Interview with guitarist Mathieu Ball and guitarist/vocalist Robin Wattie | By Brandon Ringo
Since their formation in 2012, the career arc of Montréal-based doom outfit BIG|BRAVE has been the antithesis to their plodding speed of choice.
In just five years, they managed to record and self-release an EP, 2013’s An Understanding Between People; put out a debut full-length, 2014’s Feral Verdure, through Canadian label, Build A Fort; sign a record deal with extreme metal powerhouse Southern Lord Records; release a critically-praised album, 2015’s Au De La, through said powerhouse; tour with genre behemoths Sunn O))); and complete work on their newest masterpiece, Ardor, which was released back in September.
Though the band’s third LP came out almost exactly two years after the release of their last album, the writing process for Ardor began almost immediately after the last one ended. “There wasn’t a specific point when the writing for this record commenced,” guitarist Mathieu Ball and guitarist and vocalist Robin Wattie explain. “After we finished recording our second record, Au De La, we just went back to working on new stuff. It’s only after a few ideas had developed that we started to think about how we could make a coherent collage of all these initial ideas. But if there is something we had on our minds for this new batch of songs, it was improvement. One of (many) goals with this band is definitely to be constantly evolving and exploring new ways of arranging sound. However, having this in mind does not dictate how things will end up sonically, but does ensure we will put in the required work and effort it takes to arrive at something new.”
Ardor consists of only three tracks: “Sound,” clocking in at 11 minutes and 36 seconds; “Lull,” which spans another 13; and “Borer,” which nearly reaches 15. Were BIG|BRAVE at all concerned about releasing such long tracks? “Looking back at every record we finish, I always find certain aspects of them more successful than others,” Ball shares. “From our previous album, the longest songs—those which had more space and more diverse narratives within themselves—were those which we thought were more compelling. Having that as a sort of reference point, while not wanting to rewrite the same songs again, we just kept developing new ideas, never concerning ourselves if things were getting too drawn out or not advancing fast enough. Patience in music seems to be something that is acquired, but also very rewarding. [Though] I’d like to say things developed organically while writing this record, every detail was actually refined over and over and thought through probably a little too much.”
Each of the three songs on Ardor possesses its own identity, but Ball says the band ensured they would also work together as a unit. “The initial ideas for each song were indeed written separately, but as they developed into more concrete songs, the relationship between all three was very much considered,” he confirms. “The more each song came closer to being completed, the more and more we’d go back to the other pieces to alter them. It was a fine balance of wanting to make something as diverse as possible all while having it feel like a cohesive whole.”
While BIG|BRAVE’s career has been full-speed ahead, their evolution as musicians has been as slow and measured as their writing process, something that is reflected in Ardor. “As I mentioned above, our favorite songs on Au De La were the ones where we really let things develop slowly and gradually,” Ball says. “So, for this record, we were quite ready and comfortable letting things continue in that vein. By now, I think we’ve completely abandoned writing within a more traditional song structure. It’s something that is now so ingrained in us, but over these last two records, we’ve quite clearly realized that the longer form composition is what speaks to us the most. It’s no major change, but a rather gradual one. It’s something I believe will keep evolving until the band will cease to exist.”
Of course, these lengthy compositions would be incomplete without lyrics. Wattie weighs in, “The overall lyrical theme would include my end of any conversation—conversations to everyone from loved ones to the general public to specific individuals, conversations about loss, death, the state of the Earth, politics—and of my observations of the human condition that are all provoked by the entire spectrum of emotion that fills any one person. Yet, I leave the lyrics vague enough for the listener to grasp onto anything that might resonate with them.”
With Ardor unleashed upon the world, BIG|BRAVE began playing live dates to support the record in the fall, then spent a week opening for Unsane in December. They are slated to headline Big Fun Festival 2018 in Winnipeg on Jan. 26.
For more info on upcoming tours and new releases, follow BIG|BRAVE on their official site!
photo by Pascha Marrow