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Video of the Moment #2771: Until the Ribbon Breaks

 
By on Friday, 19th January 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Paul Laurie-Winfield, the Welsh driving force behind Until the Ribbon Breaks, has had a few rough years. The Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist admitted publicly, through this Tumblr post at the end of September of last year, that he has been struggling with a drink and substance abuse addiction and had been sober since the start of 2017. I interviewed him over drinks in 2015 in the little Cafe Saint-Ex on 14th Street, having no idea that the gin and tonic sat on the table between us was a vice. It makes me feel terrible. But it also drives home the point that anyone you meet in your daily life, it doesn’t matter how put together they look on the outside. That person could be struggling in secret. If you ever have the feeling that something is not right with one of your friends, please do me a favour. Support them. Ask them if they want to talk. If they don’t want to talk, don’t leave them. Don’t judge. We must be each other’s advocates. As the saying goes, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Laurie-Winfield and drummer Elliot Wall will be releasing their second album next month. Ahead of that, they’ve released a series of tasters, but I’ve been told the title track is the last one to tide us over until the self-titled album is released on the 23rd of February. The promo video is described in the press release as “sublimely choreographed”, and who I am to argue with such beauty? Check out ‘One Match’ the song and his accompanying video below. Having caught the ears of one Taylor Swift last year already, the sky’s the limit for the new Until the Ribbon Breaks album. Check out more on Lawrie-Winfield and co. through here.

 

Gig Observations of 2015: Editor’s Picks and Thoughts on the Live Music Industry

 
By on Tuesday, 22nd December 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Rather than choose my top 5 gigs of 2015 as I have done in previous years, I decided this time around, I needed to take a different tack, and for an important reason. I haven’t gone to that many shows this year. It wasn’t for lack of choice or opportunity, just various mitigating circumstances preventing me from what I wanted to do. Choosing shows, then, would be unfair to every band or act I missed because I couldn’t get their gig, through no fault of their own.

Instead, I’ve decided for 2015 I’d give an overview of how I view gigs now in this ever-changing music industry. In case you have somehow missed this development, please note: a significant portion of an artist’s income is now from touring profits. This makes it all the important to support your favourite bands when they come to your time, buy gig tickets and buy merch too if you can, as generally speaking, more of what they sell at the merch table is going directly into their pockets, and therefore towards their future music-making prospects, than other retailers you might be buying the same stuff from. If that isn’t possible, offer to buy the band drinks. Or bring them food and other tour provisions if the venue will allow it (check first). They’ll appreciate it. I once brought bananas to Peter, Bjorn and John at a 9:30 Club show (now that I think about it, I have no idea how I got them past security) because John asked for them on Twitter.

One of my favourite gigs in 2015 was outside America. While it’s true that you would think I’d automatically have fonder memories of shows away from home while on holiday, it turns out that it’s the people I met at the shows that made the most difference. I would be making a terrible sweeping generalisation if I said all security in America’s clubs are gruff, mean and unreasonable (they’re not), the clubs where I have faced ridiculous behaviour stick out as places I avoid. But when people at a venue go out of their way to be nice to me, I remember.

The Staves at Dublin Olympia, 6 May 2015

Case in point: Robbie, a bouncer at Dublin’s Olympia, really didn’t have to be nice to me when I showed up to cover The Staves there in May. I was press like all the others in the pit. Yet he pointed out where I could leave my things during the show so I would not have to lug them around while taking photos, the dangerous bits of the pit where I might slip and fall, and how I might be able to access the venue wifi. I wasn’t herded like cattle or yelled at, which is an all too regular occurrence. I mean, seriously, which kind of bouncer would you prefer to deal with, when you’re there to do an important job? I had arrived early to scope out the pit and introduce myself so there wouldn’t be any issues, and there were none the entire night. In fact, we got into a very nice conversation about some mutual friends of ours (Kodaline and The Coronas) and he told me a story about the Script‘s early days performing there. Getting to hear such a story, in a location now forever famous thanks to the 2007 R.E.M. live album, was an unforgettable experience during my first visit to Ireland. I will always treasure the memories of that night.

2015 was also the year that Girls Against was founded, in reaction to more outspoken young girls bringing to public attention groping that has been taking place in crowds at shows. Massive props to Drenge, Peace and Slaves in particular for speaking out against and condemning such behaviour at shows. To me, this is the sort of anti-violence action (I’m not going to use “feminist”, I intensely dislike that word because that seems to indicate boys are immune to such vile acts) that is beneficial and is more effective than, say, the words of a popster. Maybe that’s just me.

Ride at 9:30 Club, 17 September 2015

Going back to my own personal live experiences year, another great night was somehow achieved with flying colours by, well, flying down the street. Ride, who had not played in North America for a very long time, had a great show at the 9:30 Club in September. Having heard that their ’90s contemporaries Jesus and the Mary Chain were complete bores, I was steeling myself for a similar experience. Not so. The show was a reminder to me – and all – that despite the inevitable ageing of rock stars, the music is still incredible, and most bands even when they past middle age are still excellent, excellent shouts. Perhaps they might not need as much of your money as the younger, fledgling bands, but they are certainly worth the money to go see and have a night out where you can support your local economy and nightlife.

My friend and I had to split before Ride’s encore, however, to go down the block and see my Welsh friends Until the Ribbon Breaks play at DC9. I’ve had a soft spot for Pete Lawrie and co. after seeing them win over crowds at SXSW 2014 and then smash it while closing the Music Wales night this year in Austin. To go from a 1,200-capacity, state of the art, two-floor club with massive balcony to a 200-capacity upstairs room really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Both shows were packed but both were also full of incredible energy. It reminded me it doesn’t really matter how big (or small) a crowd is, as long as the artist up on stage is giving it his/her/their all. That’s their art, and it’s our responsibility as fans to make sure they can keep doing what they’re doing.

Until the Ribbon Breaks at DC9, 17 September 2015

I would be remiss if I did not mention all the lovely people, bands, and artists I met in East Anglia for Norwich Sound and Vision. (All my coverage of the 3-day festival and accompanying conference can be found here.) It was my first time in that region of England and I was absolutely charmed by the city and by the kindness extended by everyone there. I highly recommend the experience to anyone wanting something to put on their calendar that’s much more relaxed where you actually feel human and you’re not running town to gigs and meetings like a crazy person! (Professionals: we all know what that’s like, right?) A special thank you to Adrian, Jenny and Dex for putting on such a remarkable event, and a very special thank you to Mark for tipping me off about it.

A final word. After the horrific events in Paris on the 13th of November (I wrote about this a bit back here), we have to keep going. I know it’s hard. I’m still shaken up by what’s happened, because some of the music fans we lost were friends and colleagues of friends. In 2016, more so than any other year in the past, I hope for more peace, love and understanding. Let’s commit ourselves to this. Through music we can stand together. And stay strong.

Peace out.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2015.
Continue reading Gig Observations of 2015: Editor’s Picks and Thoughts on the Live Music Industry

 

Live Review: Until the Ribbon Breaks at DC9, Washington, DC – 17th September 2015

 
By on Friday, 18th September 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

At the start of summer, back in June, Until the Ribbon Breaks played their first headline show in DC at Black Cat Backstage, a room of similar size to DC9’s performance floor. As much as I enjoyed that gig and was buoyed by the crowd’s intense reaction to Lawrie-Winfield and co.’s music, the turnout was less than I would have liked. Contrast that to this show 3 months later: there were certainly more people present, no doubt from the word of mouth from the last show and the strength of the debut album, and the energy in the room was even better, the trio – frontman Lawrie-Winfield, James Gordon on synths and backing vocals and Elliot Wall on drums and percussion – feeding directly off punters’ excitement, performing confidently and flawlessly.

Placed in a corner, the stage at DC9 is unusual, but I think it makes for a far more intimate experience, especially since there is absolutely no distance between artist and fan if you’re down the front and want it (memorably, I was practically looking up Simon Neil’s nose the one time Biffy Clyro played there in 2010). It’s hands down one of my favourite venues in the city for that reason, and with the right band as was case with Until the Ribbon Breaks and their fans last night, the atmosphere was incredible.

Pete Lawrie-Winfield and James Gordon of Until the Ribbon Breaks September 2015 Washington live 1

I brought a friend with me who knew nothing about them and is admittedly not an electronic fan at all. By the end of the show though, he was won over, surprised that Winfield-Lawrie not only sings, plays synths and beats, but also plays trumpet. There’s such a variety in tempo and vibe across Until the Ribbon Breaks’ songs, from the upbeat disco dance beat and “oh oh ohs” of ‘Spark’ to the two lyrical faces – one rap-happy provided by their Friday at SXSW 2015 FLOODfest billmates Run the Jewels, the other apocalyptic provided by Lawrie-Winfield – on the mesmerising ‘Revolution Indifference’, that there’s something for everyone.

Pete Lawrie-Winfield of Until the Ribbon Breaks September 2015 Washington live 2

Their music on record is the kind to savour in your ears while your body follows to the slow jam rhythms, and in a satisfying way I too rarely experience. When you see the band perform live in person, the feeling is heightened 1000-fold. While I expected ‘Perspective’, one of my favourites from ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’, to be utterly amazing, I was also captivated by the Eastern rhythms and the lovelorn lyrics of ‘Persia’. Recalling Lawrie-Winfield’s sweet story of being sung the tear-jerky ‘Romeo’ by a little boy in Paris when I chatted with him in June made the song the standout track of the evening for me as it closed the set proper.

Elliott Wall of Until the Ribbon Breaks, September 2015 Washington live 3

The punters at DC9, however, wouldn’t be satiated until the band came back out for an encore, chanting and cheering for the band to reappear. Their efforts were rewarded, with Lawrie-Winfield, Gordon and Wall returning to the stage, first with the reflective track that bears their act’s name, then ending with the arresting ‘Goldfish’. The words from the former – “we came from nothing / and we could go back there / if that’s what it takes / but I made a promise / that I’d try to keep you” – seem to be quite apt given the circumstances: three boys far away from Cardiff, playing to an audience in the States, against seemingly impossible odds, yet they keep going and do it for the art. We might have been in a 200-capacity club, but judging from the audience reaction last night, everything Until the Ribbon Breaks are doing is absolutely worth it all, because they’ve connected with the people.

It may be some time before we get another album from Until the Ribbon Breaks. But there is no doubt in my mind that it will be entirely worth the wait. Best wishes, friends.

 

Interview: Pete Lawrie-Winfield of Until the Ribbon Breaks

 
By on Tuesday, 16th June 2015 at 11:00 am
 

“I was in Paris the other day. This little boy comes up to me, he must be no older than 6 or 7. He seemed to make a beeline for me, and I didn’t know why. I thought, okay, uh, where are your parents? And then he started singing ‘Romeo’ to me, in French. And then I thought, you know what? That’s more than anything else…you know that thing about always chasing the next thing? I try not to believe in that, because where does that stop? When does that train stop?…How do you sustain that? I think I’m in a place where I’m perfectly fine playing to 50 people in Washington, it’s not where I’m not from, and that’s amazing to me. On the next album, there might be twice that amount [of people], you know?”

It is a balmy Thursday night in Washington, DC, and it feels like most any other night here in summer, around 34 degrees C (93 F), the sun is slowly setting in the distance behind my interviewee, electronic producer and musician Pete Lawrie-Winfield (pictured far right in the top photo), the mastermind of the eclectic, hard to pin down by genre Until the Ribbon Breaks, who will be playing Black Cat Backstage in an hour. I am sat at a table with the tall and tattooed Welshman on the corner of 14th and T outside the Cafe Saint-Ex, a restaurant inspired by author of The Little Prince and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and we’re having drinks. We’re like old friends; I met and chatted with him in Austin the first time they showcased at SXSW back in 2014, and I was so chuffed seeing that Huw Stephens placed them to headline his Music Wales: Cerdd Cymru night in March at SXSW 2015, high-fiving him after their brilliant performance there.


Lawrie-Winfield and bandmate James Gordon performing at the British Music Embassy,
Latitude 30 at SXSW 2015, 17 March 2015

That moment in time where a small child proved this Cardiff musician’s popularity, however niche, in France will no doubt stick in his mind forever. Lawrie-Winfield is being quite philosophical about where he’s been and how much he’s accomplished. Which in my opinion is an extremely good place for your head to be, and an all too uncommon place for said head to be after you’ve released your debut album. “I look at bands like The National. It’s taken so long [for them to be successful], but because it’s taken so long, and it happened naturally and it happened the right way, their fans will always be their fans. We see [the same] people at our gigs over and over again, and that’s amazing. We’re not on the radio, so you go see the show. So I try not to be impatient.”

He tells me how he’s come up with a way to keep the positivity flowing while on tour. “I try and do this thing, we have a preshow ritual which used to be an obligatory American sports [chant], ‘U-T-R-B!’ But now we’ve added something new to it on this tour. The main thing I get inspired by when I’m on tour is watching music documentaries. I saw the White Stripes one when they toured Canada (2007’s Under Great White Northern Lights), and I always come away from music documentaries thinking if you feel negative about the industry or you feel like there should be more people at the show, you watch that Nirvana documentary that just came out (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck), that made me feel, ‘whoa, I gotta keep pushing, keep pushing’.

“So now I’ve done this new thing where just before we do the American sports celebration, we had a quote. We have a different quote each night from a different musician in time. So last night was Freddie Mercury, this was the first night I decided to do this. I said to the guys, ‘I’ve got this idea!’ And they’re all like, whatever. Last night’s was Freddie Mercury’s, and he said all he cared about was that when he dies…I can’t remember the exact quote…’when I die, I want to be remembered as a musician who made something of substance’. He was always thinking that. You can hear it in his music. And he will be remembered for making something of substance and it came true.” Later on in our conversation, he says songwriting inspiration lately has been coming from unlikely sources: “Read more…the influence doesn’t have be from music. Go to a weird new restaurant. Go swimming. You might get a song out of that.”

At the moment, Montage of Heck is looming large in his thoughts. “When I watched that Nirvana documentary, I went back and listened to all the Nirvana records. It comes in cycles, that sense of inspiration. His work, someone like Kurt Cobain’s work, it will loop through time. There will be times when it dips, and there will be times when it’s relevant again. It was just radio, meh, you could tell that he had to say something. That part of the documentary that blows my mind, have you seen it?” I shake my head no. “It is amazing, whether you’re a Nirvana fan or not…it’s about him an artist, a writer…they take his drawings and they animate them. And there’s this fascinating bit when he’s 16 and on his own in his bedroom, and he’s playing the record button on a cassette recorder and he documents everything he thinks, but in a way that sounds like he’s doing a voiceover for the documentary you’re watching, like he knew that some 30 years later he would have done all the things he knew he was going to do and died and there was going to be this film. It was like he got all the bits together and put it in a time capsule and thought, ‘yep, that’s going to happen’. He was 16 and he hadn’t written any of the songs or done any of the shows yet. It’s wild.”


Lawrie-Winfield performing at The Palm Door on Sixth at SXSW 2014, 13 March 2014

It isn’t as common as one might think to be invited to perform at back to back SXSWs, so I use the opportunity to ask Lawrie-Winfield what it felt like to be given another shout. “When I found out we were going to do it again – and I do this whenever I find out we’re doing anything, music-related or not, even before we did this tour – my first instinct is dread, and I’m trying to get over that. I don’t know where I get that, because I don’t feel like that at all. I’m actually really, really excited. Maybe it’s something to do with nerves or something.

“Maybe not so much dread, but [makes gasping sound], and I was like oh god, because I know what SXSW is like. It’ll be like five shows in 2 days, and no sound checks. And our live show is quite intricate with equipment, and technical, and you’re like, ugh! But you know, it’s like everything. My initial instinct was, ‘oh god!’ But then you go with it, and it ends up being the best show you’ve ever done. The last Run the Jewels show at the end of South By, our last one [Friday night with FLOOD, at FLOODfest at Cedar Street Courtyard]…and it’s gone into my top three shows. I’m always ranking our shows.”

I express anguish that I missed that one in favour of Tuesday night’s Music Wales: Cerdd Cymru show, but he’s come up with a solution. “Well, let’s try and make tonight go straight into the top! That’s another part of our preshow ritual, we say, ‘let’s make tonight top 3!’. We have one in Montreal, it was the London Grammar support tour. For a while that was my favourite show ever, and it was because you’re doing a support slot, you don’t know how people will react [to you], you’re the support band, people will be talking, are on their phones, whatever. But that show, before we’d even played our last song, they were so loud – in terms in a good way, screaming – we couldn’t start ‘Goldfish’, which is our last song, we just couldn’t. Every time we went to go for the mike…I came off crying. And that’s hard to top. It’s not often that I cry! How am I going to top that?”

We switch gears to discuss his debut album, ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’, which was released in January in the States. (It’s available on iTunes this week in the UK.) I ask him if he felt a huge sigh of relief to have finally let it go into the wild. “I’ve spent a long time thinking about that. I put this post up on Tumblr recently because I never felt, still don’t feel, will never feel that our record – not in terms of it did commercially, because I never had any expectation – just in terms of how it was received or delivered artistically.

“What I wanted is to present this kind of world of film and music, and then be completely intertwined, as it was in the band name, you know, with cassette and VHS ribbons and intertwined with that concept. The music was going underscore the film, and the film would then underscore the music, and it was just going to be a way. And then inevitably, you sign a record deal to a big major label, because you’re broke and you’re sleeping in the studio, which I was. This company comes along and offers you a lot of money and they promise you the world, and before you know it, ‘what’s the first single, Pete? And let’s make a video that isn’t any of the videos you did without us’. I understand that the videos I made, which were chopped up films, you can’t use those, they were [my personal] tributes to the directors. But they could have been more…not even more innovative, just more thought [could have been put into them], like [as if they] felt more like they fit our music. And I guess to some extent I am responsible because I dropped the ball and put my trust in the industry that shouldn’t be trusted.

“I would hate for this to sound like a criticism for the people who made those videos, because I was involved in the process. It’s a criticism of myself for not having the balls to go, ‘you know what, my gut is saying let’s not do this’. I just went along with them. So there’s that side of about how I feel about the album being released. But the album is called ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’. Like I now will make the second one, I won’t make the same mistakes again. It’s like it became a self-fulfilling prophecy, that record. It’s almost like telling me to listen to it. Not [to the] music [itself], but [waves hands in the air] ‘hey, you didn’t do what you said you were going to do! Now no-one’s listening to me!’ It was an amazing lesson, that. Why did I do it?” He explains to me that before he started the Until the Ribbon Breaks project, he had a solo singer/songwriter act, was signed to a major label, and had similar issues. “I let other people get involved to the point I didn’t like making music, but I was really young.” So here’s the take home message to all fledgling artists: work hard and be proud of your art, but don’t be shy to speak up when you think you’re being led astray from your original intention.

But perhaps even Lawrie-Winfield’s original intention live has changed quite a lot from the earliest days of touring Until the Ribbon Breaks, to now as a three-man unit: himself on lead vocals, keyboards, programming, trumpet and percussion; James Gordon on keyboards, programming, percussion, bass and backing vocals; and Elliot Wood on drums, programming and backing vocals. “The band is in an amazing place right now in terms of three people. It started as me, and then it became three people, and now it’s definitely three people. James is just getting better and better at what he does, and so is Elliot…it keeps getting looser and live-r, and hopefully you’ll see that tonight. We’re losing laptop more and more as we go, and we’re taking that into the writing and recording process too. When I was growing up, my hero was Paul Simon. He didn’t use a laptop! I look at a laptop sometimes and think, no way, [it’s] so restricted, playing to a click [track]. Sometimes I feel like I want ‘A Taste of Silver’ to be a little bit slower, or ‘Pressure’ to be a little bit faster, and you can’t, you know?

“And then I watch bands that don’t use them, like Nick Cave. Last year I saw Nick Cave in LA and it changed my life. I thought to myself, ‘okay, what are we fucking doing?’ It was so good to see someone that makes me you think, ‘I am much worse at what I’m doing than I thought I was’. You see Nick Cave and think, ‘I’ve got so much work to do’. He’s so loose, he’s got his right hand man Warren [Ellis], and he plays the violin. He had his bow, almost like a bow and arrow. And he had a bunch of bows and he’d take one out and throw one into the crowd. It’s so spontaneous. And you don’t know what Nick Cave is going to do, he might turn to the band and say, ‘we’re going to do this one slower tonight’. And you’re like, this is so real. He’s like a voodoo musician or something. And I’m listening to a laptop, going do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do…”

I tell him that’s the best thing about music, that there will never be a shortage of goals to achieve or mountains to climb. I share with him the uplifting storyline of Stornoway‘s ‘The Road You Didn’t Take’, and the lyrics “but sometimes, when you get to the summit / you will see another hill to climb.” He makes the surprising admittance that he loves Stornoway and upon my recommendation, he is excited to check out their new album. “Even now, we’re smashing that mountain, but that’s the aim. Looser, live-r. More honest.” Sounds like a plan to me.

Massive thanks to Pete for such a lovely, insightful interview! Until the Ribbon Breaks’ remaining tour dates in America include the Barboza in Seattle tonight (16 June), Bunk Bar in Portland tomorrow (17 June), the Roxy in Hollywood 22 June and Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco 25 June. They will also appear the Underground Music Showcase festival in Denver on 25 July.


Lawrie-Winfield performing at Black Cat Backstage, Washington DC, 11 June 2015

 

Live Review: Until the Ribbon Breaks with Flash Frequency at Black Cat Backstage, Washington, DC – 11th June 2015

 
By on Monday, 15th June 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Bands, I am imploring you now: if you can get the attention of a like-minded, like-sounding band and they offer you a support slot in America, take it. While the power of the internet and word of mouth are no doubt important, spreading your music far and wide to captive audiences who may never have heard of you otherwise, night after night, can’t be stressed enough. Why? Because you are going to gain new fans this way. Trust me on this one.

I’m pretty sure Thursday night last week, I witnessed the phenomenon firsthand seeing Until the Ribbon Breaks, the live band experience based on Pete Lawrie-Winfield’s electronic-driven, soulful sonic creations, play their first headline show in Washington. Lawrie-Winfield released his debut album ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’ in late January, right around the time he and band members James Gordon and Elliot Wall were supporting London Grammar on a North American tour. Several people in attendance in DC said to the band after the gig that they were mesmerised with Until the Ribbon Break’s opening set at the 9:30 and were intrigued enough to investigate the band more. However it happens, don’t question it. It’s all good. (It also helped that ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’ was also featured as a First Listen on NPR and the band were also invited into NPR’s hallowed halls for a Tiny Desk concert, which is worth watching if you have a moment.)

I don’t know a lot about Flash Frequency, the opener for the evening. He goes by the mysterious name K.Chambers, and he’s clearly an electronic musician and DJ kind of guy. His Bandcamp says he’s from Texas (the San Antonio / Dallas area) but now makes DC his home, and the music listed on said Bandcamp are tagged with ambient, electronic, hip hop, and psychedelic genres. Beyond that, I thought I’d let the music speak for itself and see if I’d like it in person. As I discussed with beGun, East India Youth and Rival Consoles at SXSW 2015, there is recognition among electronic artists to make your live experience as dynamic and interesting for your audience as possible. A man wearing a tropical print wife-beater and a trucker hat isn’t your usual electronic artiste uniform, so I knew this was going to be…a little different.

I think the tropical print was supposed to tie into the bird calls and sweeping loops of Flash Frequency’s most recent releases on Bandcamp, the trilogy of ‘NON FICTION I’, ‘NON FICTION II’ and ‘NON FICTION III’. There is a definite artistry to dance music: when in the song to lay down the beats, do you continue them or not, when and how do you introduce the drop, etc. Then there’s the question of whether to seamlessly segue one track into another so you have, essentially, something like a new organism that’s been created solely for the purpose of entertaining that one audience on that one night.

Not knowing the titles of everything K.Chambers played and seeing that he is of the ‘segue one track into another and again’ school of thought, I can’t name any song titles, but what I can say is that the percussive and ambient elements of his music worked really well. Actually, the lack of vocals actually allowed me to focus more on the beats than probably would have happened if his mike hadn’t malfunctioned. Nice one, Flash Frequency.

Lawrie-Winfield’s chosen style of music as Until the Ribbon Breaks appealed to me the second I queued up an early song of his, ‘2025’, when preparing for SXSW 2014. It seemed rather apt, then, that this was the song he chose to begin his first-ever headline set in the Nation’s Capital. The song’s lyrics have a cynical bent, but they’re also highly relatable when you consider we all question both the meaning of life and the meaning of our love for another (“Could you tell me when we fall in love? / Or just write it down / Let me know if you find my feelings / Just if you see them around”).

What Lawrie-Winfield sings about isn’t sugar-coated. There are no rose-coloured glasses. These personal reflections are real, and you can feel those emotions. ‘Orca’, a song about “the finality of death, no one is above it” personal to him, was majestic as it oozed with emotions, wrapped up in a slow jam. This one, along with several others in the set, were accompanied by film clips running off a projector onto a screen at the back of the stage, adding another element of interest to their performance.

As does Lawrie-Winfield’s playing of a trumpet at times during the gig. I mean, come on now. How often have you seen a trumpet being played at a electronic concert? When there weren’t, like, a band a whole horn section onstage? When we talk about increasing production values for electronic artists, Until the Ribbon Breaks should be up pretty high on the list of the best, considering they’ve only just started their career ascent. He ended the gorgeously expansive ‘Back to the Stars’ with a trumpet solo, gasping for air at the end. Lawrie-Winfield quipped, “I try and take that song as close to fainting as I can. That was one of the good ones!” Punters laughed and cheered at the remark.

That was the way this show went. The audience was respectful but also laughed at and enjoyed his self-deprecating remarks. Even better, many of the punters sang along – loudly – to the vocals, indicating heavy studying and delight of ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’ ahead of this show. The style of music Until the Ribbon Breaks is famous for is a heady blend of electronic, hip hop and urban pop, bolstered by the hypnotising beats and Lawrie-Winfield’s own sultry vocals. On a track like hit ‘A Taste of Silver’, the sleaze factor is turned up just enough for the full sexiness to be felt, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable. I think some dance music purveyors forget that hey, you know what, women like to be adored and they like to feel sexy, so we’re going to buy music that makes us feel that way. I’m just doling out industry hints, one by one for free today, aren’t I? Ha.

‘Perspective’, another track that caught my attention in my early research in Until the Ribbon Breaks, is another winner in the band’s arsenal. I have no idea why this song isn’t on heavy rotation on all top 40 stations yet. America, Britain, can we fix that please? (The lyrics are really thought-provoking too – how does “Oh no, the road to Damascus is closed for repair / Life is still a ball Cinderella, you can see it everywhere / Nobody ever really dies no, I’m not a medicine man / I don’t believe in heaven, I do believe in holograms” strike you?) ‘Pressure’ is an interesting proposition live, as it’s presented as if it’s the two sides of a coin. First, you get Lawrie-Winfield’s husky vocals, in a softer, contemplative, singer/songwriter-y approach that turns out to be more like the style of the band he tried for success with before going off on his own to UTRB. Then the head bop-inducing beats and scream effects from the recorded version start up, and it sounds more familiar. In some moments, all three band members are bashing away at drums and pads, and everything comes together in a commanding moment of climax.

People sometimes ask me why I don’t like singer/songwriter types. I explain it this way: a bloke sat on a stool with nothing but an acoustic guitar is going to have to do a hell of a lot to entertain me. Until the Ribbon Breaks aren’t an electronic band tied down to their laptops, sequencers or drum pads: these things expand on the live experience and make the show that more dynamic. And if I can choose the physicality of electronic music in how it’s made, coupled with true emotional content, I will take it over a bog standard singer/songwriter any day.

After the cut: Until the Ribbon Breaks’ set list. Stay tuned for my interview with Pete Lawrie-Winfield coming up here tomorrow on TGTF.
Continue reading Live Review: Until the Ribbon Breaks with Flash Frequency at Black Cat Backstage, Washington, DC – 11th June 2015

 

SXSW 2015: Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30 (Part 2) – 17th March 2015

 
By on Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 4:00 pm
 

Part 1 of my review of the Tuesday night Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales at SXSW 2015, starring Paper Aeroplanes, The People the Poet and East India Youth is here.

Kate Tempest at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

Next up, another 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated artist, but in an entirely different vein. Kate Tempest and her observations on life at its grittiest can stand alone as gripping social commentary in spoken word form, but with Speedy Wunderground label head and producer Dan Carey providing beats to add additional oomph to Tempest’s art, the result is nothing short of brilliant in songs such as the infectious ‘Lonely Daze’ and Steve Lamacq favourite and downbeat mesmeriser ‘Bad Place for a Good Time’. As should be expected, the opinionated Tempest punctuated her set with equally powerful spoken word pieces, reminding all of us to “hold our own” (stay the course and keep your chin up) and to be good to one another with “more empathy, less greed!”

Kate Tempest at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

An aside: Saturday night outside Latitude during the NME/PRS showcase, I found myself stood in the wristband queue with Tempest, Carey and crew and I asked Tempest how she’d been enjoying Austin. She said she’d had a good time but thought it’d been going on for weeks! As she shared a fag with Carey, I commented even with something as simple as sharing fags, the English were more polite with such things. She laughed at this, her blonde curls bouncing at my suggestion; she went on to smile at Carey and excessively called him “love” and “darling” for my benefit. In that moment, I was reminded that despite Tempest’s soaring success, she is like all of us. It gives me hope that the words and love she spreads will serve as inspiration to many.

Shura at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

From one woman, we go to another woman, Manchester’s Shura. If you’re into ‘80s music and New Wave, you can help but think you’ve heard this one before. ‘Indecision’, with its refrain of “you’ve got my love, boy” feels like a throwback to early, lace gloved Madonna, you know, before she thought lesbian kisses and naughty books were de rigueur. You know times have changed when a girl from Manchester comes to SXSW wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Hulk and plays this kind of music, am I right? She also pulled out a cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ ‘She Drives Me Crazy’: not earth-shattering, but interesting enough.

In what would be surely one of the rowdiest, most crowded club shows of SXSW 2015, Catfish and the Bottlemen played under a continuous red light (no Police ‘Roxanne’ jokes, please) to a packed house of fans and industry bods. This makes total sense, given that their UK and North American tours in the first half of 2015 are already sold out, making them a super hot commodity in the business at the moment. Rabid Catfish fans who were likely going to stalk the band all week arrived early to stake their places down the front, while those who arrived not so early grumbled behind them that they were being “rude.” Um, as in all gig situations, you wanna be up front, you get there early, ya dig?

Catfish and the Bottlemen at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

All the hits from their debut album ‘The Balcony’ – ‘Pacifier’, ‘Fallout’, ‘Kathleen’, ‘Cocoon’ – were fired out in rapid succession, with the crowd bouncing to the band’s catchy melodies and frontman Van McCann’s charismatic drawl and yelps. McCann, most likely aware that everyone in Austin was watching them, climbed atop the drum kit at the end, hanging the neck of his guitar precariously off a cable in the ceiling before they left the stage. Truly rock ‘n’ roll, innit?

Last up but certainly not least were Until the Ribbon Breaks, Welsh singer, musician and producer Pete Lawrie-Winfield and his live band. When I saw the now LA-based artist perform and chatted with him last year, I don’t think too many people knew of him or his music. What a difference a year makes: in January, he released debut album ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’, and he’s managed to cement his own fanbase while touring as support for the likes of London Grammar and Run the Jewels (who appear on ‘Revolution Indifference’.

Until the Ribbon Breaks at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

Hearing women behind me howl with delight over his sexy delivery of ‘A Taste of Silver’ and beat-heavy yet passionate ‘Pressure’ was incredible validation of what I already knew in 2014. I think sometimes people forget how important production is and what a talent triple threat artists (those who can sing, play instruments and produce) really are.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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