Culture  Made in Canada

McGill band Braids brings Calgary to Montreal – and vice versa

Braids is an edgy experimental pop band fresh to the thriving music scene of Montreal. The band is a collaboration of four friends: Austin Tufts, Taylor Smith, Katie Lee, and Raphaelle Standell-Preston. They all met at high school in Calgary and came together out of their mutual love of music. Their distinct aesthetic melds layers of intricate melodies, creating a calming yet haunting effect.

The quartet formed a strong bond as a band when they won in the best song writing category at the Calgary Folk Music Festival in 2007. This event boosted their confidence as musicians. From this stage onward, says Tufts, the band “just kept playing and the music evolved very quickly [into] something completely different.”

The band members describe their song-writing process as highly meticulous without becoming overly intellectual, aiming to gradually develop a great deal of feeling and emotion. “The band will write the music first,” says Tufts, “and the feelings that we convey in the music usually result in the lyrics [Standell-Preston] writes.” “The songs reflect my current feeling of sexual understanding and sexual growth…[and] being at peace with oneself,” Standell-Preston adds. Their music reflects this revelation as the songs gesture toward an emotional eruption, which never really occurs. Instead, the emotion is gradually levelled, reflecting what Standell-Preston calls “a point of peace with everything.”

The band members remain very connected with their roots in Calgary. They especially draw inspiration from fellow Calgarian groups: Azeda Booth, Women, and Knots. In discussing differences between the music scene in Calgary and in Montreal, the four agree that there is definitely more of a base for art and culture here. Yet Tufts is quick to add, “I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other. We didn’t move because we wanted a better scene. We had a lot of fun in Calgary; we had a real good fan base.” What they do note, however, is that they ended up performing to the same fans at every show. Tufts sums up the state of Alberta’s music scene by saying that “the bands are there, the music industry’s not.” This is due to a lack of promoters, venues, and management, as well as an absence of an all-ages scene.

In Montreal, Braids shares a rehearsal space with rappers and metal bands who all encourage one another – a foreign concept for a band more used to getting noise complaints than praise from neighbours.

Despite the difference in opportunities between the two cities, the band tries to erode the gap between the two. “I feel like Canada’s Canada,” Standell-Preston says. “I really don’t want to separate this Calgary and Montreal thing. I’m getting kind of tired of that because we really like both places; we don’t want people to get the impression that we left Calgary behind because it was a dust hole. It’s all one big picture.” Tufts adds, “I was really thinking we could bring a little bit of Calgary here and bring a little bit of Montreal back.”

Braids play Green Room (5386 St-Laurent) with Women and Special Noise on Friday, March 13.