Shooting Down the Propaganda Monster...
So, we were out in Denver awhile back, hanging out, just driving around town listening in on the local music scene kind of like old lecherous sea captains with spy glasses peering from afar at the native girls swimming nude on a pristine beach. Except maybe it wasn't that cool. They don't really have beaches in Denver, and nothing in this world is pristine anymore.
Anyway, we found out that there had been this ongoing battle of the bands on one of the rock stations and when we tuned in they were playing some songs and then calling up the band members to give a little spiel on air about what their music was like and why they should win. These two pro radio jocks, with their pro voices and their nice mics, and their good guy/bad guy routine would explain it, and then they'd put the kid on the spot.
Invariably the poor kid would flounder, like, “Oh, well, we've known each other awhile, and well, uh, we were all in other bands, and now we're in this one, and we play a lot, but we really love our fans, and it's all about the fans for us, so we practice really hard and this album came together for us and we think it's pretty good. But I don't want to blow my own horn, or anything. It's just we think we've got a pretty good shot because our fans are awesome.”
Which, we have to admit, was kinda cool in a modest sort of way. I mean, the kid just wants to play music. And fans ARE great. They make the music industry work, and it's impossible to complain about people who love what you make. But let's face it, people don't go to rock shows for modesty. The sooner we all realize that the better. And music would exist whether fans did or not. A thousand bedrooms resonating with a Strat straight into a Fender proves it time and again.
But because there are fans, because there is an audience, because there are consumers, nobody can let music be. Nobody can observe Rock 'n Roll without changing it; that most basic scientific principle bleeds into art. Everybody needs a label, a genre, even when such things negate that which is labeled. It is the paradox of paradoxes – the act of loving that which you love can change what you love into something that you don't love. “First rule of Fight Club is...”
But listening to that radio show in Denver, we got the point. You have to be able to talk about it. We all live in a box that lets us communicate with one another, you can't exist outside the box. Or at least, you have to have a box to show people, even if there's nothing in the box, even if you light the box on fire on stage, even if you make the box disappear in the second act with a wave of a hand. There still has to be a box, and they have to know it's a box. Even if it's an imaginary box, some Platonic perfect box of boxes... something to get the ball rolling. Anyhow, just because you have to have a box to play the game, it doesn't mean you're just a shill for the machine. It is true that he who fights monsters must beware not to become what he fights, but one must run with the monsters to ever catch one.
So what have we got to say for ourselves, radio listeners? We say if you've gotta get up on a box, it should be the finest goddamn box in all the land:
“We're The Pitch Black Ribbons. We are the music of life and death, an aria, a dirge, a magnum opus. We are the melody of good and evil, the harmony of the id, the rhythm of the ego. Get ready for the best music you'll ever hear: buy our album, hire us, vote for us, spread the word, listen with your eyes closed in the darkness, drop down on your knees, fall into that black abyss of music: a love song, the sweet song of hello and goodbye. Turn it up, raise your lighters, let the illumination change the world in a sea of yellow halos on the underbellies of the thunderheads. We are blues, alternative, rock, jazz, funk, punk, hillbilly. The sound of the ocean in the city, the forest on the freeway. We're an opera, a sonata, a concerto, a coda, a movement, a rebellion, a revolution. We wrote the score of 'win.' We are the sound track to awesome. We bring the black to your blues, the knot to your bows, for we are the Pitch Black Ribbons. And we fucking rule.”
Have you heard about Pitch Black Ribbons?
Brothers Clint and Cody Phipps have been playing and writing music together since they could talk walk and juggle flaming bowling pins. Unable to set the bowling or juggling world afire, they have focused their lives on writing and performing songs. As their river of a thousand-or-so original songs kept getting deeper and wider, they realized that the variety of music they wanted to play transcended the hard rock format of their previous releases. In an attempt to develop some new ideas they've gone back to basics, and the Pitch Black Ribbons is the acoustic duo that has evolved.
Clint and Cody pop a couple cans of inexpensive, but high quality beer and begin to explain.
“People have been telling us for years how much they enjoy listening to us perform our acoustic stuff,” says Cody Phipps.
“We've been thinking it was all because of the whisky,” explains Clint. “We would sit around and pour copious amounts and then bang on the acoustics all night, until we fell down or the sun came up.”
“Yeah, it's like cooking with wine,” Cody continues, “the more you add, the more delicious the mix. We figured that's what was going on. But then we realized that there really is something to the singer/songwriter genre. We started listening more. Plus, we just like to play acoustics. A lot. Something about that sound...” he takes a sip.
“True,” offers Clint. “There's a lot of depth and subtlety with an acoustic that's hard to capture when you're cranked to 11. While we still write songs that deserve a Marshall stack, we also have a few songs that can tear your heart out with the brush of fingertips.”
“Yeah, we really weren't getting to those in the band. And so the Pitch Black Ribbons was born,” concludes Cody. “We ran through a bunch of names. Some of them were really good. Personally, I liked 'Buffaloes Not Wearing Pants.”
“Yeah yeah. And then there was 'The Ass Tractors,' a politically-conscious musical satire,” Clint offers this with a grin but gets blank stares and lewd grins. “You know... the donkey used to BE the tractor?” Crickets. “Forty acres and a mule? No?” He throws back a gulp from the can and shrugs. “Yeah, see, that's why we didn't go with that one. People have dirty minds.” He thinks.
“Anyway, we had to go with the PBR's,” Cody asserts. “We felt compelled.”
Clint raises his can to this. “We're just trying to point out some of the injustices and fallacies of the world,” he explains. “Best way to do that sometimes is with extreme absurdity.”
“Absurdity and music,” Cody chuckles.
“Yeah, like an eighties rock concert,” Clint riffs. “The whole world is a parody of itself. You can see it best in rock n' roll.”
“Right,” agrees Cody. “But the PBR's is a serious band. We're completely serious about our music.”
“Oh right. Totally.” Clint nods. He takes a sip. “We're completely serious.”
You see, the Pitch Black Ribbons draws their name from the practice of wearing a black ribbon for a fallen political leader or comrade at arms. Often a black ribbon is worn for a cause, or in remembrance of a tragedy. Serious stuff indeed. And yet, the world is not all pitch black and bright white. Neither is their music. Have a listen.
Prior to the Pitch Black Ribbons, Clint & Cody spent their nights rocking 200+ shows in New England & beyond with PHLUX, a 3-piece band filled out by Greg Angus on the drums. And occasionally, you'll hear a PHLUX tune pop up during a PBR show. Its part of the beauty of variety being the spice of life & the live show experience. Come check it out...