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First Play: Elliott Brood, Ghost Gardens

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Andrea Gin

When searching for inspiration for their sixth studio album, the members of Hamilton based alt-country band Elliott Brood had to look no further than one of their old suitcases.

While setting up their new studio in Hamilton, Ont., band members Stephen Pitkin, Mark Sasso and Casey Laforet discovered old demos that had spent nearly a decade and a half languishing on a forgotten hard drive in a suitcase in a garage. After listening to the long-lost song ideas, they immediately knew they had the makings of another album on their hands.

“We listened to the songs there and it was instantly apparent that the songs deserved a place in this world,” writes drummer Pitkin via email, “especially given the new situation we had with the studio access.”

The trio named the album Ghost Gardens in reference to the phenomenon whereby perennial gardens of abandoned houses and buildings continue to flourish year after year without any human intervention. It’s an apt metaphor for the songs on the album, which range from rousing foot-stompers like “Dig a Little Hole,” to gentle lullabies like “Adaline” — all infused with wistfulness and nostalgia. It’s Elliott Brood going back to basics; re-examining their rough-hewn beginnings from a softer, more experienced perspective. They manage to capture the organic and mostly acoustic sound of their beginnings, but also show off how far they have come since their debut.

“The difference is that we are realizing those songs now with more songwriting and arrangement muscle than we had previously employed,” Pitkin explains. “We have improved upon our gear and are trying some new recording techniques. It was very gratifying to revisit these songs under such circumstances.”

The Juno Award-winning band, known for its energetic live performances, has planned an extensive North American tour for the fall, and, after more than 15 years together, they are still eager to hit the road. Pitkin credits their longevity to a shared sense of determination and vision.

“Everyone brings a different element to the band, too, and we tend to propel one another. The surprises keep coming and the group keeps evolving.”

Ghost Gardens will be released via Paper Bag Records on Sept. 15. Pre-order it here. Check out Elliott Brood’s upcoming fall tour dates here.