The mood might occasionally turn dark inside Braids' Montreal garage studio, but the dream-pop quartet are intent on working in comfort.
"It's a fully isolated sound room," says Austin Tufts, drummer, vocalist, and tenant of the attached home in the city's Outremont neighborhood. "We made it into a rehearsal space so that we could prepare for our tours and have a functional jam space, but then we went down and did a lot of sound treatment and an aesthetic renovation, painting it and installing new lights to make it a comfortable environment to be in for six hours a day."
The group has been holed up there since January, simultaneously writing and recording new tracks for the follow-up to their Polaris Prize shortlisted debut, Native Speaker. But, explains Tufts, where that release was filled with plucky beats buoyed by vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston's yips and wails, the new material is more somber. "We could play [Native Speaker] cuts for hours on end and we would never get drained," he says, a late-season snowstorm swirling outside the studio. "But some of these songs we're like, 'Oh this is kind of a dark song.' If you work on it for more than a couple hours it starts to get pretty dark in the room. You have to take a break and go get lunch or something then finish the song. It's been a good emotional journey for sure."
It's also been a challenge coming together after a whirlwind year touring the world, collecting experience, and expanding their musical palates. "When we came out of high school we were all on the same page musically," says keyboardist Katie Lee. "Coming back into the studio to write and record, we were all in very different places. So we've been trying to find that common ground again and find a really interesting way to work together."
Early on in the process, though, the band reached consensus about the direction of the new music: "Our interest has been a lot more electronic-based," Tufts says.
For a band used to wielding traditional instruments, navigating the world of bleeps and bloops posed a problem. To that end, bandmember Taylor Smith, who usually handles bass, guitar and drums, stepped up, got behind a laptop, and learned. "He works really, really hard to get up his skills as an electronic producer so we're able to tell him what we want and he's able to create it," says Tufts. "We've all built this interesting, and I think effective, synergy between technology and acoustic, natural instruments."
While Braids have around 15 tracks mapped out and roughly recorded, Tufts says fans shouldn't expect a release until early next year at the soonest. "We were all in university or working jobs and we didn't have the opportunity to devote our time to [Native Speaker]. After touring so much last year we've saved up enough money that we're able to support ourselves this year while we really take our time to write this record."