Elliott Brood gets around. The influence of a cabin at the foot of Mount Robson, a town hall in Wayne, Alberta, and front and back rooms in Toronto are all apparent in the eclectic recording process for Elliott Brood's recent album, Mountain Meadows. The group covers a lot of distance, both in their music and in their touring van. Opening for acts like Wilco, Corb Lund and the Sadies, as well as garnering a Juno nomination for their record Ambassador, they have been busy making their mark in the world.
Since the release of their debut EP Tin Type, the band's music hasn't strayed far from the soulful rough edge that gives them their unique sound. The songs have become bigger and more expansive with added instrumentation, yet one can still recognize the roots production and trademark strained vocals of singer Casey Laforet. Though they are often described as "death country" by the music press, guitarist Mark Sasso doesn't believe it fully describes what the band does.
"Death country kind of describes the lyrical content, but our music is pretty upbeat in our live show so I think it minimally describes what we do," he says.
Elliott Brood's live show has gained them a loyal following across the country with their upbeat tunes and driving rhythms played on an old suitcase with banjos, guitars and ukuleles.
Ambassador features songs about the death of Stonewall Jackson, John F. Kennedy and the title track is based on the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ontario to Detroit. Lyrically, the songs on Mountain Meadows were loosely inspired by the massacre of a wagon train by Mormon militia in Utah in 1857. Sasso says the band uses historical events and perspectives as a start point for their songwriting, rather than consciously forcing the themes.
"I think it's kind of organic," he explains. "We kind of stumbled upon it. Casey stumbled upon it reading a book and I watched a documentary, so it's not like, 'Okay, let's go to this time period and write about it.' It's about what you're interested in. When you find something that resonates with you, one, it becomes the album title and two, you use it as a jumping off point for some of the songs."
Mountain Meadows isn't a concept record. Sasso notes it's up to the listener to find their own path through the album.