Elliott Brood
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Elliott Brood

Band Rock Bluegrass


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This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"In The Brood"


Part of The Righteous & The Holy night with The Shovels, Jay Clark & The Jones, Chris Hart. Thu, Aug 12. The Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen W. $8.


What ever happened to them good, old-fashioned murder songs? Used to be that you didn't have to be a gangsta rapper or a Norwegian metal enthusiast to sing ditties about hot-blooded killing. Murder ballads à la "Stagger Lee" and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" just seem a thing of the past now, despite Nick Cave's best efforts. These days, even Jimi Hendrix still catches posthumous flak for "Hey Joe" (a song Hendrix didn't even write).

However, deep in Toronto's west end, there does seem to be a resurgence of this somewhat menacing form. Armed with banjos, guitars and suitcases, Elliott Brood's Mark Sasso, Casey Laforet and Steve Pitkin are trying their best to promote a sub-genre they like to call "death country."

"We have a few murder ballads," the notably un-sinister Sasso explains, "so it's a tag I'm kinda drawn to. Some people think it's really upbeat music, but at the same time there are darker lyrics. It's been called 'blackgrass' and 'mope-twang' as well. We're not trying to hinder ourselves with labels, but there is an ominous vibe sometimes."

The group recently completed an impressive six-week tour, which took them as far as the Dawson City Music Festival in the Yukon. As well, the lavishly packaged Tin Type EP was recently released as an appetizer for a forthcoming full-length ("Tin Type was originally a demo to get us gigs, so it's nice to finally put it out," Sasso says). Songs like "Cadillac Dust" and "Oh, Alberta" conjure visions of Depression-era despair, and the simple orchestration drives home the desolate themes even harder. Still, Sasso doesn't claim to own an extensive collection of turn-of-the-century 78s. Nor does he flirt with pretension by name-dropping obscure dustbowl singers.

"Our main influences are pretty basic," he says. "Like, Neil Young -- although I do love Grant Lee Buffalo. People mention 16 Horsepower a lot, which I have no problem with. Still, there's other stuff -- I got big into Stereolab for the longest time. But then I bought a banjo in a pawn shop and started writing, so it got heavier."

And unlike many other old-school acts, such as Peterborough's Silver Hearts, Elliott Brood is not about instrumental purism. Indeed, guitar pedals are as welcome on stage as Pitkin's suitcase drums.

"We do use effect pedals like anybody else would," Sasso says. "Most people, when they hear about the banjo and guitar, suspect it'll be pretty light. But we play really heavy, driving music at times. It's just that the banjo lends itself to writing certain songs."

So how does a Stereolab-listening city boy suddenly become interested in macabre tales of barnyard murder?

"Well," Sasso says, "'Cadillac Dust' was inspired by Down by Law, the Jim Jarmusch movie. But a lot of the dark stuff comes because of my problems with sleeping. I sleepwalk and have nightmares -- which I've had all my life. That's probably where the darkest things come from."
- Eye Weekly, Toronto, On

"Dark and deadly on the sunny west coast"

August 12th, 2004
Elliot Brood

Dark and deadly on the sunny west coast
Jennifer Tattersall

Mark Sasso, Casey Laforet and Steve Pitkin : taking the long way home
Toronto duo Elliot Brood tours home after a pre-emptive B.C. stint

All attempts at catching an Elliott Brood set during either of this spring's Toronto music conferences - Canadian Music Week and North By Northeast - were futile, at least for this reporter, thanks to hordes of fans and curious reporters hoping to experience the magnificent new duo of Mark Sasso and Casey Laforet.

Critics are going gaga over their debut EP, Tin Type, which features something Sasso calls "death country," largely due to its dark, foreboding themes and imagery.

"I think it's more a feel, or a time period," explains Brood's guitar and banjo player. "I guess we're just drawn more to old rather than to new."

Despite a sparse quality on the recording, there's a lively complexity in the instrumentals. It's surprising to learn the sound comes from only guitars, banjos and keys. "We get that a lot," admits Sasso.

Fresh from their first road trip out to Vancouver, Brood makes its first jaunt into Cap City this week, with Tin Type producer and friend Stephen Pitkin on drums. Pitkin will be using an old suitcase as a kick drum to add to the gritty, aged mood.

Unlike most Ontario bands who tour locally first, his band hit the West Coast route first, including gigs in Vancouver and at The Dawson City Music Festival. They stopped in at producer Brenndan McGuire's Desolation Sound recording studio on Vancouver Island, and have plans to spend part of the winter months recording a full-length with McGuire, who has worked with Sam Roberts, Sloan and The Dears.


- Ottawa Xpress

"CD Review"

Elliott Brood
Tin Type

Tin Type

By David McPherson
April 08, 2004

Before listening to the new EP from Elliott Brood, you take notice of their art. The CD is cleverly delivered and wrapped up in a brown paper bag. Once the bag is unwrapped, one finds a mini disc inside a miniature black hand-bound album. From the first strums of the acoustic guitar and the gravely, nasal voice that seeps from the speakers one is not disappointed. The six-song EP showcases the talents of Casey Laforet, Mark Sasso and Stephen Pitkin. Brooding lyrics, banjo plucking and a lo-fi death-country flavour, especially “Oh, Alberta,” marks the songs. Think of fellow Torontonians the FemBots or Great Lake Swimmers and the general mood of Elliot Brood begins to reveal itself. The best track, “Only at Home,” echoes the foot-stomping groove of Zeppelin’s “Bron Y Aur Stomp,” but with a bluegrass beat. Tin Type closes with the fleeting ballad of loneliness and loss “Ridding in Time” — the ideal bookend for this petite disc that packs a big sound.

- Exclaim!

"Make your own music label"

May 8, 2004. 01:00 AM


Just a few of the latest local handcrafted CDs, a trend that, with the spread of cheap, accessible technology, has shown up in cities across North America and Europe.
Make your own music label
Sorry, make that `recording club.' Seasoned and budding musicians alike go the handmade route With self-burned CDs and crafty co

Mark Sasso has a general life philosophy that he's only too happy to share.

"In the mainstream, everything is so pristine and polished, it's almost lifeless," says Sasso, a pensive, soft-spoken 30-year-old with chunky black-framed glasses and an ever-present Detroit Tigers ball cap.

"Anything mass-marketed, like furniture or whatever else, it's product. But personally, I prefer a chair that creaks a bit. It had a life before you. You can't just make it up."

For the record, no, Sasso is not recounting a satisfying afternoon of antiquing. Rather, he's describing the improbable existence of the first album released by his band, Elliott Brood.

Without so much as a notion of the inner workings of the vast recording industry machine, Sasso and bandmates Casey Laforet and Stephen Pitkin took it upon themselves to record the album, Tin Type, a spare, low-fi collection of mournful countrified pop, in Sasso's living room, mix and master it on Pitkin's home computer, and churn out 800 copies of the albums' initial release on a home CD burner.

And then there's the CD itself — a lovingly hand-made volume wrapped in a plain brown wrapper, which on opening yields a small black book complete with antique photography befitting the band's down-home sound.

"We really think of it as part of our story — part of the whole," Sasso said. "I remember thinking when we put this out: The music is only one half of it, and this little book is the other."

Elliott Brood is not alone in its attachment to all aspects of its music-production process. Their self-consciously crafty album, which Sasso and Laforet still assemble themselves in Sasso's living room, is part of a grassroots musical movement blossoming the world over.

As technology allows more and more artists to record, mix, master and produce albums from the safety of their living rooms, an entire parallel music industry is blooming outside the confines of the corporate-dominated mainstream.

"Every city has a scene like this. I mean it's everywhere," said Justin Small, guitarist for the Toronto instrumental art band Do Make Say Think. "When I tour Europe, I get some handmade releases that are totally crazy. One French hardcore album had a 40-page photo book that went along with it. It was great."

With his partner Katia Taylor, Small has been hand-making CDs for their side project, the Lullabye Arkestra. Like Elliott Brood, the album is the product of home recording, mixing and burning. Each package, affectionately festooned with crude scrawlings and oblique figures rendered with thick brushstrokes, paint and ink, is unique; no two are alike.

"It's just a matter of caring, and seeing it not just as packaging, but part of the artistic whole," Taylor said.

Small agreed. "Death to the jewel case," he said, grinning broadly. "It's a dead, boring, terrible scene. That's just junk product. This is more like a gift."

The gift may be more than the simple, dotingly assembled CD itself. Such efforts send the message to the greater world that the do-it-yourself music revolution has arrived — much to the major labels' dismay.

"What it means is you don't have to be on a record label to get your stuff out there," Taylor said. "They're starting to realize that artists can be artists without them."

For the recording industry, it's just one more thing to be nervous about. CD sales in Canada dropped to $881 million in 2003 from $1.4 billion in 1999. Finger-pointing at Internet file-sharing and music downloading have sent major labels in the U.S. into paroxysms of litigious terror, threatening to sue every kid who dares fire up Kazaa or Limewire on their bedroom PC.

If desktop production technology can liberate artists from the stranglehold placed on them by a proprietary music industry that controls how many albums they print, how much it costs and, to some extent, what they sound like, then crisis may be looming on two fronts.

Of course, home recording can't equal the multi-layered sophistication of high-priced studios used to produce multi-million sellers — at least, not yet. But for a particular community of musicians producing simple, straightforward music, it's a liberation nonetheless.

Bob Wiseman was the keyboard player for Blue Rodeo until he left in the early 1990s for a solo career. Since then, he's existed happily outside the mainstream, releasing albums on small, independent labels.

Recently, he entered the burgeoning world of do-it-yourself recording, making his first solo album since 1995, It's True, with a Toronto collective called B - The Toronto Star


Tin Type ... debut EP ... on-line at Weewerks/Mileomusic
key tracks "Oh Alberta" "Cadillac Dust"
video on website for "Cadillac Dust"


Feeling a bit camera shy


“They deem themselves ... “Death Country” ... with haunting melodies, clunky background noises and flaws ... Elliott Brood are the under-side, the darker side and the grittier side of things ... the strong, loud, aggressive, yearning like vocals are joyful, angry, soulful and totally seductive ... Elliott Brood’s vocals dominate the proceedings and the components of the music to fall in behind like they’ve got a bad case of puppy love. They have an instinct for knowing when to let noise reign, and to when to let it subside, and the sense of peace and relief come like a flood, leaving the listener blissed out but suspecting it’s about to get rowdy again.”