NXNE Preview: Braids

Braids NXNE 2011 Interview BY: Sheena Lyonnais
June 14, 2011

Calgary-turned-Montreal’s Braids are strong contenders for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize long-list (to be announced June 16) and for obvious reasons.  Their debut album Native Speaker is already a magnum opus of sorts, receiving high-praise and frequent comparisons to greats like Animal Collective. They combine subtly quirky lyrics with ambient, wispy indie rock and energetic performances, a balance they so elegantly achieve.  Bassist/guitarist Taylor Smith tells us about the band’s past year and what to expect from their NXNE performances.

There are a lot of bands playing NXNE, what makes Braids stand out?

Playing live is where we feel most comfortable, and we really feel that comes across!

How are you preparing for NXNE and what you’re hoping to get out of it?

We aren’t doing much to prepare – getting our car fixed is the biggest thing, it has a smashed window.  We’ve been on the road a lot these last few months, so we’ve had a few weeks rest from playing. Hopefully it will lead to some renewed enthusiasm when playing this weekend!  While at NXNE, we’re hoping to see our friends and make the most of being given a hotel room for two nights!

Your debut album Native Speaker dropped earlier this year to high praise, so much so people continue to talk bout it.  What makes the record special for you personally?  How have you been handling the success of it?

For us, Native Speaker represents a solid three years of our lives – as artists, performers, and friends.  We spent two years writing the songs, and nearly a year recording them.  Then we had to wait almost a year with the finished product before we actually were able to release it.  Through various stages of the last few years we’d given ourselves completely to those songs, and to hold it in one concrete form has been a huge accomplishment for us.  The success of it comes after that, and we’re very proud of that too.  But it’s certainly not what we dwell on – the most special moment has been getting the first shipment of records and opening and holding something we’ve worked towards for so long.

You’ve been touring overseas lately and your myspace page is bleeding with love letters from it.  Do you notice any differences playing there than in Canada? What was the experience like?

The shows themselves are very similar.  Much of the experience of playing in front of people transcends language or cultural differences.  But the logistics of making a tour work in a foreign country is much more difficult.  It’s a fun challenge though.

A friend of mine once told me a story of watching you play in a low-ceiling basement packed with sweaty people swaying and dancing.  Do you find yourselves in situations like this often and do these shows hold value for you?

Those shows definitely stick out.  A small sweaty basement can create quite a memorable show environment.  The sound always sucks, but it’s intriguing to think that as a musician you can get something across to the audience with or without the sound being pristine, all because of the space.

You guys are so young, but your music is so developed, layered and solid.  On occasion I hear an angsty Karen O, but more often a dreamy Amy Millan on par with bands coming out of Quebec and Ontario.  There’s a fragility laced throughout the electro-pop, but fervor always remains.  Where do you draw this inspiration?  What moves you as artists?

We don’t try and think too much about what inspires us, or what drives the music we make.  We don’t want to try and distill a raw feeling of inspiration down into words – it looses it’s meaning a bit. When writing, we just try and let go, to create as freely as possible.  We push ourselves a lot, to explore things that we haven’t already done.  Often the areas we explore are things we’ve heard elsewhere, or feelings we’ve been having as individuals.  But again, we don’t explicitly try and represent those in our music – if it happens, it happens, and we’ll analyze it later.

What is Braids working on at the moment?

New material.  Learning how to write in different ways.  Experimenting a lot with electronics.  Organizing tours.  Seeing our loved ones.  Taking a quick breather before we go on the road again.

Tell us one thing you’re hoping to accomplish by the end of summer.

Learn how to tour using airplanes.  We’re doing a lot of flying this summer, and it’s a big step.

What other acts are you hoping to catch at the festival this year?

Mostly our friends: Grimes, Chad VanGaalen, Makeout Videotape, No Joy, TOPS, Pop Winds.  We really like Lower Dens.  We have a friend who’s playing in The Dodos, so hopefully we’ll see that.

NXNE is finally starting to receive international recognition for its stellar lineups and workshops.  What do you think this means for Canada and Canadian music?

We’re always fans of bringing the focus on Canada.  Hopefully it will mean further growth in Canadian music, as well as continued government support of the arts.

Which shows/events/BBQs/unofficial events are you playing? 

06/17 – The Garrison (Osheaga Showcase) 11pm
06/18 – Great Hall (Flemish Eye Showcase) 11 pm

Where can we find out more about you?


Any last parting words for us music-hungry Toronto folk?

We like your city a lot.  Hopefully it will be sunny!

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