A rocking brood
Hamilton, Ontario band Elliott BROOD’s story started much like hoards of bands around the world.
A group of young music lovers came together to write songs and create music.
Mark Sasso, who does words, guitar, banjo and harmonica for the band started playing the guitar after his parents offered him the opportunity to learn.
But after a couple lessons Sasso quit and began teaching himself while listening to the music that he liked.
“Growing up I listened to the typical music I guess, like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, CCR and stuff like that,” he said.
Bands like the Jayhawks, Blue Rodeo and little known band Grant Lee Buffalo also inspired Sasso, and as kids growing up across from Detroit, Sasso and bandmate Casey Laforet were influenced by the sounds of Motown.
After teaching himself the guitar, Sasso decided to move on to the banjo.
“I like teaching myself stuff. I never liked anyone teaching me,” he said. “I figured I would never be the fastest banjo player. I started playing with a pick and took off the fifth string which kind of infuriates purists of folk. I just started playing it more like a guitar really. I taught myself, kind of just writing songs. That’s what I like to do really, rather than jamming, I like to write songs. The banjo for whatever reason seemed like a really phat instrument and I started writing songs.”
Sasso and Laforet knew each other from high school, but Sasso says they never really hung out. In the evenings when the got home from their jobs as a documentary film editor for Sasso and a cartographer for Laforet they started playing in Sasso’s apartment above a Flight Centre and a health food store.
“They would all go home at night and we could rock out really hard. That’s how we started, stomping on the floor and it didn’t really bother them much. The one time it did we bought them each a couple bottles of wine and they were good with that. They never bothered us after that,” he said.
Sasso, Laforet and drummer and keyboardist Stephen Pitkin became a band in 2002 and were playing to regular crowds around Toronto.
“We didn’t play any stadiums starting out, just the bar scene,” said Sasso. “There was a few small places. One in Kensington Market that we played called Graffiti’s. It was kind of one of the first places we started out. There was another place on the west end of town called Cafe May. We kind of just honed in there and it was kind of nice. We started out really small never really thinking anything was going to happen and then it just kind of kept building and week after week people were coming out.”
The response to Elliott BROOD was always positive, and the band’s following has continued to build since 2002.
Most of their airplay has been through small independent radio stations and the CBC.
“It’s been wild to know that without any real airplay, besides the CBC and certain places that are non-mainstream, we are making our way in the underground and it’s building,” said Sasso.
In 2010 Elliott BROOD was invited to share their “revival music” at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“We call it revival music now so death country is dead,” said Sasso about their former classification as death country. “It came about because most people thought with the banjo and the guitar we were playing bluegrass music, but that’s definitely not the case. We play rock and roll with a banjo. It’s not religious music, but it’s kind of like a revival meeting. When we play live it’s pretty crazy that way.”
Unlike many other bands who pull inspiration from everyday life, Elliott BROOD looks to history, books, legends and movies.
“You sometimes get it from real life, but for Casey and I we kind of derive it from books and movies that we’re watching and stories that you hear. As opposed to having to derive from our own personal experiences all the time, we kind of enjoy mining different territories for ideas,” said Sasso.
Elliott BROOD will be playing at the Spiritbar in Nelson on Friday night for the second time in nearly four months.
“Nelson is crazy. It is insane,” said Sasso.
“I think we played on a Tuesday last time and I was like ‘don’t these people have to work?’ And someone was like ‘No! Everyone works part-time around here.’ It’s just a great place. Nelson, much like BC, much like all the other places that we’ve been playing in Canada, the crowds that we get are great, good natured people. I think people want us back. So if we can play Nelson twice in four months, than that’s a pretty great thing. I suspect that we’ll pack it again and have a really great time. That’s what we kind of live for really.”
For more information about Friday’s show contact the Hume Hotel.