Ribbon Tied’s Past Finding Out a Great Debut

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Ribbon Tied is a 4 piece indie-punk band from St. John’s: Pepa Chan on rhythm guitar/lead vocals; Andrea McGuire on bass/vocals, Jess Barry on drums/vocals, and Joe Tucker on lead guitar.

There’s growing excitement about the band around town, and for good reason. Their anticipated debut, Past Finding Out, places Ribbon Tied alongside other local indie-punk bands like Hard Ticket, and Yee Grlz, but the album ultimately veers away from the genre early on.

Lead vocalist and songwriter Pepa Chan’s pop instincts are too strong to slot Ribbon Tied into that, or any one genre comfortably. The catchy hooks, melodic harmonies, and jangly rhythm guitar are actually reminiscent of some favourite 90’s Canadian indie female-led bands, like Plumtree, and Cub, or even Halifax’s husband and wife duo Dog Day.

The opening track “Someone” sets the tone of Past Finding Out with the lyrics: “If I let go of this, will it ever come back, why is it weird to think about all the bad why is it okay for men to decide for us even when we chose, there’s someone behind us.”

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Chan, who originally hails from Argentina, explains that many of the songs on the album talk about feminism and the realities and challenges of being a woman back home; the depression and anxieties that stem from this, and her insecurities about being different, an immigrant, a tomboy, and learning to love all these parts of herself.

The next track, “Not the Regular Kind,” reflects this jumble of feelings, while “In This Hole” is straightforwardly defiant. “Tall Tales” is an unexpected mid-tempo number that announces itself with twangy country guitar, and the next track, “Kyekue’s Song” (a previously released single in 2016), is a straightforward indie-punk number.

It’s this back and forth that keeps the album interesting, while Chan’s songwriting is strong enough to keep the album from feeling discombobulated. Indeed, it’s an acoustic anomaly; a folk song sung in Spanish, that closes out the album.

Past Finding Out is contemplative, melancholic, and even combative, at various points, but ultimately maintains a light-heartedness with its group vocals, upbeat drums, and guitars, and unpretentious lyrics. It’s this combination of seriousness and cleverness, of fine-tuned and unpolished that makes Ribbon Tied one of funnest live bands on the go right now.

It’s also an ideal fit for Jake Nicoll who recorded, engineered, and mastered Past Finding Out. Nicoll excels in the DIY scene in part because he recognizes the right amount of rough-around-the-edges and good songwriting. I do think 10 tracks would have served the album better than 11, as might have dialing back lead guitar and group vocals at various points. Taken as a whole, though, it’s a great debut from an exciting new band on the scene.

Get out and catch Ribbon Tied at their album release Friday, August 4th at the Fat Cat with guests Hard Ticket, Family Video, and the Newish Klezmer Ensemble.

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Sandy May

Sandy May is a writer and musician living in St. John's (and Paris when she can afford it).

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