Weaves Use Pop to Open Up

Interview with Weaves' Jasmyn Burke

In our world that’s become more confusing than ever before, it’s really started to feel like chaos and joy have entered a constant spiral. Making sense of that madness while somehow making a musical parallel for it is the ever-impressive Toronto band Weaves. After over a year on the road, with Juno and Polaris nominations to boot, the band is on a high that they’re keeping going with their upcoming record Wide Open. Filled with tones of pop while keeping all the insanity and noise they’ve become known for, Weaves is ready for their next step. We talked with writer and singer Jasmyn Burke ahead of their album release as well as their Ottawa and Montreal shows (on the 10th and 11th of October respectively) to talk about their new sounds, working with Tanya Tagaq and how they’ve relaxed despite their hectic live shows.

NT: I noticed lots of Bruce Springsteen tones in “#53” and you’ve been calling this record a kind of Americana, so what inspired you to pull your writing in this direction?

Jasmyn Burke: I guess we just wanted to try something new in a way. The new record still very much sounds like our music, it’s still a Weaves record, but when you tour and travel, you meet people and it influences your music. Even just playing music everyday on tour, and playing it helps you improve as a performer. I came home and wanted to make music, make something different from the first record and challenge myself vocally, to hit bigger notes. Even just the language changes, travelling influences the way you see the world. We were in the U.S. for the election and the U.K. for Brexit, just those pivotal moments puts a weight on what you’re doing. The side A of the record is this fun bar-band and then B is death and destruction, that’s how I think people feel. There’s a lot of life coming from this darkness right now and I wanted to emulate this on the record a bit.

NT: How did your collaboration with Tanya Tagaq on “Scream” come about and how did writing this during the presidential election influence your attitude for this song?

JB: We met her in Iceland a few years ago, and we were staying in the same hotel. We hit it off right away, and our two bands partied over the weekend, and we kept in touch after that. It was all pretty organic, I wrote “Scream,” and then Morgan and I demoed it, then we asked her to perform on it. She was super gung-ho to sing on it. It happened super quickly, so it sounds like our live show because we didn’t really rehearse it that much prior, and improvised the ending where it gets really crazy. The vocals are panned so you hear her vocals on left and right, so she engulfs the song in a way.

I understand you decided to write on acoustic guitar rather than looping pedals this time, how did that changed your writing and overall scheme of tackling a song?

JB: It was funny. Morgan had my tuner and looping pedals, we couldn’t coordinate things to get them back. So I would just send him demos of me on my acoustic or playing an electric guitar without loops, then it would help me trick my brain. I just made it up as I went. For this tour I’ll be playing some acoustic guitar which is fun and nerve-racking. It’s just funny that we couldn’t coordinate things and I wrote like that. Going back to the Bruce Springsteen thing, I wanted to feel more natural and free, where you might get stuck in a wall with loops. It felt nice to approach song writing differently. It was exciting and Morgan and I were pretty relaxed while making it. We have another album’s worth of music that we made because we were just pumping stuff out and having a good time. We have this stuff of us messing around with our sound engineer Leon.

NT: What helped you shed a lot of the pressure you had had going into the last record when, do you think the response of the crowds helped?

JB: Some people get nervous but I was very relaxed. I’m more nervous now that the album is done and am wondering why I was so relaxed. I felt like “What do I have to lose.” When you accomplish all these touring goals it can be a real boost, so you don’t feel all the pressure when you go into an album. It’s a privilege playing in a band, so putting that in perspective I really enjoy it, even if nobody cares. This year we finished the album, and got a Juno and Polaris nomination, it’s very humbling. You don’t expect anyone to care so it really blows my mind.

NT: Looking at how exciting and off the rails your shows have been this past year like carrying mannequins and sliding around banisters, have you guys run into any trouble yet pushing the envelope live?

JB: I’m afraid I might injure myself. At Lee’s Palace I realized that sometimes you do things and realize it’s a bad idea, I was riding a pole there and realized I couldn’t get down. Adrenaline is key to these things. We try to respect the space and the people, I don’t want to push people or stage dive. It’s fun to put on a spectacle and get wild, all my favourite performers expressed fun on stage. We’re not ones to stand around and be boring. But yeah sometimes you get into a mood on stage and people feed you energy.

Words by Owen Maxwell