Toronto rock trio Elliott BROOD returns in support of 'Days into Years'

Justin Brake
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When they turn it on, they turn it up. Toronto alt-country and roots-rock trio Elliott BROOD have made St. John's a regular tour stop since landing here in 2008 in support of "Mountain Meadows," the album that would catapult them to the forefront of Canada's indie music scene.

And each time they come they're greeted by bigger, more enthusiastic crowds waiting to sing and dance to their upbeat, energetic repertoire.

Tonight, they're back for a gig a Club One, this time on the heels of their third album "Days into Years," which was released earlier this fall.

In BROODian fashion, the album is centered around a serious theme - war and mortality.

"We kind of look at our albums as books," singer Mark Sasso explains on the phone from the band's tour van, where he, Casey Laforet and Stephen Pitkin are making their way from Sudbury to their stompin' grounds in Toronto for a show at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.

"It makes it a little easier for us to choose the songs that go on the album, or, when you're writing them, to kind of write towards that idea."

The album's been fermenting since 2006 when, en route from Amsterdam to Barcelona on a European tour, they detoured from France's busy highways and happened across First World War and Second World War cemeteries and, early one morning, found themselves at Juno Beach, where Canadian soldiers famously landed June 4, 1944.

"That's where the seed was laid," recalls Sasso.

"It took a long time for it to gestate. Sometimes you have to delve into things and read books and watch movies and get into that headspace to write (a particular) way, and that's what took so long for this one."

The approach seems to be paying off.

"Mountain Meadows" was shortlisted for the prestigious Canadian Polaris Music Prize and its songs fuelled three years of intensive touring. And so, with expectations to the roof, whatever followed would have to be exceptional.

Now, two months after its release, more than a few are calling "Days into Years" BROOD's best work yet.

The album's deft songwriting-a duty shared by Sasso and Laforet-coalesces brilliantly with the band's polished musical output and Sasso's swelling vocal proficiency.

"It's kind of hard to know your own evolution since you're so close to it," says Sasso, who also plays guitar, banjo and ukulele.

"I kind of see it, but I see it in writing more than anything. I think these are our strongest songs."

Opening track "Lindsay" tells the story of a young man who finds the poetry of a deceased family member and war veteran.

"You find things that wouldn't have known about in life," Sasso explains.

"You knew they were a soldier, but you didn't know that they had gone through certain things or written things down or left things behind that tell more about them than you would have ever known in life. Maybe they weren't open to talking about it but they had written it down, and then you discover it all that time later."

"Northern Air", what some have labelled the album's centerpiece, is a nod to a friend Laforet lost in a car crash 10 years ago.

"In the accident his car ended up hitting, amongst other things, a mailbox," Sasso explains.

"And all the friends, who were all young at the time, around 20 - they decided that they would take the mailbox way up North (in Ontario) and attach it to a tree. And that's kind of where they consider his grave to be. They go visit him there every year. They take music, poems, all kinds of things. It kind of goes along with the theme of war - you lose somebody at an early age, (so) how do you represent them and how do you continue their life even though they're no longer there?"

Diverging from the third-person perspective of past albums' songs, Sasso says he and Laforet found themselves deeper in those on "Days into Years."

"For whatever reason-maybe the topic or theme being World War I and World War II and soldiers and life in general, battling through life-it's more of a personal album. It's kind of a new thing for us," he explains.

"For the most part I'd never really written from the first-person, but for whatever reason all the songs that I wrote and that Casey wrote on this album are all very personal takes on things in life.

"I think we've grown as songwriters and maybe that kind of shows more on this album. You have three years between albums and you grow as a person, grow as a songwriter, and you grow as a band."

Elliott BROOD play Club One tonight. Tickets are $20 and available at Fred's Records, O'Brien's Music, The Sundance and Big Ben's in Churchill Square.

For more info visit www.mightypop.ca.

 

Organizations: Phoenix Concert Theatre, Fred's

Geographic location: Toronto, Mountain Meadows, St. John's Canada Sudbury Amsterdam Barcelona France Juno Beach Ontario Big Ben

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