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How Elliott Brood’s Town & Country project was inspired by … a pair of suits

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Photo by Dustin Seabrook.

“We write what we would like to hear. And you hope there’s people out there that are kindred spirits and feel the same way.”

The alternative country trio Elliott Brood has been together for over 20 years after Windsor, ON high school friends Mark Sasso and Casey Laforet moved to Toronto to pursue a life in music. Soon after connecting with drummer Stephen Pitkin, they released their debut EP, Tin Type, in 2004. From the onset, the focus of the band had been on lyrics more than music.

“We’re big fans of storytellers, and that’s what we wanted to do,” said Casey.

Stephen initially took care of live sound for Casey and Mark before producing the EP and joining the band as drummer. He remembers them as a travelling minstrel duo, stomping the floor while playing guitar and banjo with no real amplification.

“When you remove a song from the electronics and play it on an acoustic guitar, that’s where a song can stand up,” Stephen said. “That’s what impressed me about them at the beginning.”

Things moved pretty quickly after that. They were signed to the newly-formed label, (weewerk) records, which released Tin Type, the EP got some airplay, they started touring across Canada and they even signed with a European booking agent.

“For banjo music at that time to catch on and chart on Canadian college radio was pretty weird,” said Mark.

Elliott Brood’s diverse approach to music has provided them the opportunity to play a wide variety of venues and festivals, from folk to Americana to rock to alternative and more.

“We sort of don’t fit exactly into any of those but we’re on the edges of it all the time.”

Being able to play a number of instruments means Mark, Casey and Stephen can write and perform a wide variety of songs that will fit multiple genres of music.

“People see different things in us, so we’ve been welcomed in all these different circles.”

Their latest album, Town & Country, is an ambitious project with one disc devoted to “town” songs while the other contains “country” songs. The idea for the album title comes from some suits made for the trio during Covid. Casey’s was made with industrial images like smokestacks with flowers coming out of them while Mark’s suit had birds and cat-tails. Stephen’s outfit is adorned with red leaves and flowers. They divided up the songs they had written into the two themes, with the disc Town released in November of 2023 and Country debuting in April of this year.

“They’re a great couple of albums,” said Mark. “They were really fun to make and they’re really fun to play live.”

While the Elliott Brood has worked with outside producers in the past, Town & Country is a total self-production with Stephen leading the way. For the last seven years they’ve been renting a detached rehearsal space in Hamilton, which they’ve developed into a recording facility.

“It’s nice to have that space,” said Stephen, “where we just go into the office.”

This allowed them to create at their own pace, with the added knowledge there wasn’t any pressure from their current label, Six Shooter Records, to come up with a single.

“And that’s why we have no singles!” joked Casey.

“We know what we want, and we know we can make what we want,” said Mark. “Our slogan is ’20 Years the Hard Way.’”

For more on Elliott Brood and Town & Country, go to http://www.elliottbrood.com.

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