Until The Ribbon Breaks is the moniker of UK artiste, producer and DJ, Pete Lawrie Winfield. It is a reference to mixtapes and our once predilection to listen to cassettes repeatedly until the ribbon breaks, especially if it is music we love or gifted to us during a grand amour.
Lawrie Winfield who is currently on a North American tour was recently in San Francisco performing at The Independent and spoke to the Examiner.com about his new EP “A Taste of Silver” and life on the road.
The five-song EP features videos like “Pressure” which heavily-references the work of David Lynch and “Romeo” which features Baz Luhrmann’s version of the Shakespearean tragedy with menacing cacophonies of tape loops and synthie soundscapes. He bleeds his lyrics out by using a projector and looping parts of the movie that has inspired the song, watching and writing with the sound off. It is a fitting modus operandi for Winfield who studied film at University.
Curiously, he has no Wikipedia entry as this article went online but he is the progeny of illustrious musicians. His grandfather played the oboe on The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” and many John Williams film scores from “Indiana Jones” to “Superman” and “Star Wars”. His parents are also both classical musicians and he himself had an earlier incarnation and some success as a folk-ish singer-songwriter.
But it is as Until The Ribbon Breaks that he is doing something altogether bolder and tapping into the zeitgeist of dark electronica and even pulling away from the rest of the pack with a stark lyricism that stands out amidst his well orchestrated industrial dirge.
This EP has something in common with Bastille in its use of cinematic icons Terence Malick and Lynch; with Deptford Goth in the bleakness that the world his music now operates effuses; and with that of Mercury Prize Winner, James Blake and his avant-R&B leanings. It has been garnering as much column space as his remixes for the likes of Kiwi wunderkind, Lorde’s “Royals”; critically acclaimed producer, The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games”; and Canadian twins, Tegan and Sara’s “Closer”.
Lawrie Winfield likes his music to defy genre categorization and loathes being pigeonholed as any one kind of artist. Indeed just when you think you’ve got him pegged, he comes up with “Perspective” featuring Queens rapper, Homeboy Sandman. It belies the hip-hop that he was always insistent inspired him but was all but absent from his earlier work. He admits: “I like all kinds of music and I think it comes across in my music. I think musical snobbery is the worst thing there is. For me it’s just what sounds good on the day.”
Despite the syncopated vocals, tape loops and images of dystopian futures, a wild makeover-away from his folk-rock self, Winfield still reveals he has the true spirit of a troubadour and seems happiest on the back of the bus, singing for his supper with no direction home.
So what was your show at The Independent in San Francisco like?
It was great, definitely one of my Top 3, though we haven’t done that many shows. I had just come back from being ill, the venue was great, and the crowd was so welcoming - playing in San Francisco is always amazing but sometimes everything just clicks.
You recorded this EP, ‘A Taste of Silver’ in a studio, cutting and splicing music and now you’re touring with a band, is it quite different live?
It wasn’t like I just hired a band. There’s only three of us – James (Wolujewicz), I made the record with. And Elliot (Wall) the drummer, he has always played with me whenever I have needed a drummer. As for the record, it definitely was a studio record and we had to figure out how to perform it live but that makes it exciting.
For ‘Pressure’ you actually locked yourself away in a studio with a film projector to write the song – do you have other movies in your head that you would like to work out in that manner? Or is that passé for you now?
It wasn’t just because it was an idea. But the films actually served a purpose for me in how I write the music. I am a movie-obsessive so I watch lots of movies and oftentimes a movie will inspire me to write a song. Recently somebody said that I should watch the movie, “Hanna” and I did. It’s beautifully shot and has got some fantastic images and I am actually thinking of writing a song from watching that. Oh and the documentary, "Blackfish" about the killer whale (In captivity, one of these performing killer whales has killed several people). It has inspired me but in a different way – it wasn’t so much the images that I would use but the theme … so it is always something different but always from watching moving images.
How do you approach a remix – or re-imagination as you call it?
I only ever ask for the words. So I have no idea what the original song sounds like. For Lorde’s “Royals” I hadn’t heard the song yet. So I completely start from scratch. I look at the lyrics and see what emotion or words to begin with, what I feel the song may be about and hopefully give a different take. And hopefully listeners get something quite different out of it than the original.
Your re-imagination of Lorde’s ‘Royals’ with that sparseness of lyrics bred such a latent moodiness it had a completely different feel from the original for me.
What is the function of a remix for you?
I think the function of a remix – the reason an artist asks you to do this is to give a different spin on a track. It’s quite exciting to have your track heard on a different framework. I mean for an artist, they wrote it and put the original music together then hear it whenever they sing it live. For me personally, it’s a muscle to stretch. I learn something new about production that I can then apply to my own songs later.
What music did you listen to growing up?
My parents are both classical musicians and instead of a babysitter, they would just take my sister and me to work on a Saturday. And so some of my earliest memories of listening to music are of my parents rehearsing with an orchestra. At the time I hated it, as I wanted to be outside playing football, but now I realized how great it was that I had that. At home, they would listen to their idea of pop music – Nina Simone, Motown for my mum, and lots of English experimental rock for my dad like Pink Floyd and Genesis, not that Genesis is very experimental.
What was the first piece of music that you used your own pocket money and when out to buy – was it an LP , cassette, CD, surely not an iTunes download?
That was “Coolie High Harmony” by Boyz II Men. And it was still on cassette, I was about 10. And I think that’s why I have such a fondness for cassette because that was how I first listened to my music. Some people get romantic about vinyl but for me it was cassette.
With ‘Pressure’, you said you were sleeping on the floor of your studio which informed the sort of bleakness and urgency to the song, what are you sleeping on these days – 200 count Egyptian cotton sheets?
It’s still the same environment (laughs). Except now, it just moves while you are asleep.
You grew up in Wales but where do you live now?
I have no address literally. We have been on tour so I live in a bunk on the back of a tour bus. I had been living in New York for 6 to 7 months before that. And I am moving to California after, so no address right now but I’m not complaining. (Note: This might have something to do with the fact that it is Michael Jackson's Thriller tour bus.)
Until the Ribbon Breaks - Tour Dates (with Delorean)
February 14 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry
February 15 - Iowa City, IA @ The Mill
February 17 - Grand Rapids, MI @ Covenant Fine Arts Center (Calvin College)
February 18 - Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
February 20 - Toronto, ON @ The Hoxton
February 21 - Montreal, QC @ Il Motore
February 23 - Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair