When Weaves performed “Scream,” their cacophonous collab with indigenous throat singer Tanya Tagaq, on the inaugural night of Venus Fest, a new Toronto festival featuring all-women or women-fronted acts, it was soul-shaking. The punk-hearted Canadian pop-rock quartet — whose second full-length, Wide Open, is out October 6 on Buzz Records — played to a throng of attentive youths at Daniels Spectrum, a community center in Toronto’s Regent Park. (Their self-titled debut had recently been short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize.) Lead singer Jasmyn Burke, or Jaz, wild-haired and dressed in an olive-green bodysuit, wailed from center stage.
“I was like, Man, this is super cool to play,” Jaz told me about “Scream,” after a post-set smoke, when she and I hung out upstairs in one of the venue’s dressing rooms, along with Weaves’s scruffy heartthrob bassist, Zach Bines. (Guitarist/songwriter Morgan Waters didn’t join, and drummer Spencer Cole only popped by.) “Looking at kids and saying, literally, ‘Scream your name.’ Fuck it, you know? That’s pretty powerful.”
Wide Open came together across five brutal months on Earth, during which both Brexit and the 2016 U.S. election occurred. The resulting record is weighted with a certain unavoidable darkness, but it doesn’t sound like pure contempt. It is, however, all heart and energy — elements that feel necessary, now more than ever.
There’s stoned love songs, bluesy come-on jams, and a 59-second track called “Motherfucker,” which features tight, eerie riffs and repetitive mutters. “I’m simply a creature who’s creating a portrait of this combustion that’s been thrust on me,” Jaz croons later, raspily, on the spacious-sounding title track. I’m convinced she’s the next Karen O.
Across the album’s 11 wide-ranging tracks, Weaves can’t help but be political, explained Jaz and Zach during our quirky post-show convo about friendship and touring, which you can read in full below. But the members of Weaves know political investment isn’t antithetical to fun, and they also just wanna make fun music. That is, if life on the road doesn’t kill them first.
How do you feel your style has evolved on the new record?
JASMYN BURKE: With our first album and with our EP we were trying to find our sound. We toured last year for forever — like eight months. You start to feel this energy. I think we all felt really comfortable with each other in a way that was different from the last album. We wanted things to be really direct and extreme [on Wide Open]. You have a song like “Walkaway,” and a song like “Scream,” and how do you put those on an album? But at the same time, why not put them on the same album?
For our artwork we were like, “Let’s have ourselves in these really bright, vibrant colors, but then there’s a fire, and there’s burns in our clothes.” That’s how people of our age group feel — you’re distraught over the world, but you’re also looking for some sort of light. We were in the U.K. during Brexit and in the U.S. during the election, and we’re not from those countries, but we had these real situations when touring. Remember that mother and daughter? It was really intense. They said, “We loved your set, and we’re sorry you’re here.” And we were like, “We’re not sorry.”
ZACH BINES: It’s easy enough as outsiders to look, and see it as fucked up. But to be in it…
JAZ: Where do you come as a Canadian to be responding to this? The last few shows we played were pretty intense ‘cause all the lyrics — both ours and Mitski’s — all take on a new context, of like, fixing this horrible world. In the U.K. during Brexit, all these young people were so upset. But at the same time we met these older people who were like, for Brexit, and it was very confusing. It was bizarre.
That stuff affects you when you’re writing an album. With this album I felt like, There’s no room to be shy about what my perspective is as a woman of color playing in a rock band. I didn’t want to shy away from that on this album. So it’s this really direct, human experience. We just started playing these songs live, and it’s taken on this whole new meaning.
It feels different?
JAZ: It feels different!
ZACH: A song can affect you in one way when you’re in one state, and another way when you’re in another. Like Jaz said, we just started playing these songs, and already they’re taking on new connotations. They’re nuanced, and it feels cool listening to the lyrics and watching people respond to them.
JAZ: It’s exciting, and it hopefully invigorates people to stand up. It’s a very real reaction — we wrote the album in five months, when everything was happening. Canada is very much influenced by what’s happening in the U.S. I think everybody was like What the fuck is happening to this world? I don’t understand! That affects you, and the way you write music, because you’re in it — you’re in the grit of it all. It was pretty intense. But our album’s kind of intense — I’m realizing that now as we start playing these songs.
Wide Open is definitely full of fire.
JAZ: We wanted to do like, super-pop. You have “Walkaway” and “La La,” and they’re easy to listen to. Then that left room for songs like “Scream” and “Motherfucker” — ‘cause if you go one way, you can go the other way. But some of the songs are just like, strut songs. At the heart we’re still a fun band and we wanna…
[Spencer pops his head in]
SPENCER: I came late, there’s no point in me sitting in now, right? Hi, I’m Spencer, great to meet you very briefly.
JAZ: Our band is like, psychotic in a certain way.
ZACH: He didn’t even meet you!
JAZ: Our band can’t get our shit together. We’re insane. On the road, we all yell over each other. Weaves is like a fucking combustion of madness. We get along, but we have real, deep fights. We really yell at each other.
ZACH: It’s just the road! I truly don’t think it’s us.
JAZ: This is what I think, too. Sometimes I don’t even think I know any of you truly, because the only context I know you in is like, working on the road.
ZACH: We hang sometimes!
JAZ: Zach and I are friends. But at the same time, it’s like a different…
ZACH: Do you think we’d be friends if it wasn’t for this band?
JAZ: Honestly at this point I feel like I would be friends with you. Like, if the band broke up I would be friends with you.
ZACH: Oh come on — of course.
JAZ: Our friends were asking us, “How did you guys meet?” And we were like, “We weren’t friends before.” And they were like, “Are you guys like American Idol, then? Did you audition?” [Laughs] No, Morgan came up to me at a solo show. I was like Who is this guy? And then he said, “I can help work on music with you.” I was hesitant, but then we started jamming together. And then we were looking for a crazy drummer, and Spencer came on board, and then Zach was his friend.
ZACH: We played in another band together.
JAZ: But none of us knew each other before this.
ZACH: Although, I used to get coffee from Jaz at a coffee shop she used to work at, way back in the day.
JAZ: I don’t remember that.
ZACH: No. You wouldn’t. I’m a very, very regular looking white man.
“Weaves is like a fucking combustion of madness.” —Jasmyn Burke
JAZ: We had a funny beginning. We put out an EP, and then we got asked to play Glastonbury Festival. It was a bit of a forced friendship at first. But now we have a really healthy relationship. We only kind of kill each other.
ZACH: Everyone’s chilled a little bit.
JAZ: We might fight, I might walk away and be like, “Fuck all of them.” But then two minutes later I’m like, “Hey, can you get me a beer?”
ZACH: “Can you put the setlist on the stage for me?”
JAZ: “I need water.” I played in a lot of bands with my best friends previously, and I wrecked friendships. I like that we’re honest about our relationship. We were just looking for good players. People don’t admit that sometimes.
Has your band chemistry progressed?
JAZ: Well, now I feel like we have the best chemistry as a band.
ZACH: I don’t think this band knew what it was as a band until like, a year-and-a-half ago. We’re still figuring it out.
[Spencer pops his head in again]
JAZ: Hey Spen! Who’s watching the merch? Do you wanna watch it for a minute? Who has the fanny pack?
SPENCER: Zach does.
ZACH: What are you talking about?
JAZ: Spencer is the craziest person you’ll ever meet. He’s our drummer, and you will never understand him. You will never understand anyone in Weaves. We are misunderstood.
ZACH: You can understand me. I’m pretty straight-up.
JAZ: No. You’re misunderstood.
ZACH: Oh yeah? That guy’s a fucking wildcard, though.
Where did he come from?
JAZ: [Spencer and Morgan] are from B.C. [British Columbia]. They’re like West Coast, posi vibe. We’re Ontarians, who are like …
JAZ: Neggo New York kinda people. When we’re on the road they’re like, “We gotta stop at the ocean.” Anytime we see water, they’re just like, “Oh my god…”
ZACH: Or mountains.
JAZ: They’re like “We gotta stop!” And Zach and I are like, “Who gives a fuck?” We grew up at the mall. We’re very different in that way. They make fun of us.
ZACH: As soon as we get to the beach, I pull out a cigarette. And they’re like “Oh, nature boy over here.”
JAZ: Zach with a cigarette wearing black on the beach, like, “Yeah I love it here!” These guys make us pull over and we’re like, with our water shoes and cigarettes.
ZACH: I don’t have fuckin’ water shoes.
JAZ: We’re all nuts. Weaves is kinda crazy but like, it works. Morgan and I have said that the only time it ever truly works is when we’re on stage. It’s hard the rest of the time for us to all be on the same page. But something clicks when we play. And we’re all like, It’s worth it.