By James Olson
B.C. edition interview
VANCOUVER — Nobody does rhythmically dense, electronically-flavoured art rock quite like BRAIDS. The Polaris Prize shortlisted and JUNO-Award winning trio have refined their craft with each release, culminating in their breakthrough third album Deep in the Iris which dropped last year to widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike. Little more than a year since Deep in the Iris dropped, BRAIDS have released the Companion EP. Drummer Austin Tufts sees the band’s latest collection of songs as a conclusion to the styles and moods explored on their previous LP.
“It was birthed out of ideas and songs that were written during the Deep in the Iris sessions, so it follows the same style of creation and continues along with the same lyrical concepts. Vulnerability is still key to these songs, as was the same with its preceding LP,” says Tufts. “This was, however, the most compact and focused period of writing we’ve ever had. Much of the EP was written, recorded, and mixed in three weeks at home in Montreal following our first ever tour in Asia. We had so much creative energy coming off that tour, so this was the perfect outlet.”
Song craft is an essential element to BRAIDS’ ongoing success as a creative unit. Tufts’ virtuoso drumming skills serve as a foundational rhythmic base to the band’s often spacey and atmospheric sonic canvas.
“We take a great deal of care and thought to create not only foundational and supportive percussion, but also leave a lot of space to feature the drums in a way that gives them more focus and melodic space,” says Tufts.
The contributions of Raphaelle Standell-Preston (vocals/guitar/keys) and Taylor Smith (bass/keys/percussion) cannot be diminished as the music of BRAIDS is born from collaboration. “I think we have a rare dynamic where we let all voices speak equally in our music,” explains Tufts. “Sometimes a member’s contribution may be less immediately recognizable in a song, but everyone is always playing an essential role. Even if that is consciously deciding to not pick up their instrument for a song.”
Since the release of their second album Flourish//Perish, BRAIDS have concentrated their efforts on more fully capturing the sonic intricacies of their studio work on the live stage. Tufts feels that the band now has not only more room to expand on the studio versions of their songs, but also to include more spontaneity and improvisation in their performance. In a matter of weeks, BRAIDS will perform for the first time at Pemberton Valley Music Festival. While not their first open air festival, Tufts expresses excitement at playing on home soil in such a unique live setting. “It will be fun to see how the energy translates in this setting for these new songs,” says Tufts. “We open up the songs a lot live so it leaves space for feeding off audience energy.”
For those looking for a more cerebral and creative act to take in at Pemberton this year, seek out BRAIDS.
BRAIDS perform Pemberton Valley Music Festival on July 15.
AB edition interview
By Cole Parker
CALGARY — BRAIDS isn’t your typical Folk Fest act. Overpowering synths intermingled with tight rhythm rolls and twinkling piano melodies define their music, a sharp contrast to the tune and twang of the festival’s titular genre, but it’s not even the trio’s first Calgary Folk Fest. Their first appearance was in 2011 before the release of their debut album, Native Speaker. At the time, the band skewed more generically closer to the festival at large than now, with more focus on guitar and less on electronics.
“It’s kinda cool to be black sheep,” says Austin Tufts, the three-piece’s drummer. That said, there might be more similarities between the group’s brand of art-pop and folk than meets the ear, especially thematically. Tuft highlights, “The vulnerability of the lyrics and the fact that the song forms are rather like storytelling.”
That lyrical core comes from the band’s engaging frontwoman, Raphaelle Standell-Preston. “She has such a strong lyrical voice, she kind of has the subject of the band always,” Tufts attests. “The music is almost an extension of her thought process and her poetry and her feelings on things.”
The group’s songwriting process doesn’t begin and end with Standell-Preston. Each member of the band takes pride in equal partnership, with Tufts often filling an atypical for a drummer, queuing samples and modulating electronics, and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Smith having a hand in almost sonic intersection of the music. “It’s this very collaborative thing where we’re constantly changing what our role is depending on what the necessary context is.”
The title of their latest EP, Companion carries several meanings. The titular song grapples with Standell-Preston’s relationship with her estranged stepbrother after a traumatic time in her life. The EP also serves as a “companion” record to Deep in the Iris (2015), the group’s JUNO-award winning, most recent full-length. Companion is also a fitting description of intensely collaborative relationships within the band, who formed in 2006 at Calgary’s Western Canada High School. “I’m very glad the people I’ve decided to do this endeavor with are just the people I love the most in the world. It’s kept us going.”
BRAIDS performs Friday, July 22nd as part of the Digital Download workshop, Saturday July 23rd as part of the Ether Ore workshop and a full concert on the Twilight Stage (Stage 4).
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