The last time BRAIDS played in Ottawa, it was to give their first headlining performance at a festival, for none other than Arboretum, an experience that the Montréal-based group keeps fond memories of. Ten months later, the experimental electronic pop trio is making a return to Canada’s national capital in an effort to promote their latest project, the Companion EP. In the lead up to their Ottawa show, happening at Ritual this Saturday, I had the opportunity to speak with lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston about the Companion EP, being labeled a feminist band and tour life (among other things).
Elly Laberge: Your new “Companion” EP contains four tracks that didn’t make it on to “Deep In The Iris” for various reasons. What makes this complementary project similar and/or different from your previous album and why release it now?
Raphaelle Standell-Preston: The songs featured on “Companion” are pieces that were written while writing “Deep In The Iris“. We couldn’t finish them at the time, so we put them aside and promised to finish them when we had the opportunity. When we opened them up again, they just sounded like they belonged to each other, hence the name “Companion”. We then wrote the title song “Companion”, which ended up being the thread that tied them all together.
EL: You just released a beautiful self-produced video for the track Joni that’s featured on the “Companion” EP. How do you find the dynamic when it comes to working with friends versus working with people in a more professional setting?
RSP: Working with friends and people you don’t know as well, can be really rewarding. The best outcome is working with professional friends. That’s the pinnacle. The determining factor for us when it comes to collaborating further with people is whether or not they’re nice to work with. If they’re not then it’s just not worth the energy, unless they’re some kind of crazy genius, in which case you can let a crappy personality slide to a degree…always to a degree. We need full creative freedom in everything we do. We like to collaborate with others, but won’t ever stand for being told what to do. I think it’s important to always make your own decisions. Suggestions are good but coming to the decision yourself will make for a more honest and memorable experience in the end.
EL: You don’t seem to stop, releasing one musical project after the other, coming out with videos as well as touring extensively. Creatively-speaking, are you worried that the “river will run dry” for BRAIDS if you keep up the pace?
RSP: I think creativity runs dry when you’re trying to please others or when you’re not writing what needs and wants to come out of you. Or when you’re really depressed and can’t get out bed. I sometimes worry about it, but I’ll cross that bridge when it happens. I think things would have to be pretty terrible to not be able to write a song. It might happen one day, but I don’t think it will any time soon. We’re going to be doing this for a while, so as long as we stay stimulated and open to experiences, I think there will always be inspiration to pull from.
EL: Generally-speaking, the inspiration for your music seems rather personal, drawing on past experiences and real-life situations. Do you also delve into your imaginary to craft stories and write songs that depict fictitious situations or have the desire to do so to explore new topics?
RSP: So far, I haven’t created any fictitious situations, but perhaps I will in the future.Trophies for Paradox however is a situation that was thematically expanded upon in order to create affecting imagery. I love Joanna Newsom though, she is one of my favourite lyricists and her lyrics are very much grounded in fantasy and fiction. I may venture into that realm once my heart finds more of a calm place.
EL: How do you feel about being labeled a feminist band as a result of your trackMiniskirt? Does it encourage you to keep addressing difficult issues in your music and being ambassadors of sorts for those who don’t have the opportunity to be heard?
RSP: I get this questions a lot these days and I find it very interesting that everyone asks if I feel ok with being labeled a feminist band, as though the label is something to be afraid of. I’m a true believer in feminism, as to me it’s simply wanting women to have equal, societal, economic and political rights; for women to have equal opportunities to men. I will always address whatever I’m passionate about and will most definitely always speak about these things publicly.
EL: As you grow as a band, you seem to be putting more and more emphasis on organic experience and genuine relationships as essential elements of your creative process. Is this a lesson learned over time and a way to obtain the unique raw feel captured in your music?
RSP: Honest experiences and genuine relationships have become essential elements for all areas of our lives. Given the world we’re apart of, one that is so focused on appearance, bullshit can present itself at all moments, and you have to dodge it like it’s the most toxic thing ever. The desire for ‘cool’ or what you believe is expected of you will lead you to a hurting soul, confused and perplexed. Friends are everything. To me, the most rewarding parts of life are the deep and caring relationships that I have with people. It took awhile to learn this and sometimes I forget.
EL: You’re currently on a tour in an effort to promote the new EP. What do you most look forward to when you go on tour?
RSP: Playing on stage with the boys, looking out and seeing our 6’7 sound man John Haynes, his head bobbing above all other audience members, mouthing the lyrics. I love when people do miming actions for the lyrics. Like the other day, this boy in the front row had all these amazing gestures for all the lyrics in Warm Like Summer. He made his arms into wings for ‘pigeons hatching’ and pretended to crack an egg for ‘I considered cracking’. I kept laughing as I sang; it was so great.
Catch the excellent BRAIDS live at Ritual this Saturday alongside special guest ginla.