Red Ribbon is the project of LA-via-Seattle songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Emma Danner. Having put her music online for almost a decade, Emma caught the ear of a wider audience with her debut album, Whatever I Can Get, back in 2018. Now three years on, and newly signed to Danger Collective Records, Emma is this week set to release the second Red Ribbon album, Planet X.
Planet X was almost by design an attempt to push Emma out of her comfort zone. The ambitious approach starting with her choice of producer, Randall Dunn, who is known primarily for his work in the doom-metal genre, although he has worked with everyone from Sunn O))) to Marissa Nadler. The album was made alongside a four-strong collective of multi-instrumentalists and finds Emma pushing her music to its limits. While taking influence from the great and good of folk music and the great American songwriters, however for Emma that is just a starting place for her sonic exploration. Take the title track, a song inspired by the California wildfires that searches for some meaning in life before it’s too late, and is set to a backing of stomping, dreamy alt-country in the vein of Howling Bells. Elsewhere on the album, her previous single Way is a storming, clattering piece of sultry Southern Gothic, while the excellent closing track Score, is a wonderful melding of grunge and Anti-folk, like the middle ground of Jeffrey Lewis and Jessica Lea Mayfield. Planet X is a record that goes searching for the joys and the tragedies that life has to offer, looking at a world facing the threat of a climate emergency and trying to find hopefulness peaking through the cracks. Even as the world quite literally burns there is room for a bit of optimism and Red Ribbon’s fabulous album offer a reason to feel very cheerful indeed.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Red Ribbon?
Red Ribbon is my band, which began in Seattle and is now based in Los Angeles. Sometimes I play alone, sometimes I get to play with a band as large as 8 people. It is nice to meet you!
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
My first show as Red Ribbon was in a dive bar in Seattle called The Funhouse in 2012. Red Ribbon played as a three piece and I felt like I had made it, getting to sit in a sticky green room and playing to an audience of maybe 30. It was an Elvis themed show so I chose to cover “That’s Alright Mama”.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I was a dancer since I was really small, around three years old. I think I was so obsessed with music that I wanted to figure out a way to get inside of it as much as possible, to rip it open and to crawl inside. There was a piano in my house and I messed around with my mom’s dusty guitar as a teenager. However I didn’t think I was allowed to pursue it as a job until I started busking in San Francisco at around 19 or 20, and even then it took me a few years to stop being shy about it. A bit of a late bloomer! I am so grateful for this path even though it can be quite hard. I’m sort of perverted in that I love the pain of failure haha.
FTR: What can people expect from the Red Ribbon live show?
Well my live shows do vary quite a lot. I am very interested in music theory in the sense that you cannot play the exact same song twice. A song only exists as it is for one moment. A recording is a snapshot of one performance but not necessarily the final evolution. I am also very interested in considering the physical space that a song occupies. For example I am currently working on composing my works to be performed in an empty parking garage, where the cavernous space and lack of electricity calls for particular instrumentation. I have an experiential approach that is intended to be shared with others. Ultimately music is a form of communication for me.
FTR: What’s next for Red Ribbon?
I have toured North America quite a bit with Red Ribbon, so my hope is to cross the pond and do a tour. I hope I can meet you soon.
They Listen To…
Arthur Crudup – That’s All Right
Elliott Smith – Between the Bars (Lucky Three Version)
Diana Ross – Love Hangover
Alice Phoebe Lou – Only When I
Neil Young – On The Beach
Planet X is out May 11th via Danger Collective Records. For more information on Red Ribbon visit https://redribbonmusic.bandcamp.com.