They’re Run The Jewels’ favourite new band. They’re best mates with London Grammar. Everyone’s dream BFF Lorde liked their Royals remix so much she asked them to go on tour with her. It’s not hard to imagine their brand of doom-laced electro-pop soundtracking an expensive car advert or the credits to an indie flick – so if you haven’t heard of Until The Ribbon Breaks yet, you’re pretty much about to.
It’s fun to watch people try to describe UTRB’s debut record, A Lesson Unlearnt. Songs swing from the slow, soul-tinged electro of Orca to club-ready tunes like ‘Spark’ with a healthy dose of hip-hop inspired beats and RnB melodies throughout. See, told you it was fun.
“It was kind of the intention for it not to have a genre,” frontman and founder Pete Lawrie-Winfield says when we catch up with him ahead of UTRB’s Run The Jewels support slot in London. “I’ve seen some [descriptions] that annoy me; I’ve seen it called ‘rock’ a few times but there’s not a guitar in sight. And RnB is a funny one – I can understand that to a degree because of sometimes melodically and maybe some of the sounds in there but it’s not like I listen to a great deal of RnB. I just don’t know. It’s hard.”
I got really sick of it – not the people, but sick of my own techniques really. I found myself going back to the same chords or same ideas.
This genre-hopping style was inspired by the philosophy of the teenage mixtape – those tapes that careen wildly from Aretha Franklin to Blink 182, seguing from Blondie into Jurassic 5 and back to Luscious Jackson via Dinosaur Jr. It’s where the name comes from too. “For me, growing up was never like vinyl and the nostalgia of vinyl, for me it was always cassette. So I used to like making mixtapes for people on cassette and it didn’t matter that it jumped from genre to genre. And a friend I was speaking to was like, ‘Oh yeah I used to make mixtapes on cassette, and you would love them and you would play them and play them until the ribbon breaks.’ And as soon as he said it I was just like, you’ve just given me the name.”
The band, which started out as a Pete’s own solo project but evolved into a live show with two other members, was a now-or-never project after he got stuck in a rut while writing and producing for other artists. “I got really sick of it – not the people, but sick of my own techniques really. I found myself going back to the same chords or same ideas.” So he quit, upped sticks and left the bright lights of London for a self-built studio in Cardiff where he set about writing brooding pop slo-jams inspired by films he’d project silently onto the wall as he worked.
That was in 2012; and since then the band has evolved into a three-piece, moved to the US and hit the road with Lorde, London Grammar and Run The Jewels. Killer Mike and El-P also guest on a track called ‘Revolution Indifference’ and are “the nicest people in the world” according to Pete who’s bubbling over with stories to back it up.
Cardiff isn’t necessarily the first city to spring to mind when you think of woozy hip-hop inspired doom pop, but there’s just something about the weather there. “I think all the music I love that’s influenced me definitely comes out of a kind of it – you know, to some degree, that’s what I think is amazing about British music and the kind of music that comes out of Britain. It comes from a kind of, ‘Well, it’s raining outside and I’m annoyed about it so I’m going to make this’ place.” But after relocating to LA, the weather could be a real problem for record number two. “As beautiful as it is and the weather’s amazing and it’s really nice to live there, I’m a bit worried that I’m too happy. You know?”