“Music turns my pain into a process. There is peace and healing to be found in the process,” says Emma Danner in her latest press release. Better known as Red Ribbon, Danner is referring to her second LP, Planet X, which drops this Friday, June 11th. The album, which comes courtesy of Danger Collective Records, was inspired by a plethora of traumas, from devastating personal hurdles to end-of-the-world scenarios. And, although hyper moody, the album doesn’t wallow in these traumas, but uses them as a jumping off point for better understanding and navigating the human experience and the world which we have been given. Just as on her debut, Danner worked with doom metal producer Randall Dunn, known for his work with Sunn O))), Marissa Nadler, and The Cave Singers. I recently got a chance to chat with Emma Danner about how the past year has affected her and how Red Ribbon’s sound has evolved since her 2018 debut, Dark Party.
Izzy Cihak: Since it seems like we’re nearing the end of the pandemic for the time being and I feel like I’m supposed to ask something about it, I’m curious how you spent the past year or so. What did your days look like?
Emma Danner: Yes, it does seem like it and I am feeling optimistic about it as well! I worked as a waitress in Seattle during the pandemic. As everybody knows, most things came to a halt. This allowed me to relocate to Los Angeles. Because shows and touring were non-existent, I was really able to get into making music videos with very small, sometimes only two person, teams.
Izzy: You’re about to release Planet X. How do you feel the album compares and works as a follow-up to Dark Party? Sonically, it sounds like a pretty organic evolution, and I know you worked with Randall Dunn on both of them.
Emma: Certain tracks from the new record have the classic sound that Randall and I have. “Renegade,” for example, really epitomizes that. However, we really brought in a more organic sensibility through this record. You can hear my fingers on the strings on a track like “High.” We kept many imperfections. As far as my songwriting goes, I was able to take most of the songs from Planet X on the road before hitting the studio. It was a luxury to be able to road test the majority of the work.
Izzy: While we’re talking about it, do you have any favorite sophomore albums from music history? I was just looking through your Twitter and you have pretty eclectic taste.
Emma: When it comes to sophomore albums, it doesn’t get more iconic than Nirvana’s Nevermind. That album not only changed the trajectory of the band, but it changed the course of music forever.
Izzy: You’ve already released a lot of music videos from the album, which I definitely dig (especially “High”). They remind me of a lot of the videos that you’d see on 120 Minutes in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. What is it that inspires the visual elements of your work? Are you actually a fan of that era of alt rock music videos?
Emma: Oh yes! Great question. First off – thank you! I loved working on the “High” music video. I am very proud of that one, as it took a lot of painstaking work. The entire thing is well over 3,000 pieces of paper that were modified by hand! Probably one of the most famous music videos from that particular era you mentioned is A-ha’s “Take On Me,” which used a type of animation called rotoscope – in fact that is the same animation technique we used for “High.”
Izzy: I realize this is a pretty broad and general question, but what have been some of the highlights of Red Ribbon so far?
Emma: After the past year, I am so grateful that I was able to take my last album Dark Party on the road. I think playing live with other musicians is the thing that makes me feel most high.
Izzy: Finally, what are you most excited about in 2021? What are you hoping and planning at the moment? Any chance we might get to see you on the road in the near future?
Emma: My bandmate and longtime collaborator Veronica Dye just put on our first “live” show in a nearly empty parking garage. This was a great gentle re-entry into live music. I am working on a string of East Coast tour dates and hope to tour more extensively in 2022. We have learned it is not something to take for granted!