Canada’s Braids are set to roll through D.C. tonight at Comet Ping Pong and NYC tomorrow at Rough Trade, and (like any sane human) I am beyond excited to see them play tracks off Companion, their gorgeous new EP, in a live setting.
Yesterday I was able to catch up with Raphaelle Standell-Preston over the phone while she and the guys (Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith) were en route to last night’s show, and we got to talking about how it was being back in Arizona recently (where the band spent time working on its most recent catalog of songs), as well as how it’s been possible to stay balanced in spite of the band’s wide-open emotional honesty. (We also talked a lot about dogs, which made my heart borderline-explode, and maybe reading it will make your heart will borderline-explode, too.)
Internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below, be sure to grab tickets to whichever gig applies to your geographical location (or if you can teleport, then possibly consider swinging by both), and grab a copy of Companion, which is out now on Arbutus Records:
So how was it to be back in Arizona recently?
Yeah, so we were just there for Arcosanti. Have you heard of that one?
Yes, I did! It sounds super cool, but I don’t know anyone who’s been.
You should totally try to go next year, while it’s still small. I don’t know that it’s the kind of festival that can get bigger, at least in that kind of location, because it’s not a very big area, but you should totally go while it’s still small; it’s an amazing experience. We were there, and then we were actually I think an hour away from where we recorded the record, and that was cool, because it was kind of coming full circle; we wrote the songs an hour away, and then we got to perform them in the desert, which we had never done before. (I don’t think many people have. Or…maybe, I don’t know, but it seems like kind of a rare thing.)
Are you all friends with the Hundred Waters guys? I know they did Iceland Airwaves this past year, too; I was able to see them perform, but unfortunately didn’t catch you guys while I was there!
Oh, okay. Yeah, we know Hundred Waters from when we were touring with them for our second record, and we did a cool headline tour. We usually become pretty good friends with the bands we tour with for more than a month, because we see them every day and drive in tandem and stay at the same hotels and stuff like that. So yeah, we became really close friends with them, and they offered for us to play the festival last year, but we weren’t able to do it because we were touring, so we basically planned our spring around playing that festival so that we could hang out with them and be a part of it.
That’s awesome! Now, have you guys kind of discussed the next sort of creative location that you want to pursue with your next body of work? Or has that conversation happened yet?
Yeah, it actually happened right after Phoenix. We’ve decided that for the first little bit we’re going to record in Montreal; we’re taking over a new studio that our friends built from the ground up, and it’ll be the first time that we’ve recorded in a location that’s properly set up. [Laughs] So that’ll be in Montreal this fall, and we’re just going to dig really deep and start the writing process, experimenting a lot and writing a lot and playing the guitar a lot. And then we might go to another location in the wintertime or in the springtime to get that kind of nature vibe that we had on the last record, which we found to be really important for blowing off steam, being able to go for walks and kind of being able to forget about what we have to do during the day. So we’ll probably do that later on, but the first part is definitely going to be in Montreal.
Very cool. And speaking of locations, where was the video for “Companion” actually shot? Was that also in Arizona? Because it seems pretty desert-y…
That was actually done in Palm Desert, which was so hot to do! [Laughs] It was so hot. I did that while I was living in LA this winter, and the director wanted to shoot at this house in Palm Desert. We just busted our asses to finish that video, and then I ended up doing the “Joni” video in LA, so it was nice, because the two videos from that Companion EP definitely have that desert vibe.
It’s funny, because I’m not someone who’s super into heat at all, and I’m from the East Coast with zero connection (heritage-wise or other) to the desert, but there’s something about that landscape that feels very nostalgic to me for some reason, and I really, really love it.
Yeah, there is something sort of nostalgic about it. Or it’s…I don’t know if it’s nostalgic, but it feels kind of spiritual, almost. [Laughs] I wonder if it’s because it’s so hot for people, at least for us coming from Canada, that it’s such a different climate, and it almost feels hot to the point of being cleansing or something. It’s interesting.
Right, right. And speaking of spirituality, I know a lot of the creative process is very personal for you, so how are you able to sort of come out of that and get back to a sort of emotional equilibrium? Because it seems like it would take a lot out of you, so is there anything you sort of do to restore?
Yeah, actually; I do a ton of meditation. I try to do it twice a day, but when I’m on tour, I don’t usually get around to doing that. Right before you called I did one of my meditations, and then I took a nap. [Laughs] Just like a forty minute nap, which was really nice. But I do a type of meditation called “transcendental meditation”, and it’s a very grounding thing for me. I think it allows me to be really deeply emotional and give out a lot of energy when I need to, and then kind of retreat back into myself when I’m overwhelmed. So it’s good. I’ve actually found myself able to connect to the audience a lot more since starting to do the meditations, and having the desire to want to give out more. But I definitely go through my phases where I’m like, “Okay, this is too much,” and in those instances I’ll stay in the dressing room or I’ll turn off my phone for a day. [Laughs] But that’s another thing that I’ve been doing; there’s something about holding your phone in your hands that makes you feel like you have to answer to so many people all at once and interact with so many things all at once, and it can be completely overwhelming, so I’ve found that just shutting off my phone is really re-balancing in and of itself. I don’t know if you feel that…
Oh, absolutely. There are a lot of things I appreciate about traveling internationally, but one of those is that I have a fantastic excuse to just shut off from all of that, because I physically can’t be on my phone unless I’m near WiFi. So with Iceland Airwaves, that was great, because I just rented a car and drove around by myself for a whole day, and essentially cut myself off from everything for hours and hours.
Yeah, I think it’s so nice and important to do that, because there’s so much expectation put on answering things immediately, and this immediacy being put on interactions. It can be quite exhausting. I think for me it’s more exhausting than most things, I guess, especially on tour when you need to be extra reachable and keeping up with business things. That to me is more stressful in itself than going on stage or any of those things.
Definitely. And so when you’re not on tour and you’re able to sort of disconnect a bit, what’s the first thing that you like to do to unwind? Just sleep forever, or…?
I usually take a shower or a bath when I get home. [Laughs] And I also really like my bed in Montreal, so I usually crawl into that depending on what time of year it is; Montreal is getting really hot and sticky right now like New York is, so maybe now I’ll just have to have a really cold shower. [Laughs] I don’t know, I also really like going grocery shopping after touring, because there’s just so much eating out. I’ll also try to buy bulk foods, because I eat so much food that has a lot packaging that I start to become this hyper-environmentalist girl on tour, because I’m so worried about how much packaging I’m consuming. So I try to recycle stuff when I get home, take a shower, and then go grocery shopping for bulk foods. [Laughs]
Exactly. All those nice things that you can’t necessarily do on the road. Now, I also read that you had been looking at rescue dog adoption sites, because ideally you’d like to have a dog, but touring has been getting in the way. Obviously it’s hard to be ultra-picky when it comes to dog adoptions, because you don’t know who’s going to be available and when, but what dog breeds would you say you vibe with the most at this point?
I really like Yorkshire Terriers. I think for touring I would like a Yorkshire Terrier, but I’ve been talking to the band about it, and we all don’t think it’s a great idea for me to get a dog that I could bring around with me, because it’s cruel. [Laughs] I’m like, “It’s not cruel! The dog would love being with me!” But for instance, on this tour, our air conditioner broke in the van, so the dog would just be having a shit time. But I don’t know which kinds of dogs I like. I mean, I like little dogs with fluffy curls; I really like that feeling when you pat a dog and it’s a little bit poofy-spongy. (You know that feeling when it springs back at you?) [Laughs] I’m trying to get better with knowing my dog breeds, but I did find a lot of Yorkshire Terriers on rescue sites all over the place. I was actually quite surprised that there were so many of them on rescue sites, more than any other dog. So maybe I’ll end up getting a Yorkshire Terrier.
I’m talking to a best friend of mine right now to try and go in on getting a dog together, and getting an older dog who’s slower and calmer. I took care of a couple of old dogs in LA this winter at the house I was staying at, because the owner was gone a lot of the time, and I ended up taking care of these two dogs a lot of the time. Both of them are twelve years old, and it was just a nice vibe having an older dog; I felt like I really wanted to give them a good last run at things, because the life expectancy of those types of dogs is age fourteen. So we went on a lot of walks, and I actually ended up doing a really hard walk with them; I took them up [laughs] to see the Hollywood Sign with Austin and Taylor and we had to carry them down, because we got halfway and they were like “AH! GET ME OUT OF HERE!” So we ended up carrying them down, and I was like, “I’m so sorry! You’re twelve years old, I’m such a jerk!” But I made them food and took them to get their nails trimmed, and I just had a great time with them.
I feel like animals really have the capacity to get us outside of ourselves. It’s really nice. It’s almost like caring for a baby, but after the baby gets to two or three or something, and then they’re like, “NO!” and realize their autonomy…dogs don’t recognize their autonomy; they want to have a pack leader, and they want to be with you, you know? You come home at the end of the day, and you could’ve had the shittiest day, and they’re like, “I love you! Let’s hang out!” [Laughs] So I don’t know, I think it’s really nice to have that. I think I could take care of a dog and I’d be fine. Just have a furry pal to go places with you. [Laughs]
Do you have a dog?
No, not here! I’m not sure that it’s logistical just in terms of my building, but that would be amazing. For now I just house-sit for people who have dogs, and that’s fulfilling my need to be near dogs for extended periods of time.
I think that’s what I’m going to start doing. And there’s a promoter, our Phoenix promoter, who said, “Hey, something you should do in the future is on your rider, just let people know that if anybody has a dog they’d like to bring to work, just bring it and you’ll hang out with it.” She said she’d come across that with bands. Because dogs are therapy, and sometimes you need therapy on tour. [Laughs] Tour malaise.
Completely! Now, once you do get finished with this run of dates (and hopefully get to get a dog or at least hang out with some dogs), what is the trajectory looking like? I know you said you’d be getting back into the creative end of things, but anything else on the horizon that you’re excited about?
Well, we’re coming to New York, and then we go to Ottawa, and then we have a week off, so I think Taylor’s going to visit his grandparents, and Austin and I…[to Austin] “I don’t know, what are we going to do, Austin? Are we going to hang out?” Sometimes we don’t spend time with each other when we get home. Austin said he’s going to go running. He’s just going to run for the whole week. [Laughs] And then we go to the UK and do some shows there, and then we play Glastonbury, which we’re really excited about because Adele’s playing, and I really want to see Adele. And then we come back and do some North American one-off festivals, and then we’ll start writing the new record between August and September in Montreal. (And then we’ll see how long that takes.) [Laughs]