Modern music can have a definite, social-media saturated immediacy to it, but Toronto alt-country three piece Elliott Brood are happy to push the present tense to the back of the shelf when they perform.
The nostalgic trio of Casey Laforet, Mark Sasso and Stephen Pitkin are known for their love of storytelling, a deep appreciation of history and using everything from peanut-butter jars to suitcases as musical instruments.
Celebrating a decade since their first EP Tin Type, the self-dubbed genre creators of ‘Death Country’ and ‘Frontier Rock’ are touring through the annals of time to Whistler and Western Canada this fall.
Using aggressively strummed, distorted acoustic guitars, or a banjo that is shredded like an electric guitar, EB is known for a boundary-pushing style.
Much like the unidentifiable sound of the band, guitarist and vocalist Laforet was a cross-genre music lover from a young age.
“I grew up in Windsor so there was always a lot of good Motown around, but I didn’t listen to it because that was my parents’ music,” Laforet said. “The first soundtrack I ever loved was the Rocky IV soundtrack and it had a lot of really stupid, loud rock music. But I was also really into hop-hop, and liked N.W.A., Ice Cube, and The D.O.C. and then I was a victim of Nirvana when they exploded. I was a grunge kid through and through.”
Attending the same Windsor high school, Laforet and lead singer Mark Sasso both moved to Toronto in 2000 to pursue their careers further.
It was shortly after their calculated relocation that they magically met their drummer, sound engineer and third band member Stephen Pitkin.
Since joining forces, EB has been nominated for three Juno awards, but the tenacious prospectors finally struck gold in 2013, winning ‘Best Roots and Traditional Album of the Year’ in the group category for their fifth record, titled Days Into Years.
Moving away from the boxed-in, trite subject matter of make-ups and breakups, Laforet sees music as a way to create and communicate stories about time-sensitive characters.
“A lot of the music we listen to is The Band or Bob Dylan or stuff like that, and they can mime those kinds of stories, and put you in a certain place. We try to use some kind of historical context to set an environment but we can go many places from there,” he said.
Focusing on World War I, the band took a more electrically focused path and let the distortion of their guitars ring out on Days Into Years, with Crazy Horse-esque tones on songs like Northern Air and If I Get Old.
“It’s important for us to tell a good story and we don’t mind changing the sound around,” Laforet noted. “We like to take it to another time. We don’t do a lot of present tense. It’s almost easier to tell the actual story if you take it back a few years.”
The misleading band name, Elliott Brood, is also the name of an actual character created by the group, a man who travels silently through different eras, and tells stories from a bystander’s perspective.
“We almost look at him like a thief, in that he steals the stories and he’s the one telling them to you. We created him out of this photograph of a really old man, walking past a flourmill in the late 1800’s on one of our first tour posters. I always envisioned Elliott Brood to be that guy – with a long, white beard and someone who is watching it all and taking notes,” Laforet added.
Elliott Brood performs at the GLC next Thursday (Sept. 26) at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15, available at the GLC or online at www.ticketzone.com.