Agent Ribbons

Posted on September 30, 2010 – 7:55 AM | by OldManFoster
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by Niki Kangas  Photos by Christopher Fairman

The first time I saw Agent Ribbons (my favorite Sacramento band ever) play, I already knew every word on their debut CD On Time Travel and Romance. Natalie Gordon, a whit of a redhead, opened her ample mouth and crooned a vaudevillean saga, stomping the floor to an audience of jaws suddenly agape, while Lauren Hess fanned a sultry accordian. By the next song, a minimalist garage punk vibe had eclipsed the theatrical temper that stunned us.Then, these show-stoppin’ dolls hit us with an old-school jazz uppercut! My head spun, while every song, catchy, held me fixated.  My head spun.  Every song held me fixated.

Their EP 7”, And the Star-Crossed Doppleganger, has an otherworldly, broken music box creepiness about it that shows maturation since their first release. Rife with acclaim, they’ve hit the road with the likes of Camera Obscura and Cake. This month, they are releasing their second LP, Chateau Crone(see review here). Naomi Cherie, their recently acquired violinist, adds a surprisingly welcome depth to Sacramento’s recently-departed, darling duet. No longer with their feet in Sacramento, Agent Ribbons’ adorable vintage hats now hang in Austin, Texas. Here’s what Natalie Gordon, Agent Ribbons’ guitarist and lead vocalist, had to say about the move and the new album:

Folks want to know why you bounced. Please explain your desertion.

It feels like only yesterday that Lauren and I did an in-studio performance on Michael Leahy’s show at KDVS where we went on a mini-tirade about how artists need to invest in the communities that invest in them – that they need to stick around and help foster their ‘scene’ and to inspire younger generations that are only just starting out.

I eventually found myself clinging to a living situation that wasn’t practical for me. Lauren moved and was in San Francisco most of the time, many of my closest friends were gone, and the band was stagnating spiritually, so it was time to reassess.

When we asked Naomi to join the band January of last year, it added yet another challenge financially: flying her back and forth between Sacramento and Austin (where she lives) for tours. She couldn’t move to Sacramento due to her dogs, boyfriend and other contributing factors, so finally Lauren and I realized that moving was the next step.

We will always consider ourselves a Sacramento band. I mean, our family is there, many of our friends are there, and we miss it all the time!

How have things changed for the band since the move?

Well, Lauren and I literally just showed up in Austin with nothing, but we were both determined to acquire some stability as soon as possible because we hadn’t had that luxury in a long time. The job market here is great, so it wasn’t hard at all.

Aside from finally being employed, our band actually practices now, and we’ve spent the summer booking tours, making handmade merchandise and planning out the release of the new album. It’s been a very productive summer, to say the least!

What can we expect from the new album?

Obviously, gaining a violin player has added a whole new dimension to what we’re capable of, along with all of the vocal harmonies that Lauren contributes now. Chateau Crone is arguably our first ‘real’ record in the sense that we started this project with a vision and followed it through, whereas the first album was very insecurely executed because we had never recorded before, barely knew how to play our instruments and didn’t know what we wanted the album to be like. We’re very proud of On Time Travel and Romance, but we regard it more as a demo than as an album.

We’re still a minimalistic band, and also we hop between genres just as much as we always have. One minute we’re gypsy-cabaret, the next we’re garage-rock, and then we’re playing a country blues song.

What’s your craziest road story so far?

Every single day on the road with us is crazy. I can’t think of any keystone tale, but we are definitely able to keep ourselves entertained. We have often taken our Auntie Lisa on tour with us, and she’s one of the most adventurous people I’ve ever met. She has different ‘personas’ – with accents, costumes etc-that she puts on at our shows, usually in small towns. Among her cast of characters are ‘Madame X’, a mysterious woman with a bouffant and glasses that asks anyone that addresses her if she knows them… a rockabilly clown that is a swing dancer, and- wait for it- a baby that thinks that every innocent bystander is her mommy or daddy. I’m not making this up! So… with Lisa around, there’s always crazy antics around the corner. Also, John Waters was at one of our shows once, and my best friend chased him down the streets of San Francisco to give him our CD. Oh, and Lauren was once mistaken for Meg White at an LA show and some people thought that Agent Ribbons was her side project!

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