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Braids look inward for inspiration

By in Culture

JESSICA ROMERA — The Concordian (Concordia University)

MONTREAL (CUP)  — In a windowless one-car garage-turned-studio in Outremont, Montreal-based Braids crafted their most introspective and reflective material to date.

“A lot of our inspirations were changing,” said vocalist and drummer Austin Tufts of their latest record, Flourish//Perish. “We wanted to convey some different emotions.”

“We decided we wanted to have a writing and recording style that was more conducive to those palette of emotions,” he said of the dark and intimate recording space. “It’s like 100 per cent different; it’s a completely different beast.”

While their previous material displayed a youthful energy that easily translated into live performances, their sophomore release — fueled mainly by alternative pop instrumentals — boasts an impressive array of sounds and styles.

On tour for their debut album Native Speaker, the trio — which is also composed of keyboardist, guitarist and lead vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston and bassist, guitarist, percussionist and vocalist Taylor Smith — discovered their appreciation for electronic beats.

“There’s a totally new sonic palette that we were discovering with a lot of electronic music,” Tufts said. “These sonics so much more appropriately reflect what we’re actually feeling and the things we wanna express.”

The period between their last record and Flourish//Perish was an emotionally charged one as the band underwent a drastic reconfiguration. Formerly a four piece collective, Braids became faced with the reality of continuing as a trio.

“I almost feel like it’s a transition record,” Tufts said. “We wanted to sort of focus on a more subtle and subdued set of emotions — more melancholy, a little bit more reflective, introspective — because those are the things we were feeling and we had sort of grown up a little bit, we were not quite angsty anymore I don’t think. Flourish// Perish is a really nice collection of songs that reflects a period in our lives.”

Through their extensive touring, Braids encountered some of the biggest influences in the electronic and house music scene, namely producer Aphex Twin and musician Clark.

“It was a totally new and fresh experience for us,” said Tufts of the encounters.

Braids’ ever-evolving sound can be attributed to their refusal to be chained down to a specific style.

“I think genres are kind of overrated to be honest,” Tufts said.“I don’t think we ever nailed down a sound that we were sort of aiming for.”

“There’s no one song that gets the entire album across,” he added.“I don’t really think there’s any point in trying to pin something down.”

Though native to Calgary, Braids are proud to call Montreal their home now. What attracts them most to their new music scene is that the city doesn’t necessarily expect you to sound a certain way and is extremely open to different styles.

“I think the community that we’re a part of is a very enabling community,” Tufts said. “It’s a community that said ‘yes’ to a lot of different sounds.”

The band connects with the audience not only on a musical level during a hometown show, but on a personal level as well. “There’s always a sense of pride that comes from playing in your hometown,” he said. “It’s always refreshing to go home.”

Before officially unleashing their sound on Montreal almost half a decade ago, the band was initially called the Neighbourhood Council.

“That was pretty terrible,” Tufts laughed.

A self-proclaimed “interwoven and interlaced” group, the trio opted for their current moniker instead, which they feel more accurately represents who they are.

“We’re a very tightly knit group of friends, and we’re also very tightly knit musically,” Tufts said. “It’s a good reflection of what we do musically. One of the strongest things you could do to three individuals is to braid them. So if you take three individual pieces of hair, you could break them very easily but if you braid them together, they become very strong.”

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