The independent rock band Braids is bringing to Macau, on March 8, at the Live Music Association (LMA) venue a mix of oldies and never-released songs, including one about Donald Trump, who they call Mr Pumpkin.
By Luciana Leitão
It comes from the heart, soul, mind, whatever you want to call it. Braids’ sound is just one of those mixtures straight from within, leaving you calm and restless at the same time. Raphaelle Standell-Preston told mART, through Skype, about the band, the growth, the past albums and the future new record.
It’s not their first time in Macau. On July 2015, Raphaelle Standell-Preston (voice), Austin Tufts (drums) and Taylor Smith (electronic gadgets) came to LMA’s concert venue. “Both times I’ve been to Macau — cause I have another band called Blue Hawaii —, both times we played at the same loft. It’s just a good vibe there; it reminds me of something that could be in Montreal [Canada],” she says.
The Canadian band is coming with all they’ve got. “We’ll be taking some of the last album [Deep in the Iris] and some new songs we’ve been working on over the past six months,” she reveals, adding: “Also a couple of songs from Flourish // Perish and from Native Speaker.” The band has three albums, the latest being Deep in the Iris — released in 2015, it has been nominated for the Polaris Prize and it won the Juno Award. Miniskirt is a song about rape culture and being objectified by men, and it has become the hit single of the album.
Braids’ lyrics many times reflect issues related to women’s rights, relationships, pain, but the new songs bring something different. “I’m commenting a lot on phone culture, that’s a huge part in all our lives, really new, that we don’t really understand the ramifications of, friendships fall apart because of the texting culture, we don’t really know what we’ve gotten ourselves into or how to respond to,” she reveals.
Plus, there’s a song about Donald Trump being in power, in the United States. “I did write a song about how Donald Trump is orange, I call him Mr Pumpkin man, but I also don’t want to give him too much time, it just says I’m afraid of you Mr Pumpkin man,” she says, adding: “When he was elected I remember crying for America, what it is that they’re going through.” On the positive side, she says “it’s been really amazing to see all the protests and how people are standing up against him” with Donald Trump’s ascension becoming a “wake up call” to the country.
It’s hard for her to write about politics. “I don’t know how to do it really yet, I learned how to talk about the rights I deserve as a woman, but, just being a white middle class person, it’s difficult for me to find my voice without sounding entitled, as, given the colour of my skin and things like that, I don’t face a lot of hardships,” she says. “It’s been difficult to find my voice, something that can resonate with a lot of people, I’m still trying to figure that out.”
The band’s evolution
The band has grown together, as the three elements have been playing as a group for about 10 years. “We’re just much more relaxed with the songs and we’ve been playing a lot more as a group for this next record, so there’s definitely a new deeply rooted groove that we have with the three of us,” she mentions.
For the time being, they’ve written more than 15 songs, “three of which are good enough to go on a record”, but they don’t estimate when they will record or release a new album. “It’s going to take us a while, we want it to be really good this next record. We don’t want to put it out until we’re fully confident with it, we don’t want to have filler songs,” she says, explaining “it’s going to be more minimal, much more focused on groove”.
“We’ve been making music since we were 17 as a group. It’s not very often you see the evolution of a band through its many stages like its early youth, so each record feels like it’s changing quite a lot, but there’s always something that grounds it into being Braids,” she highlights.
All three albums have something different. “Flourish // Perish is very minimal; Native Speaker was very rocky and quite screamy; Deep in the Iris is putting everything out on the table and being very bare, very raw and very vulnerable,” she says. In the future fourth album, the singer expects it to reveal “a much more mature” and “more refined” sound.
Music history is full of friend’s bands who have not survived the passage of time, but she is “really happy” with having Braids as “an anchor”, considering they’ve “been through a lot of ups and downs”.
One of the “most difficult periods” was in Flourish // Perish. “We parted ways with our keyboardist [Katie Lee] and it’s a very cold record, you can hear the struggle in it, you can hear how removed it feels from emotion, because all of us weren’t really able to put any warmth into the record,” she says. Deep In the Iris is different. “It was the first time we’ve written as a three-piece band; it was very confessional, because we were telling each other a lot of things, and we’re trying to work through all of the pain we had experienced on the last record.”
As for their future, she has a lot of questions.“It’s pretty confusing”, especially considering “the growth of streaming music”, making it “hard to make money as a smaller band”.
Politically, the world is also a very “confusing place” right now. “Is music really important right now? Shouldn’t we be working for an organisation that helps refugees?” The future new record should reflect that inner “struggle”, as she “questions the validity of making art a little bit”.
Beijing is the first stop in a tour around Asia. Then, they’ll move on to Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Ulaanbataar. “I really like Asian audiences, they are really receptive,” she mentions.
Braids’ lyrics, even thought not overtly political, are not exactly simple to follow for a non English-speaking audience. But the band’s music is all about emotions and “that is pretty easy to understand”.