From Birmingham, Alabama, Indie folk band The Brook & The Bluff are coming to Seattle Tuesday night (11/5). The first time I heard The Brook & The Bluff, I had let Youtube go on autoplay while working remote. The band’s smooth cover of the Childish Gambino song “Redbone” came on and I was impressed. Listening to the band’s more recent offerings, songs like “Everything is Just a Mess” or “Hallways“, it’s hard not to get drawn in by the vocal magic this band seems to emanate. With the release of their first full length album “First Place”, I had an opportunity to interview all four members of the band, Guitar player Alex Bolton, drummer John Canada, bassist Fred Lankford (all from Mountain Brook, Alabama), and vocalist/key and guitar player Joseph Settine (from Bluff Park, Alabama). Here’s my short interview with The Brook & The Bluff:
1.) Most interviews I’ve read, talk about the origins of the band name, The Brook & The Bluff. I think it’s a great name. You’re quoted as saying, “I think we will always claim ourselves as a Birmingham band no matter what, it’s inherent in the name.” Was that always the intention of the name, The Brook & The Bluff? Were there any rejected names that as a group you thought up, that still stick out today?
The Brook & The Bluff was definitely always intended to call back to where we’re from. When we started performing under that name, it was just Alec and I (Joseph) playing acoustic cover songs in Auburn, and it was actually the first name that we came up with. There had been another band we were in during our first couple years of school that was called The Freewheelers, and we considered that but ultimately wanted to be something new.
2.) I read that each band member has a choir background and in each song, there is an emphasis on the vocals. How does having a band where each member has a choir background affect the songwriting process? Would you say it’s an advantage or at times can it be a hindrance?
It is absolutely an advantage at all times. The voice is our only instrument that’s actually in your body, so we think it’s the most expressive when it comes to all of the different textures in the music. More voices mean more expression and for us that can only be a good thing. It really affects the songwriting process just as far as making sure we always have room within the song for more voices.
3.) I checked out the music videos featured on your YouTube channel. In one sense, some videos are simplistic in that it’s footage of the band performing the songs in what looks like a studio, however, a common trait is the unique filming style which mixes filters and at times a type of pinhole lens. It contributes an almost dreamlike quality to the video and really adds to the song. Where do the concepts for your videos come from? Is there a feeling you’re trying to evoke through these videos?
We originally wanted to try and have some type of performance video for the first three singles with a similar kind of thread visually, but have them shot in different places, so we reached out to our friend Drew Bauml to see if he’d like to shoot them and then gave him the space to create that dreamy aspect that you’re talking about. I really believe in letting people have as much room to create as possible, and we don’t know the ins and outs of filming, so we really let him run with it – sent him the songs and he was off.
These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview subject, Hip Hop artist Nick Weaver. Nick Weaver asks:
4.) Social media is a must for all DIY artists. Do you work to balance how much social media time you have every day? If so, what steps do you take?
Social media definitely is super important, which can sometimes be overwhelming for an artist. Our philosophy is basically not oversharing and staying genuine. People’s feeds are overflowing with so much of that “content” every day, so we don’t want to be part of all that noise and want to focus on the highlights and most important pieces to share.
5.) Name one artist who’s no longer alive that you wish could have seen perform. Why?
Donny Hathaway… and his live record is exactly why.
6.) Favorite pizza spot in your hometown?
Our favorite spot in Nashville, where we currently live, is Five Points Pizza. As for Birmingham that’s probably up for contention… Davenports, Salvatores and Tortugas are all really really great tho.
7.) As my final question, as a band you folks enjoy trying the local cuisine and beers of each place you stop at while on tour. What city has the best food? What city has the best local beer? (Please include recommendations, if possible)
Our favorite food city is definitely Austin, Tx. Our friend and album art designer/designer for everything we do lives there and he’s taken us to so many places. I think the place we went to with the best pasta I’ve ever had is called Pettrucci’s. We also went to a taco truck out of an old school bus, I don’t remember what that was called. The best local beer city I think has to be Asheville, North Carolina and you could have any beer from there and it will be good.
I have to thank The Brook & The Bluff for taking the time to answer my questions. I really hope you enjoy what Seattle has to offer in food (I recommend snacking on stuff at Pike Place Market), and what we have to offer in beer (can’t go wrong checking out the bars and breweries around Capitol Hill). Check them out tomorrow night at the Columbia City Theater, and check out their album “First Place” wherever you get your music.