Pushing sound boundaries

The eclectic indie quartet Braids isn’t afraid of change and is thankful for the fans that follow them

The quartet was friends at Western Canada High School in Calgary, where the idea for Braids bloomed over a blueberry muffin in the school’s cafeteria.
The quartet was friends at Western Canada High School in Calgary, where the idea for Braids bloomed over a blueberry muffin in the school’s cafeteria.
Supplied by Marc Rimmer

It’s not often that an eclectic indie-folk quartet admits a common affection for a mainstream rapper, but for Montreal-based Braids, variety is part of the creative process.

“It’s definitely very funny when we’re in the van and we turn on the rap music,” Raphaelle Standell-Preston, lead vocalist of the group, said. “We like Dr. Dre a lot.”

Standell-Preston met Austin Tufts in a middle school long jump pit in their native Calgary. The two became best friends and met fellow band members Katie Lee and Taylor Smith in high school, where they formed the band.

“Sometimes we fight like brothers and sisters,” she said. “But we also love like brothers and sisters.” Since the release of their debut album Native Speaker in January, the band has steadily gained acclaim.

“I think being so comfortable with each other allows us to really push boundaries,” she said. “It’s almost like we have four brains working at once.” It’s emotional music that attracts the band, she said, regardless of the genre or the artist.

As Braids’ musical interests have diversified, their sound has warmed into a definitive brand.

“We’ve gone through a lot of different stages,” Standell-Preston said as she outlined the group’s evolution from folk to “the most extreme effects.” The first single of their album, “Lemonade,” provided the inspiration for Native Speaker’s sound.

“I think ‘Lemonade’ really was the first song that was compositionally very sound,” she said. “We were so proud of our song that we kept trying to write in that vein.” Now with a fervent fan base, and a Polaris Music Prize short list nomination under their belt, Standell-Preston is adamant that she wants to make a life out of the band.

“I think the music we make is good, and I think it’s going to be important for people,” she said. “It feels great. We’re all very, very honoured that people are digging our music.” The band is set to begin recording again in January.

Right now the focus is on creating a more electronic sound.

“I feel like we can go a lot of different places that perhaps we wouldn’t go alone,” she said. “[Electronic music] gets your mind thinking in a different way.”

Despite being a young artist, Standell-Preston already has a long list of people to thank from her home in Calgary.

“It’s so important as a young artist to have support from your parents,” she said. “It definitely gives you the confidence that can sometimes take a lifetime to achieve.

“The fact that we found support from the community that doesn’t really have a lot of roots in collective indie rock music, and is also a very conservative city, is a really wonderful thing for us.”

Braids plays at the Grad Club on Oct. 11 at 10 p.m.

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