5 pop questions for 5 artists at Pop Montreal: Braids
Following the release of their third LP Deep in the Iris, Braids have capped off an impressive 2015 with the album being shortlisted for this year’s Polaris Music Prize. Before they head to Toronto for the gala, the Montreal-by-way-of-Calgary art rock/experimental pop trio will be hitting up Pop this year for a show at the Piccolo Rialto (aka Le Late Night Little Burgundy) on September 17. We caught up with drummer Austin Tufts and asked him five questions about pop, Montreal, and Pop Montreal.
Why do you think Pop Montreal is called “Pop Montreal” when it’s not really about pop music?
Oh man, that’s a good question. I think you’d probably have to go back to the roots of it. Maybe it was once trying to expose the more eclectic pop music that’s out there? Or maybe it’s… what’s that word when the word means the sound it represents, like “bam”?
Maybe it’s an onomatopoeia, for like “pop!” There’s your festival, it’s like a pop-up festival. I honestly couldn’t tell you, though.
What’s your pop music guilty pleasure?
I honestly don’t listen to very much pop music – like mainstream, modern pop music – and there’s not really any music that I listen to that I feel particularly guilty about. I legitimately really like a lot of Katy Perry songs and a lot of Taylor Swift songs, and those are the two most mainstream pop artists that I’m really interested in, but I’m not guilty about it at all.
What is it about Montreal that you like the most?
It’s hard to pinpoint it into just a couple things. I really kind of have a love affair with this city; I feel very creative here. I love that I can afford to live here and be a musician… The biggest thing that I like about here is the community that surrounds Arbutus Records [Braids’ record label]. It feels like such an amazing family and such a good group of people: amazing talent, really good friends, very exciting things going on always. I love these neighbourhoods! [Compared to] growing up in Calgary, where everything’s very suburban – I even grew up in downtown Calgary, I grew up in Ramsay – but still, everyone’s got a house and a yard and it’s very low density. I love the fact that you come to Montreal and, in the space where one family would have a house and a yard, you’ve got two duplexes housing three families in each. So there’s six families existing in the space of one family, and… it just creates more people on the street, there’s more people around; it definitely creates this buzz, this energy that Calgary doesn’t have. [But] I definitely miss the space a little bit in Calgary – everyone’s got a little bit more space, and I also do really miss the mountains.
What’s your favourite venue in Montreal?
Sonically, I love Metropolis; it sounds so good. But from a vibe perspective, I really like the Ukrainian Federation – that’s a really special venue. I’ve seen so many great shows [there] and we played a really special show there at Pop Montreal four years ago opening for Xiu Xiu. That was an incredible show for us: just a really great vibe, beautiful atmosphere – the room just commands a certain amount of attention. It has the heritage and those sort of church vibes for sure, but in a lot less of a “you feel like you’re in a church” [way] – which is always a little weird when you play a church, like “oh my God, I feel like I’m doing something slightly not okay,” when you’re swearing or something like that on stage if you’re singing a song. I don’t know if the congregation would feel very good about it! *laughs* But the Ukrainian Federation… the building has that heritage and that energy still, which is nice… To be honest, I think the venue in Montreal that I think is the most special is Casa [del Popolo]. Good-sounding, small, intimate room, great vibes.
What is your preferred method of transportation during Pop Montreal?
Bike, no question. I bike everywhere around the city. This is one of the best cities to bike in in the world, it’s incredible. I mean, the infrastructure could be better, but just the vibe and the fact that everything’s actually really close together – especially [since] Pop only really takes over a couple neighbourhoods, so definitely biking… I mean, I love walking, but [at] Pop you’re always [at the] last minute trying to catch that next show, and [by] biking, you get the upper hand on all those walkers! When capacity is a problem for shows – because usually I have an artist wristband and you can only get in if the show’s not sold out, so you gotta get there early for lots of shows – I like to bike [and] beat the crowds.