see anyone, well apart from, I saw Kendrick’s (Lamar) performance on SNL of his single “I” and that made me really really excited because it seemed like someone was embracing something bigger than their own genre boundaries. He doesn’t feel like he has to play the part of a rapper you know, he’s an artist in the true sense, he’s going with his instinct whether or not anyone else likes it. Anyone who does that, you know I like the idea of FKA Twigs more than I like the music. But I do respect someone who’s trying to push all the time. A lot of the times it’s someone with an aesthetic and an idea, I don’t necessarily have to like the music to respect the artist to be quite honest with you.
The Soul Dynamic | Ok, what’s you’re guy’s aesthetic?
UTRB | Pete | I think our aesthetic would be, if I had to pin it down, would be a lot of the ideas of how…for me it came from the idea of how to incorporate the idea of ribbon into the look without making it look too literal and it came back to the idea of film and cassette. And then I thought of the idea of VHS and that idea of more glitched, 90’s, fuzzy, staticy, VHS look, but then I also didn’t want the whole thing to look too monochrome and cold. So it comes from the idea of like a fuzzy, nostalgic, 90’s, VHS, ribbon look if that’s, I don’t know, if that’s a style.
The Soul Dynamic | It’s your style.
UTRB | Elliot | Yeeeaaah Dog.
The Soul Dynamic | What inspires you guys?
UTRB | James | I’m going to come out with a real corny answer and say, especially recently, cause we’re on tour at the moment, so we’re kind of living in each other’s faces. I’m going to say each other. I’ve been inspired by Pete and Elliot and Dan our tour manager, cause we’ve just had like this little crew on the road for a few weeks and it’s been fucking awesome and it’s been pretty mental and stressful and we’ve had to dig ourselves out of the snow a couple times. But it’s inspiring, cause you get up on stage every night and that’s the thing and that’s why you’re doing it and all that stress and getting up and feeling like shit and not eating any vegetables for a few weeks. All of that is worth it, not seeing your misses for a few weeks, all of that is made worth it cause you get on stage and you do this thing that’s really cool. That’s my answer.
UTRB | Elliott | That’s my answer.
UTRB | Pete | That’s also my answer, that’s the common answer.
Until the Ribbon Breaks are an ambitious, rawkus bunch of Brit musicians who are clearly have ideas of where they’re going and who they want to be. The live session we witnessed at Rough Trade only backed up their claimed eclectic vibe. They’re coming in hot, and there’s no telling where they’ll land. We’re all about that direction though.
Writer | Rene Ramirez
Photographer + Video | Rick “Plantano in Gotham” James
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