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
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