It’s been three long years since Pete Lawrie-Winfield and Elliot Wall, known by their moniker Until the Ribbon Breaks, released their acclaimed debut album A Lesson Unlearnt. Featuring an amalgamation of rock, alternative and electronic, it scored the act heaps of praise and a plum opening slot for Lorde, effectively giving the Cardiff, Wales band a global audience. Since then, upheaval has prevailed; Lawrie-Winfield was in and out of rehab after a fraught battle with alcoholism and substance abuse, and the act lost a third member, James Gordon, who departed in Nov. 2015 to focus on new ventures.
With their struggles and growing pains in the rearview, Lawrie-Winfield and Wall have funneled their past three years of ups and downs into their self-titled sophomore album which drops Friday (March 2). Focusing on an overarching theme of recovery and created in far-flung locations from Thailand to Santa Monica, Lawrie-Winfield was inspired by both his newfound sobriety and longtime love of film. Thus the act concocted a video for each track, including stand-out “Black and White,” which premieres below (Fun fact: The voice at the start of the song belongs to WTF Podcast host and GLOW actor Marc Maron). Lawrie-Winfield talked to Billboard about his past struggles, Gordon’s exit, and how each of the album’s videos was made using archive footage.
I know you had a tough time for a bit there. How are you doing now? Are you in a good place?
Thank you for asking that. I’m better than ever. It was a long journey making this record, it took us a long time between records because of everything that was happening and everything that I was going through. Part of that journey was going through recovery and rehab, which I’ve now done. I’m in recovery and I always will be. I found the love of making music again, and that coincidences with a record that’s incredibly personal. It was an amazing process.
That’s wonderful to hear and inspiring as well. This is the first album without James Gordon. What was it like moving on with Until The Ribbon Breaks without James?
At the time it was incredibly difficult. As well as being an amazing musician, producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist, he was also our friend. He went onto do his own things, which now looking back you realize things work out the way they were meant to be. The beauty of it is, we’ll still work together. We complement each other… I bring a bit of madness to his method and vice versa. It’s been amazing because there’s also not the kind of pressure that comes with being in a band together. Now we just collaborate and work together because we work well together.
I know you spent a bit of time in Thailand in recovery and the week you got back, Elliot said was the best musical week you both have ever had. What made it so good?
Our music has always been so personal to us and has always been about our friendship, so I think it was good to see each other again. I was in Thailand for three months in recovery, and Elliot said that during that time he didn’t even know if Until The Ribbon Breaks was still a band, or what was going to happen. As far as he knew, his best mate and band mate had hit rock bottom. I was on the other side of the world and he didn’t know if I was going to come back. So for me to come back, I had all of these ideas, he had all these ideas, and I was sober. It was a reinvigorated energy we had, just bouncing off each other and the making of the record came to an end with a really big upswing of creativity.
We’re premiering the video for “Black and White” today. What can you tell me about the making of it?
Well, our first record was very much about marrying film and music. I would write in front of a projector and sometimes the visuals would directly reference the music. This record, because it had been written and produced all over the world, there wasn’t always a way to get a projector available to us. That said, when the record was finished it felt right that we’d still incorporate film in our process. For “Black and White,” I watched this strange Scandinavian film called The Legend of Kaspar Hauser. The song is about getting back to a simple life after being constantly bombarded with information these days, a lot of it negative. You turn on the news and your head explodes; the politics… it’s a time of huge detachment and confusion. I’m just trying to simply say, let’s simplify it. Pictures being in black and white is a metaphor for when times were more simple and direct. I tried to make the video represent that as much as I could.
I understand you used archive footage for the videos from the album. What was the thinking behind that?
I studied filmmaking at university and for a long time and I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue music or film. Me editing film is just exercising that muscle and it’s a hobby I really enjoy. I actually find it really relaxing to go through hours and hours of footage and curate little clips. They’re really just tributes to film and music and they’re a lot of fun to make.