If you’re expecting a complete clusterfuck at the upcoming Weaves concert, you are probably right on the mark.
The Toronto-based band may resemble your average four-piece rock group, but from the start, Weaves has embodied the unconventional, rejecting any ideas that might point to premeditation and embracing the truly impulsive.
“We like to make our live shows really spontaneous,” says guitarist Morgan Waters to the Straight while on vacation in his hometown of Shawnigan Lake. “We want to do things that only rock bands do, and live, we can really bend the songs out of shape and follow each other on tangents. It feels like a one-off performance every time.”
In just a few short years, Weaves has risen from Toronto’s noise-rock scene to take centre stage at festivals like Glastonbury and CMJ—even earning “best of the festival” acknowledgments from the New York Times and NPR following CMJ in 2015.
Born in what Waters calls a “who-knows awkward-first-date recording session” in late 2013, Weaves is spearheaded by the unmistakably brash vocals of Jasmyn Burke, backed by Waters, bassist Zach Bines, and drummer Spencer Cole.
Crafting Weaves’ songs based on bare-bones musings that Burke records on her phone, Waters is tasked with “capturing her emotional spirit and then exaggerating the elements that are the most interesting, and blowing them up, superhero-style”.
“It’s an intimate thing, because it’s usually just some looping guitar and her voice, so I get the fun job of trying to make it bigger,” Waters says, “until we all sound like individual freaks on our own instruments.”
Weaves’ latest release, a self-titled 11-track LP, pairs Burke’s tension-filled thoughts on existential ambivalence with deconstructed yet dramatic bass lines and frantic, twisted guitar solos. Recorded “live off the floor”, the album maintains the spirit of the quartet’s off-the-cuff shows.
“We go in with a structure of the songs, but then we mess around with the details,” Waters says. “Occasionally, we’ll improvise—like in ‘Two Oceans’,” he says, referring to a song on the record named after Burke’s favourite brand of wine. “Jasmyn made those lyrics up on the spot.”
In the track, dragging opening chords become the backdrop for Burke’s purposely sloppy vocalizations, random mutterings, and high-pitched yelps. It’s the truest exhibition of the band’s ability to successfully fly by the seat of its pants.
Even though Waters admits that Weaves’ members have pop intentions, he says theirs is a style “born out of mistakes”. He compares the group’s on-stage chemistry to that of an improv troupe.
“They tell you in improv, ‘Say yes, never say no,’ so if someone else makes a mistake, I’m going to make a mistake to match it,” he says. “Then it becomes a style, not a fuck-up, and no one’s at the mercy of apologizing for that mistake.”
Self-described as quiet and soft-spoken, Waters says being on-stage with no preconceived idea of how a show might go makes for a band that’s “not always on the same page”—but this is a quality he’s more than happy to reconcile with.
“Us not being on the same page helped make this sound,” he says. “When we get to play, we are freaks and we can exaggerate all our ambivalence and confusion, and either express it or make fun of it.”
Weaves plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Tuesday (August 16).