INTERVIEW: Q&A with Montreal’s Braids

Photo by Marc Rimmer

Braids is a band poised. A group of four young friends from Calgary transplanted in Montreal, they make what they call "experimental indie pop." We don't know what to call it, but we know that the sound is at once boldly personal and intimately loud, strung along with unique musical construction and sly pop sensibilities. Does that make sense? Anyone who's caught one of their extraordinarily fluid and involving live sets, including their Pop Montreal show this past fall, knows what the deal is. For those uninitiated, take a look at the beautiful video constructed by the wonderful folks at Blogotheque.

Now, the band stands before both the completion and assumption of a lot of hard work and reward. Having completed their debut full length Native Speaker, out in the fall, they are about to embark on a summer-long tour, including their first-ever American dates along with hopes for a European voyage in the near future. The interview below is an extensive look at the mindset regarding their album, their history together, and their hopes for a future.

Enjoy, this is one of Montreal's finest:

On their new, debut album, Native Speaker

Raph: It’s done. Finished. Really finished. Mastered.

Austin: It sounds great. We’ve been holding it for quite a while. We’ve been holding it for the past couple months. We’re just shopping it around to American labels right now, going down to New York to play some showcase shows. A good man in Brooklyn named Kip Curry from Tell All Your Friends Promotion, he’s helped us get in contact with a bunch of labels. Now it’s like, they’ve heard it, now they want to see us play live. Now it’s like, we’re just waiting to get down there and play live and see how people like it, how they receive it.

On learning how to record in order to self-produce the album…

Raph: For sure [it was an artistic decision]. We wanted to have as much control over it as we possibly could

Austin: We had a bunch of offers from people saying, “Hey, can we help you do all the post-production on the record, all the mixing,” and we said, “No, we really want to do it all ourselves. We really want to learn how to do it, and now for next time, we’re that much further ahead.”

Raph: It’s just good to know how do something new.

On how learning the recording process affected writing new music…

Austin: We learned a lot about the actual creating process of music, as well. You can tell because we’ve been writing a few new songs since we finished the record where, after having gone through the process of recording, our live writing is very different.

We were always trying to push the boundaries of what we were doing in the live environment, but now we’ve tapped into the recording environment, which is literally limitless. You can tell because it took us 9 months to record our record.

Raph: It took as long as a baby [laughter].

Austin: Yeah it’s actually interesting because the gestation period was perfectly nine months.

Raph: There’s always this problem with people doing something that they don’t know much about and not doing it well. We’ve always heard, “Oh, you should just leave the mixing to the people who actually know how to mix,” But I think, because we took so much time to learn how to do it well, we avoided that problem.

A lot of people were coming up to us and being like, “where did you get this recorded?” and we were like, “oh, in our house [laughter], in our back room that has a laundry machine.” But we really pushed ourselves to make it amazing.

Austin: We didn’t have to constrain ourselves by asking, “how are we going to play this live?”

Raph: We already have songs that we really enjoy playing live and that we’re really proud of live, so we just took it a step further for the record.

Austin: If we head something in our head while we were recording we thought, “I’m not going to do this live, but I don’t care because it’s going to sound really good on the record.”

On evolving musically through their years of playing together…

Austin: Yes [this record is a progression of Braids’ earlier sound], very much so. Especially from our last record, which was the Set Pieces EP, and this is like a complete removal from that.

Raph: I didn’t even have effects on my vocals when we did Set Pieces. I didn’t even know how to go “AHHH.” I didn’t know how to do that.  It’s a total evolution, especially from older songs like ‘M is for Matrioshka,’ where all of us were trying learn how to play together in time and I didn’t know how to play guitar yet.

Austin: That was a different time in our lives.

Katie: We were very excited. We’re not jaded now, we’re just very used to everything.

Raph: It was like, I’m going to play the guitar as fast as I can, but now it’s different.

Austin: I guess we have a little bit more restraint and maturity in our writing now. There’s been a continual progression where we realize that we write really long songs, like a 7 or 8-minute average track length. For working on things past Native Speaker, we’re trying to make things even more poignant. We try to write, like, let’s keep it down to a one or two-minute track and now it’s like, 4, but still, that’s short for us.

On their extensive tour schedule, including their first ever American dates in New York and Boston…

Austin: We’re very excited. We’ve got basically two months on the road in Canada throughout the whole summer through August and then, after that, there’s not even one show in place but we’re hoping to just tour as much as we can.

All of us through our friends, like the band Women, that have toured Europe have instilled this “GO TO EUROPE” vibe in us. So we really want to go to Europe. We’ve been getting emails from people and little bit of interest saying, “your music would be well-received here,” and all our friends that have toured Europe say that our music would suit audiences in Europe. Hopefully in the spring or something like that we can go to Europe.

Raph: Say Europe again.

Austin. Europe. Europe.

Katie: We’re up in Europe!

On influences…

Raph: For sure, Animal Collective is a huge one for all of us. That one was big for us. I think Animal Collective was huge for us last year, definitely. It changed the way we think about how to make music, for sure. We started out varied in terms of musical taste, with everyone showing each other music and we came together with Animal Collective. Now we’re spreading out again. Like Katie’s really into New Wave, like New York No Wave, New Wave. Taylor’s starting to get into a lot more electronic based stuff.

Austin: Every once in a while, Taylor and I throw out the idea of starting a micro-house band, with live drums and effects.

On life after the album:

Austin: It’s kind of nice to be done with the album. We’re starting to listen to so much music. I found that when I was recording the album I was forgetting to listen to music. I became so saturated with my own music.

Raph: I didn’t listen to any music.

Austin: I just don’t want to hear that album for a while. Now it’s like I’m listening to a lot more new stuff and it’s nice.

Raph: This was the first time [that we got so immersed in the recording process]. We had only done one day recording before, like live to 2-track at a radio station.

On integrating new material into the band’s fluid live show…

Raph: For sure, we have a couple new songs

Austin: and a couple tweaks to our old songs

Raph: There are tweaks with the endings and I have different ways of singing the songs now. Still, the album is very fluid and the live show is very fluid. All the songs that are on the album, we’ve played live a million times and we’re very happy with them. It’s pretty similar, but you know, the album is like nine months of playing the same songs over and over again, so it’s just a little different.

Katie: I know that most of us really want to kind of move past the album a bit. We want to write as much new material as possible and really try new things. We want to try new sounds and not just do new things like Native Speaker was.

Austin: For sure, to keep pushing the boundaries on what we can do physically and emotionally and as friends, in terms of how much we can beg of ourselves. We’ve spent some time already sitting down and thinking, “How do we want to progress?”

We found that it was best to not talk about it so much (Laughing).

Raph: Yeah, you just dig yourself a hole when you do that.

Austin: we got kind of heated a couple nights talking. Now it’s kind of like, let’s just see where it’s going and it’s going in a nice direction. I think we’re going to come back to it and speak a little more about it. It’s just a balance of how can we remove ourselves from what we’ve done before without losing our cohesive sound.

Raph: It still sounds like Braids. We just want to challenge ourselves because we’re 19, 20, and 21 years old and we’re full of energy.

Katie: We get bored easily.

In addition to the new album, Braids will be releasing a split cassette with Raph's other group Blue Hawaii to promote their tour. For a full list of tour dates, check Braids' myspace. They will be playing in Montreal on May 21 at the Savoy with the Holly Miranda.