Until The Ribbon Breaks: "Your Brain Has A Bigger Hard Drive Than Your Phone"

Written By Bianca on 02/25/2015


It’s already been a big few months for British band Until The Ribbon Breaks (UTRB). They’re fresh off tour with Run The Jewels and have been a support act for London Grammar, not to mention they’re about to play one of the biggest festivals in the world in a months time - Coachella. It’s a pretty impressive list of credentials for a band that only released their debut album last month.

Their debut A Lesson Unlearnt is a masterclass is dark, minimal RnB with their sound also incorporating a smorgasbord of other genres. As such, the record feels distinctly modern. It feels as if it could only have been born in the digital era where the internet facilitates flicking between different sounds in a matter of seconds.

the interns chatted with Pete Lawrie-Winfield of the band who went into great depths to explain the digital world, using mobiles at gigs, the death of genre-labelling and touring. It got real deep but if you’ve listened to the album, you’d expect nothing less.

Bianca: Where are you right now?

Pete: I’m in Los Angeles - sunny California!

I’m calling you from sunny Sydney!

Well, there you go! I’ve always wanted to go to Sydney. Well, hopefully we'll come soon.

Plans for a tour here?

Right now we’re trying to make some plans to come. It’s a long way away but we’ve always wanted to come and do some shows. We’re trying to make it happen as best we can. We just finished a tour with London Grammar and they say that Australia is their favourite place to your and the shows you guys put on are amazing. So we’re desperate to come out, it’s just a case of when and how.

How did the tour go with London Grammar?

It was the best show. The best tour we’ve ever done. The reception was amazing, London Grammar were just...by the end it was like touring with your mates. They couldn’t have been better to us. It was in the dead of winter, it was a very snowy kind of tour. There were some hairy moments. We were in New York just as the blizzard hit. Some of the shows got moved around but in the end nothing got cancelled, everything went ahead. It was a real joy. For the first time, we felt like a proper live band. It’s taken a long time to get to that point but it really feels like it’s there now.

So you got together before supporting Lorde.

That’s right. Our first ever show was supporting Lorde.

And you were a solo project before that?

Yeah. I made the record and didn’t know how to do it live and then James and Elliot came on board and ever since it’s felt like a proper three-piece band.

How did James and Elliot come on board?

Elliot, I’ve known forever, since we were kids. He’s always played drums on any kind of musical project I’m working on- good and bad. And James came on board because I needed an engineer while I was making the record as I’m not technical-minded. My way of working is to just throw as many ideas at the wall as I can, and see what sticks but James is into the maths of music; how sound works. And sometimes you need a bit of both so he was recommended to me and then he was perfect. Ever since, it’s been the three of us.

"You get kind of bored of your own thoughts."

Do you find it an easier creative process with three? Are you able to bounce ideas off each other?

Yeah, it’s a different process. I feel that this record is fairly introverted and when I listen to it now, which I rarely do, I find it definitely sums up a time in my life where I was...I’d made a little studio and I didn’t know what to do with my life. My kind of last-ditch effort in music was to make this record so it has this introversion and loneliness to it. It’s going to be a real beauty to make the next one because it’ll have three heads on it, three ways of thinking, rather than just me. You get kind of bored of your own thoughts.

Do you find that it brings more energy to the studio as well?

For sure. I’ve been working with James in the studio for a long time. Elliot doesn’t spend as much time in the studio, his thing is more the live. He’s a drummer so he just wants to hit stuff as hard as he can.

You said that your sound can be a bit introverted, a bit dark. Do you find it odd playing sets during the day because of that?

Yeah. In an ideal world, we would play at night because we have projections and a visual aspect to what we do. There’s a moodiness to what we do that you can’t replicate in the sun. Having said that, I’m never going to complain about a) doing a show and b) if there’s some sun. I come from Wales where it’s always raining, so you’ll never hear me complaining about the sun.

[soundcloud width="750" height="200"]https://soundcloud.com/untiltheribbonbreaks/until-the-ribbon-breaks-a[/soundcloud]

How did you find growing up in Cardiff? Was there much of a music scene there?

No. We don’t really have access to any good music venus, I think that’s a big problem in Cardiff, so it’s hard to develop a scene. We got on with what we did. And for me that was to lock myself in the studio. I’ve lived in the States for two years now so I would like to think so. I hope so. I always think that you can hear the place where the music was made in music. And I think the reason why Brits make such good, moody music, like Portishead and Massive Attack... I think these bands come out of Britain because, to some degree, the climate and the temperature and the atmosphere of where they are. Equally with Bob Marley coming out of Jamaica. I think it really makes an impact on what music you make.

NPR stated that you’re situated somewhere between James Blake and Massive Attack and your genres traverse between being called pop, rock and hip-hop. Do you think that genre labelling is dead?

Yeah. I don’t pay any attention to that. Our name comes from the idea of, when they used to make cassette playlists, and you’d play them ‘til the ribbon breaks. You just loved the music and it didn’t matter what genre it was, it would just jump around. I would never be one to label what we do and I never know what to call it. We kind of do what we do on the day and hope that someone else will like it too.

You’re playing at Coachella for the first time. How does it feel to be included on the bill?

Oh, amazing! I was just saying to someone today how weird it was to work with El-P and Run The Jewels because El-P was one of the first rappers I ever listened to. With playing at Coachella, you have these life goals as a musician, with whatever you do, yo have these bucket lists and things you want to tick off. And Coachella’s always seemed like this far-away possibility. To play it is amazing.

Can we expect Run The Jewels to make a guest appearance in your Coachella set?

Weeellll... who knows. They are rappers, we’ll try to pin them down which is impossible. But I will be asking. I hope so.

"I feel it’s to the detriment of real human contact and communication."

You’ve said that the LP was written almost at a time where everything felt close to falling apart. How did this desperation drive the record?

In the sense that I always didn’t know whether I wanted to do film or music. I’ve done music forever and I was at a point where, creatively, I hadn’t said anything I wanted to say and I compromised. I ended up making music for people I didn’t particularly like and I thought, “Christ. I either pack this all in or finally do something that I’d want to listen to.” And that’s where this album originally came from. There was no label or management attached to the record. Initially it was just me, desperate, as you say, desperate to make something that I believed in and desperate to give it one more shot.

It’s an interesting time for music because I feel like every record is everyone’s one last shot. There is no guaranteed career, everyone’s just hoping that the next thing will connect with people, which will allow you to do the next thing. I’m sure that’s the same in every industry but it’s definitely a good driving force in creativity.

How important is imagery in your projects?

Almost as important as our music itself, in terms of film. I did a university course in filmmaking and for a while that’s what I wanted to do. Until The Ribbon Breaks is my way of combining two things that I love. It’s been a really rewarding process.


I read you write a lot of songs in front of a projector. What’s the creative process behind this?

Sometimes, when it comes to writing lyrics, you can get stuck in old familiarities and cliches of your own. So the addition of the projector means you can create a world of your own using images of nature or space. Wherever it is, on the wall or in front of you, all of a sudden your world becomes bigger. I think it allows you to think bigger. It’s a bigger version of having a candle. It creates sort of a false illusion, a mood.

You’ve previously spoken about our reliance on digital networks and how we’re losing our sense of apathy. How does your record touch on that?

I understand networks and social media to a degree; that’s the nature of how people communicate now. I’d be a lonely old man screaming into the void if I was complaining about that. But sometimes I feel it’s to the detriment of real human contact and communication. It just makes me a bit sad when I see a couple at a restaurant, both on their phone, or some kids walking down the street and they all have their headphones on. No one plays outside anymore! I think it’s made the world better, communication is always good, but there’s this old-fashioned, romantic idea that communication and human contact has been lost to some degree. I’m making observations rather than judgements. I’m on my mobile phone, checking emails as much as the next person.

I guess it’s also the same thing with concerts - watching people recording the entire gig on their phone instead of actually watching in real time.

Yeah, that  blows my mind! You go to a concert, why not look at it through your own eyes? They’re better quality than the camera in your hand! I always wonder what people do with that stuff. Your brain has a bigger hard drive than your phone will ever have. Why not store some memories in there?

If I’m in other people’s company, and at dinner, I make a real effort not to get my phone out. After a certain time of day, you should be comfortable with just turning your phone off. There’s always that worry: “But what if I get an email at 10 o’clock that I have to answer?” Like, fuck. Our generation’s going to die of heart attacks from stress!

A town in Wales holds the record for the longest name, coming up to 58 letters long. Can you pronounce it?

No! I wish! Elliot was just here, he can pronounce it. I know how it ends: “gogogoch”, that’s the most I can do.

For the record, the town’s name is llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.

Until The Ribbon Breaks debut album “A Lesson Unlearnt” is available here.