BRAIDS is a band that has occupied a lot of space in my ears since our introduction. As a fan prone to brief yet intense musical obsession, their quiet permanence in my day-to-day listening over the last three years comes closest to what I would label as a “favourite band.” Their first LP, Native Speaker, was more often than not my musical nightlight back in 2011 and a curious exception to my taste for angry electronica at the time.
Every song was a room to get lost in, with vocals that guided through unfamiliar tempos and auditory nuances that still capture my attention after countless hours of listening. BRAIDS’ soothing tonal complexities have accompanied me through countless periods of stress and transition. How fitting that I finally had a chance to talk with them while we were both away from home.
After zig-zagging their way through Europe’s beautiful venues, dairy farms and “decidedly superior breed of humans,” BRAIDS’ Austin Tufts, Taylor Smith and Raphaelle Standell-Preston were relieved to find themselves back on home turf. Having just played a packed show at Victoria’s Rifflandia Festival, the three were already embarking on the Canadian leg of their album tour.
“We played in Calgary last night… all of our families and old friends are there… really good vibes… We got to hang out with our parents, which was necessary after being very jetlagged. You know, to wake up in the bed you grew up in and have a great breakfast,” says Tufts, taking a breather after their Rifflandia set.
This time last year, BRAIDS were only beginning to perform their new material onstage, much of which has culminated in their second full-length album, Flourish//Perish, released late this August. Rife with new sound and pleading emotion, this set of tracks speaks volumes to the album’s inception, a process that has been far from simple.
“It was a very conscious decision that we wanted to change the sonic pallet of the record to move into a more electronic domain,” Tufts recalls, “because that’s was the music that we were listening to.” Taking inspiration from the likes of Burial, Four Tet, Bjork and Radiohead (think Kid A and King of Limbs) BRAIDS were after a darker, more introspective sound to replace the giddy, effervescent blend of instrumentals on their first album. Not everyone was on board, however.
After butting heads with lead vocalist Standell-Preston about her continuing role in the band, former keyboardist Katie Lee decided to cut ties with her fellow members, throwing the group into unexpected creative limbo before they’d even finished recording.
With the band’s movement toward more electronically-oriented musical construction and Katie’s subsequent departure, BRAIDS’ dynamic onstage has undergone complete overhaul, something Tufts says the group is just now starting to get comfortable with.
“The whole performance of it came as an afterthought, like ‘let’s just sit down and write the record that we want to write’ and afterwards we were faced with the challenge of learning how to play it live. It took a long time and, to be honest, I don’t think we got to the point where we were comfortable with performing until just recently. Before we were struggling with the new interface, connecting with music in the same way, with the new songs and with each other onstage. We were limited by the technology… and now, we’re able to deliver, finally. It feels great.”
Tufts, Smith and Standell-Preston have also chosen to exclude any material from their earlier releases in tour, a decision that illustrates the symbiotic relationship each member has helped cultivate with the band’s overall sound.
There’s no doubt that Flourish//Perish marks a point of no return for BRAIDS, illustrating the duality so often faced in times of transition. Despite the solemnity to be found in Standell-Preston’s introspective lyrics however, this album is as much a triumph of musical catharsis as it is an ode to the broken relationships left in its wake. While loss, introversion and growth are fundamental parts of every telling of the human experience, BRAIDS have captured these themes with stark honesty and unwavering transparency. As Tufts put simply, “This is how it is now. Not better, just different.”
BRAIDS perform at Fortune Sound Club on October 22nd.
By Melissa Syme-LapperBC, British Columbia