T.O. coun­try rock­ers keep it real

El­liott Brood turns out most per­sonal al­bum to date as fol­lowup to Juno Award–win­ning Days into Years

Richmond Hill Post - - Music - by Ron John­son

The fel­las from Toronto band El­liott Brood are grow­ing up. With five kids al­ready amongst the trio and one more on the way for singer Casey Laforet, fam­ily and friends have taken cen­tre stage in their lives and now in their mu­sic. The band’s new al­bum, Work

and Love, is their most per­sonal to date. At the time of our in­ter­view in De­cem­ber, Laforet is busily pre­par­ing the homestead for the ar­rival of his and his wife’s sec­ond child to come in the weeks be­fore the band was sched­uled to head out on tour this month, in­clud­ing a date in town at the Phoenix Con­cert The­atre on Jan. 24.

“All the records up to now have not been about us but more about his­tory and sto­ry­telling,” says Laforet, at a café around the cor­ner from his home in the city’s Ron­ces­valles neigh­bour­hood.

“This one is rooted in our own ex­pe­ri­ences, grow­ing up, fall­ing in love, fall­ing out of love, hav­ing kids. It’s def­i­nitely a more per­sonal al­bum than the oth­ers have been.”

Although Work and Love is clearly El­liott Brood at work, their sig­na­ture “death coun­try” sound is in full ef­fect on many tracks, the sec­ond half of the record kicks up the folksy home­spun vibe that be­gins with the foot stom­per “Jig­saw Heart,” fol­lowed by the equally rous­ing “Each Other’s Kids,” We just want to keep mak­ing good al­bums we are proud of and that aren’t ter­ri­ble.” which was in­spired by a bar in St. John, N.B.

“We were in this pub killing time, and it wasn’t busy, but you could tell it was a real reg­u­lars bar,” Laforet ex­plains.

“We were talk­ing to the wait­ress, and she said that they had all the wed­dings, birthdays and fu­ner­als there, and I just love that idea: kids run­ning around the bar, moms at work, so the bar­tender is tak­ing care of them.”

Laforet and Mark Sasso, the two found­ing mem­bers of the band, grew up in Wind­sor, Ont. Although it’s not, strictly speak­ing, a small town, Laforet felt that same vibe when he was a kid there grow­ing up.

“Look­ing back, I was a pretty lucky kid,” he says. “I had a great life, and I miss a lot of those things.”

Laforet and Sasso at­tended the same school, but Sasso was two grades up, and they wouldn’t be­come friends un­til much later.

Back in the day, with Laforet sport­ing se­ri­ous hip-hop at­tire no less, there may have even been a fight of some sort over a girl he was dat­ing who at one time dated Sasso’s best friend. High school, right?

“It was that same girl that I ended up fol­low­ing to Toronto,” says Laforet.

“Mark and I met up again in Lind­say, and he’d bought a banjo.” One thing led to another, and be­fore long, the duo had booked their first gig at Holy Joe’s at Queen and Bathurst.

Steve Pitkin, who pro­duced the band’s first al­bum, Tin Type, was soon added as a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the band.

The band has pro­duced five stu­dio al­bums over the past decade, in­clud­ing 2008’s

Moun­tain Mead­ows, nom­i­nated for a Juno Award and 2011’s Days into Years, which gar­nered the band their first Juno Award win for Best Roots Al­bum of the Year.

For the fol­lowup to Days into Years, the band hired a pro­ducer for the first time, and moved into the Bathouse Record­ing Stu­dios in Bath, Ont., to record Work and Love.

They set­tled on Toronto pro­ducer Ian Blur­ton, who worked on one of the band’s favourite records: Re­con­struc­tion Site by Win­nipeg band the Weak­erthans.

“We’d never had that fourth voice that we let tell us what to do,” says Laforet.

“There was a lot of let­ting go. It was cool though, it worked out. I wasn’t sure he liked us, but he re­ally dug into the mu­sic and had a good time with it, so we ended up hav­ing a good time.”

Laforet ad­mits to hav­ing more than one soul-search­ing mo­ment over the past year as a re­sult of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of par­ent­hood and the re­al­i­ties of the Cana­dian mu­sic business.

“I love do­ing it, but is it re­spon­si­ble?” he says of parenting while be­ing heav­ily in­volved with the mu­sic business. “Those boys [fel­low band mem­bers Mark Sasso and Steve Pifkin] have been do­ing it for a few years now, and it seems to be go­ing OK.”

We’re hope­ful Laforet will con­tinue to turn out the unique and fine mu­sic that has en­abled the band to con­tinue for more than 10 years, a rare ac­com­plish­ment.

“Suc­cess to me is pay­ing the bills, mak­ing sure the kids are happy,” says Laforet.

“It’s a pretty rare in­stance to be a band in Canada for 10 years, and I hope it can be longer. We just want to keep mak­ing good al­bums we are proud of and that aren’t ter­ri­ble, but there’s enough ter­ri­ble stuff out there.”

Catch El­liott Brood at the Phoenix Con­cert The­atre, Jan. 24. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.el­liot­tbrood.com.

Toronto trio El­liott Brood worked with pro­ducer Ian Blur­ton on new al­bum

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