Brooklyn Magazine: Ribbon Stage: Rock with ‘A nod to the old heads’

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When the pandemic shut the world down last March, it threw a bucket of ice water on creatives everywhere. It didn’t quite extinguish the heat generated by Ribbon Stage, a Brooklyn indie band, but it didn’t help either. The trio, with fresh accolades from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, had a newly-minted EP in hand and nowhere to play it.

With only five songs clocking in at a taut eight minutes, “My Favorite Shrine,” on the Pacific Northwest indie label K Records, is a nostalgic pop amalgam of lo-fi ‘60s Factory rock and early ‘90s grunge—all slouched shoulders and garage grease.

“Our music is really a nod to the old heads,” guitarist Jolie M-A explains. “We applied the same kind of ethos from pop music, except we come from a punk background.”

With a new year underway, Brooklyn Magazine sat down with Ribbon Stage guitarist Jolie M-A and bassist-vocalist Anni Hilator. Rounding out the band is drummer David Sweetie, who was not on hand.


How did Ribbon Stage initially get together?
Jolie M-A: We met in New York City while volunteering at Willie Mae Girls Rock Camp. I was playing with David and Anni in separate bands. The band I played in with David was a My Bloody Valentine influenced band and the band I played in with Anni was a doom metal band. We ended up merging and Ribbon Stage was born. It was immediately a good match.

How so? And how did you guys arrive at this particular sound?
Anni Hilator: We all had a very specific idea for what each of us wanted to do on this project. We all had similar bands that inspired us on each instrument. We were all on the same page energy and taste-wise. We were just having a good time putting the EP together.

Jolie M-A: Our influences include a lot of British ‘80s DIY, especially bands with women in them. My favorites include the Shop Assistants, Dolly Mixture, and early My Bloody Valentine. We all bonded over a shared love for the early noise pop groups such as the Pastels, Field Mice, and Black Tambourine. We got the blueprint from earlier generations of punk bands who were able to make such enduring music without the technical and financial backing.

We’re in Brooklyn. How did the band get signed on K Records, which is based in Washington?
Jolie M-A: I knew an acquaintance at Olympia, Seattle label, K Records. We were going to put it out on cassette ourselves. The label then mentioned to us that we should put it out as an EP, so then then we decided to put it out as a such. We then remixed, remastered it, and released it.

The band has quite a fan base in Japan.
Jolie M-A: I’m not sure why Japan is our only fan base, but it seems that record stores have more of an influence or community surrounding them. It possibly spread through word of mouth. The US seems to have a lot more competing for their attention, but it seems like in Tokyo there are maybe more obsessive music lovers without having to dig through corporate indie playlists.

What are your goals with this current EP and for the band in the States?
Jolie M-A: We don’t really have any expectations. Our dream is to tour Japan and talk about music with the people that we are really obsessed with. It was amazing that the three of us met with such a reference point and to deviate from it is harder. I guess sometimes we take it for granted because we three like the same music.

Anni Hilator: We were thinking about seventies mail art collectives. We were really getting into stamps. We just wanted to make the cover a postcard and make it personal. We worked remotely by Photoshop and Zoom through quarantine to create the cover.

Jolie M-A: We also have stickers, posters, and digital art and language that goes along with the music. It was very intentional and purposefully done. It’s part Photoshop and partly drawn out by hand and that’s why I think people connect to it.

You recorded the EP in 2019 just before quarantine hit. How has your pandemic been?
Anni Hilator: Jolie has been writing and playing so much good music. She’s been sending voice notes to me on my iPhone. I’ve been listening to classical music. It’s a little difficult to focus on music with everything that’s been going on globally.

Jolie M-A: I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve been working on my computer remotely. I have some amps, a new pedal, and home recording equipment. I have been very lucky. I’ve also been working on a book—a random assortment of culture and criticism. When live music can be played again, we will visit the live configuration again.

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Brooklyn Magazine