Braids was born while buying a blueberry muffin in the school cafeteria during break. “We should start a band”, Austin said to Raphie. “Yes, that would be cool”, Said Raphie to Austin. Katie and Taylor were already members. That was their last year of High School.
The band took awhile off after school – playing every day in the garage. The next year they moved together to Montreal, as graceful as a flock of migrating birds, finding themselves in a bitter cold Eastern winter. This time they practiced in a ware house with Metal bands and cigarettes, they took the metro, they stayed up late, they were happy.
They lived together for the spring and listened to records at night. Now the girls live together and the boys live together. They’re recording a record at Taylor and Austin’s house, soon they’ll have their own.
Braids is a band of best friends making experimental indie pop. They have a lot of fun doing it and even got to make a video with Vincent Moon and Nora in the train yard. What a beautiful sky that day.
It’s been months since I first heard about the mysterious Clues, founded by Alden Penner of the genius Unicorns, and Brendan Reed, an ex Arcade Fire member. I was immediately smitten by the first track released, Perfect Fit, and a few months later, the album blew me. Then I found that Pop Montreal festival was starting jsut a few days after I arrived in my new adoptive country, that Clues would be playing it, and that Vincent Moon and his camera would also be there.
A few days before fiming them, I finally had the chance of seeing Clues live, at Cabaret Juste Pour Rire. You can feel it when on stage, it’s the infant prodigies of a whole city who are playing. The venue shakes, it gives you shivers and a broad smile, you just turn around and see people radiant with joy, yelling, calling the musicians by their name, dancing, singing, clapping and cheering. I forgot how many encores, i forgot how long they played, I was on cloud nine the whole night.
Three or four days later, we met Alden, Ben and Nick (unfortunately, Brendan was sick) at Café Olimpico, and then they’d take us to the spot they picked. Before the festival, we asked the bands to choose where we would film their Take Away Show ; for once, we wouldn’t be the one deciding. Alden had found a crazy location, a bus graveyard. Dusk made it even eerier, with burnt down wrecks everywhere and yellow « DO NOT CROSS » tape forbidding the access to an orange-neon lit shack.
The atmosphere, the place, their music ; everything felt so cinematic, a little oppressive, and beautiful, beautiful like a moaning violin, a startling bass drum, a guitar that never lets you rest, and voice insinuating itself into your memories.
When we met Vincent and crew at our apartment last month we were shy and cautious of the camera in speaking, but sure in the songs. So, it’s calming to see the beautiful images, and have the chance to tell our story in text alongside them.
In my people sleeping we’re all old, old friends or lovers. We have all loved and hated each other like siblings.
In the winter of 2007 we recorded our first EP. During that time we fell into that way of mythologizing everything—we were heavy on symbols. Things like blue dust, time machines, seahorses, and this yellow lamp that we carried around took on more meaning than usual. We’d sing facing each other, trying to match the other exactly. It took restraint, and ritual.
To release the EP we needed a name. The idea that our people were hard to reach—not present, not dead, but sleeping seemed to work for us. The name reinforced what we were doing. It slowed us down and spaced us out.
By the time it came around time to making our first full length album two years later the collaboration had all but broken down. Being down in the Pines (recording studio), in the crumbling neighbourhood of Griffintown, in winter again, in emotional turmoil, we made feye , an album that sounds like a true and apt document of all those things. Its most eerie element may actually be it’s optimism.
The word feye means several things, but the meanings we like are “destined to die” and “possessing elfin like power”. We like that idea—that there was something supernatural going on, but that it can’t be the same anymore. And it’s not. In a lot of ways the band that made it broke up. Now with it done and unreleased, we’re reinventing ourselves again.
We invited la blogotheque into our moldy basement apartment, into our comfort zone, where we wrote our album, where we had our fights, and our meetings and our practices, and froze all winter, because it only made sense. Most of us have lived here at some point (as well as half the Mile End music community). We love our neighbours and our cave-like rooms, and our courtyard that smells like sausage.
We played the song Cortes because it represents us well. It allows us to trance out. In it we’re filtering something big and messy through a minimal, repetitious music. It’s about the sea and guilt, explorers and shame—all sad things we can space out to.
What’s been the most formative element of our music is that we’ve always practiced in apartments. Having to be quiet makes a huge difference in composition and how you deliver songs. It’s given us control and calm, in place of abandon.
Vincent Moon sensed that, and wanted some abandon from us, so he led us out into the street. Immediately we ran into our neighbours who didn’t think twice and came along. We all wandered into the café across the street, and ran into several more friends. We sang a song, everybody stopped eating to watch, and there was nothing strange about it at all—everybody knew all the words already. That’s why making music in Montreal is so easy, and perfect.
Moon and I had never heard most of the bands we were going ot film in Montreal, so we did just like everyone, we checked their MySpace pages. Then, we sent our short list to two authorities on the subject in Montreal, Patricia Boushel and Sean “Said the Gramophone” Michaels. Witchies got unanimous support.
The first time we met them was at Café Olimpico, through a member of A Silver Mt Zion they were having coffee with. The third time I met Nadia was on the last day of the festival, for the closing party, at Club Lambi, and she was behind the bar. It’s not unusual in Montreal to find yourself ordering a drink from the singer whose songs you’re humming in the shower, or see the guitarist of a band you know gathering empty beer bottles after a show in a famous venue.
We were meeting Nadia, Chad and Jonah at the place they practice, on Van Horne, next to the viaduc and the railroads. The weather was beautiful this day, a winter-like sun forcing us to squint and a wonderful blue sky. While we were biking next to each other, Moon told me about this area of the city, its old buildings and abandoned warehouses, wastelands and rusty bikes. When we arrived there, after climbing one or two stories, we entered a room whose only window was on the ceiling, creating a skylight where the tiniest dust particle floating in the air couldn’t remain unseen. This room is the kind where you don’t know where to turn, because they’re so many things to look at. It looks like an antique or secondhand shop, and you just wonder how many people have been there to abandon all these miscellaneous objects. Dismembered dolls, dusty comics, oil lamps, pieces of furniture everywhere, old old records, a dead radio, flowery dishware, promotional lighters, board games… And Witchies, smiling, sitting on old battered sofas. They only had time to practice one song for us, just like most of the bands we were fiming during the festival.
Listening to their songs on MySpace, I often felt that Chad’s solemn and often Bowie-like voice was a little muffled by the music, not present or emphasized enough. Right when they started a low-key, more sober version of “Royal Blood”, I quivered. Contrary to the original and its pop-synthe accents, the song then suddenly took on a new meaning in sobriety, revealing its gravity, as well as unexpected solemnity. Hiding behind a sofa with the sound recorder, headphones on, I could hear a funeral march, a gothic ceremony, and I thought to myself that it fitted them well.
syl and i have been singing together for a long time. we grew up singing with our family. i think we even did a tv show at 5 and 6 years old when our mom and aunt did a song for a benefit record (titled “Feed The Folk,” for the 1984 famine in ethiopia).
however, we’ve really only been playing together as a band for the last couple of years when our mittenstrings’ odyssey started. being filmed for la blogotheque was a first for us. we’ve never done our music on camera before so it was a little nerve wracking. maybe out of fear and shyness we asked you to come and film at our house which made it a lot easier for us! having been ignorant of la blogotheque until nora and vincent walked through our door, in the end it turned out to be a very fun and entertaining time. vincent moved effortlessly around the room, filming as we played, and it was possible to forget we were being recorded at all. if asked to play for blogoteque again, we would.
“Là vous avez la totale !” a random street spectator’s words close the clip, as the lady with the guitar, voice and all, thanks him, flustered, clapping along with the crowd which has formed around her on the sidewalk. “Eh, merci,” she giggles, “that’s so cute…” as he goes about his day down The Main.
It’s a sun-shining fall morning in Montréal, and the camera crew is walking the streets with a Little Scream. Her beaming grin and shy giggle in tow, guitar in hand, biking ’round the neighbourhood looking for the right spot, set to the background sounds of foot thumping, as she gears up to sing her songs of sweet, layered longing. There couldn’t be a more apt time and place for it, really. To sing these songs born of these streets, this home of lost souls, as I like to call this city–and I do think many who find home here would agree.
The Portugese men–or insert south-western-european-group-of-men-in-their-fifties here–are Montréal mainstays, to be found gathered on street corners everywhere. They are now stunned gawking with broad smiles, as passers-by flock like birds to hear what this glowing and graceful would-be busker has to offer. The grin spreads wide from hers across all their faces. Curiosity draws us in, as it is so wont to do, and a wondering wandering voice lingers on the tip of her tongue, catching us and keeping us there, rooted to the spot just a moment longer.
Out of the tension between self-professed shyness and a driving impulse to open-your-mouth-up-and-sing, Little Scream is opening a small treasure box. As birds and trees and feathers and leaves mix amidst the falltime in the city, we wonder about what we’ve lost, what we’ve kept–to lose is to have a poet once said. Echoes of the city mirror echoes of the soul, and a true, simple, beautiful thing is felt in the raw, open lilt of her voice, kept apace by the pulsing spontaneous rhythm of her frenetic foot-stomping.
Sometimes, some mornings, the euphoria fills the sky like the blinding bright sunlight, setting our faces aglow–for each other or no one at all–whispers a melody that couldn’t be spoken in words if we tried, but is shared in an barely-audible hum, carried on the wind.
Aurora Diana Prelevic – http://artistbloc.com/
I got up that morning in my half empty apartment and put on an old boyfriend’s big shirt. I had just cut off my hair, and I looked like a man-child. I covered up my eyes and biked down to meet up with the others at Stef’s house. Mathieu and Nora showed up and we thought it would be great to bike them half way across the city to the bridge. Stef and I had ridden across it on a tandem a year before and talked about making movies. The original plan was to make a film about throwing a bodybag into the Saint-Lau. This is why we aren’t filmmakers. It’s a great bridge to bike on though. And you can see the city that we live in real well from it. Not that its all that much to look at, but it’s a good place to keep your family and a lover and a band or two. Its home. I love it like a family dog.
The Luyas are my friends and basically my only reason to be anywhere. I like them because their heads aren’t screwed on too tight, so the light gets in or something, and they get ideas and life stories built up real quick and real interesting.
We went back to the neighborhood after the shoot and got some drinks, I think. The band had just gotten home from a tour and I was about to leave again in a week with some other friends. Mathieu talked to me about being a nomadic artist, and I found that very interesting and wondered about whether my nature would survive that kind of a life. When I’m alone, I always want to be gone. When I’m gone I feel like a runner. Is it foolish to travel seeking something profound? I wondered if I was encouraging my own restlessness. I haven’t been mad with love in a very long time.
He said I was making him nervous. I apologized for it. I wanted to know more about traveling around the world being an artist. I was probably asking too many questions. I was losing my home and was alone for the first time in a long time. That was the day that I lost my marbles again in a way. I got confused. Now I’m not sure I’ll ever go home again. Not for some years anyways. I had wanted to be an adult a few months earlier but it wasn’t written in the stars yet. I am still leading people around town on bicycles looking like a teenage boy.
Thanks a lot to Ryan Muir for taking pictures of every session we did during the festival, the photos used here are his.