Until The Ribbon Breaks: Exclusive shoot for FAULT Issue 28

Photography ALIX SPENCE

Styling BRITTON LITOW

Grooming ALEX FRENCH

Photo Assistant ASHTON RAE

Fashion Assistant LEONARD MURRY

 

Words: Kee Chang

Hailing from Wales and now residing in Los Angeles, Until the Ribbon Breaks is childhood friends Pete Lawrie-Winfield and Elliot Wall. Straight out of a golden era when the mixtape reigned supreme, the duo’s style embraces a love of old school hip-hop, pop and electronic beats, all cleverly interwoven to create lush soundscapes, accompanied by introspective songwriting, that defy easy categorization. It’s been three years since the tastemakers’ critically acclaimed debut LP, A Lesson Unlearnt, hit the airwaves. With their self-titled sophomore album, Until the Ribbon Breaks takes their inimitable audio-visuals into realms previously unexplored, including sobriety, which Winfield found halfway through the recording of their latest effort. FAULT sat down with the frontman for a very revealing conversation.

As a concept, Until the Ribbon Breaks is genius: alluding to the literal ribbons of VHS and cassette tapes that break with too much love and play. So that you could, as you say, “lodge a pencil into the reel hole and wind the ribbon back,” takes on new meaning upon hearing about your recent journey towards sobriety. When did you decide you would need to go public with this very personal detail?

It was never a conscious decision. For me, and perhaps unfortunately, there is no separation between myself and the work. Now thankfully on the other side of an incredibly tumultuous time, I am surprised, excited, and grateful that there is even a record to speak of. Much like our first album, I had no idea what the songs were about until the whole thing was finished. I don’t write and write and cherry-pick the best. I wish I could. Instead, I have to wait for the songs to come, all in direct reference to something that has happened or is happening in my life. It really is music as therapy. I’m a British man so this is the only way I know how to talk about my feelings!

Was there any significance to self-titling the new album, maybe as a renewal for the music?

Great question. As you said at the beginning, our name originally alluded to the idea of the cassette and VHS tapes of our youth and how we would wear it out, listening and watching over and over again the magic we had discovered. This new record was born out of huge highs and lows, and huge personal shifts. Suddenly, it felt like the name meant something new. It’s about courage and strength—humanity. We keep going, keep trying, until the ribbon breaks, until we have no more left to give.

You recently gave your first live performance sober as a recovering alcoholic of fifteen years. Heading into that show you said, “You start being honest, you get honesty back.” Just how different was that experience?

If there is a therapy to relieve anxiety and its resulting depression, I have tried it, from more traditional Western forms like CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy) and counseling to more holistic and spiritual Eastern practises such as meditation and even Ayahuasca. As better as things have become, one thing I have never learnt is that the idea of something, the build up and the anticipation, is what creates the fear. It is just your imagination running free and unfortunately choosing the worst, rather than the best case scenarios. That is an incredibly long way of saying that the show was an amazing, beautiful experience. I was terrified, but crucially, so what? I was at least present and experiencing all of the feelings that come with standing in front of a room full of people and telling them things you wouldn’t tell your mother or therapist. For the first time, I felt truly connected to the music in the moment.

You got sober halfway through the recording of this new album. Did that change the songwriting?

Drastically! It is unintentionally a record of two halves. I suppose “One Match” and “Use Me Up” are the most indicative of a dark time and written in the centre of the storm, whereas songs such as “Meru” and “Petrichor” were written during the pink cloud, the eventual and very real relief of early recovery. Sonically and lyrically, there was a hopeful uplift and an audible shift in mood.

Could you use the track “One Match” to give us more insight into how all of the ingredients came together? You sing, “Just one match to burn it all down.” It’s powerful. What does that mean to you?

There is a lyric in the verse: “A sugar cube in water, your life in your fingertips, is that all you think this is?” It was a song written when I really knew that something had to change, but I just didn’t know how. It’s a cry for help to myself, I realise that now. That verse lyric and the chorus lyric you mention allude to the idea that, in addiction, you are quite simply self-harming. And to what end? Lives can be and are ruined by the disease of addiction and it is easier than you would think to tear your entire life down.

When you’re in the process of writing and recording, how much of that is about reflecting on what you’re going through and how much of it is your way of maybe trying to dig yourself out of them?

Another great question. I have never even considered that. I think I have always been a bit of a contradiction in terms of privacy and sharing. In my private life, I keep myself to myself and reticent to talk about personal matters with friends and family. The contradiction being that, in writing and in songs and even in things such as this, I seem to be able to be unfiltered and honest, even to a fault. This interview is like some kind of strange therapy, so thank you, I think. Usually, I’m not aware that I’m writing a lyric until it’s done. They are very stream of consciousness. I often wonder where a line comes from, where it starts. The music is work. We work to mould and shape it, change it, and question it. The words flow more. It almost feels as if I just get out of their way.

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