Filled with shimmering sonic textures, hypnotic vocals and dramatic dynamics, few debuts caused as much excitement in the 7digital office this year as Braids’ did. We weren’t alone in our enthusiasm either: the Calgary-based quartet won deservedly rave reviews in the music press for Native Speaker.
We caught up with lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston about the band's incredible year, their plans for the future and the inspirations behind those wonderful, alt-pop soundscapes. You can read the full interview below!
Congratulations on Native Speaker! Can you tell us a little about the writing process on the album please? Was it a collaborative effort?
Native Speaker took roughly a year and a half to write and nine months to record. All of the music that is made in Braids is entirely collaborative; everyone has equal input. The songs were entirely written before entering the studio. There was an element of experimentation in that we had very little knowledge of how to record, so we were constantly experimenting within the recording program.
What were your key inspirations for the record? And what did you set out to achieve artistically?
We were very inspired by the record Feels by Animal Collective. The amount of layering and warmth on that album is so comforting and graceful. We enjoyed listening to Feels for the 50th time and not knowing what part was being played by which instrument. It’s an album that gets better with time and understanding, and we wanted to make something like that. We didn't want to make a pop banger that you listen to three times and then throw away; we wanted to make something challenging and thoughtful. I say all of this now because I’ve had time to think about what we wanted to make (and because I've been asked the question so many times!) but I think honestly, at the time, we just wanted to make a record, our first record, and this is what was most natural to deliver.
If you had to pick out one track on the album you’re most proud of, which would it be?
The title track ‘Native Speaker’, because we allowed for it to be open and vulnerable.
Where do you get your inspiration from lyrically? We’re intrigued about ‘Plath Heart’ in particular!
I found inspiration in relationships; I have always been enraptured by people. ‘Plath Heart’ deals with topics of infidelity and the title is inspired by the life of Sylvia Plath.
You had some amazing reviews for the album. How important is critical reception to you?
We all try not to care about critical reception. If you’re unhappy with what you're doing you’re only going to find false happiness in the support from those around you. I like when people realise that we’re not making music for the purpose of flattery and hype; when they realise that we are artists, experimenting with different methods of explaining life.
Your sound’s also proved pretty difficult for critics to define! How would you describe it?
I am not sure! That is for the critics to decide. I would call it music, and let others describe the rest for themselves.
With the next album we are going to have a much more hands-on approach to the visuals connected with the record because we have all begun to realise the role they can have in music. I feel, for our album artwork and our press photos, we were much more interested and concerned with how it came across. We were working with a brilliant photographer/designer called Mark Rimmer, who’s a very inspiring individual, so it was easy to become excited about the work he was doing. We are all rather perplexed by music videos and still haven't come around to them. We’re going to try very hard with our next record to make a music video that we are proud of.
We hear Bradford Cox was an early supporter of yours. Have you been influenced by his music? And which artists have been most inspirational for you and why?
Where do you feel most at home: performing live or working in the studio? And why?
I haven’t decided yet. I would like to feel comfortable with both!
Seeing as you started the band in school, have any of you ever had a “normal” job? And had you not formed Braids, what do you think you’d have done instead?
We have all had normal jobs. Once I was a midnight vegan baker. It was sh*t. If we were not in Braids we all would have finished university and had, most likely, artistic professions. Austin would still be a drummer and Katie would be an architect. I feel like for Taylor and I, our professions would have come later on down the road. We probably would have dabbled in the intellectual world for sometime before figuring out what we wanted to do.
It says in your biography that you lost out to a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band at school – do you have any hard feelings?!
Have you started writing material for your sophomore album? And if so, what can we expect from it?
We have started writing material for our next album. I am not sure what it will be like, it’s too early to say. We want to release it sometime in summer or fall.
We’re unveiling our Best of 2011 at the moment. What’s been your favourite album of the past twelve months?
What’s been the highlight of the 2011 for you, what do you have planned for 2012 and, ultimately, what would you like to achieve as a band?
That’s an incredibly large question, what would you like to achieve as a band... I don't think I can answer that, I feel that is the kind of question you fill in over time. The highlight of 2011 has been touring the world with my three best friends. And in 2012, we plan to record our second record.