Montreal-based art pop band BRAIDS will be headlining Arboretum Festival this Friday night, playing songs from their most recent album, Deep in the Iris, which was released in April. Apartment613 talked with drummer Austin Tufts ahead of the festival, and he said the show they’re bringing to Ottawa has been some of the most fun the band’s ever had playing their songs live.
BRAIDS is made up of lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston, bassist/guitarist Taylor Smith, and Tufts. The band just returned from three and a half months on the road supporting the new album. They’ll be touring across North America in the fall and the beginning of next year, when they’ll be integrating their older material into the set as well, but for now they’re only playing their newer songs, which Tufts described as “very charged, experimental pop music.”
Deep in the Iris is “a very different album,” compared to the band’s previous work, Tufts said, especially when it comes to their live performances, where the new songs have been allowing them more flexibility onstage than they’ve had in the past.
“It’s been really wonderful actually, finally having a group of songs that lends themselves well to both the recording environment and playing live,” he said. “We’re able to take a lot of liberties and do a lot with the energy and change up the arrangements and the instrumentation.”
Originally from Calgary, the band members have been collaborating and performing together since they were in high school. Their debut album, Native Speaker, was released in 2011 and shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. They released a second album, Flourish // Perish, in 2013, and Tufts said you can see how they’ve grown up from one album to the next.
“We’re always trying to be real and honest with ourselves about where we’re at in our lives whenever we go into recording a record,” he explained. “The last three records have spanned across a time period when we were 17 through 24, so that’s like, a very formative period of our lives, and we’ve been changing a lot through that time, so the records obviously change a lot.”
Maintaining their close friendships as they’ve grown up and changed while under a bit of a new spotlight could be a challenging process, but Tufts said they’ve only ever gotten closer over the years they’ve been in the band.
“Obviously, there have been personal ups and downs, lots of intensity, but I think because we’ve been through lots of stuff it’s brought us together, and now we’re at the calmest point that we’ve ever been in – like personally, we’re getting along really well, which is really nice,” he said.
“After spending last year the way we did, recording this record like, in nature, in these beautiful cabins, and really having a chance to reconnect, and having that be the focus of the experience, you know, it’s like, first and foremost, we just want to have a good time together as friends.”
When it came to Deep in the Iris, the first part of the recording took place in Arizona. The band spent five days driving down through the States to get there, and along the way they tried to figure out how they wanted to approach this album. Instead of putting pressure on themselves to come up with an entire album, Tufts said they “just wanted to be vulnerable with each other and see what comes of that.” Vulnerability became the main inspiration for the album.
“Deep in the Iris is our most natural and open and honest-feeling record that we’ve ever put out,” Tufts said. “We’re not so much trying to hide anymore… We’re embracing a more open sound and embracing the beauties and imperfections of more exposed work. We started listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell and really being drawn to those natural intricacies that happen when you capture somebody’s live performance, instead of editing them out and trying to make it a perfect thing.”
The show they’re bringing to Arboretum, which Tufts described as “very intense and emotional,” promises to reflect this new openness.
“We have a lot more room for improvisation and moment-to-moment, like, sporadic, whatever we feel like doing,” Tufts said. “We can take the songs in different directions, and we can shape the energy really easily. So it sort of becomes this synergy between the energy and the room and what’s actually happening musically, so you know, we are able to pull audiences along right there with us.”
“I think that if people want to, you know, be moved by music, they should come check it out,” he said. “I think that’s the whole point. We really just try and have an actual moment, not just like putting a show, but actually connecting with the audience and with each other and being as exposed as possible.”
Check out their video for “Miniskirt” released in June, 2015:
Braids perform with New Swears, Sadies and Scattered Clouds on Friday, August 21 at Albert Island. You can buy tickets for Arboretum Festival here. Friday passes are $25, or you can buy a weekend pass for $40.