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Escape Velocity

In The Moment: An Interview With Weaves
John Freeman , May 4th, 2016 10:31

John Freeman meets Weaves in their hometown of Toronto to find out why their brand of "freak-ass" pop was inspired by a desire to be the band that provides parental irritation while simultaneously celebrating the present

Photograph courtesy of Brendan George Ko

The Urban Dictionary defines "in the moment" as being "totally, completely, 100 per cent immersed in the situation at hand with no care, worry or thought of anything else" and people who live in the moment as those who "couldn't give two shits, as long as there is a moment to be in".

Toronto's Weaves talk a lot about their band existing "in the moment". Indeed, magic dust is in the air – a self-titled debut album is a triumph of dissonant personalities colliding to create eleven glorious nuggets of sinewy, off-kilter pop. Tracks like 'Tick', 'Birds & Bees' and recent single 'Candy' are genuinely thrilling, each birthed in a seemingly joyous, momentary alignment of the musical stars.

I meet up with lead singer Jasmyn Burke and guitarist Morgan Waters (who stars and directs his own TV shows in Canada) in a non-descript airport hotel in Toronto – a city currently brimming with music, be it Drake/Bieber-fuelled world domination or the eclectic fizz of the Weaves-containing Buzz Records roster.

Burke and Waters met in 2013 and started making music in Waters' Chinatown apartment, before adding bassist Zach Bines and drummer Spencer Cole to create their current line-up. The smiley punch of debut single 'Tick' triggered a first tour of Europe – and a debut Glastonbury appearance – in 2015.

Moreover, while Burke excels in the moment ("I write a song in 20 minutes and then I'm done"), it is clear that her and bandmate Waters give numerous shits about many things. We cover a myriad of topics – including anger ("hip-hop is the only genre providing that emotion right now"), guitar solos ("Josh Homme understands they are really dumb") and being outed as closet Hanson fans.

The pair dovetail throughout our chat, and reveal a yin-yang, opposites-attract methodology that sees Burke create a barrage of tunes captured on her iPhone, before Waters painstakingly crafts them into the three-minute wonders that populate Weaves. Whatever method there is to their madness, Weaves are a band of the moment.

How did you meet and what was it about each other that made you want to form a band?

Jasmyn Burke: I was playing some solo stuff, where I was just looping a guitar and vocals, and was playing a show with Morgan's room-mate.

Morgan Waters: I came and watched. I had never seen Jasmyn play before and I was looking for a collaborator.

JB: I liked your sweater.

MW: So, I liked her music and she liked my sweater.

JB: It was a really good sweater. I thought that as he was wearing an okay sweater, he'd probably make okay music.

MW: Wow! It's that easy.

JB: Then we spent a little time talking and trying out demos – and we just got along. I was pretty nervous to begin with and it initially started out as Morgan maybe helping me to produce some music, but then it became more about him playing guitar.

MW: I just sort of inserted myself. Jas was noisy and wild, but there were hooks underneath. She hides her hooks in noise. That's what I liked – that combination of discordance and melody.

Did you have an initial idea of what you wanted Weaves to sound like? Or not sound like?

MW: It is all born out of Jasmyn's process, which is recording voice melodies on her iPhone and then making loops by herself. She gets the emotion out.

JB: Then I send them to him.

MW: And I am back at home, listening. I will then go over to the jam space and we will work on the songs together. Therefore, the spark of the song is already there. I like to help present the song. If a song needs another part or a chord change then I can add that, but I am always working from good clay. The initial emotional mark has been made in the 15 minutes it took to write the song. I would say that Weaves is a celebration of the moment. You can never get it back – it just happens. You are trying to find those moments and that is the joy of the band.

How do you know when you have got a 'moment'?

MW: We laugh at the end.

JB: We can feel the energy. There are certain songs that just feel right.

MW: There is one song in particular on the album – 'Two Oceans' – that was completely a moment. Jasmyn totally improvised the lyrics. There was no songwriting involved. We were at the studio and recorded it immediately. Weaves is about individual voices clashing against each other. We may have the standard guitar and vocals, bass and drums, but, because everyone plays with such personality and Jasmyn sings with such personality, the combination of those competing egos makes a Weaves song.

I have a theory that pop songs can be dressed up in all sorts of wolf's clothing. I think Pixies are a pop band. Do you think Weaves make pop music?

JB: We think they are all pop songs.

MW: It's all verse-chorus-verse, it's all about hooks and getting in and out quickly. It's pop music. We never listen to rock music in this band. Pixies count as pop. Freak-ass pop, but pop. So, yeah, we are a contemporary freak-ass pop band.

JB: I feel that Morgan is good at moulding the pop part. For me, I never learned how to do any cover versions of songs on guitar. I don't know that part of learning to make music. Morgan is better at understanding what a pop song is and he can peel back the loops I provide and find a hook.

MW: It is all about the simple things. It has to be a song conveying an emotion – everything else is just stylistic and anyone can do that part. You don't want to be weird for the sake of being weird. I like the idea of crafting pop songs, so I will overdo and overthink. Maybe Jasmyn under-thinks and somewhere we find the balance. However, with this band, you are continually reminded that the moment is better than overthinking or control. We just need to let go.

How do you continually recreate the 'moment' in older songs when you are playing in a live setting?

MW: I think it is because there is always a love-hate tension. I love songs and Jasmyn will hate them and vice versa. In fact, no one is on common ground. Every band member is the wild guy.

JB: Even if we are trying to decide where to go to eat, everyone is disagreeing. The energy is completely off-the-wall.

MW: I am sure every band is like that. I don't want to come across as if we are particularly interesting in that respect. We are just annoying. Everyone is wild and if you put them in other groups, they would still be wild. We have four strong characters and that makes for the music and makes for something exciting. Nobody can help but be themselves and we spend a lot of time colliding.

What sort of music did you like as kids?

MW: When I was a little kid, my favourite band was INXS. As I got older I got into Portishead and Radiohead – and then you start going down that road. The earnest route. However, I lived in the suburbs on the west coast of Canada, while Jasmyn was a city kid and actually went to shows. I just had albums.

How about you, Jasmyn?

JB: My mum thinks she is Diana Ross and we listened to a lot of Diana. I also loved musicals as a kid and I would watch Bye Bye Birdie and Jesus Christ Superstar and try to memorise all the songs. I liked rock music; my older sister was into Kula Shaker, Le Tigre and Supergrass and that started to influence me. I also love Mavis Staples and Odetta – blues singers that had a real swagger in the way that they performed. That swagger is lacking a little bit in modern music. I was always an 'alternative' kid and I started playing music in the Toronto DIY scene when I was 17. I was in an all-girl band with friends and we were putting out records when we were really young. Music, for me, was community-based and I found my voice through that. I liked a lot of angriness at that age.

MW: Hip-hop is the genre that currently provides the anger. We are not a hip-hop band but that is where all the interesting stuff is happening. That's what we want to be – the band that annoys parents.

Why do you think that other genres of music aren't providing anger?

JB: I just think that in rock music, there aren't many people willing to push things. I guess that Weaves is about trying to do something that's a little different.

MW: In Canada, we have a tendency to be very polite and want to fit in and be nice. For Weaves, our music is not always humble and polite and we can be a little bombastic and provocative. We don't mind be annoying. Annoying is good.

Why do you think you are being annoying?

MW: We are making fun of the art to an extent. If the song needs a guitar solo – and guitar solos are really dumb – then we will do one but slightly make fun of it. It's not about being the cool guy, it's about expressing the general stupidity of life and if you can express that in a song then that's all good.

I love Toronto as a city and it seems that the music scene is currently very fertile. Is there a Toronto sound and how does Buzz Records contribute to the scene?

MW: There isn't a specific Toronto sound. Toronto is having its 'big moment' with Drake, Bieber and The Weeknd. They are top of the pop charts right now. They are defining Toronto's sound, but we have nothing to do with that.

JB: Everyone on the Buzz Records roster is different. They wanted to allow many types of music to do well. Buzz is a place where you can make the music you want. It is about the importance of being yourself.

Finally, you are about to embark on a UK tour. What can we expect from a Weaves show?

JB: Well, I love playing live. That is my thing. I hate being in the studio. I hate recording. I hate listening to a song a thousand times. I just want to record it and put it out. I am done. Playing live is the best part and that comes across at our shows.

Weaves is out on June 17 via Memphis Industries. Weaves begin a European tour on June 2 at FluxBau in Berlin, starting the UK leg on June 7 at Tunbridge Wells Forum; for full details and tickets, head here

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