Fresh off the release of their new single ‘Halfway Up’ The Brook & The Bluff have hit the road for their 2019 tour. Stopping in a number of new cities and picking up new fans along the way. Having had the chance to see them live at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall they are a can’t miss show. Such a strong live show performance. The Brook & The Bluff capture a crowd with a unique energy, and inventive sound. Combining smooth vocals, stellar work on the guitar and bass, with killer segments on drums, and the sprinkling of the keyboard for fun experience through their music. The four piece band will play up tempo tunes that will make you move, but also have the ability to slow it down and give you a moment and just feel something.
All four members of the band come from towns just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Growing up so close to each other the band has drawn up a Venn Diagram of how they all crossed paths and all that resulting in them starting this band. I had the chance to interview the band after their show in New York as they were driving to their next city. In the interview we talked about this Venn Diagram and their transition from being somewhat of a cover band to playing their own songs and doing this full time. We talk about a lot of fun things like their new single and upcoming album, gig tees, and karaoke. Read more about them below and make sure to follow along, they’re a band you don’t want to miss!
Alright cool, I’m on the phone with The Brook & The Bluff as they’re in the van driving to their next show. Can I get all of you to introduce yourself so that I can tell this apart when I listen back?
John Canada: Yeah for sure, this is John talking. John Canada. I play drums and sing.
Joseph Settine: This is Joseph Settine and I am the lead singer and guitar and keyboard.
Fred Lankford: My name is Fred, I play bass and sing.
Alec Bolton: I’m Alec Bolton the lead guitar player.
Okay so this is fun and an inside peak to tour life as you are in the van right now. I have a secret dream of going on tour. What can you tell me about this 2019 tour you are on?
JC: Well first of all it has been super awesome. Most of the tour we are opening for a band called Ripe. Ripe is kind of hitting a wave right now where most of these shows are selling out. So every show is like super packed and super energetic and it’s not always like that on tour.
JS: Or not for us as a beginning where we’re still at the early stages of being a touring band.
JC: So it is really fun to be along for the ride with Ripe.
JS: Along for the Ripe. (laughs)
JC: That was like really bad. (laughs) But we did just have a week of headline shows that we were out in the midwest during the polar vortex. And a little bit into the northeast as well. Which I have to say we were a little pleasantly surprised with those because we played like four or five shows in places we had never been before. Every single time it was a nice not like completely full but people came out and they were like singing lyrics. People that we didn’t even know, like we didn’t think we were gonna fill fifty tickets in Pittsburgh. So you know stuff like that is super encouraging.
Awesome, that’s just what you can wish for. I was telling Joseph yesterday how your live sets remind me of a Ripe show with the overall atmosphere. What is is like opening for a band like Ripe?
JS: I think it’s good like obviously being a band that has that kind of energy on stage has rubbed off on us a little bit to a certain extent. But I think that our music is also different enough that for us as an opener for Ripe it’s actually like really perfect. We have more moments like some more moments in our show that are a little bit more slower and maybe I don’t know like the right way to phase like more intimate.
AB: and Ripe is like nonstop. (laughs)
JS: And the whole time you want to dance and they are all bangers and it’s amazing. So I think us we want and are able to warm the crowd up like perfectly for them and they’re not exhausted. It’s not like they’re getting hit in the face with constant awesome that they get from a seven piece band. But I think we have a couple elements of that in our music but it is definitely way way different than what Ripe does and I think it has been really nice and fun. It’s a great combo! And I think the good thing about it for us is that Ripes fans are open and welcoming they just really love like any kind of music and just getting in front of them has been really rewarding and has been really fun.
So on this tour as you ride in the van what is on your road trip playlist and what are your like food guilty pleasures? Is The Brook & The Bluff making like a 2:00 am roadside diner?
JS: I mean we are always in for pizza we have also been hitting like every Indian spot we can find the past week. We’ve become obsessed.
JC: We had late night pizza and Indian last night.
JS: Yeah I double dipped last night I did Prince St. Pizza and then we stopped at an Indian place right after. Our road trip playlist it also varies. We do a lot of podcasts, but really whoever is driving kind of has control over it.
AB: It is different depending on who is driving for sure (laughs)
JS: Yeah so like if I’m driving it will be like Frank Ocean a lot of Frank Ocean usually. Right now a lot of Phoebe Bridgers like I’m obsessed with Phoebe Bridgers and that new album ‘Better Oblivion Community Center’ like that thing is Incredible. If John is driving you can hear anything from like Dear Evan Hansen to…
JC: That’s a musical by the way.
JS: Which is a musical (laughs) to like…
JC: Songs I can freaking belt to!
JS: Yeah Johns playlist is called “Songs I can freaking belt to” so he loves to sing in the car. Fred will give you anything 90’s, like anything in the 90’s grunge area Fred will give you. Alec gives us some classic rock and Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. But I think if there is a collective thing that we will always all gravitate towards putting on is Kacey Musgraves ‘Golden Hour’.
I love that. That’s funny last night at the show one of the girls in front of me was commenting about John always wearing the Kacey Musgraves shirt at the show.
JS: And that was the first night he had it but I think that he still has it on right now…
JC: No I have my James Taylor.
JS: Okay he has his James Taylor on but he did text me the other day and say this is my new go-to. He bought this shirt and immediately made it his go-to gig shirt so we will probably have lots of photos soon with John and that shirt.
That is funny. I was going off what she said and was amused that she knew the shirts you guys wore. Are gig shirts a thing? Can you tell me a little more about designated show clothing? (laughs)
JS: Oh yeah that is actually kind of interesting. I think for me when we pack I have a smaller suitcase so that we can fit more shit in the van and so I have like four or five shirts that I rotate depending on whatever run that we’re on, and so it kind of depends. I always wear black pants so I like to do all black a bit and then most of my clothes come from thrift stores.
AB: Half of my shirts are always like Birmingham related.
JS: Yeah Alec is repping Birmingham all the time. John usually wears a band shirt.
JC: Yeah I’m wearing a James Taylor shirt tonight, Kacey Musgraves shirt last night.
FL: I wear whatever my girlfriend picks out for me (laughs) she actually has picked out a lot of the clothes I wear on stage.
JS: Fred’s girlfriend will pick something out for him and then sometimes he will wear the exact opposite. (laughs)
So you mentioned Alec repping Birmingham in your shows, you also do with your band name and you talked about that a bit last night. Tell me a little bit about home?
JS: So specifically we named our band after the two neighborhoods surrounding Birmingham where we grew up. Bluff Park is a really small neighborhood but a tight knit community. Then when we go up north and like it’s not a knock on New York at all like I know you have to be like this but people can just be mean. Or we perceive it as but it’s something we’re not used to. Like in Birmingham holding doors open for people is common and this normal thing.
JC: Or like saying hello to everyone you pass on the street.
JS: Yeah like if you make eye contact with someone in Birmingham you say like “what’s up? How are you doing?”.
AB: I made eye contact with someone last night in New York and he told me to get out of his way.
JS: But I think Birmingham has this special place for us has a special place because like it will always feel like home. My moms still there, our families from there. It’s got a really special place in our hearts.
So you guys met there in Birmingham, some of you met there in high school, then University you crossed paths how did it all come together to form a band?
JS: Um yeah so it is kind of crazy we have actually have like a Venn Diagram that we have drawn out that kind of shows how we have all crossed paths.
(Laughs) That is amazing.
JS: Um Alec and Fred grew up next door neighbors. So they played in like church worship bands growing up. They had a band the greatest band name ever called…
FL: BREAKING MURPHY’S LAW! (laughs)
JS: Yeah it is the best name ever especially for a bunch of eighth graders. So they had a band that was that. They did a photo shoot and they had no music.
See that is the kind of band I would make. – You get a good name do a photo shoot and never actually make music.
JS: So first piece of advice to young bands out there is to do a photo shoot before you make any music… So yeah like they met and obviously grew up together. John also went to high school with them and they all sang in choir together while they were in high school. So the Brooks all new each other growing up in Mountain Brook because like Bluff Park it is a very small community too.
FL: But when we all got to college the three of us like never talked for like four or five years.
JS: Yeah so Fred actually went to a different school he went to Rhodes and then that is where Alec and John met me was at University at Auburn. Yeah I met John in the college choir and Alec and I met through a friend that ended up being the bass player in our first band. And we just like didn’t stop playing music together after that first band broke up.
That’s really cool – and was that band that you just mentioned the acoustic cover band I read about?
JS: Oh that was actually when we first started calling ourselves The Brook & The Bluff. It was our senior year of college and we had been out of that other band for a couple of semesters and just really both missed playing music and playing live shows. So Alec went out and stumbled around one night and got a show and then called me and we started playing again together. It was an acoustic duo for like two years.
AB: All cover shows basically (laughs)
JS: We obviously knew John at this point but John was focusing on school and went to grad school to be a CPA.
JC: And had a rival trio. (laughs)
JS: Yeah he had a rival trio to our duo. So John like eventually during in his year in grad school offered I think to play with us at anytime.
JC: Yeah it kind of from there we played one gig together and it felt really good and played another gig together and it eventually got to the point where I asked Joseph and Alec if they were trying to do this full time. Because at that point I was willing to give up my dream of being an accountant (laughs) I was able to see the light. So we basically just went “yeah” May of 2016 we sat down and made a couple of goals. I moved back to Birmingham, Alec and Joseph taught private music lessons, and from there we kind of became a trio. We went through a couple of bassists before we eventually found Fred.
And what kind of songs were you guys covering? Just curious.
JS: Oh we were all over the map! It was like anywhere…
AB: Mainly just what college kids would like.
JS: Yeah pretty much we started with a base set and then if kids were like super drunk and yelled something that we thought was a good one we would add it. So like anywhere from like Creedence, The Beatles, and we would do like Tenacious D… we did Tribute for a really long time.
AB: Sugar Ray
JS: Oh yeah and The Proclaimers like 500 Miles. Yeah it was hard because obviously we had like four or five songs that we had written while we were in Auburn but we just didn’t play them that much because that’s like not what they want. So we just kind of did some covers and made our way.
That is fun. I basically asked that question to set up for my next question that I ask in every interview. I love karaoke and I love hearing what actual legit musicians performing on any number of stage think about karaoke and what their go-to song would be. Do you guys like karaoke and what is your go-to?
JC: Yes we do!
JS: (Laughs) Ohhhh Oh my god! John could damn near be a karaoke professional.
JC: If someone asked me whether I would want to get on stage and play a real show or just go to a karaoke bar it is a toss up every night. (laughs) But yeah we love it!.
JS: What is Johns go-to? John and I recently well I actually was kind of just the hype man in the background. But we did a show in Birmingham and went to a bar after and John did ‘You’ll be in My Heart’ and that is a classic! Fred loves to do ‘Faith’ by George Michael.
AB: Fred’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is incredible!
JS: Fred can also do a hilarious “Don’t Stop Believing’. I actually don’t do karaoke too much. I will gladly come up and be the back up singer and hype man in karaoke but the solo karaoke ventures have not been great for me.
AB: We did crush some ‘Tribute’ last time though!
JS: Yeah we did actually go back Alec and I when we were in Auburn and did the throwback of ‘Tribute’ as a karaoke performance.
AB: But I think like the crowd didn’t realize how good it actually was when we did it. But we knew!
JS: They didn’t understand what was going on. But that vocal part in the middle we nail it every time!
(Laughs) I love that. You mentioned when you were playing covers that you had songs written but were playing what people wanted to hear. Now after seeing you guys last night I would rather hear your songs. Can you tell me what the song writing process is like with the four of you?
JS: Um so the song writing process is usually a little at the basics I write all the lyrics, melodies, and vocal parts and stuff like that. Sometimes I come up with some chord progressions. But I would say it normally starts either with me or with Alec, or with Alec and I. Because we have that familiarity with each other and have been writing songs together for like eight or nine years at this point so it is just easier for us as a process to start smaller and then kind of build out to the rest of the song. So we will come to the other two and be sitting in rehearsal and have an idea that maybe Alec and I have worked on for a couple of weeks or a couple of days and we will build out from there. I think the most important part is that everybody writes their own instrument and has their own free reign there and I think that is kind of important because like I don’t know how to play drums I’m not going to tell John what to do. We all sometimes might have suggestions but at the end of the day most of what is your own instrument is your own responsibility kind of to come up with. Really I think the best thing is that we all just want to make the best songs together and it is all about serving what is best for the song. I think that is probably what the most important thing of our process is. Sometimes it can just come from something I wrote in my notebook three years ago and I will pull it out and have a random melody for it and then we build around there. But the good thing about it is usually pretty different. I wouldn’t want to get stuck in the place where everything is like this formula where it has to start somewhere and it has to go to the next step. That just feels to constrictive to me.
You recently released your new single ‘Halfway Up’ and last night talked about an upcoming release for your record. What can you say about that?
JS: Ah so ‘Halfway Up’ is like the first of that record and I think for us it just kind of signifies a major step.
AB: A new chapter.
JS: A new chapter but like a major step in our understanding as like actual recording artists. Like the first EP we love the songs and there is nothing wrong with the songs it was just like our first experience in a studio and we had no idea what we were doing. In the process we didn’t really take time to make sure everything was perfect and so we ended up spending a lot of time after tracking getting everything right and eventually we did. Now there is like a lot more attention to littler details and going in by the time we get to the point where I am putting vocals on a song it already sounds incedible and I think the difference for me with that first project is we would be putting vocals and we would say “Oh I know this isn’t what it will sound like in the end but like” it wasn’t as easy to give everything to the song because it didn’t sound as good at the lower stages.
JC: I mean the entire first effort was like a big learning process really. Just learning how to record music.
FL: Because recording is so different than playing live. It’s an art in and of itself.
JS: Yeah I would say we are all just really excited like the album is for me I’ve like grown so much as a songwriter and I know how to say things in a way that sound more like myself than in the first songs. It’s just more focused and I think the songs are better and they sound amazing. We were like incredibly excited about the direction that the record is going.
That experience is really cool to hear about and how the record is coming together. Is their a timeline with that currently?
JS: So we are still in the middle of tracking it we have six songs that have been tracked so far and we are looking to make it a ten song release. So there is not a definitive timeline. But we are definitely hoping to put out another song in April or May somewhere in there and hopefully have the album out at some point in the summer. But with releases you just never know. We are really just mainly focused on getting through the next month and a half of touring and then we can really reflect and finish up at least tracking the album.
Perfect I’m looking forward to the released and all that is next for The Brook & The Bluff. Thank you for your time, lets grab some Prince St. Pizza and go to karaoke next time you’re in New York.
JC: Hell Yeah!
JS: Ohhh for sure!
Find them on tour in a city near you on their website.