Toronto trio Elliott Brood is currently on an extensive cross-Canada tour, hitting the towns and cities that helped give them their start a decade ago.
So too is their the debut 2004 EP, Tin Type, newly remastered with added B-side tracks, only its journey is separate from the band's.
"It's supposed to come out today," says drummer Stephen Pitkin over the phone on Monday from Winnipeg. "They're out there. We're chasing our own records all over the country. We're touring and so are they. But I can assure you with the upmost confidence that that vinyl will be with us in Whistler."
Pitkin contributed to that debut album — which included the endearingly quirky college radio breakthrough "Oh Alberta!" — but it wasn't from behind the drum kit.
"When I first ran into (Elliott Brood) I was a soundman and they were a duo," he says. "I was also an aspiring producer. Bands that I liked, I tried to see if they wanted to record with me. I gave them a bit of a pitch and they took me seriously. I found myself discussing my recording style, which I've come to call 'commando recording.' You take the necessary ingredients, the right mics and (recording equipment) and strip it down, basically. It's just the minimum, whatever you can fit in a car, and you get into a situation where it's really comfortable for the musicians. In this case, it was at Mark's (Sasso, singer) home on Bloor Street in Toronto."
The crew recorded the EP over one weekend "then I proceeded to master the shit out of it and made it quite loud," Pitkin says with a laugh.
That's part of the reason why the reissue was tweaked. It also includes two songs cut from the original album, along with a cover called "Cranes" by a now defunct band called Parkdale that Sasso almost wound up playing in before launching Elliott Brood. "(The song) is a story about urban sprawl," Pitkin says. "It makes me cry every time we play it. The lyrics pull at your heart strings. It's about this crane, but it's also about the plight of humanity."
Much has changed in the last decade, but Elliott Brood has remained a band — call them death country or frontier rock (the very apt genre tag Do Make Say Think guitarist Justin Small recently came up with) or good ol' fashioned folk — that has been drawn to stories. Their 2008 record, Mountain Meadows, used the 1857 slaughter of 120 people in Utah as a loose theme, while their 2011 release, Days Into Years, was inspired by a military cemetery in France called Etaples.
The band stopped at the graves during a tour across Europe back in 2007. "There are thousands of unmarked graves," Pitkin says. "It hit us all how lucky we are that these young kids basically went out and risked or lost their lives for a cause. That became a catalyst because it struck an emotional chord."
That record has earned wide critical acclaim and a Juno Award for roots/traditional album of the year. It was the band's third Juno nod — and the first time they didn't attend the ceremony to see if they'd be winners. With three shows booked in Quebec and high plane ticket prices they decided to continue with their scheduled gigs. "Our sound man Ryan was there," Pitkin says. "Mark left his phone in the hotel on purpose, but I brought my phone and put it where I always do by my drums. I looked down in the middle of the show and saw this text come in that said, 'Congratulations!' We were pretty excited. We told the crowd and everyone gave us a big cheer."
Technically on a tour to promote an old album made new again, the band will play equal helpings from across their decade of music-making in Whistler Sept. 26 at the GLC. Pitkin won't, however, reveal whether or not the band will bring their big bag of pots, pans and spoons in tow, like they did in the early days. At past gigs, the band would dole out the implements to the crowd so they could bang along for the last track.
"If we had it and I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise," Pitkin says. "But there will be some sort of surprise for sure."
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