Published Jun 13, 2018Toronto band Bernice's new album Puff shares a name with their debut EP, but while their initial offering was a heavily produced melding of pop, jazz and R&B, the full-length — with the expanded title Puff LP: In the air without a shape — captures a more organic, live sound from the band.
Band leader Robin Dann explains that they retained the Puff theme because the songs were all written during the same period; reimagined versions of EP songs "David" and "St. Lucia" appear on the LP as a form of "remixes."
"They're like siblings I guess," is how Dann characterizes the two, and admits to lyrical themes being "sort of autobiographical, even though they may be a little bit less easy to decipher than other songs that are just really straight: telling stories."
On lead single "Glue," Dann sings about falling in love, incorporating a bass line that she describes as "unevenly looping on itself"; she was inspired to write it years after listening to "Atoms for Peace," from Thom Yorke's solo debut, The Eraser. "I was really into that song years and years earlier, before writing ["Glue"]. I think life just inspires and influences me, and whatever happens to be going into my ears, it'll come out in some way, it always does, in a way that I don't expect it to. Sometimes I'll listen back, and I'll hear like, 'Oh yeah, I guess I was listening to that album a lot and that turn of melody kind of sounds like them, or maybe I was singing a little bit like them.' Really, everything goes in and then it comes out in an unexpected way."
Despite the connected dots between the EP and the full-length, Dann says they changed the recording process on purpose. "The EP we put out in June, it is very produced — in a great way — and that was extremely fun, to make music like that," she says, "but definitely, when we were going into the studio in Montreal to [do the full-length] record, I wanted to do it differently than we had done before. It just felt like the most logical thing to do, 'cause recording now is so crazy — you can basically do anything you want at home, and that can be a little bit overwhelming."
Playing and recording as a band helped solidify their approach to the material. "It was great to be able to actually play takes together, you know — we weren't overdubbing on top of bed [tracks], and we only really added overdubs and edits in the months after that initial recording," she says.
Bernice signed with celebrated indie label Arts & Crafts last year, which Dann characterizes as "at once difficult and a huge relief," given their previous status as an independent project. "I got so used to doing everything myself, and not doing it very well," she laughs.
"[Arts & Crafts] have such a great grasp of the industry and then also, creatively, they have lots of good ideas and are great at setting goals. It's just been helpful to kick my work ethic into gear and to encourage us to just play more and get albums out and just have some supportive people around us." In committing themselves to experimentation and finding the stories within their songs each time they perform, Bernice are creating a strong path forward.