Life, at times, makes us feel in a queue two meters apart – concretely for many of us, metaphorically for the Braids trio. It has been five years since Montrealers launched an album; Shadow Offerings, his fourth co-directed by ex-Death Cab for Cutie Chris Walla, finally appears Friday … a year and a half after being recorded. Pandemic or not, there it is, since it is necessary and it will do us good.
Shadow Offerings, a fourth album looking like a new beginning: after all these years of managing themselves, self-producing their albums – starting with the excellent Native speaker, shortlisted for the 2011 Polaris Award – and EPs, the trio of Calgary-born musicians have decided to surround themselves with one another. From a Toronto-based management team and label, Secret City (Patrick Watson, Basia Bulat, Klô Pelgag).
“Yeah, it was difficult to come to terms with the fact that the release had to wait,” recognizes Raphaelle Standell-Preston, singer and guitarist, there on the phone with the drummer Austin Tufts while the keyboardist-multi-instrumentalist absent , Taylor Smith, continues to adhere to the voluntary isolation order. “Wait, this is probably one of the least loved aspects of the music industry,” adds Tufts. Being autoproductive allows you to launch this quickly, but working with a label, a management, to make the album shine better, it is to accept certain compromises, it is also to accept to work within their own agendas … “
In addition to a new production team, Braids has also let an outside element into their studio for the first time, and not just anyone. “I remember, we had just given a concert in Prague; we listened to the recording again, since we asked our sound engineers to record all our performances “, explains drummer Austin Tufts,” And while listening to the new compositions that we had played, we thought we should try to capture this energy of the stage in the studio ”, hence the idea, for the first time, to call on a director.
An external ear helping them to reach a level of sophisticated and meticulous rock song, to give a breath to the presence of the group in the studio. “Previously, when we were recording, we wore both hats of interpreters and sound technicians. It’s more difficult to focus on music when you have to think about the best way to calibrate a microphone or worry about recording software. ” Hence the ex-Death Cab for Cutie, originally invited to Montreal as a sound engineer: “Chris [Walla] is an incredible guy, an incredible director and a talented sound engineer, ”says Tufts.
His presence, however, had the effect of rebalancing the living forces in the studio, adds the drummer: “When he came into the studio, it became clear to us that the album was going to have more vigor. He got involved on a creative level, above all it allowed us to open our minds to new ideas that had not yet crossed our minds. Above all, it helped untangle a lot of knots that had been created between the three of us over the years, thus releasing new impulses. In fact, the whole recording has even become more enjoyable for all of us! “
Raphaelle laughs: “It became a joke, it was said that Chris was partly a director, partly a therapist! “It even sounds like it can be heard: it reveals through the nine songs of the album a kind of serenity that we missed on the previous recordings of the group. Meticulous and perfectionist, Braids discovered how to leave space for notes in the songs, fusing with more skill and versatility, with a tenfold sense of groove, the acoustic, electric and electronic ingredients of their indie rock.
Raphaelle sings there with renewed passion, as if her voice had more air to breathe. It also offers striking words, those of the powerful Fear of men “About domestic violence and what I have experienced myself” and Snow angel, a long nine-minute long song almost rapped on the issue of discrimination and systemic racism – remember that Braids had finished recording this disc eighteen months ago …
“We composed this song right after Trump was inaugurated, so at the end of 2016, imagining how we were going to live the next four years,” says Raphaelle. Systemic racism will take time before it is eradicated. Our community has a lot of work to do. I like to see that the movement is underway, to see that people are listening to what is happening, that more and more people are sensitive to these injustices, I see something very positive. “
A previous version of this text, in which Raphaelle Standell-Preston was named Rachelle, has been corrected.