By Margaret Banka
Weaves is a Juno- and Polaris-nominated indie-rock band based in Toronto and currently on tour for their second full-length album Wide Open, which was released in late 2017. Stylus had the chance to catch up with vocalist and songwriter, Jasmyn Burke, to talk about being a female lead, a killer Canadian compilation, surprising inspiration for the next album, and Trump (but really only a little, we promise). Don’t miss Weaves at the Good Will Social Club tonight, with locals Mise en Scene and Mulibrgub opening!
Margaret: So to start things off I just want to thank you again for agreeing to do this interview and taking the time to talk to me. You’re on a bit of a break right now, from the first leg of your tour, am I right?
Jasmyn: Yeah, we just got back from a month-long American tour with Palehound and it was really fun, it was very positive, and now we’re home for about two weeks. We’re going out to the Junos and then doing a little mini American tour and then we go back. We’re doing a full Canadian tour in May.
M: I’m excited to see you when you come back to Winnipeg because I saw you here back in 2016, or just outside, at Rainbow Trout Music Festival, anyways I don’t know if that rings a bell…
J: Actually yeah, that was one of our favorites. Somebody asked us recently what were our favorite festivals to play and we were like, Rainbow Trout Festival.
M: That’s great! It’s a popular one around here too – that was a great year. It’s nice to hear your voice again, and not even in an acoustical sense, but also speaking symbolically, as a female lead in an otherwise all male group – I’m sure you’re aware that it’s a pretty powerful seat, especially these days. So I guess I’m wondering, is it a place you ever envisioned yourself, when you were starting out?
J: I guess it just organically happened that everybody in the band ended up being male. I’ve always written by myself, and then whoever wanted to join me has just sort of naturally joined the band. I think I’m obviously aware of having a voice, and the more our band becomes part of the mainstream world, I think about that, but you know, the guys are really supportive of the music and always encourage me to write and be open with my lyrics, and myself as a person. It really feels like an encouraging space — positive.
M: Speaking about that, on your latest album Wide Open you really lend your experiences as a woman more noticeably than in the first album, and like you said, you have a pretty supportive environment. Specifically, writing and recording, ‘#53’ for example, you talk more about your experiences, just being a woman, did working on that bring up a response from them, or from you, that you didn’t expect?
J: I think it’s more the aftermath of it. I wrote it and then we came back from tour – we had put out the first album in 2016 and then we were essentially home for only six months, so I wrote really fast. That’s kind of how I work anyways – I don’t like to overthink things. We turned over a record in six months: written, recorded, mixed, and mastered, and it was a really quick process. I feel like it was very reactionary to, like, Trump had just won and everybody was like, “What the hell is going on?!” and I just felt that I wanted to write things really immediately and see what my brain would come up with in that instance. I guess that I’ve always, just by way of playing music and being a female, utilized my voice and tried to be a positive example for young girls. I think with this album I got a little bit older, I toured: you meet people at all these shows and a lot of the time I’d have a lot of young girls come up to me and they’ve never really seen a female that looks like them on stage, in particular in a rock band with weird tattoos and stuff, and I realized that my particular story could also be a reflection of many people’s stories. The more honest I am about whatever I’m going through, I feel like the more people can connect with it, and it’s just that sharing of experience. Usually after [a show] I’ll go to the merch table and I’ll try to talk to people. In the same way that I felt really wide open with this album, I experienced really wide open stories from people. They would come up and tell me whether they’d just broken up with someone, or left an abusive relationship or a parent had died; all these intense stories crept up, and I feel like you can’t have it not affect you, so I guess thinking about the third album it’s those experiences and navigating this new wave of feminism that pushes everybody to be more powerful and open and to talk about their experiences.
M: Definitely. Seeking out that community now is super important. So would you say when you were there this time, did it feel different, now that it’s Trump, and there’s always some circus going on with him in the media, than it did during elections, when everyone’s emotions were running extra high?
J: I think regardless of the election there’s always been division amongst classes and it’s very hard for people to change their socioeconomic status, both before and after him. In that way, I feel like still, when you drive through parts of the U.S. and you see there’s abandoned houses, that was there before, and in a way you hope that, with him being elected — especially with the younger generation, you can see it — they’re resisting more. But I think, because we live in a bit of a bubble on tour and when you go to a gig, people are there to see you, and they enjoy your music, so it’s kind of hard to have a proper perspective city to city. But I will say that playing the songs, you revisit — it’s funny, we have ‘Shithole’ from our [first] album, and now that song has a whole new power to it live, and we made little limited edition ‘Shithole’ pins that we sold on the road or gave away and people wear them with pride now and it’s like taking back your story. Singing ‘Scream’, minus Tanya [Tagaq], who I wish was on the road with us every night, is pretty powerful when you’re at a show – it’s an interesting experience from writing it by yourself in a room to putting it on stage.
M: No doubt. I was going to ask you specifically about ‘Scream’. When you were writing that song, was it your idea to reach out to Tanya Tagaq? What a great compilation, and so interesting; two Canadian females performing a song that really transcends so many different levels of the population. I was so curious as to how that came about.
J: We were both playing Iceland Air Waves in 2016 and we met on the plane, she’s a very charming, interesting woman. She came up to me while we were waiting to use the washroom at the same time.
M: So you met on a plane!?
J: Yeah! And she was just like, “Who are you?”, and I said “I’m Jasmyn and I play music.” She was going [to Iceland Airwaves] as well, and I had just met Jesse Zubot – who plays in her project – previously at Polaris, so I kinda knew him and we all connected while we were playing in Iceland. We were all staying at the same hotel and kind of had a few wild nights and I just connected with her. She’s a very strong woman — she’s a mother and an artist and I wanted to work with her on something. When you see her throat singing live it’s all improvised, it’s such a beautiful experience. I messaged her, “I have a demo of this song that I’ve been working on and maybe it would be cool if you participated,” and she was immediately interested in working with us. It was amazing. We had already recorded it as a band, and she just came and then did two takes and it was magical.
M: It seems like Weaves, as a band, you work very fast, and you improvise a lot, and so it seems with Tanya, the style is so different, but the methods are so similar.
J: Yeah, both her and I, we don’t really overthink the construction of the song. It’s more led by emotion and so in a way it makes perfect sense because neither one of us wants to go back and try and change or re-edit things. She’s pretty free as a human and I feel that way too, and we work together in that way, and it’s probably why we clicked immediately on the road too. Leading with openness is the best way I think.
M: So this tour, how are you and the gang – Zach, Morgan, and Spencer – holding up? I’ve heard that you’ve had some crazy moments before on tour, but is there anything that feels different this time around? Or did you tuck away any lessons from your last tour to help prepare for this one?
J: I think with this one, we’ve already toured extensively for the last three years. The main thing is I go to the gym in the morning now, and that’s a big change. I just feel like you have to be emotionally and physically prepared and the more you tour the more you figure out what you need to make touring the most comfortable as possible, considering you’re in the car for twelve hours a day sometimes, especially touring the U.S. Obviously we all have our little moments of getting into fights and stuff, but for the most part our tours have been pretty smooth.
M: That’s good news. So I heard you hint about a third album, and I know you wrote Wide Open so soon after your debut album…is the next one not too far away?
J: I have sort of started going quietly into this jam space and writing – I always like to write, just because you never know what will come up. We don’t want to try and put out a third album three years in a row, that would be insane, but we’re starting to pick away and I’m just starting to think – I kinda want the next album to be almost the opposite, instead of this [one], where it’s carefree and dancing and fun, and I’ve been listening to a lot of Katy Perry and Madonna – and making it a Weaves thing, but well see. I started taking a spinning class and it’s always about the BPM, and it would be funny to take that ethos and put it in a Weaves type of scenario.
M: What I love so much about Weaves is how you can jump between so many different sounds, even within an album. Like on Wide Open you have ‘Scream’, but then you also have a track like ‘Puddle’. It’s awesome that you can bounce between all these songs but still keep it your own, so I’m not very shocked to hear that you want to do something completely different.
J: [Laughs] Yeah.