Native Love, Native Tongue

Braids' debut LP Native Speaker is worth the wait

Austin and Raphaelle are clearly excited for what they have spent the better part of a year perfecting.

Drummer Austin Tufts fuses several influences to create a playing style something like Animal's Collective's “My Girls” done with a full kit. Raphaelle Standell-Preston's free flowing vocals inhabit the foreground, with delicate trails leading to a yelp or scream – something Bjork would do. Last month the art-pop quartet released Native Speaker, their self-produced full-length.

“At times it was very gruelling because we were pushing the limitations of what we were capable of,” said Standell-Preston about the recording process. “Sometimes we'd do 300 vocal takes... we were pushing ourselves to record what was in our heads.”

Capturing their expansive live sound was a challenge for the band, having never produced a record before. Braids found their production legs in bassist/guitarist Taylor Smith's Calgary garage through months of experimenting.

“That's something we battled with big time,” said Tufts. “We ended up laying down the beds and then overdubbed everything except the drums. One of the hardest things when you're doing overdubbing is to make it really groove and to lock, to keep that live energy.”

“We were very worried about the magic almost being gone because the energy of the four of us playing [live] has a certain feel to it,” added Standell-Preston. “We were trying all these different ways to get it back in, and I feel we succeeded.”

The amount of time spent on crafting their intertwined sound is evident on Native Speaker, a dreamy, layered record with an average track length of over six minutes. Tuft explores unorthodox rhythms, employing all parts of his kit to beef up the band's rhythmic component.

“When I first started listening to Animal Collective I thought they went for a really nice timbre with the sound of the rims that I had never heard before,” said Tufts. “I started exploring that in a different direction with Latin rhythms.”

“Definitely my biggest inspiration for my drum parts are the melody in the song,” he continued. “All my favourite drummers are very melodic. Christopher Bear from Grizzly Bear does some really nice stuff... "Two Weeks" is a really good example of how melodic drums can be.”

Tufts has drawn influence from contemporary artists' use of electronic percussion as well.

“A lot of my favourite musicians these days are electronic artists,” he said. “The main focus is the drums in a lot of German instrumental music, and a couple friends of mine from Calgary doing really great electronic stuff like Morgan Greenwood - it's exactly the kind of style I want to figure out on the drum set.”

Braids have begun incorporating electronic texture into their sound. The band uses contact microphones, equipment that will capture Tufts' playing as electronic impulses for bandmates to control.

“We're starting to get into using contact microphones on the drum set and running them to different members of the band, having them manipulate my drums while I'm playing,” said Tufts. “You can create really cool drum glitches and delays.”

Even when experimenting with new tools, everything is subordinated to the overall atmosphere of the song. Braids compose intricately subtle soundscapes housing dynamics and melody.

“Our music provides an environment to be emotional in,” said Tufts. Whatever emotion that's evoked - go for it. Don't be afraid because that emotion is you.”