“We had this sort of breakthrough moment where we just realized that we needed to put all the expectations to write a record aside,” Austin Tufts explains as the sun hits our faces on a balcony in Montreal, a warmth that’s easily found on Braids’s latest effort Deep In The Iris, slated for release this week. The Montreal-three piece—comprised of singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston, along with multi-instrumentalist Taylor Smith, and drummer Austin Tufts—have spent the greater part of last year on multiple recording retreats in the wilderness and beauty of Arizona, upstate New York and Vermont to connect with each other on the deepest level, tearing down walls and obliterating judgments and the responsibilities of recording an album, and what came out of it was Braids’s most direct, honest and unflinching record to date.
Not only was the group more open with each other than ever before, the process and resulting piece of work were much more enjoyable this time around: “it’s actually sitting really well with us, which is a nice change. Normally we work so hard on an album, and pick it apart so much […] that by the time it comes out we’re rather sick of it. We went into [Deep In The Iris] with the idea that we really wanted to enjoy the process, go and experience something beautiful, and connect as people.”
In explaining their recording retreats, Tufts recounted that he wanted the experience to involve as little expectation to write a record as possible: “we originally had set out to spend seven weeks in Arizona and we were like ‘maybe we’ll finish a record.” Braids strived to let their instantaneous creativity do the talking, and not over think the formation of ideas. “We really wanted to work fast and keep ideas really fresh,” said Tufts.
As you might expect, the process of exposing one’s vulnerable-self to anyone, let alone to longtime bandmates, was not an easy task. “It took three weeks before we really started making music. We all were sort of brimming with creativity from the minute that we embarked on the journey. That whole process got slowed down by needing to reconnect. There was definitely one moment where things got a bit emotional, people were crying. We were arguing with each other and people were rather upset.” Tufts remembers the night that the band was able to take some pressure off themselves and take a moment to realize, “wow! Look where we are. Let’s just enjoy it and let’s just make some cool music.” This resulted in one of the first jam and writing sessions of the album. “Songs like ‘Taste’ and ‘Letting Go,’ were the first two songs we wrote.”
Decamping from Arizona to upstate New York to Putney, Vermont the trio was isolated, surrounded by stunning landscapes. Amidst hiking trips, swimming, cooking, and making fires, the band started to reconnect. In upstate New York Braids stayed in a farm house next to a massive, red barn where they very much hoped to record Deep In The Iris, “up in the top part of the barn where the barn roof was, that was where we wanted to record because of the acoustics but we couldn’t because it would get so hot up there that we would be sitting there for ten minutes and then all of a sudden we’d be sweating.” Their upstate New York retreat took on more of “an active” feel, meeting local farmers, going on a handful of adventures, exploring beautiful waterfalls, and due to the proximity of their location, some of Braids’ close friends were able to visit.
In Vermont, Tufts described their idyllic place, where, if frustration ensued among the group, they could find refuge in one spot. “All the locals called it ‘the culvert.’ [It] was twelve feet high and quite a large creek ran under it and people had built little stone walls and dammed it up to actually build a little swimming hole on the edge of it. Actually, the record cover is a photograph that I shot looking down from that spot. We’d just […] pile into the van, jump in twice—that’s all you could handle because it was so cold—, and then hop back in the car and go back to the house and then track again. So it was a real sense of rejuvenation.”
If the release of Deep In The Iris wasn’t exciting enough, Tufts shared that “Miniskirt” will be accompanied by visuals when Braids releases their video for the single this week. Braids also hope to develop some of the leftover material from the Deep In The Iris sessions: “we have three other songs that are done that didn’t make the record, that I think are very strong and then there are another ten or twelve songs that are half finished or just ideas that are all still very exciting and we want to wrap them up with the same sort of creative energy that we had, and that we still have from those recording retreats.” Tufts also adds that “there’s another song called “Sweet World” some people know it as “13” […] was going to be on the record but it just didn’t fit with the whole vision of it. That’s going to be coming out in the next year, for sure.”
Deep In The Iris prides itself on featuring vocals front and center, along with a no-holds-barred attitude. “That was a huge intent actually going into writing,” says Tufts. “We had been starting to connect again with a lot more singer-songwriters, in particular Joni Mitchell. She really puts herself out there in all of her songwriting and the way she sings, you feel like she’s singing to you […], you feel like you know her. The vocals on this record are way more present then they ever have been. You can hear every lyric.”
Braids are not only more accessible, but more alluring and easily more relatable than they have ever been. “It’s still very much a Braids record but it has a directness and an honesty that we were really striving for. That sense of openness is very inspiring for us, and Raph has so many beautiful things to say and so many great ideas that I think it’s a really cool thing to not hide them so much.”
It goes without saying that Deep In The Iris is Braids’ strongest record to date – pure, natural emotion, molded with caring, trusting hands, exposing profound human bonds. Deep In The Iris overflows with visceral emotion and pure energy. Braids have gone to great lengths to expose themselves in all their glory, displaying a sense of humanity they so deeply tried to obscure in the past and ultimately revealing the beauty and complexness that life has to offer.
Braids play Bar Le Ritz PDB on May 13, before embarking on their spring tour with Purity Ring stopping in Montreal, once more, at Metropolis on June 5.