Elliott Brood, Fine Points
777 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA, 94110
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is all ages
To hear Pickwick tell it, their popular Myths 7-inch series was merely a group of rough sketches they'd been developing over the previous two years put to wax. That a CD collection of those "demos" held their hometown Seattle's Sonic Boom Records #1 sales spot for a period of weeks in 2011 shows those six songs amounted to something more than tossed off basement recordings. With a successful year of festival invites and an ever larger string of hometown sell-outs behind them in 2012 the band refocused on recording and have a year later emerged with Can't Talk Medicine. Upgrading from the basement used for Myths and setting up shop in their living room, the band's own multi-instrumentalist Kory Kruckenberg served as engineer. The 13 finished tracks include three re-recorded and fully realized Myths cuts and a collaboration with Sharon Van Etten on lead single "Lady Luck."
"A cool thing about this record," says Kruckenberg, "this house has made its way onto the record. We've tried to include the quirks of living here." Guitarist Michael Parker wryly spins the situation differently saying "our record doesn't sound like a lot of other records because it was recorded in this living room." The choice of a carpeted location may have been a double-edged sword, but the use of this unconventional space was fully compatible with the band's own grittier leanings and desire to establish a unique musical aesthetic. By recording to 1/2 inch tape on an 8 track and incorporating found sounds, Kruckenberg was additionally using a canvas that provided for an intentionally different dynamic than a modern digital effort. Why tape? "It's about dirtiness," Kruckenberg explains referring to the distortion that the taping process itself can imbue on a recorded sound. He reports his final results with a grin, "It's raw."
An audiophile's full attention to every detail shows in the final mix: voices and instruments have the space to assert their full identity and tones shimmer in lengthy decay. The percussive clang of the piano hammers in lead track "Halls of Columbia" are incorporated instead of hidden away. The organ drone in "Window Sill" is elevated from dissonant psych clutter to an eerie foundational element. The harmonies of Parker, keyboardist Cassady Lillstrom, and guest Kaylee Cole are at turns sweet, unsettling and epiphanic. It's all orchestrated to support frontman Galen Disston's gospel growl and build on the mood of his words.
"There is a layer to our songs that I don't think very many people have picked up on," says Disston, who prefers listeners delve into their own imagination with his words over providing a literal history of every lyric. What he will relate is that Can't Talk Medicine mines themes of mental illness. "It's about art making you go crazy," he reveals. "We idolize and value that insanity when it's in the name of art." But as his lyrics also imagine it, life in creative overdrive can be nervous, desperate and grotesque. The refrain in "Window Sill" speaks of planning a defiant suicide and Myths crowd favorite "Hacienda Motel" recounts a risque homicide.
Many of the deeper answers about influences and a preference for mystery can be traced to the band's own voracious interest in music that's mired in obscurity. Reissues from Designer Records, the seminal output of the Black Ark. Robert Pete Williams, Alan Lomax, the Walkmen, The Sonics, and Abner Jay are among the diverse list of names referred to with reverence in the living room. 'Famous L. Renfroe as The Flying Sweet Angel of Joy' is a current well of inspiration for Disston who, like his idol Bob Dylan, has through his own deep exploration of American roots music developed a signature vocal delivery.
Pickwick's DIY history of making & distributing their own records continues into 2013 with the Spring self-release Can't Talk Medicine, initially available digitally via iTunes and on CD at your local CIMS-affiliated independent record shop. The Cold War Kids' Matt Maust is guilty of the album's cover design. The band travels to SXSW in March before embarking on a headlining tour of the continental U.S. in April.
Elliott BROOD have always been time travellers. The Toronto trio writes songs steeped in history that feel very present. They've done their share of actual travelling, too, these musical troubadours, acoustic guitars and banjos slung over their sharp suits as they barnstormed across Canada and beyond. For the new album Days Into Years it was century-old stories encountered an ocean away that brought them closest to home.
On the band's first European tour back in 2007 they found themselves driving through the backroads of France. Vocalist Mark Sasso, guitarist Casey Laforet and drummer Stephen Pitkin, all enthusiasts of military history, raised on the harrowing stories of Canadians in World War 1, were simply looking to avoid the toll highways. Then they came upon a sign for a WW1 military cemetery.
"We'd been driving through Belgium and France, always passing by these historical war places and we decided to pull over and take this one in," recalls Mark. "We saw all these Canadian names, and it really resonated with us, these young guys that had gone off to war. I knew all about it from reading books, but when you actually visit a place where the battles were, it hits you a lot harder. We said, 'We need to write a record about it.'"
Days Into Years is Elliott BROOD's third full-length recording, the follow-up to 2008's Polaris Prize short-listed Mountain Meadows. Like its predecessors, including the 2004 debut EP Tin Type and 2006's Juno-nominated Ambassador, it mines real history to connect songs that are deeply personal in a cinematic, narrative way. Unfolding like a series of movie scenes, it looks to the future by starting with the past. Opening track "Lindsay" invites you into process of revisiting one's life while cleaning out an old family home. "If I Get Old" daydreams of making it through difficult times, be they in the trenches or a sickbed, and finding a nice place in the country to live out one's final moments. Days Into Years presents these reflections as a celebration of life, particularly on the perfect summer single "Northern Air," a love letter both to the rural Ontario landscape and the memory of a departed friend whose spirit now resides there.
Recorded with co-producer John Critchley at Green Door Studios in Toronto and Avening Town Hall (a former army barracks) in rural Ontario, the album showcases a more amped up Elliott BROOD that will put the knell to the "death country" tag that described their early work. Now, the roof-raising rhythm stomp and mandolin collides with luscious harmonies, piano and, for the first time, electric guitar in a mix Casey admits is "loud, heavy and rock 'n' roll."
Since forming in 2002, Elliot BROOD has become a Canadian music institution. (The 2004 campus radio hit "Oh, Alberta!" remains a national treasure.) But after touring with acts like Wilco, Blue Rodeo, Corb Lund and the Sadies, playing festivals across North America, Europe and Australia and scoring the 2010 film Grown-Up Movie Star (for which they earned a Gemini nomination for Best Original Song), the band now also has a global presence. With Days Into Years they will bring their music, and of one of the greatest Canadian stories, to the world.
Elliott BROOD are Casey Laforet (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass pedals, bass guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap steel,vocals) Mark Sasso (banjo, guitar, harmonica, vocals) and Stephen Pitkin (percussion, drums, piano, vocals).
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