Elliott BROOD's current HQ in Hamilton, ON's Beasley Village has a mysterious past. Now a cozy, somewhat spartan yet fully functional rehearsal and recording studio, it may have been an office at one point, or possibly some kind of fitness space.
"There's a shower behind the furnace and they don't even know why it's there," Elliott BROOD drummer and recording engineer Stephen Pitkin says, laughing. "The landlord was like, 'There's a shower back here,' and that was it."
Prior to relocating to Hamilton, Pitkin lived in Toronto for years, where he played in bands like the Flashing Lights and did sound at Toronto's Cameron House. That's actually where he first met Mark Sasso and Casey Laforet, who grew up in Windsor, ON and had a two-piece band called Elliott BROOD.
Before long, the trio became a beloved, darkly hued folk band in Toronto, crossing the world many times over since 2004 and releasing a succession of acclaimed albums.
Looking to raise a family and flee a high-priced housing market, Sasso decided to move to Hamilton seven years ago, and now owns a house near the Bruce Trail. He loves the city.
"Growing up in Windsor, it's very similar to Hamilton," he says. "It feels like a small town. You get here and into the music community and, next thing you know, you start to know everybody. I really like the feeling here; it's like kids can still be kids."
"What I notice is, as soon as someone's here, they're pro Hammer all the time," Laforet, who lives in nearby Dundas, adds. "You become part of the community. Whenever someone's doing something, it seems that everyone else is there to support it."
That gung-ho spirit and blue collar work ethic has led Elliott BROOD to treat their new facility like a small musical factory.
"We got this place almost two years ago," Sasso explains. "We call it 'the office' and we come here every weekday at 9:30, after dropping our kids off, until 2:30 and we write and record all day. It's awesome."
"Once you start putting money into a place like this, you better use it," Laforet adds.
"We roll in here and converse for like half-an-hour, as you might at any business, and then we try to get down to brass tacks," Sasso says.
Powered by a digital mixing console, EB HQ has its charms and quirks. Trucks rumbling by outside shake the foundation and delicious food aromas waft in from a nearby restaurant.
"It's big enough to have a tone and get some reverb by putting some mics further out in the room," Pitkin adds. "There were some anomalies we had to figure out, like the AC and heat kicking in."
"Our album gets less noisy as you listen to it," Laforet jokes. "We've learned as we've gone to eliminate things like the fridge coming on during a good take."
Sasso states that the band's Hamilton life is almost the opposite of its Toronto existence. He says they never had the luxury of consistent time to spend working together there, because such rooms are rare and expensive. The band can see Hamilton's market trending in a similar manner but for now, they're simply in love with their own spot and what it yields.
"Mark bought this Nord about four years ago," Pitkin says, motioning to a red keyboard. "Now that it's always mic'd and going through an amp, we're using it."
"Yeah, it's one benefit of this space that all of our gear is set up and we can create on the fly," Sasso agrees. "If we didn't have this place, the Nord would never be set up."
"We're actually going to it for melody before we go to guitars for some reason now," Laforet adds. "The other day Mark had a sketch on guitar and I went to the Nord instead of guitar. We have a lot of material with nice, new touches."
The band says their HQ has enabled them to create two albums' worth of work in a relatively short period of time, and fans should expect to hear new songs in the near future. They've also been composing music for the CBC TV show Bellevue, which stars Anna Paquin and was co-created by Laforet's wife, Jane Maggs.
In fact, her work on the show means the couple will be splitting their time between Toronto and Hamilton for the foreseeable future.
"I might have to live here part-time when I'm commuting," Laforet says, wistfully surveying the room.
"Good thing for the shower," Sasso deadpans.