Music Interview: Quirky brooders

Quirkiness is at an all time premium in today’s music scene. Bands continue to experiment with stranger and stranger approaches to their music as everyone strives for a new and unusual sound, leading to some truly bizarre moves such as Elliott Brood’s choice of setting for the recording of their new album, Ambassador.

“We recorded our new album in a converted abattoir,” drummer Steve Pitkin says, trying to draw a mental picture of what it might be like in a slaughterhouse. “You walk down all these dark corridors and the floors are slanted for the blood to drain better. Then you get to the end of this hallway and there’s a recording studio in the back. It was pretty cool, but, you know, musty.”

Mustiness aside, the surroundings certainly gave Ambassador, a spooky aura. The album is 12 tracks of self-described death-country, a genre name Pitkin didn’t invent, although he wishes he had.

“We came up with that kind of off the cuff thinking it was original,” he explains. “Well, it wasn’t, but we still felt it was the best way to describe our music. It’s not country, it’s not alt-rock. It’s a shame we need to have a genre but it’s a necessary evil. People need to know what to expect.”

What you should expect are banjo-driven songs sounding like they live under a layer of muck and whiskey, with lead singer Mark Sasso’s vocals scratching along to the rhythm provided by Pitkin and bandmate Casey Laforet.

Music isn’t all there is to Elliott Brood, their one of a kind approach to the accompanying artwork of their CDs is sure to draw some much deserved attention.

“Presentation is a big part of it,” Pitkin says. “We do a lot of our own assemblage, in terms of the art that comes with the record. On the new one, there’s a unique identifier in each package, with a number. We weren’t even thinking, we should’ve saved the first 100. I think I have number 64.”

Ambassador also comes with a replica of an old train ticket, marked for one-way travel of course, and a blueprint design for the Ambassa- dor bridge connecting Windsor to Detroit. The boys in Elliott Brood clearly deem it necessary to put this level of commitment into the presentation of their band as yet another way to stand-out in a crowded industry.

“People are just inundated with Canadian Idol stuff, you know?” Pitkin asks rhetorically. “It’s music by committee, not by artists. We’re trying to do something a little different with our music and the packaging, because this is the kind of thing we like and we think other people like it too.”

This is an optimistic outlook and Pitkin is aware of its downfalls.

“Any time a fresh kind of music gets noticed there are going to be a million people that jump on the bandwagon and try to fabricate it,” he warns. “You’re already seeing that with our kind of country.”

Pitkin isn’t trying to make his band out to be a group of musical visionaries. He simply believes a certain level of originality in popular music–such as what we are blessed to have right now–is a hard thing to maintain. Thus, the battle for quirkiness starts all over again.

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