Late last month, Braids’ former keyboardist Katie Lee spoke out about her departure from the group, calling out her former bandmates for “performative allyship” in the wake of vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston decrying the sexist naming and marketing of a controversial guitar pedal. Now, Lee has further expanded on her experiences in Braids in a new interview.
Speaking to CBC, Lee discusses why she left the group, her experiences as a woman of colour, the fallout that came with her departure and more. You can find excerpts from the interview below, and can read the entire piece here.
On leaving Braids:
Honestly, I didn’t decide to walk away. It was their decision. I tried to find different ways to work together because it was clear that there was a communication breakdown. I tried to speak to them countless times, but after a certain point, they were exhausted. I was told that their goal was to focus on recording the second record and the problems that were happening between us wasn’t a focus for them, so I was asked to leave halfway through the recording process. That was heartbreaking, and I had to accept the fact that that was what they wanted. We had originally decided that the band would tell the press that I left “due to creative differences.” That was not respected. In several interviews, they divulged information that I had not agreed to and were false, like that I wasn’t proficient during the recording process.
On how Lee interpreted Braids’ apology:
I think [Raphaelle] retweeting my post was a step in the right direction in that she’s giving me a platform whereas before they took that platform away from me. So I’ve asked them to take a step back from social media and they’ve respected that.
I’ve sent them messages through friends and have expressed how I want to move forward with this since I don’t entirely trust them. I’ve tried to frame it as: if I am to speak with them, how do I do it in a way where they understand the power that they hold? I want them to listen to me in a more open way. I’ve asked them to take an anti-oppression workshop, and they’ve agreed to do that. I think that’s the best starting point for them because if you don’t have the language or the framework with this kind of stuff then it’s going to be a tough conversation, especially for the person who is marginalized.
On her claims that the band “stripped me of fair ownership over certain songs”:
At the time, they told me, “We’re asking you to leave halfway through, but we still want to make sure that you’re still respected as a valid member of the band and we want you to get 25 per cent of all the songs moving forward for this specific record,” but they went back on that a year later when the album came out. It took me a long time to get over everything that had happened, but when we were negotiating all that stuff I couldn’t stand up for myself.
There was a specific song I had written, titled “Amends,” that was difficult to negotiate. This track was written in response to Chris Reimer’s passing and they basically took out all my keyboard lines and Raphaelle mimicked my lines with her vocals. They told me I didn’t deserve 25 per cent of that song, which I subsequently had to explain that that song wouldn’t have existed if I hadn’t written it. They didn’t understand that my contribution to that song was valuable. I remember saying, “OK fine, I can accept 20 per cent,” and they responded, “Well OK, we want 10 per cent so let’s meet in the middle and do 15.” That was offensive to me. They were essentially erasing me.
On the fallout of leaving Braids:
I remember someone telling me that I had to leave Montreal because shit’s gonna hit the fan and people are going to treat me poorly or something. He was a white man and he told me this and I was just like, OK…. And I did. I left for six months and I lived in Oakland for a while. It was difficult for me to talk about my story because mutual friends or people who knew me as someone in the band sort of refused to listen to what I had to say or never asked. They never asked, “How are you doing?” When I came out with this story a couple of weeks ago, people were like, “Wow, I had no idea.” And it’s like, you never asked.
On what can be learned from the situation:
I think that people need to start listening with an open mind and heart. The one thing that I want people to understand is that it’s important to be uncomfortable. It’s OK to be uncomfortable. If you’re uncomfortable that means that you’re questioning the things that you were taught, the privileges that you have. It’s good to assess those things and think about them and it’s daily work, it’s not something that can be fixed right away. You have to practise it, you have to do things on the regular in order to fully embody that way of thinking. That process is going to be uncomfortable.
Ask how people of colour feel. In my case, no one asked me how I was doing and if I needed support. I had to find that support myself. After my post, I had mutual friends reaching out and being like, “We’re cool, right? I’m not racist!” I see many people liking my posts, but I just wonder what they are doing outside of it. It’s an easy thing to like a post or sign a petition, but how are you helping and empowering other voices that need to be heard?
In addition to their prior apology, Braids wrote a second statement to CBC concerning Lee’s time in the group and her comments. You can read the band statement in full below:
From our perspective, Katie’s departure from the band was a result of irreconcilable creative challenges. However, as social advocates ourselves, we support Katie sharing her experience, and look forward to engaging in healing dialogue.
Katie’s statement has caused us to reflect deeply on our parting. We have been in touch with her privately — a third party — and have made arrangements to invest in and work towards better understanding her experience.
We would like to clarify that at the time of Katie’s departure, all four of us worked together in good faith to make sure Katie’s songwriting contributions to the group were acknowledged, fairly compensated, and mutually agreed to. At no point did we take away her rightful ownership.
We honour this process of healing, and will continue to engage in this situation with compassion and a willingness to listen and learn.