Hailing from the cold climes of Alberta, Canada, Braids’ warm, dreamy swathes have been making waves across the globe since their acclaimed 2011 debut, Native Speaker. Four years later, the band relocated to an unfamiliarly toasty environment to try and recapture the organic nature of that album for their third full-length, Deep In The Iris. I spoke with vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston ahead of Braids’ UK tour this November and December.

How did you find recording Deep In The Iris in Arizona, rather than Canada, and what kind of effect did it have on the new music?

Montreal in February is very cold. Last winter was the coldest for Montreal in recorded history. I remember for two weeks the sun didn’t come out. We had grown tired of winter when we set out to record our third LP. The second EP had been made in the dead of winter in our garage studio with no windows, which led to a really cold and insular sound. We wanted nothing to do with that sort of experience or sound, so we set our eyes on something absolutely the opposite of a Montreal winter and headed to Prescott, Arizona – the desert.

When I listen to Deep In The Iris, I feel a warmth that is not present on our other material. We were happy while writing this record. We were going for hikes in the dry woods and we would sit on the porch drenched in sun. We made sure that we enjoyed the process and I think you can hear that in the music. There’s a lot of emotion in. Being supported by the sun and the beautiful environment allowed us to be open to what we needed to express. We’re definitely going to do a process similar to this for our next record.

What brought about the return to emphasis on live instrumentation?

We missed playing instruments and wanted to return to a more tactile approach of writing music. Sitting at one’s computer can feel kind of empty sometimes. There’s a lot to be said for touching a piano or holding a guitar. It feels living and it has a character of its own that you can capture beautifully through recording. We also wanted to return to the traditional form of a song – one you can play from front to back on any instrument.

When you formed in school in 2007, did you have any idea how far your music could take you? Had you always hoped to be touring musicians?

We didn’t really have any idea. We were all planning to go to university and had other paths planned out. Once we started playing more, we realized that we shared something very special, so we changed our paths such that we could stay together. I never realized until we released our first record that we would mainly be ‘touring’ musicians before anything else. Over the years I’ve come to really enjoy touring, but at first it was quite shocking to be out on the road for 8-10 months of the year. I dream of being a ‘theatre’ musician, one who can play in beautiful theatres across the world. For now, though, touring musician will do just fine.

How do your individual tastes in music compare? Does anyone bring any unexpected influences into Braids?

The main place we tend to listen to music is in the van, and we usually tend to agree on what we listen to, though sometimes I will go through intense pop phases, where I listen to a lot of Katie Perry or Rihanna. By the third rotation, everyone is pretty tired of my preferred musical tastes. Taylor and Austin sometimes like listening to Dr Dre and it drives me absolutely crazy. Austin brings a lot of jazz influence to the band. His approach to rhythm is extremely melodic.

Tell us about your past collaborations with Max Cooper. How did that relationship come about and how did it work?

I can’t really remember how we met Max. I think his manager found us because we spoke about his music in an interview. We were listening to his EP , Metaphysical, so much and we absolutely loved it during our first tour. Listening to electronic music became our soundtrack for the late night drives after shows. We ended up sending him stems from our record, Native Speaker. He used our vocals and textural loops to make entirely new songs of his own.

You’ve said that performing as part of Braids, and also in your other project, Blue Hawaii, has allowed you to explore different sides to the performance aspect of your music. What is the current state of that balance?

My focus has shifted entirely to Braids as I became quite burnt out by the end of my two-band stint. I was on tour for both projects. When one tour was done, I’d go and do the next. It was very hard on my mind and body. I’d like to pick up Blue Hawaii again. I just have to find time to when I can give myself more to it. I’ve incorporated some of the performative aspects that I learnt in Blue Hawaii into Braids, like interacting with the audience, looking people in the eyes and singing to them. I don’t wear heavy blue eye shadow and loads of sparkles. That’s something that I definitely miss.

Who has made your favourite music in recent times? Are there any current artists you particularly admire and any you aspire to share a stage with?

Sufjan Stevens is currently making my favourite music. His new record, Carrie & Lowell, is a masterpiece. If you haven’t heard Seven Swans, listen to that as well. It’s in the same vein but more choral. I would really love for us to open up for him.

Is there anything you particularly like or dislike about England? How has our fair land treated you in the past?

I don’t like the CC TV. It makes me really uncomfortable. I feel that the government is too involved in the lives of the people in England. It’s an involvement that imposes control over the people, not a freeing involvement. That element feels slightly dystopian.

I really love your parks. Your swans are so beautiful and you have such green grass. Also, your tea ritual is so fulfilling. I’ve just gotten into it – putting a splash of milk upon the tea bag and then filling it with boiling water. It’s nice to have such a warming ritual as having tea many times throughout the day. Also, a lot of my favourite musicians are from England. I don’t know how you guys do it. Maybe it’s everyone fighting against all the control that births such passionate music.

What’s in store for Braids in 2016?

We’re taking three months off to go and explore creatively on our own. Two of us are moving to LA for the winter. Then, once we are filled up with experiences and new approaches, we will come back together and begin recording LP 4. I can’t wait.

braidsmusic.com

Richard Spencer