Montrealâ€™s Braids have had quite the year; the group that was once known for losing a battle of the bands contest to a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band in high school is now better known
for being shortlisted for the Polaris Prizeâ€”one of Canadaâ€™s most prestigious music awards. After recording their
first EP in 2007 as the Neighborhood Council at CJSW in Calgary, the band gained acclaim, opening for such acts as Deerhunter. They began putting more energy into their live performances. Since then, theyâ€™ve released their full length debut, Native Speaker, and moved to Montreal to pursue a career.
Going back to the beginning, the band members met through mutual friends and quickly built a tight-knit lineup that hasnâ€™t changed since. Although they recently relocated to Montreal, Braids still considers Calgary an integral part of their makeup.
Percussionist, Austin Tufts, explains, â€œThe music scene in Calgary really embraced usâ€¦ when we come back now we have all of our band friends from Women, Azeda Booth, Woodpigeonâ€” just tons of friends who are really supportive.â€
And itâ€™s no surprise that Braids has gained their most loyal following
among fellow musicians. These
friendly youngsters have been touring extensively for the past few years, and have played with local groups across the country.
Lead vocalist, Raphaelle Standell- Preston, notes: â€œWe just wanted to play shows and get really good live.â€ After expending much of their energy on their live performances, the group decided to focus on recording a debut record that would capture their sound on stage.
They began work on Native Speaker in the summer of 2009, although it wasnâ€™t released until January 2011. The band chose to sit on the record for a while; Tufts says they were â€œtrying to compile the right group of people who really appreciated our music.â€
Not knowing how critics would perceive them, Braids approached their release with very little expectation toward
their external audience, but with plenty of expectation for themselves. Tufts explains: â€œI think once we recorded
[the record] and put everything we could into it, we found the best group of people and put it out. Whether we got rave reviews or shitty reviews, it wouldnâ€™t have changed anything for us. Weâ€™d still be out there touring as much as we could.â€ Turns out, most reviews have been positive and praiseworthy.
Tufts described Braidsâ€™ music on Native Speaker as â€œsymbolic of growing up and growing into oneâ€™s sexuality, oneâ€™s personality and learning how to love. So we all did that with each otherâ€”we really learned how to love each other. The album is really a parallel story between the love as a band that grew and the love that Raphaelle and her boyfriend grew together. Raphaelle found her â€˜Native Speaker,â€™ with whom she shares a deep unspoken language. Itâ€™s unlike anything else.â€
After their recent signing to Flemish Eye, the bandâ€™s future is looking bright. They plan to continue touring, despite the stressful atmosphere, and are trying to be more sustainable away from home. â€œWeâ€™re in the process of learning how to write, exercise and eat healthily on the road,â€ says Standell-Preston.
Braids plan to release a new seven- inch in the fall and follow it with their sophomore full length in late 2012, so keep your fingers crossed that Braids stay as tight as their name suggests.
Michelle Macklem is CFUVâ€™s Promotion Assistant and hosts Spiral Scratch Radio on Sundays from 3:30pm â€“ 5:00pm.