Los Angeles-via-Seattle musician Emma Danner, a.k.a. Red Ribbon, is currently gearing up to release her new album, Planet X, having already shared lead singles “Renegade” and “Way.” Today she returns with the album’s third single “High,” and it’s a dazed, languid indie rock number about—you guessed it—getting high. Like, really high.
“I want you / I need you / I breathe you / My darling,” Danner exhales in the track, which features Shahzad Ismaily on drums and Abbey Blackwell on bass. Musically, “High” perfectly straddles the line between scary and sublime, transcendent and obliterating. The final verse fades into a dreamy smoke plume of an outro: “If I follow you / Will I lose my way / Or will I get high?” For Danner, who lost her first love to opioids, these lyrics are meant to allow multiple readings.
“High” also arrives with a trippy, handmade video—co-directed by Danner and Matthew James-Wilson—which finds Danner going on a strange, colorful journey that somehow involves a freaky, Grinch-like alien figure. When I say the video was handmade, I literally mean handmade: it apparently required over 3,000 sheets of paper.
Danner spoke to us about “High,” how her sound has evolved since her 2017 debut Freaks Only, and chasing transcendence through music. Check out the full Q&A and watch Red Ribbon’s new visual below. Planet X arrives June 11 via Danger Collective Records.
What’s the story behind your new single “High”? What prompted you to write it?
One cold, lonely evening I became hella high. I can’t remember if it was weed or if it was having fun or being in love or who knows what! I wrote this song real quick, maybe five minutes. I believe songs have multiple meanings, like parallel universes. I lost my first love to the opioid epidemic. But I can also remember, when we were recording this particular version and listening to playback, Shahzad [Ismaily]’s kid was jumping on the couch saying “higher, higher!” and so I love that meaning too.
What was your and Matthew James-Wilson’s vision for the video?
The entire thing is stacks of paper. I mean every single second is 12.5 sheets of printer paper! So I’m going to do the math right now…we used well over 3,000 pieces of paper. The animation and painting is all done by hand.
When and where did the songs on Planet X come together?
The majority of these songs were written and performed on North American tours between 2018 and now. These particular recordings were made mostly in Brooklyn, but also in Tornillo and Seattle.
How has your sound evolved since Freaks Only?
I engineered Freaks Only, so that’s a big change there with the recordings. I was using really low quality, built-in cell phone mics or anything I had access to, which wasn’t much. Planet X is a proper studio record, utilizing beautiful equipment and that sort of thing. I think it can be powerful as a musician to relinquish engineering control to someone who is dedicated to that particular art. As far as live sound, I have just been getting louder and less embarrassed about myself. Prior to Freaks Only, most of my live music experience was limited to busking in the street in San Francisco.
Does making music ever feel like a type of high for you?
It definitely does. A lot of my life has been about trying to figure out how to catch the dragon. I mean, like, how can I chase the feeling of intoxication without harming myself? You hit the nail on the head with this question, because music is the answer. It is transcendent in both its creation and listening.