This Canadian dream pop four-piece started out as contestants in their high school Battle of the Bands – and lost. They thankfully recovered from the disappointment and a few years on the band have changed their name, claiming that ‘The Neighbourhood Council was too high school’ and that ‘Braids’ coincides better with the ‘more collective writing process’ they adopted once they’d moved to Montreal. Their current name seems totally fitting for a band whose debut album, Native Speaker, is essentially forty minutes of intertwining synths and guitars.
At times it’s difficult to distinguish between songs and although this creates a vivid soundscape, it doesn’t always translate well on stage and there’s a sense that a few audience members are lost in the sea of sound Braids create. Nonetheless, Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s voice is a force to be reckoned with. One wonders how she reaches such intensity without having had any kind of training. We can only hope that her plan to ‘get vocal lessons’ will not undermine the organic tone that lends so much to Braids’ idiosyncrasy.
Although Native Speaker only came out this January, the songs have been around for three years and the band seem to be tiring of their material. ‘Aaahh i just want to write some new stuff!’ says Raph in a theatrical shout.
They are currently in the midst of writing the new album, but the real work will begin once they finish the last leg of the tour. Having played major cities such as Berlin, Brussels and Paris, they’ve noticed a difference in attitude between European fans and American ones. After a moment of skirting around it, Katie (synth player) comes out with her thesis, ‘American audiences have a shorter attention span’, and is soon backed up by Raph’s opinion that ‘we play a more sophisticated set here in Europe, people are more attentive and there’s less chit chat’.
Although their set at the Jericho is widely met with appreciative whoops in between songs and silences during them, some people simply can’t contain their excitement. A stray audience member takes it upon herself to join Braids on stage and offer us her rendition of ‘Glass Deer’! An unexpected event to say the least, as Braids’ music doesn’t really invite crowd participation, it is refreshing to witness the calm attitude with which Raph greets her stage visitor, as she keeps strumming the guitar and intermittently lets the woman sing into the mike – God wishes she hadn’t. True, it’s not quite Odd Future on the Jimmy Fallon show, but still pretty riveting stuff.
Oddly enough the infamous Tyler, The Creator crept up in conversation as Katie discussed his similarity to Dr Dre in his minimalist approach to hip hop. Although they had little else to say about Tyler’s music it transpired that after attending a Braids gig in LA with pals Toro y Moi, Tyler subtly commented on Raph’s appearance: ‘That girl’s really hot, I like her pants’. Braids’ eclecticism ranges from their fan base to their musical taste. Stating Mount Kimbie, Yuck and the more obscure Long, Long, Long as current favourites, its obvious they appreciate ‘music that’s a big wash where you have to pick out what’s been played instead of more straightforward things’.
The new album is somewhere deep in the pipeline and will be coming from a totally different direction. Katie stresses the importance of the computer on their new record as it allows them to use sounds that they can’t physically play. ‘Limitless’ crops up several times in Katie and Raph’s explanation of their current creative process, let’s hope their success is worthy of the same adjective.