Here at Team GDW, we thrive on juggling our listening habits to experience as many great Canadian artists as is possible (both for our own enjoyment and for future blogs posts). But even amongst all of the choices presented to us, every now and then, we like to kick back and return to a comfort zone of revisiting some of the music from artists that we’ve followed for considerable time now. One such band is Elliott BROOD, who first came to our attention around the release of their 2011 “Days Into Years” album. With the tracks “If I Get Old” and (especially) “Northern Air” receiving lots of airplay across the digital airwaves of Sirius XM satellite radio, the album was quickly purchased. With a strong liking for their alternate folk-rock vibe, older albums from the trio of Mark Sasso, Casey Laforet and Stephen Pitkin quickly found their way into our home too. Rounding out our collection, we added their most recent “Work and Love” upon its release (strongly recommended on vinyl), and finally managed to see Elliott BROOD perform live last winter in London, ON.
With an announcement at this concert that new material was coming soon, Elliott BROOD are ready to unleash their sixth full-length studio album later this week. Titled “Ghost Gardens,” the band have rediscovered many previously unreleased tracks and demos from over their illustrious career, and have compiled what should be an eclectic mix of material that explores their musical moods and experiences. With our curiosity running wild, Team GDW recently took some time to chat with Elliott BROOD and find out what listeners can expect with this highly anticipated release.
We had the good fortune to meet you at the close of your co-headlining show with The Great Lake Swimmers at The Aeolian Hall last December. You performed a new track that evening, much to the delight of the audience. How far into writing and working on ‘Ghost Gardens’ were you at that time?
The songs on this album are mostly over 10 years old. We found an old hard drive that had a bunch of old demos that we never finished. We decided to revive a bunch of them and bring them to life on the record. I think the song we played was called “The Fall” which was written originally for a television show.
You have a very busy schedule. How do you balance time touring and performing, writing and crafting new material, recording, and living normal lives outside of Elliott Brood?
We’ve been at it for over 15 years so I guess we’ve learned to deal with it pretty well. We all have wives and kids so there is a lot to juggle. We have a studio space we use almost every weekday so for the most part we try to keep it like any other job. We’re always working on ideas and trying them out. I think our lives are pretty normal. The challenges of travel can be tough though.
“Ghost Gardens” is your first release since “Work and Love” (2014) and “Days Into Years” (2011). Three year gaps seem to be a recurring theme here – intentional or purely coincidental?
That’s mostly coincidental, but we like to tour a couple of times on each record. At least in Canada, we’ll go out and do the big cities, and then we’ll go out again and hit all the smaller towns where the real fun is at! We’re still working on the US (small fish big pond syndrome). This time around we’re already working on the next one so it probably won’t be three years.
Have you approached the creativity of writing “Ghost Gardens” any differently from these previous albums? At what point do you develop that itch to put pen to paper once more with the intention of thinking ‘new album’?
Not really. The main difference has been having our own space to work everything out ahead of time. We’re never on the clock there and we get to try all kinds of crazy ideas. I think right now, we’re trying to use the space as much as possible so songs are coming faster.
Both new tracks “Dig A Little Hole” and “Gentle Temper” come in at under 2:30 of running time. Both have hints of a Simon and Garfunkel sound, with the addition of banjo (at least to me). The short run times and nostalgic sound leads me to ask if this kind of creativity was intentional?
That’s kind of you to say. We’ll take that as a compliment! To be honest, nothing is intentional with us. If the story gets told in 2:30, then that’s how long it will be. I think this might be our shortest record in running time, actually, you’re right. We have been listening to tons of music from that era so maybe it’s creeping in.
“Til The Sun Comes Up Again” is the quintessential Elliott BROOD tune, and will appeal to your loyal fan base who gravitate to the likes of “Oh Alberta” and “If I Get Old.” It offers me a reminder of “Mission Bell,” where the banjo once again provokes a nod to the old west. Do you consider the return to this sound more of a deliberate homage to albums past, or simply just part of the Elliott BROOD DNA?
Since these songs are mostly from that time (before we played heavier songs), we wanted to treat them like we did back then which is a little simpler. There are lots of ukes and mandolins on the record which we really like. To be fair we have a few versions of “Til The Sun Comes Up” that are a little more CCR-ish.
Upon my first listen of “2 4 6 8,” this is a true Elliott BROOD number. This is also a little darker than the previously mentioned tracks. Was there a particular source of inspiration for this one?
Mark wrote that over 15 years ago. It was one of the original songs we started playing together but it never fit on any record. This time we got it right. We added some arrangements that finished it. There’s organ and distortion and a lot of anger and energy. I can’t speak to the inspiration, but probably has to do with being a lot younger when it was written.
Staying with “2 4 6 8,” I love the slight reverb on the opening banjo, and return to this solo instrument as you fade to a close. The addition of both rock guitar and keyboards play an important role in setting the tone musically. Was this intentional from the writing stage, or added through trial and error as the song and creativity developed?
A lot of trial and error with this one. We spent a lot of time with it. Actually the vocals, drums, banjo and guitars were all tracked in one take and then we added the keys. That took a long time. I think that we all played parts of the keyboard on this track. Mark had originally come up with a part, then we sort of forgot what it was and it wasn’t working right. We finally figured it out and it adds a great pulse to the song.
With a lengthy tour set to commence very soon, how do you decide which new tracks should be incorporated into your set lists? How do you balance new material with the tracks your audience are expecting to hear?
We’re actually working all of that out right now. We’ll play most of the new songs on this tour as well as some from the next record. That will be balanced with tons of old stuff too, but it is nice and exciting for us to play new songs. We’ve often road tested new songs before we record them. Sometimes it’s fun to try a song a few times to see if it works with an audience.
We shall see you perform at The Avening Hall in Creemore, ON come late October. This small hall has an amazing atmosphere and a receptive audience. Any memories from previous shows performed here, and/or other more intimate venues such as this?
What a great choice. Honestly, every show we’ve ever done there has been incredible. We consider it home. It’s such a unique place to see a show and it’s become quite the tradition. It actually sold out right away I think because people have come to know how good the vibe is there. Venues like this and others like it are always so fun to play because the people are generally a little looser and more fun.
Team GDW are incredibly grateful for Elliott BROOD taking time to field our questions and provide their unique insight on both the upcoming album release and promotional tour. With many dates being added to the “Ghost Gardens” tour over the next few months, we urge you to get out and catch these very talented gentlemen live in concert. Words alone are inadequate for describing an Elliott BROOD show – it truly is an event that should not be missed. We look forward to sharing a wonderful evening of music with Elliott BROOD at the ‘sold out’ Avening Hall in Creemore, ON.