BRAIDS' Raphaelle Standell-Preston Explains How To Start a Band Over a Blueberry Muffin
BRAIDS' members are young -- all four members are in their (very) early 20s -- but the Canadian band is already earning quite a bit of critical buzz for their cool and collected, and heavily influenced by Animal Collective, brand of experimental pop.
Led by the talented Raphaelle Standell-Preston, BRAIDS makes challenging music that somehow manages to go down smooth. Their 2011 debut full-length, Native Speaker, was two years in the making, and songs such as "Lemonade" and "Plath Heart" aptly demonstrate the band's work ethic.
Speaking over the phone from outside a Vietnamese restaurant in El Paso and in anticipation of Wednesday night's show at Dada, Standell-Preston was kind enough to talk to DC9 about connecting with audiences outside of the band's native Canada, and the pride she takes in making music outside of the mainstream.
Why does the band use all caps in the name?
The all caps thing just kind of happened. I guess it was kind of a short name and we decided to go with it because it was aesthetically pleasing. We changed our name from The Neighbourhood Council because we just chose that name on a whim and needed a name to enter a high school music contest. We came up with the simpler name collectively because the most important part of the band is the friendships we all share.
The band members are all very young. Did most of you choose not to go to college in order to concentrate on music?
Well, we did go to the university for two years. When we decided to take some time off, that's when the band really took off.
That's when the band moved from Calgary to Montreal, right? What was the impetus behind that move?
Calgary is a very conservative area. Montreal has so many artists running around. It's a really creative atmosphere. We all loved going to the university there. There is just a different way of thinking in Montreal.
In many reviews, your music is described as art rock. What does that term mean to you?
It means being confrontational and crossing conventional boundaries.
BRAIDS was nominated for 2011 Polaris Music Prize. Do such accolades validate the band?
Well, it's nice to know that a lot more people know about you other than your friends. It doesn't make me feel any better about the art that I make. I am just happy people enjoy it. I like knowing that the Polaris Award is based on artistic merit.
The band's debut album, Native Speaker, seemed to take a long time to make. Is that the case?
It took a very long time. It took a year to write and another nine months to get it released.
Is it true that the album only cost $500 to make?
Yes! We recorded it all ourselves so it wouldn't cost a lot of money. We also produced it.
With all the good press the band has received, I would hope you've already recouped the cost.
I hope so, too! I'm pretty sure that we have. I need to go over our budget very soon.
Is it true that the band started after a conversation in the school cafeteria about a muffin?
Well, I did buy a muffin -- a blueberry one, I think. I ran into [drummer[ Austin Tufts and we started talking about how great it would be to start a band. It was just an idea based on a small conversation. I found [keyboardist] Katie [Lee] and Austin found [bassist] Taylor [Smith]. And things just went from there.
Is there a difference between audiences in Canada and those in America?
I think that, in Canada, more people know who we are and the crowds are larger. In the bigger cities in America, places like L.A. and New York, those crowds are big, too. But in other places, you have to work to connect to the crowd. You have to win the people over. I don't think there is a difference based on nationality.
Do you get tired the band always being compared to Animal Collective, Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire?
Not Animal Collective because I can see that comparison. The other two is just easy because they are both from Canada. I don't we sound anything like Broken Social Scene or Arcade Fire. Broken Social Scene is a large community of artists and they are very successful, but we don't sound like them.
Rolling Stone described your music as nutty and serene. Any other adjective you want to add?
I like those adjectives. I guess you could add experimental. There are so many that you could find on the internet.
Do you worry about being too experimental? Does being experimental translate to less album sales?
I don't worry about it. We just make the music that we want. If people like it, that's a bonus.
BRAIDS performs with Pepper Rabbit and Painted Palms on Wednesday, October 5, at Dada.