Interview with Elliott Brood - Winchester - 01 March 2009

Interview and article by Aline Giordano

Mark from Elliott Brood Sat upstairs at Winchester’s Railway pub, Mark Sasso, Stephen Pitkin and Casey Laforet from Elliott Brood invited me to have tea with them while doing this interview. We talked about their latest album, Mountain Meadows, and moved on to Chief Joseph and Shania Twain, while munching on a lovely vegetarian pasta bake and delectable mixed salad.

With a tour progressing well, good shows and festivals in France and a recent break-through show in London, Ontario-based band Elliott Brood know how to entertain their audience. For example, sometimes, they buy cheap second hand pots, pans, wooden spoons and tambourines and give them out to the audience to participate during the song W.I.A.D.F.Y. Mark explains: “You can have a better conversation with the crowd. You (the audience) can feel you’re part of the show. You do more than clapping your hands, you get to smashing stuff. People can get pretty crazy and there are some injuries every now and then. But it’s all great and it’s great interaction for us as well.”

“I found a new love for recording” declares Mark. The recording of Mountain Meadows was a slow and enjoyable progression. The band took a week off after an extensive tour and recorded, hidden away from the big cities. Ideas and songs were flowing gently. Then the band did some more recording in various places, like town halls, during a summer tour and eventually went into a recording studio to complete the album. Stephen notes: “With Mountain Meadows we wanted to bring back the noisiness that we had on Tin Type, our home recording project. We had a bit of time on the tour, so we rented out this old town hall and recorded there for three days. You can’t fake that type of reverb! We’re smashing chairs for W.I.A.D.F.Y. and clapping really far off in the distance. You can actually play with sound, whereas if you’re in a studio, sometimes you don’t have that space. We went out to find those kinds of spaces and used them to our advantage” Mark adds. And as Casey points out, this also meant that they “had to time play, to try different instruments, play and have fun without having the pressure of having to pay studio time”.

Mark describes Mountain Meadows as “the story of a settler going across the country and being exuberant and excited, and feeling this rush. The sequencing of the songs is like a novel, there has to be a certain flow to tell a story.” Mark very kindly admits that Casey tells the story of Mountain Meadows more brilliantly than him, so he lets Casey take over the story telling: “If you follow the flow of the album it’s like this kind of excitement of when you go and travel. The march of the second song shows this excitement. You’re going to go kill the world and be taken over, and then you realise things are happening to you and maybe it’s not so exciting or so easy. And then it moves onto a sort of struggle and low point all the way down to the second last song, The Body. Finally, Miss You Now brings it back to the beginning. It has a nice flow that dips down in the middle and brings you back up. And it has the birds singing in between and the sound of things that we had recorded in the fields. It all worked out really well!”

I could not resist asking Casey about the picture of Chief Joseph on the back of his guitar. “It’s actually Mark’s guitar”. So Mark reveals the story behind the picture. “I had bought the guitar for twenty five dollars and I’ve got an uncle who does wood work. He fixed it out for me but the back didn’t match and at that time I was reading a lot on aboriginal people, Native Indians or First Nations, as they are called. My dad is named Joseph and I was gravitated toward Chief Joseph. It’s an homage to my dad at the same time as being an homage to our country and North American nations in general.”

I am hesitant about asking my last question, but Casey, very sweetly, offers a “You can ask us anything…” So I mutter… “You come from the same city as Shania Twain…”. All three are keen to add “yeah, she was born in Windsor but then she moved to North Ontario”. Casey then follows with: “I love Shanai Twain. I know that she is mainstream country, but she is awesome! I like her because she stood up for herself”. Mark addresses Casey with a big smile on his face: “Hey! She is single and you’re single man!” to which Casey replies: “On my way!... as ‘shania’ means in Native American language!”

We then had a bit of spare time before the live set, so we carried on talking, off the record, about Canadian bands and music in general. I was in great company; I was in the company of the great and charming Elliott Brood.

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Photograph © Aline Giordano 2009