Two Ribbons

Two Ribbons

When Let’s Eat Grandma’s Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton were making their third album, Two Ribbons, someone from their record label told them, “You know you don’t have to put yourselves through this, don’t you?” The album is a visceral exploration of the love, loss, grief, and devastation they’ve experienced in recent years. And for the electronic-pop duo from Norwich, England, best friends since childhood, this was the only way through. “I was like, ‘We’re going through it anyway,’” Hollingworth tells Apple Music. “It was hard making the record, but that’s because it was a hard time in general. Even though it was extremely challenging, it gives you a place to put the amount of emotion you have. It was a way of trying to forge meaning out of stuff, especially when it all feels a bit meaningless.” Here, their intricately woven synth-pop brings out a lightness in the darkest of subjects. This is an album about the duo’s personal ordeals, as Hollingworth tries to make sense of the tragic passing of her boyfriend, the singer Billy Clayton, who died at just 22 from a rare form of bone cancer, with both reflecting on cracks in their friendship. “It was the first time that we’ve written that honestly about our lives, and that felt really important,” says Walton. “It’s just very down the line and quite brutally honest. That was important for both of us.” All of which has resulted in a profound and poignant artistic statement—and an album that sees Walton and Hollingworth’s songcraft reaching new peaks. Here, they talk us through Two Ribbons, track by track. “Happy New Year” Rosa Walton: “I actually started writing this with the intention of it being for the Cyberpunk 2077 game but, in the end, the brief for that was so specific, and I wrote a different track instead. I had the main hook chords for this and then I just sung the words ‘best friend’ and I was like, ‘Oh, wait, I know what this should be about.’ I had loads of things that felt really pressing to write about mine and Jenny’s relationship and looking back on that in a nostalgic way and also looking forward to a new chapter. It made sense to use the metaphor of New Year because it’s often a time when you do that.” “Levitation” RW: “This was written about the surreal mental state of feeling detached from reality, in a way that you almost feel high, and there’s positives about it, but then also it can be really scary and alienating. I wanted to write about two sides of that. It’s one that we both sing, and Jenny brought lyrics to it later in the process.” “Watching You Go” Jenny Hollingworth: “I wanted to make something that reflected the pent-up emotion of grief and the kind of tension that you feel when you’re in a lot of confusion and distress. The way that the song’s built, there aren’t really clear chords through most of it; it’s very bass-led and kind of churning and then, at the end, there’s this big guitar release. It represents, to me, just how difficult I found it at the time to express myself. There’s a lot of nature imagery on the record because a lot of the record was written spending a huge amount of time outside. This one looks at the images of beauty but also the horror of nature at the same time.” “Hall of Mirrors” RW: “This was very production-led in that the shiny, bright metallic sounds came before any of the lyrics or the story. They almost informed the lyrics, in a way. The idea of writing about the hall of mirrors came from the image of the shiny, delayed synth sounds that were like reflections in a mirror, and then from there I realized that I wanted to write a song about my sexuality, which I hadn’t written about before. That was something that I felt like, at that point, I was ready to talk about in a song and the many different emotions in relation to that. I knew that I wanted it to be an uplifting and positive song, but then, in the same way, there’s a lot of secrecy and guilt mixed in there as well. I knew that I wanted to keep it a dance-pop song at the core.” “Insect Loop” RW: “This one is very painful and a raw, emotional song. I see it in sections, and all of the sections represent different facets of how you feel about a person. There’s anger, there’s guilt, there’s tenderness in the middle section, and then a release at the end, and we used the production to build that. The end section I imagine as being set on a beach: The big, reverb-y, distorted guitars are like the crashing waves. Both of us are really influenced by our environment and influenced by the Norfolk coastline and the Norfolk countryside.” “Half Light” RW: “This was written as a segue between ‘Insect Loop’ and ‘Sunday’ because they’re both very heavy, emotionally intense songs, and we felt like we needed to put in a breather there.” “Sunday” RW: “I started writing this one at the beginning of lockdown. I was about to break up with my boyfriend at the time and it was written ahead of that, as a kind of way to prepare myself for the break-up. I really wanted to write something very warm-sounding, which is interesting with it being about a break-up. The warmness was like a longing for how I wanted to feel and how I once felt in the relationship. I think there’s something extra sad about that. A lot of the sounds are very delicate and fragile, and also just really pretty. Again, there’s something really sad about using those sounds in a way which is about something which is ending.” “In the Cemetery” RW: “This was a track that Jenny had started, and then I wrote a bit of instrumental around it and then put in some shitty recordings of birds off the internet, and then Jenny went to the cemetery and recorded actual birds. Again, we just felt like we needed to have something in there that just created a bit of space and a break from the high volumes of lyrics.” “Strange Conversations” JH: “It’s complicated to talk about this because I feel like a lot of the lyrics are mysterious, even to me. I think when Billy passed away, it made me think a lot about spirituality, not in the literal sense of religion, but just in terms of meaning and what happens when we die, and you are quite confronted with that aspect of life in a way that you’re not previously. It not only represents a conversation with either some sort of higher power or a god, but also the questions that you have for the person that you love who’s passed away, and the way that your relationship continues even when they’ve passed away. I guess the strangeness of it is the fact that it’s obviously one-sided and that you can’t actually get the answers that you’re looking for.” “Two Ribbons” JH: “It wasn’t immediately obvious to me as a closer, but it made sense as the record came together because it just felt like it had a mood that was difficult to bounce back from. It also ended up creating a kind of circular, because ‘Happy New Year’ is almost like a response to ‘Two Ribbons.’ Ending on ‘Two Ribbons’ and then starting again with ‘Happy New Year,’ it’s almost like you hear the songs differently the second time you listen on loop because of the context of this song.”

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