BIG|BRAVE Channel Trauma into Punishingly Heavy Music

"Any self-identified female body person is exposed to a lot of crap that we have normalized and brushed aside. I likened that to the state of the planet," says Robin Wattie

Photo courtesy of the artists

BY Mark TremblayPublished Feb 17, 2023

Over the course of seven studio albums, BIG|BRAVE have carved out an unconventional career as a heavy band. Guitarists Mathieu Ball and Robin Wattie have been playing music together in the project for 11 years, starting out as a borderline folk band before developing into a morose drone outfit. "We became a loud band by accident," reflects Ball. "We just don't put up fights with what is about to happen."

BIG|BRAVE have never been comfortable repeating themselves, and they have landed somewhere in the middle of that sound spectrum with nature morte (out February 24 on Thrill Jockey) — a sonically punishing record that finds vulnerability through Wattie's vocals. She tells Exclaim!, "Sometimes we scrap whole songs when something doesn't feel right. Our language simply has changed because we understand each other that much more. We're not children anymore."

During the peak of the pandemic, BIG|BRAVE made the most of their downtime and created two albums over the span of one year: Leave None but Small Birds and Vital, both released in 2021. The band realized how precious their time is and how important it is for them to seize every opportunity they can. As Ball bluntly states, "The peak of the pandemic could happen all over again. Who knows what the future holds."

This philosophy has kept the band working hard and putting out music every year. The pandemic time also served as a pivotal crossroads in the development of their sound. Having created two sonically polar opposite records proved to be a reflective time for the band. "We were going in a pretty clear path up till Vital, and then when we did the Leave None but Small Birds record, it kinda saved us because it was getting hard to make different music through one note," says Ball. "Future music is going to be another departure for us. We don't have to necessarily be the heavy band anymore."

When it comes to writing music, BIG|BRAVE are always just trying to be the best versions of themselves, pushing themselves to pursue sonic textures that initially feel uncomfortable. They feel no pressure to be a heavy band all the time. Wattie says, "The experience of writing the last few BIG|BRAVE records gave us more agency to do what we feel BIG|BRAVE is. It helped reset our mind frame for what we could be".

In the past, Wattie has done research while crafting song lyrics, but nature morte is based more on the vocalist's personal experiences. "This album was an observation of what I'm experiencing in the world while also noticing how shitty we as a species can treat each other," says Wattie. "This album relates traumatic experiences that I and others have had. Any self-identified female body person is exposed to a lot of crap that we have normalized and brushed aside. I likened that to the state of the planet and how we are destroying the planet. We refer to the planet as 'mother nature.' It can also be intertwined with how we are traumatizing the Earth by existing."

Having released three records in as many years, BIG|BRAVE's momentum doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With an appearance at Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands later this year built around the band's first European headlining tour, things are at an all-time peak for the band after years of hard work. After almost quitting music, things have never looked better for the band.

As Mathieu states, "There was a period where things weren't going so well and there were resolutions that came out of that, but I'm pretty happy with how things are, and everyone is working really hard towards common goals. I'm pretty content with how things are and how the future looks."

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