The Brook & The Bluff Walk Us Through Bluebeard Track By TrackPhotos by Noah Tidmore Music Features The Brook & The Bluff
Today, Nashville quintet The Brook & The Bluff their fourth album, Bluebeard. The record is a beautiful fusion of soul, indie folk, Americana, jazz and pop. A true amalgamation of a band an apex, Bluebeard shows just how good a band can get when they eclipse the 10-year mark as a unit. Each track across the record provides listeners with a kaleidoscope of colorful, striking arrangements and moving vocal inflections. Joseph Settine, Fred Lankford, John and Kevin Canada and Alec Bolton, together, make some of most communal and vivid and compelling music around, and you can feel just how embedded the sounds and craftsmanship of the Nashville scene are in the group’s own architecture.
Bluebeard is a triumphant next chapter for The Brook & The Bluff, who continue on an upwards trajectory that knows no limit. From energetic live shows to a poised studio presence, the band stand singularly in their own distinguishable orbit. We’re thrilled that The Brook & The Bluff sat down and pieced through every track from Bluebeard. Click play on the record and take a stroll with us through the origins of this beautiful, one-of-a-kind record.
“Normal Things” is a song about letting go and trying to feel connected to the moment you’re in right now. The idea came first during an LSD trip on the last day of one of our writing retreats. I always seem to have this lifting calmness when we go to the mountains together, and “Normal Things” is us trying to capture that in a song. Every time I put it on I can feel the weight of whatever I’m carrying lift off of my chest. It really sets up the mood of the whole record, and it was the first song we started tracking at the house in Sky Valley.
“Long Limbs” captures the feeling of being in and out of love with someone, and the limbo stages in between that test your belief in love at all. It’s about dancing around real intimacy, trying to fight it, and realizing that fight is a narrow path to life—so you give in. I wrote the chorus for this one in 2016, and it was originally paired with the verses of “Everything is Just a Mess,” but I ended up going a different way. When it came time to finish this record, John pushed to bring this chorus back into a full song and god bless him for it.
“Hiding” was probably the most fun we had tracking a song to date. The guitar solo is a fretless bass, and we made up a totally ridiculous song that just goes along with the bassline melody. The real, actual song is about presenting a completely put together presentation of yourself on the surface, but inside of you everything feels like it has been put together wrong. Then you actually talk to someone else, and you realize that we’re all just out here trying to figure it out one day at a time.
“Bulletins From The Past”
This song started being based off of an often repeated one-liner in Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard where the protagonist will repeatedly say “Bulletin from the present!” It’s about memories that come to you randomly, things you may have blocked because it hurt too much, or because it was so happy that you feel guilty for being happy. The bulletins serve as a reminder to not live a narrow life full of numbness and nothing, but to try and feel everything as it comes, even the scary stuff. Of all the songs on Bluebeard, this one draws the most from the novel. The fear of being remembered, it’s something that everyone shares. I think painters and musicians live in a world that amplifies that everyday, and sometimes the music, or lying in paint, doesn’t bring as much release as you had hoped.
“Tangerine” is the last song we recorded for Bluebeard and it felt like the perfect way to finish the recording process. It’s also maybe the fastest we have gone as a group from writing a song, to having it recorded. It all came together in like two weeks. “Long Limbs” took 7 years. In a lot of ways, this is a sister song to “My Foggy Lens.” The glittery guitar riffs, the happiness in the chords and the melodies in general stand in contrast to what is being sung, which is some version of myself trying to figure out my depression. Happy music, sad words. Name a better duo, I’ll wait.
Everything you need to know about “Headfirst” is really just in the title of the song. It came from a time in my life where I was trying to win over someone, and I felt a little short changed because the only thing holding us back was hesitation. The only way you will know if something is going to work out is by diving in headfirst. This song existed as an idea in Alec’s loop pedal for 5-6 years. We always knew we wanted it to sound exactly the way it does, but we couldn’t figure it out ourselves and couldn’t find a great place for it on one of our first two records. It is perfect for Bluebeard, and Micah Tawlks (our producer) is perfect for us because he pulls all of our wildest ideas out and makes them reality.
“Twist My Arm”
This song is the living reputation of our general motto as a band – let’s do the weirdest possible thing we can think of, and if we need to dial it back a little afterwards, so be it. Enter “Twist My Arm” and the battle of two guitar parts. Fading in the second line at the top of the second verse transports me to a different world, and that was our whole goal for this record and this song specifically. There’s a disjointed but also cohesive feel to this song that feels like a sonic representation of my brain on a day-to-day basis.
“Knock” is a song about daydreaming. I spend a lot of my time in my head, either worrying about the past or building futures that I know can’t play out in real life in my brain. I think we all do. It’s all based on this very 1980’s teen movie image I had in my head of the person throwing rocks at your window in the middle of the night trying to get you to sneak out. We spent hours and hours working on this song at the mountain house together. The chord progression to the bridge was worked out on the porch where the record cover was shot. It started out as a 1960’s swing type ballad, and the only thing we kept was the bassline from the original arrangement.
“My Foggy Lens”
“My Foggy Lens” is a window into my depression. It’s a song about the frustration of being stuck in bed, knowing that getting up might help, and still being there at the end of the day. There’s optimism at the end, because I think that’s what keeps us going. Little moments outside of the cloud that make me feel truly alive. Again, happy music, sad, sad song. Still waiting for that better duo…
“Prove Me Wrong”
I (John) wrote the bare bones bones of this song on an acoustic guitar a few years ago, but we turned it into something completely new in the mountains. Between Kevin’s arpeggiated synth, Alec’s baritone guitar, Fred’s synth bass and Joseph’s lyrical help all laid on a lush bed of strings, I think we made something truly special. This was my first time bringing a new idea to the band rather than tackling it all by myself. Being alone or being together? I’ll take the latter.
All of the weightiness of this record needed some good ol’ fashioned balance, and that’s what “Tell Me” is—a straight up rock n’ roll tuneski. Nothing too deep about it, I want your face, you want my face, let’s face off. You know when someone has you wrapped around their finger, and sometimes that’s right where you want to be. When we recorded this song, we made Alec stand on the porch and record his solo facing the Blue Ridge Mountains so that he would rip a solo as big as the cliffs themselves. Faces were melted that haven’t recovered since.
The demo that (sort of) started it all. This song has existed, like “Long Limbs” since some time in 2016—after the first time I read Vonnegut’s Bluebeard. The constant arpeggiator in the song, to me, is like the streams that flow down the mountains in Sky Valley. There are moments when the notes intensify, poking out in distortion only to tuck back into its path on the next downbeat. The same way that water flows constantly down the mountain, that synth drifts from beginning to end. It felt only right to end the record this way, with a de-facto orchestra of violin, viola, cello, double bass, clarinets and Wurlitzer all saying goodbye, the new friends we have brought into this silly little band. Peanut butter and jelly! That’s it. That might be a better duo.