Montreal’s shoegazey pop group Braids has had a busy year. Their 2011 release Native Speaker has been shortlisted for the Polaris Prize, reviewed in the New York Times and subsequently picked up by a slew of monolithic music media outlets.
Much of the attention is centered on Braids’ tasteful blend of post-rock experimentation with delicate and washy pop melodies, a sound they have fostered over the course of several years. Dedication and work seem to be paying dividends as Braids has spent much of the last year criss-crossing North America and Europe.
The members of the band first met in their high school cafeteria in Calgary. “We were just a bunch of teenagers wanting to make music with each other,” laughed Raphaelle Standell-Preston in an interview with ANDY. She is the band’s primary lyricist and de facto leader.
In 2008, Braids decided to relocate from Calgary to Montreal. Within months, they were creating an unavoidable buzz around themselves in Montreal’s competitive independent music scene. “In Montreal, we started a new life. That was really inspiring in itself.”
By summer 2009, Braids began laying the foundation for what was to become their breakthrough release, Native Speaker. The recording of the album was drawn out over several months, with equal attention being paid to mixing and mastering of the album.
“The fact that we had so much time allowed us to really figure out the recording software,” said Standell-Preston. “We were allowed to go really in-depth with our tones. We really had no time limit.”
Since the album’s release, rumors have been circulating that it had cost the band only $500 to produce. “It might have been a little bit less than that,” Standell-Preston admitted. “I guess with mixing and mastering it was about five hundred dollars. We didn’t have any money ourselves. It had to cost that much.”
Although the record has now achieved international success, Standell-Preston was quick to note that the arduous recording process wasn’t without setbacks. “There were times when I thought the album was crumbling. I was scared because I thought maybe we had lost some of the magic that we had playing live together.”
But she was also eager to speak of how the record had helped her to develop and refine the lyrical focus of her songs. “Native Speaker was a very literal, kind of point-in-fact record.” She continued, “At that time, I was discovering who I was and discovering my sexuality. Living life was really inspirational for me. It inspired the lyrics for that album.
“I had read a couple reviews of the record and they really ripped the lyrics to shreds,” she lamented. “Since then I’ve been growing more towards explain the beauties of life instead of the hardships. A different kind of attitude, the other stuff was very sassy”
With a change in direction in mind, I was interested as to when we could expect some new material. “We definitely want to write a new record. We have been writing a few new songs that will hopefully be on the album. We’re all really enjoying playing them live.”
Keep an ear to the ground for new Braids material dropping in 2012.