Band To Watch: Weaves
Weaves are fucking wild. The Toronto quartet kicks out buzzing, spasmodic rock songs like tightly wound balls of tension constantly unspooling. There’s a breathless improvisatory quality to their live show that reminds me of Deerhoof — that sense that any and every player might go off the rails at any moment, yet their combined creative friction creates enough electricity to not just hold the songs together but propel them forward at runaway-train speeds. Watching them on stage at Stereogum’s unofficial SXSW bash was a thrill, and that same spine-tingling energy courses through their self-titled debut album, due out this June.
After that incredible set in Austin, I spoke with the band — vocalist Jasmyn Burke, guitarist Morgan Waters, bassist Zach Bines, and drummer Spencer Cole — and our conversation was nearly as refreshing as their music. Musicians often express distaste for the standard guitar/bass/drums formation, but it was cool to talk to a group that’s actually doing something to diverge from the norm from within that framework. They had a lot of fascinating things to say about their philosophy on music and how they arrived at such an off-kilter sound.
But first, here’s the latest example of that sound in action. We’re debuting Weaves’ song “Candy” today, complete with some background from Burke:
Candy is one of the first tracks to be written on the record and I remember there was an immediate excitement that came after demoing it with just Morgan and myself in his room. It’s impulsive and almost too much, but definitely one we’re most proud of as a band.
Lyrically it felt really sweet tasting in my brain. Like a bright pink piece of cake filled with candy. Very rambunctious in a way. Living life just like a pie, sweeter in the seams, ya know? Life is sometimes rough but you can hit that sweet spot and I wanted to try and write that down. Fantasizing about a way to live and behave and hoping everyone is one board to join in the fruitful haze.
Press play and read on for the full interview.
STEREOGUM: I thought since we’ve only barely written about you guys so far we could just start with like the band origin story and then kind of jump off from there.
JASMYN BURKE: I kinda started playing by myself, and I had done a few solo shows, just sort of looping and stuff and then Morgan came to a show and was interested in my…
MORGAN WATERS: I liked it. She’d like loop guitar and vocals and make a mess of it, but also do cool stuff and it was catchy. I was looking for someone to collaborate with, and then we started doing demos together in Garageband, and we kind of went from there. Then we added these guys.
STEREOGUM: Had you guys all been in Toronto for a while? Are you all from Toronto?
COLE: I’m from Vancouver.
ZACH BINES: I’m from Vancouver Island, so, we’re the West Coast boys.
BURKE: But we all live in Toronto, so yeah, we all met in the city
BINES: Spencer and I were playing in a band beforehand together, so we had a good rapport
WATERS: They’ve got that rhythm-section rapport.
BINES: Yeah, real good rapport.
BURKE: They had that real good rapport we were lookin’ for.
COLE: I just needed Zach in my life, and Zach needed me in his life.
BURKE: It’s a love story.
BINES: I’m in love with my drummer.
WATERS: Your drummer.
BURKE: His drummer.
BINES: He’s mine.
WATERS: That’s like a waiter saying, “We have a nice salmon.” The waiter doesn’t have it.
STEREOGUM: Something that jumps out about your band is that you have your own sound. You don’t really sound like anybody. And if I’m hearing it right, it’s not even like you’re going out of your way to sound unique, it just seems like the natural combustion of your creative process. Is that an important thing to you guys, standing out or having an undefinable sound?
WATERS: I guess standing out is everyone’s problem. It should be the number-one thing.
BINES: I think it has to do with how we all come from different backgrounds, and [what happens] when you put that all together.
WATERS: Bands are boring. We always say that. So if you’re just gonna have guitar, bass, and drums and vocals…
BURKE: …there’s no point.
WATERS: You gotta do something. Get kind of wild with it. Give yourself a reason to add another band of bass, drums, and guitar. And we all have a sort of love of the absurd, too.
BURKE: But it also kind of organically develops. It wasn’t a set-out thing; it’s just that we have no choice, because we all have different [tastes].
WATERS: We’re not on the same page.
BURKE: We’re not on the same page.
COLE: No, that’s great. That’s a good way of putting it. I endorse that quote.
STEREOGUM: That is something that can be a band killer, or it can take you in a really unusual direction.
BINES: Yeah, as long as everyone is talented enough, you won’t embarrass yourself too much when you all clash up against each other.
STEREOGUM: “Tick” and the rest of the new album feels more aggressive, kind of more rocking, than the sound you were doing on your early single “Buttercup.” What brought that on? Was it a conscious decision to get heavier?
BURKE: I don’t know if it’s conscious, but the record was all recorded kind of live off the floor, so you naturally get a bit more…
WATERS: You have to make the moment have its own explosions rather than dubbing over with ProTools later. Like, you can construct it, but this is all live off the floor
COLE: And not under the influence of different people.
BURKE: I think we were in a band longer and we played more shows together, so that you start to feel comfortable with one another, and hopefully that is what you feel on the record. It’s more of a conversation. Our band’s a conversational band.
WATERS: But yeah, it’s more like, no clicks.
COLE: Yeah, no clicks. Right then and there.
WATERS: Everyone loves that technical shit. No click track.
STEREOGUM: There’s been a few bands from Toronto getting some widespread media coverage lately, including Dilly Dally, and I don’t know if you all consider yourself part of a community or a scene of bands, or if it’s like everybody’s doing their own thing?
BURKE: I feel like we’re all friends, and you could say it’s a scene, but I don’t know. We weren’t all playing in the city at the same time, but it was sort of like friendships, and we all sort of ended up with buzz, and that was just an aftermath [But] we’re friends. I’ll have a cup of tea with Katie [Monks, of Dilly Dally].
WATERS: It’s not a unified creative front, more of a social scene.
STEREOGUM: So one of the distinct sounds of your band is all of these wild guitar sounds that you’re doing. Was that part of your playing before this band started, or was it kind of a result of the creative process of this band?
WATERS: This was the first band I’ve ever played guitar in. I’m a bass player, so I had a chance to just to make fun of guitar players after all of these year of playing bass. Now I can like really do my impression of an arrogant idiot guitar player, and then, when it’s my turn to solo, just do something really disgusting.
BINES: That’s the funny thing about this band is I grew up playing guitar, he grew up playing bass. And as a guitar player, I think what he does is endlessly hilarious.
WATERS: Guitars can get so wanky and technical. It’s more about expression in a way of being a backup vocalist to Jasmyn.
STEREOGUM: You can definitely hear that in the way it interacts.
WATERS: And kind of making fun of guitar a bit. No one wants to hear another guitar solo, so you might as well joke around.
STEREOGUM: What was on your mind when you were writing these songs for the album? I’m sure each song is its own thing, but was there a general thrust to it all?
BURKE: I think there’s like a fluidity in that it’s me writing them, but every song kind of takes on its own personality. And yeah, usually if I write, it’s sort of like there’s no premeditated ideas. It’s just sort of like whatever the guitar sounds like and then the lyrical content just comes into my mind. There’s no thinking. I don’t like to think about it. I don’t like to revise, so it’s like 20 minutes and that’s it, I won’t spend any more time on it.
STEREOGUM: So do songs emerge from like a 20-minute jam session and then they’re a song from then on?
WATERS: There’s a song on the album where Jas is just completely improvising the lyrics so we’re writing it as we’re recording it.
BURKE: Yeah, on “Two Oceans” we just improvised on the spot.
WATERS: And that’s kind of the exciting part about a rock band — it’s all kind of to make something happen in the moment, and you’re not tied to any click or electronic stuff that you have to be a slave to. It’s like, “Oh, we can just make a mess on our own.”
BINES: Yeah, listen to each other as opposed to listening to something else that you’re sort of trying to lock into.
BURKE: It’s a fun thing playing with these guys. It’s kind of like live you can just look at each other and figure out a new thing wherever you are, and that’s the nice thing. There’s a chemistry that I think is exciting for us.
WATERS: It’s nice to ride on the edge.
BURKE: We’re surfing together; we’re riding that fucking wave.
COLE: We don’t overdo it. You how know some people over-listen, right?
WATERS: We under-listen.
COLE: There’s such a thing as over-listening, some musicians — I don’t wanna say, like, jazz musicians — but it’s all about, like, they’re listening so hard in the moment to what’s happening but that takes away from their own energy. So we’re all discovering how to keep ourselves maximum energy
WATERS: Maximum personality.
BURKE: Maximum personality.
STEREOGUM: Is that like a band motto or something?
COLE: Maybe now it is, but it wasn’t before.
WATERS: Everyone’s gotta have their voice come through their instruments. That’s kind of the fun part is really exposing everyone’s dorkiness through their instruments.
STEREOGUM: It just blows me away that you can do that and still come away with a coherent song. In my limited experience playing in bands it seems like someone always has to take the reins and say, “I’m gonna call the shots,” and watching you guys play it doesn’t necessarily seem like that’s happening. And yet the chaos is still controlled chaos and has a direction to it. I can’t understand how it’s happening exactly.
WATERS: We worry about it up front, and then we’re just trying to keep our heads above water as we play.
COLE: We don’t really know who the single person is at the time that we should be following. It’s not like that.
BURKE: It’s eye contact though. And trust!
STEREOGUM: What’s the deal with the album cover with all of you guys covered in plants? Those are plants, right?
BURKE: It’s plants and flowers, and we bought candle things from the secondhand store. They were actually children’s costumes that we found that were too small for Spencer. I like that we’re not wearing, like, “band clothes,” because then you’re not deciding what we are, you know? So I think that part of our band is not being able to decide what it is, so when you have us covered in flowers, you didn’t have a predisposed idea of what’s to come. So I think for all of our press shots, it’s fun to be characters. And then you don’t know what to expect necessarily, and [we’re] just building that and creating a whole fantasy world.
WATERS: It’s sweet to not have a defined, upscale fashion.
STEREOGUM: I want to ask about your cover of One Direction’s “Drag Me Down.” I like a lot of pop stuff, but that was not actually a song that I liked very much until you guys covered it. But then you made it sound like a Weaves song, and it was suddenly good. What made you decide on that song?
BURKE: We had a list.
BINES: It was prescribed to us.
BURKE: It was either Mumford And Sons or One Direction. We chose our top five. We tried to do “Bitch Better Have My Money,” but it was already taken. I think it’s more fun to fuck up.
STEREOGUM: You should still do “Bitch Better Have My Money” sometime.
BINES: [“Drag Me Down” is] almost like a blank canvas. That’s the thing about it is there’s a clear melody.
BURKE: And we recorded that over a weekend, kind of just for fun, so it was just a fun experiment.
BINES: There’s a lot of room on that song to mess around.
STEREOGUM: Is there anything I didn’t ask you guys about that seems important to mention?
BURKE: He wears underwear on stage. He doesn’t wear underwear on stage.
BINES: That’s true.
BURKE: I don’t think there’s anything in particular.
WATERS: Jasmyn’s distantly related to Jim Carrey.
BURKE: So it’s the ultimate Canadian story. Not that distantly, though. I used to go to the premieres as a kid.
STEREOGUM: Wow, what’s the relation?
BURKE: My Aunt Michelle, her uncle is Jim Carrey and my Aunt Pat’s brother. So when I was a kid I would go to Jim Carrey premieres like Batman Forever and Liar Liar.
STEREOGUM: You should cast him a music video.
BURKE: Yeah, we’re like ultimately Canadian.
Weaves have a bunch of tour dates coming up:
06/02 Berlin, DE @ FluxBau
06/03 Mannheim, DE @ Maifeld Derby festival
06/04 Nimes, FR @ This Is Not A Love Song festival
06/05 Paris, FR @ Le Pop Up Du Label
06/07 Tunbridge, UK @ Wells Forum #
06/08 London, UK @ Dingwalls #
06/09 Birmingham, UK @ Sunflower Lounge #
06/10 Edinburgh, UK @ Electric Circus #
06/11 Liverpool, UK @ Studio 2 #
06/12 Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute #
06/13 Nottingham, UK @ Bodega #
06/14 Cardiff, UK @ The Globe #
06/15 Cambridge, UK @ Portland Arms #
06/18 Hilvarenbeek, NL @ Best Kept Secret festival
06/24 Oslo, NO @ Piknik I Parken
06/30 Derby, UK @ The Venue
07/01 Bedford, UK @ Esquires
07/02 Aldershot, UK @ West End Centre
07/03 Brighton, UK @ Hope and Rain
07/04 Guildford, UK @ Boileroom
07/08 Winchester, UK @ Railway
07/09 Milton Keynes, UK @ Craufurd Arms
07/12 Leicester, UK @ The Musician
07/15 Southwold, UK @ Latitude festival
07/17 Glasgow, UK @ Nice N Sleazy
07/18 Newcastle, UK @ Think Tank
07/19 Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
07/23 Huntington, UK @ Secret Garden Party festival
08/13 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
08/24 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
08/25 Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right
# w/ Beach Slang
Weaves is out 6/17 on Kanine/Buzz/Memphis Industries. Pre-order it here.