Nearly one year after their celebrated show at Arboretum Festival, Montreal synth trio BRAIDS is returning to Ottawa. On Saturday June 4, they’ll be playing at Ritual, colloquially known as “Ottawa’s most cocktail-filled basement” (a title the Manx is currently contesting). In between the two shows, so much has happened to the band, one would be forgiven for wondering if we’ll see anything like what we saw on Albert Island last August. In addition to the band’s new EP, Companion, frontman Raphaelle Standell-Preston wrote a vulnerable and important essay on sexual abuse and music titled “Reclamation through a Microphone.”
The result of all of this has been increased attention. BRAIDS, by all accounts, is blowing up both locally and overseas. Their ongoing tour will take them across Canada and the UK, and they’ve recently been through Asia and Europe. Many bands will complain about life on the road; Braids seems to enjoy it like cake.
“We often think about which places would be amazing to visit and then we go and tour there if there is a market for that,” said Standell-Preston. “When we did our Asian tour we lost money, but we had an absolutely amazing experience. It was really worth it.”
“Worth it” is also an accurate descriptor of a BRAIDS ticket. For those that missed Arboretum, your veil of regret is coming to an end. A BRAIDS live show is one to be missed only if you want to hate yourself for a while. The three piece is dominated by the absorbing stage presence of Standell-Preston, whose borderline supernatural singing/dancing is undercut by an incredibly tight rhythm section.
It’s a sound that they’ve only perfected on Companion. The EP, which follows the critical darling that was Deep in the Iris and serves as a companion, of sorts, is only 4 songs long, but features some of the most interesting stuff BRAIDS has released to date. Most of the songs on the album were written at the same time as the LP, but Companion is hardly a b-side.
“At the time they either didn’t fit with the LP or we didn’t know how to finish them,” said Standell-Preston. “Sometimes things need a break before you really know what is needed. We revisited the songs after a long stint of touring the LP and they really easily fit together.”
It’s clear that Standell-Preston cares deeply about the songs she writes. Each is carefully crafted and meaningful in its own way, as well as fitting with the album. One such example is “Miniskirt,” a song about sexual abuse recovery. The song was what spawned Standell-Preston’s essay “Reclamation through a Microphone,” which became part of the discourse around the Ghomeshi trial and verdict, and has likely won the band many more fans through its candour.
“I felt very passionate with speaking about my own experiences of abuse in relation to the Ghomeshi verdict, as I felt I could relate and could offer an important perspective. It was absolutely appalling to see how poorly the crown handled the case and didn’t properly prepare the victims for court. It has displayed just how fractured our current judicial system is for properly prosecuting sexual offenders and how unhelpful it is for those who have experienced sexual abuse.”
The essay serves as a companion to “Miniskirt,” a track off their most recent LP that addresses the double standards and inequalities in society at large when it comes to gender, and deals with overcoming sexual abuse. It’s hard to say much about this song beyond that it is very powerful. It’s helped to start many important conversations, and it’s got a fire-ass beat. It’s the kind of song that requires Standell-Preston’s dancing.
And while things don’t appear to be getting better quickly with our justice system, BRAIDS is hitting their stride as a band. By the time September roll around, BRAIDS will be back in the studio in Montreal recording a new album. With Deep in the Iris almost a year old, it is a little hard to imagine what the band will come up with next, but no pressure guys! You got this.
BRAIDS plays Ritual Nightclub Saturday June 4 at 10pm. Tickets are available through the Facebook event. The opener will be ginla from Toronto, who are also not to be missed. You can also find BRAIDS on Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp.