Addiction isn’t easy but finding a way to cope can be powerfully fruitful and inspiring. Though Until The Ribbon Breaks started as Peter Lawrie-Winfield’s way to marry the worlds of film and music, his struggles quickly turned it into a personal project for their latest record. We caught up Lawrie-Winfield ahead of the band’s self-titled LP release on February 23 to talk about healing, finding new muses and composing visuals based on music instead of the other way around.
Northern Transmissions: How did your struggle with addiction and your isolated writing process shape the album?
Peter Lawrie-Winfield: When I listen to the album now, it occurred to me that it’s a two-sided record where one is written during the addiction, and the other is from when I was recovering in Asia. Without consciously doing it, it really is a two-sided record. Around New York and L.A. on the first half of the record you can hear all these claustrophobic environments, and the little village in Thailand is more open for the second half.
NT: What did you want to do differently for the sound of the record this time around and was there anyone outside the band who shaped that vision?
PLW: Interestingly, it was more that someone had left than that someone had come into the band. We were a three-piece after the first album, and James was an incredible producer and engineer. I was struggling quite badly with my addiction while on tour, and had gotten lazy trying to produce, and James was doing such a great job that I lost the love for it. When James left the band, I was shocked into relearning production, and learned some new methods while falling in love with it. While I was in treatment, Elliot set up a little studio with my gear and was learning production, and he brought some great ideas to the second record.
NT: Your visuals have been a constantly integral part to your band, but with your personal inspiration this time around were you still writing to visuals?
PLW: It was actually a much different process this time. The first record was just me, so it only became a band after the record as a means to perform it live. The first album was just an experiment in marrying film and music. I was projecting film in a room and I would write to it, and our name was Until The Ribbon Breaks after the VHS and cassette tape. The second record ended up by accident being about these much more personal things. Logistically because of that, the album was made all over the place. Parts were made in bedrooms, studios, in Thailand, the U.K. and even in L.A., and logistically I couldn’t bring a projector to all of those places. So it became more about the songs and my journey, I put film to it when it was finished, which was a nice and different way of doing it.
NT: Alternatively how have your visuals changed and are you still trying to challenge yourself there too?
PLW: My university degree was in filmmaking, and it was always what I wanted to do, but I just never had the patience for it. In the end I found I had no connection to what I was doing anymore, I found with music you can have an immediate reaction and be finished with it. You can have a feeling, turn it into something and move on in a day. Making things has always been a way of moving through emotions and processing feelings, so music’s just a quicker fix. Editing film is flexing that muscle, and I still love doing it as a medium. I can spend days sometimes just trying to find footage from archives, and when I find something I log it. Just this morning I was watching a silent film, just montage footage of derelict spaces, and it gave me an entire concept for a song.
NT: You’ve been collaborating a lot over the past few years, so what’s the biggest lesson you’ve pulled from those experiences and who can we expect on your new record?
PLW: The biggest lesson from touring has got to be Run The Jewels, they’re the most underrated rap group. I was listening to El-P and Killer Mike on their solo records ten years ago, and was always amazed. So seeing them work as hard as they do without being affected by their egos or success, eventually it paid off. They’re like the rap equivalent of Radiohead, they don’t compromise and do whatever they want. So many lessons like not giving in and compromising. There aren’t any collaborations on the new record because it was hard to collaborate on an island in Thailand. It would’ve felt weird to have others on those songs, because they were so personal. But I’m looking forward to making more collaborations again because the doors are open now.
Words by Owen Maxwell