Behind the scenes with changing Braids 

Calgary-born, Montreal-based guitarist Taylor Smith is only 21. But he has lived an artistic lifetime to arrive at “Native Speaker,” the new Kanine Records debut of his ethereal quartet Braids. Initially launched as a backing combo for waifish vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston when she entered the Calgary Folk Festival’s songwriting contest, the group became a collective that made folk-pop and then dance-pop before radically changing due to its members’ strong creative drives.

So, as the fable goes, everyone in Braids first met in your high school lunchroom? It’s a moderate exaggeration. But yes, we all kind of met through high school, and the idea for starting the band was that kind of thing, just hanging out at school. But I actually spent none of my 12th grade eating lunch in the cafeteria — I avoided it. The cafeteria was for bros and jocks, and everybody else either hung out outside, in the halls or in the band room. And luckily, I was in band and played trombone and stand-up bass. So we just thought Braids would be something enjoyable to do with our time outside of school, and just a way to express ourselves.

Songs such as “Lemonade” really tap into prog, along with This Mortal Coil-type texture, right? Definitely. Texture is very important to us. Something that’s really lush and full, something you really get lost in as a listener. Our music is very dense, and we try to make it so that — from a listening standpoint — it’s not straight-ahead, like, “This is the exact part you’re supposed to be listening to and the rest of it is just accompaniment.” We like musical parts that play with each other and capture your ear in a different way, so that each time you hear it you can hear something new and different in it.

Do you guys all share a house to save on rent? In Montreal, Austin [Tufts, the drummer] and I live together, and our apartment is kind of the “Braids house.” We recorded our album there, and our jam space is in the garage, so everybody’s there 90 percent of the time already.  

Do you ever go, “Whoa — can’t believe I’m just 21”? Well, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into being in a band that you don’t really think about as a kid. When we started, we didn’t have any big ambitious plans. But now we’ve grown into all this other stuff that goes along with it, and it’s been an exciting journey.



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Tom Lanham

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