Agent Ribbons

Posted on June 22, 2008 – 3:28 PM | by OldManFoster
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Agent RibbonsAsk any local musician or music aficionado around town to name their favorite bands in Sacramento right now and a list containing Th’ Losin Streaks, Hella, Two Sheds, Buildings Breeding, Pets, Dusty Brown, The Evening Episode, and, of course, Agent Ribbons will likely be produced. That last band, Agent Ribbons, has been taking the local music scene by fashionable force lately and their popularity shows no signs of slowing down. Given that these finely manicured musicians have accomplished so much while leaning exclusively on a DIY ethos is almost as inspiring as their music.

Agent Ribbons is comprised of Natalie Gordon on guitar and vocals and Lauren Hess on drums. On paper, that arrangement may sound spare, but on stage Agent Ribbons’ mixture of baroque-pop, vintage cabaret whimsy and a kinetically electrifying stage presence has earned them a steady and ever-increasing following. With nods toward The Dresden Dolls, The Ditty Bops, Jolie Holland, and a list of turn-of-the-century jazz influences a mile long, Gordon and Hess are now looking to take the rest of the country under their home-sewn spell.

Lauren Hess first met Natalie Gordon at Records on K Street. “Natalie was dating my co-worker and she would come in fairly regularly,” Hess says. “I knew that I would want to be this girl’s friend,” adds Gordon. “and I just asked her if she would want to jam with me sometime, even though neither of us are the ‘jamming’ types.”

agent 2With a handful of freshly written songs, Gordon and Hess’ first show together was in 2006 at the House of Shields in San Francisco opening for Chelsea Wolfe. By all accounts their maiden voyage into the world of live music went surprisingly well and the two decided to make their band permanent, playing at least three shows every month since. Thus Agent Ribbons was born.
Agent Ribbons is not just a band to Gordon and Hess; it’s a labor of love. With no record company representation or revenue flowing in, Hess and Gordon do everything themselves, from booking their up-coming national tour, to making individual mixed-media covers for their debut album, On Time Travel and Romance, which they also distribute themselves online, in local shops and at shows. “We really take this band seriously and we really focus on
making this our career,” says Gordon. “So we work really, really hard.”
Hard work, audience appreciation and even a Sammies nomination this year, however, doesn’t necessarily translate economically. “Financial success would be really nice,” Hess says. “Natalie and I both are constantly hanging-on by a thread with our landlord. We go months without paying rent, which is really, really bad, but a lot of the time we don’t have a choice.”

Both agree that the band is the job; the main focus. Hess takes odd jobs as a painter and Gordon makes Agent Ribbons her primary focus, managing almost every facet of the band. “It’s hitting the danger zones for sure,” Gordon concurs. “It’s really convenient, the set-up we have right now. And if I get evicted, that would really suck because my apartment has so much space and we can practice at 2:00 am in the morning and nobody cares.”

agent3Agent Ribbons HQ is located in a house in the Alkali Flats neighborhood, where Gordon and Hess each have an apartment. Each room in these apartments represents a work space for the band: one room is for band practice, another for arts and crafts, and when they eventually find time, there are also bedrooms for sleeping. Hearing it described, their house seems like any band’s dream space come true. “We practice with the windows open,” Explains Gordon. “The cops don’t care. They know what’s up.”

New ideas for the band abound, not the least of which is recording an album called Outside, which will be exclusively recorded, outside. “I just don’t think that we’ll ever stagnate,” says Gordon. “because we have too many ideas.” She promises that the new 7”, Agent Ribbons and the Star-Crossed Doppelganger, which they just recently put the finishing touches on in LA while playing a handful of shows there, will reveal a bit more of Agent Ribbons’ darker side.

If anything, Hess and Gordon love Sacramento and its music scene. “I love how genuine people are here,” admits Hess. “people here are just doing what they do because they love it, so that’s a selling point for me. It’s a close-knit scene in good ways, I think”

“I just like the fact that [Sacramento’s] one big giant neighborhood, filled with trees,” adds Gordon. “There’s a really strong sense of community here and I think a lot of the bands sometimes just have their shows to support each other musically.”

So, what does the future hold for Agent Ribbons? A national tour with local music promoter Jerry Perry as their road manager, for starters. The band will play several shows between here and New York, with a possible slot at the CMJ New Music Showcase. Gordon and Hess are hopeful that this will lead to some independent record company attention, acknowledging the need for the financial assistance that labels can provide. “I hate to say in an interview that I’m not content with DIY everything,” Gordon says. “but the truth is you have to have some sort of support system.”

“We have nothing to lose.” adds Hess about embarking on their cross-country tour. “We might as well go and get out of town.”

Seeing how hard this band works to bring its music to its fans without record label support is pretty amazing. It boggles the mind that a label has yet to add Agent Ribbons to its roster. Still, with this tour, Gordon and Hess are going for broke “I’m ready for our some sort of indie label offer to help us keep our heads above water,” Gordon says. “Seriously, we have nothing to lose.”

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