AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talks to one of the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 artists Cut Ribbons about their Horizons year and recording at BBC Maida Vale.
Turning bittersweet lyrical themes and dense harmonies into soaring synth-pop anthems is what Llanelli indie darlings Cut Ribbons do best. It’s a simple formula that works well for them – one which has resulted in a critically acclaimed debut album, extensive airplay on Welsh radio, growing fan support and a coveted spot on the Horizons 2015 scheme last year.
Last month saw them play three tracks from their inaugural album We Want To Watch Something We Loved Burn at the iconic BBC Maida Vale studio. Following their session, AfterDark’s Dean Hodge talked with them backstage about their song choices, their year with Horizons and their ambitions for 2016.
DEAN: How would you sum up the last year with Horizons?
CUT RIBBONS: It’s just been amazing getting all these opportunities to play lots and lots of festivals that we haven’t played in the past, and to have our music played to larger audiences that we wouldn’t have dreamed to reach before. Being involved with Horizons gave us a safety net to fall back on, as well as a springboard to take our music further.
DEAN: What was the experience of recording at Maida Vale like for all of you?
CUT RIBBONS: For us, this is arguably the culmination of the whole year really. As incredible as the countless gigs and festival slots we’ve played have been, performing at Maida Vale is undoubtedly the ‘holy grail’ of achievements for many under-the-radar artists like ourselves.
DEAN: Do you feel that having more live shows and festival appearances under your belt this year has helped you, as a band, become tighter musically?
CUT RIBBONS: With us, it’s been more on a personal level, more about discovering ourselves as individual musicians and the sound that works for us as a band. Our line-up has shifted throughout the past few years. So as new members have joined, we’ve had to get to know each other and rehearse together, often within a small space of time in between doing shows, recording or other commitments. The workshops we did with the other Horizons acts this year were a good way for us to get to know each other more closely, and just being able to gig week in and week out has been so helpful for us.
Some of the newer members that have joined the band have arguably been thrown in at the deep end, but its great how much we’ve adapted to it, and over time I think we have become much stronger as a unit.
DEAN: Have you enjoyed getting to know the other artists on Horizons more as well, as the year has progressed?
CUT RIBBONS: There were a few artists we vaguely knew before Horizons such as HMS Morris and Yr Eira, but it’s been great getting to closely know everyone involved through the year. In some ways, Horizons has felt like being away at a summer camp for a whole year, and this is our last day before we head home!
DEAN: Can you explain the three tracks you recorded at Maida Vale, and why you chose them?
CUT RIBBONS: All the three tracks we did are from our recent album We Want To Watch Something We Loved Burn. We did Truth In Numbers first, then I’m a Wretch, then the title track of the album. We would definitely describe the first two tracks as slow-burners and much moodier compared to our usual style, as opposed to the third track which sounds more like ‘us’.
DEAN: Do you think the difference in styles between the tracks you recorded are a mark of how you’ve evolved musically since being with Horizons?
CUT RIBBONS: We’ve always been fascinated by synth-driven rock music and we’ve always made a conscious effort to capture that in our own sound. But being able to finally hone that sound and add our own style has been one of the beneficiaries of being with Horizons. It’s not just musically that Horizons has helped us. The whole team has helped promote our music and gather support from audiences that perhaps we wouldn’t be able to reach before.
“Horizons has felt like being away at a summer camp for a whole year, and this is our last day before we head home”
DEAN: Will you build on the momentum instigated by being with Horizons as you enter 2016?
CUT RIBBONS: Going into next year and beyond, I think the lasting effects of having been with Horizons is that it will shape our new material from this point. Because we’ve played more gigs and festivals than usual, there’s a self-driven need to make our set lists fresher and fun so that we can entertain those who come to see us. Particularly, playing regularly with bands this year such as HMS Morris, and being able to see them live too. They make such beautiful, introverted songs that turn into these rousing anthems on stage, and that’s something we strive for ourselves.
DEAN: Can we expect more new material from you fairly shortly?
CUT RIBBONS: It’s a bit too early to plan any specific release dates yet, but there’s lots of new music we’ve written in the past few months alone, that is just sitting around waiting to be recorded. So we’re not short of ideas for new material. Our main aim next year is to start completing our next album.
DEAN: What did you make of the positive reception your debut album – We Want To Watch Something We Loved Burn – received from fans and critics alike?
CUT RIBBONS: We were very happy and surprised too – although on second thoughts not that surprised as we knew it was good when we released it! (Cue mutual laughter among the band)
But in all seriousness, we couldn’t ask for a better response to the album. There were some journalists and reviewers that we often read or listen to and we value their opinions. To get positive reviews from them for our album meant a lot to us.
DEAN: On the subject of the press, is dealing with that side of the industry an area you feel you’ve all grown more confident at since being with Horizons?
CUT RIBBONS: Even just talking to you and doing lots of interviews is something that feels natural and second nature to us now. I think before whenever we did interviews or were asked to, we approached them with a degree of uncertainty and felt some pressure.
DEAN: Is getting asked repetitive or generic questions in interviews something you’ve often come across in the past?
CUT RIBBONS: The one question that often crops up is ‘what are your biggest influences?’ or how would you describe your sound?’. There’s only so many times you can answer that without sounding completely repetitive. When you follow a band and you read their interviews, as a fan you don’t want to be reading the same answers all the time.
DEAN: So moving on, who are your biggest influences?
(Cue mutual outbursts of laughter)
DEAN: To round off the interview, how would you sum up your Horizons journey in one line?
CUT RIBBONS: A fun, musical rollercoaster!
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