BRAIDS: An Artistic Voyage
Braids are a band of three hailing from Calgary, Alberta in Canada. They are frequently branded as “art rock”, with their honest and visceral lyricism and interesting instrumentals but there is something deeper and more subterranean about their art.
In advance of their Leeds show at Headrow House (25th November), we gave them a quick bell to discuss their background, their inspirations and what motivates them to be creative. With a busy Euro tour, we managed to catch up with Austin (drums and vocals) whilst he was walking through the streets of Amsterdam on his way to dinner with friends…
Your music is widely described as Art Rock, how would you describe your music?
I think Art Rock maybe fits? It’s just one of those things where people have their own little descriptor for what they think and I think largely it has to do with helping people know what other bands to associate themselves with. When I’m thinking Art Rock, I’m thinking the Talking Heads, that to me is art rock.
I think maybe we’d say, experimental pop music because in its essence we’re writing (especially with this new record) more pop but there’s heavy experimentation, messing around with a lot of drum and bass influences, more sort of extended electronic stuff. I think there’s definitely experimental aspects in there.
Who or what influences your music?
I mean there’s lots that influences our music. “Who” is an interesting place to start… For this record we started listening to a lot of, Joni Mitchel and a lot more songwriters because we wanted to get back to the basics of having, at the very core of these pieces of music, a really solid song. Regardless of if the production was on point; something that could stand up on its own, so someone could play it on an acoustic guitar and vocals or on a piano. We’ve also been listening to a lot of dancey music, like Machinedrum and Floating Points and Jon Hopkins. Mostly British people actually!
Our influences are always so varied because of having three very different people in the band. I think that the biggest influence in this music would be the fact that we went out into the countryside and into the desert. We were totally isolated and separated from our daily lives, letting the environment have more of a profound impact on us, rather than anything else we were listening to.
When we were out there in these isolated cabins, we were really left to our own devices. We were left with just ourselves in the most basic pillar points of our own being, so a lot of the lyrics are drawn from personal experience.
Who conceives and creates the imagery for the band?
Well we’ve always worked with our friend and very talented designer, Marc Rimmer from Calgary, Alberta. He’s actually done all of our album artwork and packaging design for the last three albums.
A lot of the sort of photographic element of this album was based on photos that I took while we were recording in different locations, like Arizona, Upstate New York and Vermont. It’s sort of like a photo documentation of the process and so on all of the inside packaging of the new record, it comes out like a photo and lyric booklet.
The cover is also a shot of this watering hole that we would go to, where we would go cliff jumping when we were just looking to take a little break.
Are there any messages or recurring themes that you are aware of in your music?
I’ve never really thought about that. I’m always just more concentrated on the contrast between different albums and songs. We started making music when we were 18 and we’re only 25, so pretty much the biggest focus in our lives at that time is finding love. Also dealing with the craziness that comes along with being in love when you’re a touring musician, never being close to the ones that you care about and always having that struggle. So definitely, the strife of love. Pretty much every song in the world is like that, in one form or another.
And then phonetically, the music, I think we’re always trying to play something that is all encompassing and that has a real sense of focus and melodicism to it as well.
What excites you about the Montreal music scene?
When we first moved there it was definitely a lot different than what it is now. It changed a lot in the last three years because a lot of the bands that we were hanging out with and being a part of the scene with. They’ve all gotten quite famous and moved away or their always on tour, so the scene has changed quite a bit.
But basically in the 70s, the English speaking population of businesses, especially a lot of textiles and industry, were pushed out of Montreal because of language laws. The French government passed a bunch of laws saying that you have to have all of your stuff in French if you wanna invest in Quebeck or Montreal. So then a lot of companies left and so that meant that there was a lot of abandoned warehouses and industrial spaces.
So the culture of loft scenes is really quite strong there. A lot of artists would re-appropriate shut down lofts or warehouse spaces. So it’s kind of like Detroit in that way, where there’s a lot of very raw, very large spaces for artists to create in. And Arbutus records, the label that we put out on, sort of started in that scene. It started as a performance space called “Lab Synthèse” and people lived there, they built the walls, they build the toilets and everything.
And that’s where bands like us and Magical Clouds and Grimes and lots of touring bands would come as well and like showcase their new music. So there was almost always a very open minded audience, willing to check out what we were doing. And it was great because there didn’t have to be like this automatic commercial success behind your band to get noticed by people. It was very much an art scene, there were a lot of art communities there.
But, like I said, it’s changed a lot over the past like four years because everyone’s pretty much moving away or getting quite popular and going on tour all the time. It’s funny, most of our friends have relocated to Los Angeles now. LA seems to be really brimming with a lot of creative potential right now. We’re going to go and spend our winter there. Escape the Montreal cold and go rent a house down there and be part of that scene for a couple of months.
How did Leeds make it into the UK part of this euro tour?
We’ve always played Leeds, every time we go on tour and I think it’s a really cool town. I actually like the city a lot and from what I can gather, there’s a pretty strong music scene there. We played the Belgrave Music Hall once, when it was like a brand new space and we’re playing Headrow House and again, that’s a new space. So it seems like there’s always new places opening up, which is really cool.
From chatting with Austin and hearing him reminisce about their formative years, there was definitely a sense of nostalgia and longing for the original scene that they were a part of. Untainted by the pressures of commercial success and the diluted version art and music that so often comes with it.
However with change comes growth and new experiences. The recording of this latest album sounds so much like a story of exploration, removed from any peer, societal or trend related pressures. As their personal landscape has changed, perhaps so have they and perhaps they’ve been given the push to explore the potential of their art further. With a move to LA and immersion into a new creative hub as their next step, it only sounds like the beginning of a new artistic voyage for BRAIDS.
Catch BRAIDS at Headrow House Wednesday 25th November.Doors 7pm / £7 (14+)
Tickets: See / Crash / Jumbo
Words: Steph Pullen