Our picks for the top five drummers of all-time would have to include Stephen Morris and Keith Moon. So if I told you that we’d found a band who’s drummer (Sam Roudman) was the perfect mash-up of both drummers, would you be intrigued? What if I told you that we’d found a band that encapsulated what a great Factory Records band would sound like with a female lead singer? And yet, all of it sounds perfectly current and ground-breaking. Intriguing?
Meet Ribbons, hailing from New York City via California. Their new EP Love Is Mysterious was just released, so we were thrilled to get vocalist, guitarist, bassist Jenny Logan to talk to us about one of our fave EP’s of the summer. Amy McCarthy does the honors.
Love Is Mysterious by Ribbons
TDOA: You’re developing quite a reputation as a live band. Which do you prefer; playing live or recording?
Jenny: Hard to say. Recording is satisfying in one way because you get to make everything perfect. The song isn’t happening in real time. So I get to do things like fill out the songs with bass, organ, etc, and that’s fun. Playing live is satisfying is this totally different way, because you get to live in the songs for a little while and share them in real time with an audience, and have that interplay that you don’t get with a recorded product. Right now I’m gonna say I prefer to play live.
TDOA: I read that Jenny is a school teacher in the NYC public school system. How do your experiences with the lives of your students influence your music?
Jenny: Most of the songs I’ve written in the past 2 years are at least tangentially about my students. I spend more time with the kids than pretty much anyone else in my life right now, and maybe vice-versa. So of course I’m going to be emotionally involved with them. Since my song writing process is basically an emotional catharsis for me, yeah, the lives of my students have greatly influenced the music, maybe most evidently in the lyrics. Then again I was concerned with teenage problems long before I became a teacher.
TDOA: It’s not uncommon for a band to be compared to Joy Division, but you’ve been compared to Josef K and some of the great Factory bands. How do you feel about those comparisons?
Jenny: Hey, I like Josef K, but I really don’t hear the comparison in our music. Maybe it’s just the tense, claustrophobic feeling that reviewers are picking up on, like a general vibe that’s not reducible to a guitar tone or drumming style. Joy Division is my favorite band (yes). I admire that they could create an emotional mood that really projected loneliness and dread but still made you want to dance–sometimes. I don’t really think that would describe the Ribbons sound but I’m still flattered by the comparison.
TDOA: How has the addition of Jeff changed how you write music?
Jenny: It hasn’t. Jeff has written a couple bass lines but for the most part, the songs already had bass on the recordings…we just couldn’t replicate that live since I’m playing guitar. Having Jeff actually makes the songs more faithful to the recordings.
TDOA: I imagine the NYC music scene to be terribly difficult to “crack”. Is it hard for new bands to get shows and how do you get yourself “noticed” by the New York-based media?
Jenny: You know, when I came to New York 5 years ago I was hanging out with Jed Smith ( My Teenage Stride ) and he was always complaining that it would be stupid-easy for me to “crack” the scene because I was young and female. (Back then I had never even written a song; I didn’t start writing until I was 22 because I was new in town and couldn’t find anyone else to be in a band with me!) Anyway, from my perspective, Jed’s prediction simply wasn’t accurate, and I think maybe it’s because I just don’t go out to shows very often, I don’t go to parties, and I don’t really follow current music. I’m a high school teacher! So, I’m sort of a loser by trade. But given all that
I’m really happy with the stuff that we’ve done and the reception it’s gotten so far.
TDOA: Do you have any plans to make a video and what role do you think videos have in the current world of music?
Jenny: Hmm. We wanted to, but never seemed to get it together to make a video. The only one I’ve done was for My Teenage Stride when I played bass for them, and to my knowledge it had no effect on their popularity. I would like to make one for Ribbons, but I’m moving to Portland, OR for a while so maybe it will be with a new line-up. I don’t want to sound like a dumb-ass but I don’t watch music videos very often so I don’t have a well formed opinion about this. I know that, when I was a kid, a video could totally sell me on a song and a band that I otherwise would have had no interest in. I think the current generation of kids is very visual in that way too. I think, for mainstream music, there’s not really much to it except for the branding–and a lot of that is generated or even constituted by the music video. Which just makes me think, um, I need to make a video.
TDOA: You’ve self-released your music thusfar. Ideally how would you like to have your music released in the future? Major label, small indie or DIY?
Jenny: Pretty much the only thing that sucks about self-releasing our record is that we don’t get good distro, and you have to make all the press contacts yourself or else wait for people to contact you. I’d love to have someone else take care of those two things for me; other than that, DIY is great because you have complete freedom over everything–where to record, what songs go on the album, cover art, etc. etc. Our first album was released on a small indie label and we ended up disagreeing about all sorts of creative stuff, which sort of soured me on the label experience ever since. But man would it be nice to have someone do our press and distro. And make a music video.
TDOA: What other up and coming NYC bands would you recommend to our readers?
Jenny: You know who’s the best? City Center. Technically not an NYC band anymore but he/they originated in Greenpoint, so whatever. Also the nicest guys on the face of the Earth.
TDOA: You can vote one band “off the island”. Who would it be?
Jenny: I’m gonna be the bigger man and get off the island before I start casting stones.
To learn more about Ribbons, visit them on MySpace!