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Polaris 2017: 5 things you didn't know about Weaves' self-titled album

Jennifer Van Evra

Rolling Stone says "they bend pop tropes as if they’re made of Silly Putty." Consequence of Sound says they are "keeping art rock weird."

But no matter how you choose to describe the music of Toronto band Weaves, one thing is certain: their eclectic music and powerhouse live shows are turning heads both across Canada and around the globe.

The band is gearing up to release its latest album, Wide Open, in October, but at the same time, Weaves' 2016 self-titled LP is a finalist for the Polaris Music Prize — and for each Polaris contender, we're offering up five fascinating facts. Here are five things you didn't know about Weaves.

1. The album was recorded live off the floor

Weaves spent the better part of two years on the road, so when they set out to record, they wanted to capture their live sound. “There’s a certain chemistry that has developed that we wanted to try and capture on the LP,” said vocalist Jasmyn Burke in an interview for Bandcamp. “I think the only way to do that, at least for us, was to record live off of the floor for most of the songs.”

Songs such as "Two Oceans" weren’t even fully written when the band hit the studio. “Everything you hear was improvised in one take on the spot. Morgs [guitarist Morgan Waters] had made a joke about my love for Two Oceans wine the night before at rehearsal, so we made up a fake chorus of sorts for a few minutes. Based on that, we literally just started playing while in the studio, and all the words just kinda came out of my mouth,” said Burke.

“I think for us, that sense of working on the fly and making mistakes is what comes with recording live. So with most songs, we just kept rolling until we felt like we maybe heard something that sounded OK. It’s just real and passionate, and that’s what we hope the album feels like when people listen.”

2. Artists from Kim Gordon to Mavis Staples inspired Burke

Weaves’ music often wins comparisons to classic indie acts including the Pixies and Pavement, but Burke says her influences are far deeper and broader than rock — and her biggest inspirations are women, most of whom helped redefine their genres.

“I definitely always identified with women in punk music, or women who went against the grain,” said Burke. “I love Karen O, Patti Smith, Ari Up, Lydia Lunch, Kim Gordon, and others. They are all people who worked within the constraints of a male-dominated style of music and used their distinct voices and intellect as a way to push forward the thinking of what it means to be a songwriter, regardless of gender.

“But I also admire women such as Bessie Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mavis Staples, and Koko Taylor — maybe lesser celebrated in the mainstream, but important pioneers who had a lot of sass.”

Bands in high rotation on the tour bus have also included Rihanna, Anohni, Radiohead, Blur and the Flaming Lips.

“I also draw from both men and women as any songwriter should. Nowadays, people don’t necessarily identify with one specific genre, they listen to an array, so I hope to just push forward what it means to be a songwriter and hopefully encourage more young females to create honest work.”

3. Most songs begin as cell phone voice memos

To start a song, Burke records the beginnings of nearly each one on her iPhone — sometimes as many as six memos day. She then sends them to bandmate Waters, who translates them onto guitar.

“If I send the loop to the other guys, sometimes they’re like, ‘We don’t know what you’re doing, but Morgan can figure it out,” Burke told the Fader, who admits to having thousands of audio files on her phone. “He’s my Rosetta Stone.”

4. One song is about a crappy apartment where Burke lived

Carrying on the long-running rock tradition of songs about sub-par living quarters, "Shithole" is about a terrible apartment where Burke lived.

“I don’t really remember writing it but I must have been in a crappy apartment and not feeling too great,” she told Bearded Magazine. “I had closet moths and our fridge was not working and I was getting sick from the environment. I have allergies and I kept getting a cough, that song just came from being frustrated in my shitty home.”

5. The lyrics for 'Stress' didn't materialize until the 11th hour

Most of the lyrics for the album’s closing song, "Stress," didn’t exist until the band was in the studio, and Burke made them up on the fly.

"The lyrics for that I wrote in the studio when we were recording it, I only had one verse for that,” she said. “When I was in there the sound was really warm and nice and more lyrics came out. Sometimes in the studio there’s a magical little place and you hit an inspirational point.”

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