Weaving together dream pop, electronic music, and Raphaelle Standell-Preston's emotive voice in sensual, thought-provoking ways, Braids quickly became one of Canada's most acclaimed indie acts. The intricate yet exploratory style of 2011's debut album Native Speaker -- which they recorded when they were barely in their twenties -- earned them acclaim as well as comparisons to Björk and Animal Collective. As the years passed, their music grew even more distinctive and expressive, spanning the restrained electro-pop portraits of loss and hope on 2013's Flourish//Perish to the organic warmth and healing of 2015's Juno Award-winning Deep in the Iris. With the guitar-heavy catharsis of 2020's Shadow Offering, Braids reaffirmed that their innovative music was always driven by the powerful emotions they needed to express.
The members of Braids met in 2006 as students at Western Canada High School in Calgary, Alberta (prior to that, Standell-Preston and drummer Austin Tufts were middle school friends). Bassist Taylor Smith, keyboardist Katie Lee, and Vince Man completed the first lineup of the band, then known as the Neighbourhood Council. Early shows, such as their performance at the inaugural Sled Island Music Festival in 2007, encouraged them to focus on their music and delay attending college. Following Man's departure, they recorded their debut EP, Set Pieces, at the University of Calgary's radio station, CJSW. The EP's release in July 2008 and a set supporting Deerhunter at that year's Sled Island Music Festival earned the band further acclaim.
In September 2008, the group relocated to Montreal. Renaming themselves Braids, they worked on their first full-length while Tufts, Smith, and Lee attended McGill University. During this time, they issued a split 7" single with Blue Hawaii, Standell-Preston's project with Alex "Agor" Cowan on Arbutus Records. After securing deals with Chad VanGaalen's label Flemish Eye and Kanine Records to release their album in Canada and the United States, respectively, Native Speaker arrived in January 2011. The album's sensual, intuitive blend of dream pop and electronic music won praise that included a spot on the shortlist for that year's Polaris Music Prize and two Juno Award nominations. Later in 2011, the band released two split singles, one with Hey Rosetta! and one with Purity Ring.
Braids toured extensively in 2011 in support of Native Speaker, then spent most of 2012 making their second album. That December, they issued the Conditions One EP, a collaboration with producer Max Cooper. While recording, the band parted ways with Lee. In June 2013, the In Kind//Amends EP offered the first taste of the more streamlined, electronic-based sound they explored more fully on August's Flourish//Perish. Though Braids began work on their third album at the same time they wrote and recorded Flourish//Perish, its completion took a while as they recorded in Vermont, Upstate New York, and the mountains of Arizona. On April 2015's Deep in the Iris, they opted for a more organic sound that highlighted Standell-Preston's vulnerable songwriting. The album won the 2016 Juno Award for Best Alternative Album. That year's fittingly named Companion EP, which featured songs written during the Deep in the Iris era, continued in this heartfelt direction.
After Companion's release, Standell-Preston spent time working with Blue Hawaii, who released the album Tenderness in 2017. The following year, she, Tufts, and Smith reconciled with Lee, addressing the circumstances of her departure by taking an anti-oppression workshop with an arts focus. The trio also began work on their fourth album and found a kindred spirit, co-producer, and engineer in Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, who rented out space in their Montreal studio. Appearing in June 2020 on Secret City Records, Shadow Offering delivered some of the band's heaviest and most mature music. ~ Heather Phares
ORIGINMontreal, Quebec, Canada