Big|Brave’s Mathieu Ball on embracing minimalism but never turning down the amp

Big|Brave’s Mathieu Ball on embracing minimalism but never turning down the amp

Big|Brave are a mesmerizing and exciting trio out of Montreal’s art-rock scene that defy explanation and need to be heard and experienced rather than described. The Quietus gave it a shot in a 2015 review describing band as combining “elements of Björk, Neurosis, The White Stripes, and Sunn O))) into a cohesive whole; but this whole is an ever evolving and challenging sonic mass.”

Perhaps the most poignant part of the description is that their compositions are “ever evolving and challenging.” To listen to Big|Brave is to go on a journey; to give up assumptions and give yourself over to ever-shifting loud-soft dynamics, innovative percussion, a squealing sea of feedback and crushing guitars, all anchored by lead singer Robin Wattle’s captivating vocals. Wattle and the band occupy a place somewhere in the middle of agony and ecstasy.

Beginning as a dark folk band in the early days the band has continually added new tools to their arsenal as their compositions have increased in length.

The Alt had a chance to speak to guitarist Mathieu Ball this week. (Our call was rescheduled after Ball was forced to take a trip to the emergency room.)

The Alt: Thank you for taking the time. Is everything OK?

Matthieu Ball: Yes, we spent the day in the emergency room but that is all over. But it seems silly to complain when I can’t imagine what it must be like to be someone who lives south of the border and doesn’t have access to health care.

ALT: This is actually something I wanted to touch on later in the interview but I think it’s worth asking now. Have you been impacted by the political upheaval here in the states? Does it make it harder to tour?

MB: The people we tour with have been really great and don’t necessarily support what’s going on politically. It doesn’t really impact us. Some bands are saying we should boycott the States but that’s impossible and Canada has its own awful political history with the treatment of native peoples.

ALT: Big|Brave is usually explained as one of two things: a doom band or a member of the Montreal scene that orbits around Godspeed You! Black Emperor. What do you make of these labels?

MB: People really want to label things but we have no real interest in being put in a box. I don’t think “Doom” makes much sense. Sometimes we’re called “post-rock” and I don’t think we’re really that. I don’t think it really matters what you label a band when you see them in a live setting. You just experience it and the other stuff doesn’t matter.

ALT: The compositions on your latest album Ardor are simultaneously modern sounding due to a sort of circular bent in the songs but also very raw and full of jolting dynamics. Was this something you set out to achieve? What were your influences when you started writing?

MB: We really just let it fly. We continue to evolve as a band. When we first started we were just playing acoustic instruments. It was over time that we incorporated bigger amps and effects pedals. We got louder but we also worked a lot with minimalism. We discovered a power in restraint, in using that immense sound in certain spots but also saying things with the absence of sound.

ALT: Ardor was received very well by critics. I imagine that opened up a few more doors for you as a band. Are you focused on getting playing the album to more people or have you begun to work on the next thing?

MB: We already have quite a bit of new material recorded. It’s such a long process. Its six months from when we finish recording an album to when its released so in that time we already wrote new songs. On this tour, about 50 percent of the material is from Ardor but we are playing a number of new songs.

ALT: You’re touring with The Body, a group that is constantly releasing digital eps, splits, and full LPs. Have you considered working that way–just dropping new music online?

MB: We work slowly. We have to go home from a tour and work day jobs so life sort of gets in the way. We like to take our time with albums. I think we’d prefer to release an album every year and a half. We don’t have pressure from the label or anything but the reality is we work deliberately.

ALT: You’ll be playing The Low Beat when you come to town. It’s more of an intimate venue. Should folks expect a more intimate set, or should they prepare for big amps and searing noise?

MB: While we embrace minimalism we know sound, volume, will always be part of our toolbox. I don’t imagine we’ll ever turn down. Those dynamics are part of our sound. So yeah, I’d recommend people bring a good set of ear plugs.

Big|Brave will be playing The Low Beat on Thursday July 12 with Chief and Sun Natives. Tickets are $8 in advance.


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