Natalie Ribbons // Tele Novella
It’s impossible to miss Natalie Ribbons with her unique sense of vintage fashion and swirling vocals brought forth onstage with her band, Tele Novella. With a track on the Wes Anderson tribute album, I Saved Latin!, covering The Velvet Underground’s “Stephanie Says” and a tour in the works, this is certainly one Austin-based act that is a must-see.
What initially inspired you to start playing music? How did Tele Novella come together?
I started playing music at a pretty young age and took piano lessons from age 5-16. I was never a very stellar piano player, though. It wasn’t until I started going to an experimental performing arts high school out in the ‘burbs of Sacramento that I was given the chance to learn to play guitar. I wrote really awful songs for a few years, and then I started to get better! Years later, I started a band called Agent Ribbons. When the time came for that band to end after 7 years or so, Tele Novella was a natural transition. My true love, Jason, is in this band, and so is his best friend Matt. Sarah joined a bit later, she’s wonderful! We make a great team I think.
What plans do Tele Novella have in store for this year?
Lots of touring for sure. We’re putting out our debut EP on Lolipop Records in LA, and then we’re going to tour the east and west coasts and play a festival in Montreal. After all that, we’ll start drawing up plans to record a full-length of all new material.
You describe your previous band, Agent Ribbons, as “a tree house club of post-feminist dreamers trying to find their place in the scheme of things”. What does being a feminist in this day and age mean to you?
I think being a feminist today means keeping your eye on the ball and not letting people try to muddle it up or make feminism confusing. Being a feminist is being a person that expects everything they deserve, and expecting it for other people as well. We are all equals and need to be strong in the face of humans that try and treat each other poorly or make others feel as though they aren’t as good as themselves. Feminism gets splintered up when folks present it as exclusive, or man-hating, or something negative. It’s none of those things.
What do you love most about Austin’s local music scene?
I don’t hate Austin’s music scene, but I can’t say I love it either. It’s sort of trucking along in the middle of the road. Mediocre bands sometimes receive more attention and congratulations than the more interesting, creative groups. Touring bands are held up as far more important than locals. There are struggles, but I also find that hard work is rewarded here. I really can’t complain about how things have been going for us…we’ve been welcomed by the scene and been on the receiving end of some wonderful support locally. I didn’t experience that much with my old band, but folks seem to respect this band, and it makes me feel very proud to be a part of this operation. There are some seriously passionate folks here working hard to build something, and we want to be a part of the building, for sure.
What advice would you give to women looking to start their own band?
My advice would be to make sure you are doing it for reasons that have nothing to do with ‘making it.’ Bands that sound like they are trying to ‘make it’ sound awful and they don’t even know it. Plus, you’re more than likely not ever going to make a lot of money. You need to love it and want to do it because its fun, and you need to like the people that you are playing music with! If you’ve got that, then you’ve got everything you need and it will all be worth it.
Lauren Bruno // Les RAV
It’s evident from the moment Lauren Bruno steps on stage that she was born to perform. With her vibrant, powerful voice, commanding stage presence, and snowballing passion to create, Lauren is taking the local music scene by storm. Not only is she the front woman of Les RAV, but also the director of Austin’s upcoming $3 Shows events and the founder of a campaign that exists to keep the inspiration alive in all of us.
You’ve been performing ever since you were in elementary school – what has been one of your most memorable performances you’ve given? What made it stand out?
My first performance was with a youth choir at the temple I belonged to. We had a huge show where all of the congregation came and I was given the solo. It was a Friday night and so I got to light the Shabbat candles with the Rabbi and the cantor and bring in the light. It was also one of the last performances my dad got to see before he passed. I just remember feeling so happy and bright and proud. One of the songs we performed was called Shalom RAV. It means “abundant peace” and is the song I took inspiration for Les RAV from. My most memorable performance with a band is definitely a Grammy gig I played at the Gibson Guitar Center. There was a stage set up and all the bands were playing on it like normal, but I noticed a grand piano that was painted lonely in the corner. So I asked the sound guy if it would be possible to bring it to the center of the room and mic it. He eventually warmed up to the idea, set it up, and when it was my turn to perform I asked everyone to surround the piano. One of my best friends, Naomi Cherie, accompanied me on the violin and it was a magical and very memorable performance. I just remember being surrounded by so much good energy and it was such a strong feeling. I was sick and weak at the time so I was very grateful for that moment of strength.
Les RAV initiated the Inspire Me Campaign, encouraging individuals to send in a one minute video describing what inspires them. What role does inspiration play in your life?
Inspiration is the driving force of Les RAV and the reason why I make music. Without the support and love from the fans that inspiration would not exist. My favorite quote by Marianne Williamson really explains my stance on inspiration and why it plays such a role in my life and my career: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
What challenges have you faced being a female musician?
I actually have been fortunate to not face any challenges besides having managed a six piece band of only boys. But it was more enjoyable than a challenge for me. I associate and get along more with boys and I find that if you don’t really make issue with being female there will be no challenges. Just be yourself, girl or boy, black or white, gay or straight. Just love who you are and what you are and it will all be good.
What hopes do you have for the future of Austin’s local music scene?
I hope Austin becomes a city where an artist cannot only survive but thrive.