Speaking to the band before the gig, the Montreal-based group Braids admitted that they were hoping for good turnout at the Jericho Tavern, having been disappointed the previous night playing to about 40 people at their Cambridge leg of their current UK tour. In an attempt to reassure them, I bigged up Oxford as one of the best cities in the UK for supporting upcoming music from all across the globe. I’m not sure if my words offered any consolation, but having tried my best to ease their worries, as I walked up the stairs of the Jericho Tavern, I was praying that I wouldn’t enter to see the band playing to one man and his dog. Oh ye of little faith!
I first heard of Braids a while back when a colleague of mine nonchalantly mentioned that a really good Canadian band were playing in Oxford soon and that I should check them out, and after listening to the first track on their recent album Native Speaker, I had no doubt in my mind; I would be heading to that show (the track in question is called ‘Lemonade’ and I urge you all to go and listen to it now).
The band perform without any pauses (except for when a member of the audience feels the need to get up on stage and dance, departing once the song is over and not before giving female lead vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston a grateful embrace) interested only in creating an atmosphere fitting for their ethereal and ambitious soundscapes. The interludes are hypnotic; piano chords which rise and fall, delayed vocal whelps in a similar vein to Noah Lennox (their sound has been endlessly referenced as recapturing the Feels-era Animal Collective vibe, a claim which is difficult to refute) and shuffling floor tom rolls. I, for one, love these kind of open-ended, almost free-form, indie-rock jams which breathe with such an otherworldly, dream-like quality, but I understand that it’s not to everyone’s taste.
Luckily, Braids also have the songs to back it up. ‘Same Mum’ and ‘Lemonade’ provide moments of concise pop-induced joy within the audience, and with just enough meandering intrigue to keep the Radiohead fans equally appeased. The intricate guitars melodies, exuberant vocal harmonies and added electronic ambience were all delivered immaculately; anyone who noticed a fault in the bands performance, or witnessed a split-second where they lost their cool, please say so and I’ll give you a cookie.
If you’re feeling pretty sick and tired of all the 1980s synth pop nostalgic romanticism which currently saturates much of indie, then Braids may be able to provide you with the perfect antidote. The music is ambitious, coherent and very much forward-thinking. They are an indie guitar band who have branched out into more interesting territory without embracing synths and electronics in a gimmicky fashion, they successfully blend all their influences in a way that is both progressive and enthralling. A near full-to-capacity Jericho Tavern left the venue having just seen the future stars of Canadian indie music.
One Note Forever took the band out on the river earlier that day and filmed them perform songs for our soon to be launched sessions website, Punt Sessions. Keep your eyes peeled!