The Brook & The Bluff open up about their calm, cathartic, and captivating fourth album ‘Bluebeard,’ a breathtaking triumph of sweet folk and gentle soul that’s as expansive as it is intimate, and as stunning as it is soul-stirring.
for fans of Mt. Joy, Lord Huron, Wilderado
Stream: ‘Bluebeard’ – The Brook & The Bluff
I hope that when people listen to ‘Bluebeard,’ they can walk through the gateway and find that place in their world that brings them weightlessness.
The Brook & The Bluff’s fourth album is filled with moments of dazzling warmth and wonder, but listen too closely to Joseph Settine’s words, and you just might find yourself shedding a few tears as well.
We’d call them happy tears, but that would be inaccurate – a disservice to the magic of Bluebeard, whose songs, so filled with stunning color and soulful sound, hit with an unexpected intimacy and raw vulnerability that catches listeners off-guard, sending shivers down the spine as the Alabama band open their hearts and delve unapologetically into the beautiful, yet brutal depths of human experience and emotion.
The result is a spellbinding, soul-stirring journey that aches and soothes all at once: Calm, cathartic, and utterly captivating, Bluebeard is a breathtaking triumph of sweet folk and gentle soul that finds The Brook & The Bluff more exposed, and more at home and in their element, than ever before.
It’s a good hurt – the kind that you’ll keep coming back to time and again, not just because it brings you closer to yourself, but because it reminds you how precious and special your life really is.
Just stay with me, it’s all I need
My tangerinе, like oxygen to me
I don’t wanna sit outsidе pretending
I’m not the kinda guy
who’s kept my memories
They tell me I should write ’em down
But it’s just me
Come apart at the seams
Here at the symphony
And nothing seems to help me
– “Tangerine,” The Brook & The Bluff
Independently released September 15, 2023, Bluebeard is a smile- and tear-inducing seduction. The Brook & The Bluff’s fourth studio album feels like the natural evolution for a band that has never seemed content with standing still or staying the same. The Birmingham-born, Nashville-based five-piece comprised of Joseph Settine, brothers Kevin and John Canada, Fred Lankford, and Alec Bolton, The Brook & The Bluff have, over the past five years, found considerable success (to the tune of 1.1 million months streams) throughout North America and beyond, with fans fawning over their stunning vocal harmonies, their intimate, nuanced lyricism, and their utterly enchanting, inescapably catchy melodies.
Recorded at the Canada brothers’ family home in the mountains of Sky Valley, Georgia, with producer Micah Tawlks, Bluebeard builds upon the foundations laid by the band’s previous two albums, 2019’s First Place and 2021’s Yard Sale – all whilst carving out a sound and a world that is uniquely its own.
“We just wanted to make a group of songs that created the same feeling we have when we are together at the house,” frontman Joseph Settine tells Atwood Magazine. “Being up there gives us a weightlessness that is hard to find in our day-to-day lives; we can completely unplug and laugh together, which I think is really our favorite thing. We hoped to make something that felt like a gateway to a better place, wherever that may be for those who hear it. I think one of the things that makes this record so special to us is how connected we were with that vision the entire time – it was like this beaming light that pulled us from start to finish over these last few years.”
“We have always felt that Bluebeard is the place we have been trying to go all along,” he continues. “In a way, it’s all at once a combination of our past, present and future… For us, Bluebeard kind of feels like the culmination of our story up until this point, so I think it has all felt like just one incredible journey.”
From the peaceful breeze of album opener “Normal Things” – an escape from the “day-to-day rush of life,” Settine explains – to the spirited energy and heart-on-sleeve emotions radiating off the titular finale “Bluebeard,” The Brook & The Bluff invite their audience to join in on their reverie and dwell in their rich, dynamic dreamscapes. Every song brings its own color and candor to the table, with standouts including the buoyant, disarming “Tangerine,” the ethereal, brooding slow-burner “Headfirst,” the smoldering “Tell Me,” and the full-bodied enchantment “Knock,” but they all serve as meaningful vessels of respite and reflection – and the only true way to experience this album is front-to-back in its entirety.
I know you want it, it’s not the first time.
Thought you had it, it’s not the last line.
Picked up the pieces that had fell on the way,
Long arms to gather what your hands couldn’t take.
Two sets of bones, not loving alone.
And I wanted to know you,
and I wanted to show you
what I’m talking about
all I have to say,
there’s no easy way out
It’s just headfirst
Bluebeard is the kind of music that shell-shocks you on first listen, and opens new doors the deeper you go.
“I think that Bluebeard captures us in the most true and authentic way of any of our records,” Settine says. “Making this record was a special, every-day-is-a-core-memory type of thing for us – and when I listen to the songs, that feeling seeps through all of the music. More than anything, I think this record captures our friendship and the love that we have for each other as musicians and people.”
“It’s a great thing, being in a band. You are never alone, and that is an incredible comfort in the world and industry we live in. This record just feels like all of the time we spent laughing together in the mountains, listening to our favorite all time tunes and eating burritos from the restaurant down the mountain.”
Settine hopes listeners find in Bluebeard that same weightlessness that he feels every time he gives it a spin.
When I listen to the songs now, I am back in the living room of the mountain house – laughing and having the time of my life with my best friends. I hope that people can feel how much our love for each other fueled the songs themselves, and I hope that it makes you feel grateful for the ones you’ve surrounded yourself with.”
Dive into The Brook & the Bluff’s breathtaking fourth album in our in-depth interview below as Joseph Settine opens up about the songs, the setting, and the “melancholic joy” at the heart of this special record.
The Brook & the Bluff are set to embark on a grueling two-month headline tour this fall, starting in Phoenix, Arizona in mid-September and ending in Austin, Texas in mid-November. Purchase tickets here.
Stream: ‘Bluebeard’ – The Brook & The Bluff
A CONVERSATION WITH THE BROOK & THE BLUFF
Atwood Magazine: Congrats on the new record, guys! Bluebeard is a phenomenal journey from end to end. Can you share a little about the story behind this record?
Joseph Settine: Thank you so much! I love that you said it’s a journey because the whole process for us has been a long one. The story of Bluebeard is really more about the place we recorded it than anything else. We tracked ten of the twelve songs in John and Kevin’s family home in the mountains of Sky Valley, GA, in September of 2021. As a group we had been up there four or five times over the course of being a band, it kind of became our place of release. Every time we would go together we would grow as friends and come out of it with incredible songs, so we finally just decided to try and make music in this place that held such significance to us as a unit.
I actually remember the moment the idea became real for us, we were sitting downstairs around a kid-sized pool table, laughing about playing each other with mini-sized sticks and the whole set up. Fred mentioned he was reading a book by Kurt Vonnegut called Bluebeard. I freaked out, because I’d read it in 2016 and made a demo of a song with the same name. I played everyone the demo, and then John picked up an acoustic guitar and played us “Prove You Wrong.” We were all tearing up together, and then it kind of all hit us at the same time. The record should be made here, and we’re going to call it Bluebeard.
What was your vision going into this album? Did that change over the course of recording it?
Joseph Settine: We just wanted to make a group of songs that created the same feeling we have when we are together at the house. Being up there gives us a weightlessness that is hard to find in our day-to-day lives, we can completely unplug and laugh together, which I think is really our favorite thing. We hoped to make something that felt like a gateway to a better place, wherever that may be for those who hear it. I think one of the things that makes this record so special to us is how connected we were with that vision the entire time, it was like this beaming light that pulled us from start to finish over these last few years.
How do you feel Bluebeard compares to Yard Sale and First Place?
Joseph Settine: We have always felt that Bluebeard is the place we have been trying to go all along. In a way, it’s all at once a combination of our past, present and future. Some of the songs on Bluebeard have existed since we were writing First Place – the chorus to “Long Limbs” was originally paired with the verses of “Everything is Just a Mess” – and some of them were written in January of this year. “Tell Me” could have easily lived on Yard Sale, but it just wasn’t the right time for it. For us, Bluebeard kind of feels like the culmination of our story up until this point, so I think it has all felt like just one incredible journey.
Can you describe this record in three words?
Joseph Settine: I can do you one better! Melancholic joy. Only two words, but we came up with that when we were making it and it always stuck. If I had to try three I’d say peaceful, restoring, calm.
I have to admit, the first time I heard the album title, I was envisioning pirates. That imagery has since moved on, but the memory of it still remains. Why the title “Bluebeard”?
Joseph Settine: We took the title from the Vonnegut novel, but in the novel actually there is a random pirate’s tale about someone named Bluebeard, so maybe we should add some swashbucklin’ to this thing.
How do you feel Bluebeard reintroduces you and captures your artistry in 2023?
Joseph Settine: I think that Bluebeard captures us in the most true and authentic way of any of our records. Making this record was a special, every-day-is-a-core-memory type of thing for us – and when I listen to the songs that feeling seeps through all of the music. More than anything, I think this record captures our friendship and the love that we have for each other as musicians and people. It’s a great thing, being in a band. You are never alone, and that is an incredible comfort in the world and industry we live in. This record just feels like all of the time we spent laughing together in the mountains, listening to our favorite all time tunes and eating burritos from the restaurant down the mountain.
“I came up here to just breathe,” you sing at the start of opener “normal things,” a song of yearning and longing, with a touch of nostalgia for simpler, “normal” times. Reminds me instantly of how abnormal life was for all of us, not so long ago. What’s this song about, and why open the album with it?
Joseph Settine: “Normal Things” opens the album because for us it creates that feeling of release that we are always trying to find when we are in the day-to-day rush of life. It’s about learning to be ok when things don’t come out the way that you had hoped. We wanted to have an opener that felt like it pulled you through the gateway and into our little world in Sky Valley, the same way the cover of the album pulls you into the horizon.
Meanwhile, “Long Limbs” and “Hiding” were this album’s first two singles. Why did you opt to introduce the record with these tracks, and how do you feel they capture the spirit of Bluebeard?
Joseph Settine: I think we knew that we had some songs that were going to sound a little bit new and different coming from us, so we wanted to start out with some of the songs that felt familiar to our first few records – maybe just to say “we’re always going to be changing, but we also don’t want to forget where we come from.” “Long Limbs” had existed in some form since 2016, and was one of the last two songs to fully come together, but since it was around back when we were really first starting up as a band, it felt like the song was coming from the same place as all the others we were working on. “Hiding” we really were just obsessed with from day one. Alec tracked the solo on a fretless bass and we fucked it up with just tons of pedals and an Eventide h3000. It felt like a really energetic way to introduce the record and we wanted to start with a bang.
I had a really great time writing about “Headfirst,” which is such an unexpected rush of sonic wonder. Where did this track come from, and would you say this is indicative of where The Brook & the Bluff might be going as a band?
Joseph Settine: To be completely honest, I have no idea where we will go next as a band. I think one of the things we wanted to do with Bluebeard was open different doors so that we can continue to just make the things that we want to make. At the end of the day, that has always been what drives us creatively. We just want to make exactly what we want. You may have to come back to me on that one once we’ve figure it out though! [laughs]
Another of my definitive favorites on this record is “Tangerine,” for its radiant harmonies and equally emotive lyrics; there’s a vulnerability to this song, especially as you sing, “but it’s just me, come apart at the seams.” What does this track mean to you?
Joseph Settine: “Tangerine” is a funny track because I think I am still trying to figure out what it means to me. That one came to me first as an image, just me sitting in the balcony of a theater like Statler and Waldorf with a tuxedo on eating tangerines. At the time, I was starting up with a new therapist, and we were talking about how I tend to live a narrow life. I kind of float through days without letting the full range of emotions totally flow through me. “Tangerine,” I think is, my subconscious way of trying to kick myself into living life in full color.
You saved the best for last with “Bluebeard,” a spirited finale whose keyboard and synth work is bested only by the orchestral arrangement and accompaniment! What’s the meaning of this song as the title track, and why did you make it the end of this album?
Joseph Settine: “Bluebeard” may be the oldest song on the record, and I think it is perfect as a closer because it feels like one of those “everything has come full circle” moments. When we have been reflecting back on our journey so far, it really feels like these songs – and the time we spent making them together – are like our first big destination point. The culmination of almost 8 years of work as a group. And you always gotta end with a spirited, insanely emotional finale, right?
Still had your picture in my pocket
Carried it through customs in my wallet
Found it in a ruin, thought I lost it
If pictures say so much
Wonder what they’d say about us
Would your eyes still show the dust?
Would you swear that’s where something once was?
You were my best friend and it’s been
It’s been six months
Haven’t heard much
I, I wasn’t prepped for this
Don’t, don’t turn your back on me
Stop, we’ll stop the shoulder spin
Do you have any definitive favorites or personal highlights off this record?
Joseph Settine: One of my favorites is “Twist My Arm,” mainly because every section of that song takes an insane turn. From verse one to two is completely different, and then the bridge just hits you like a freight train. I’m really proud of what we were able to do making that song.
Likewise, do you have any favorite lyrics in these songs?
Joseph Settine: Absolutely! I think the lyrics from “Bulletins from the Past” are probably some of, if not the best, lyrics I have ever written. It came from a phrase that Vonnegut’s protagonist used a lot in the book, he would say “bulletin from the present!” a lot. When I was putting the song together I sort of flipped that around and thought about how a memory can just rush to the front of your mind unprovoked, and seemingly from nowhere. I think the expression of that song is that exact melancholic joy we were chasing for the whole record.
Am I your friend
Or just someone to talk to when you’re bored?
I can’t pretend I like you
I know you’re the only one who’s in my world
Who makes things quiet
When I need silence
These bulletins straight from the past
They wind up at my door
I scan the headlines for some interest
And the pages hit the floor
Failed while trying
To live while dying
I love how much The Brook & the Bluff have evolved as a band over the past 8 years, while always taking your core “soul” sound with you in all your endeavors. This one is a bit of a two parter; first, what do you think it is about The Brook & the Bluff that keeps you sounding like you after all these years?
And secondly, what do you like most about your evolution as a band over the past decade? When comparing your first few singles to the music of this new record, what makes you most excited and inspired?
Joseph Settine: I think the main thing that has kept the bnb sounding like the bnb after all of the time we’ve been together is our commitment to each other, and the idea that we are just always going to make what we want to make – what naturally flows out of us at any given time. We have never really put any pressure on ourselves to make a “hit,” and we’ve never deliberately tried to make something that we think other people will like. At the end of the day, we just want to make things that we are incredibly proud of as a group, and hopefully everything else will take care of itself.
When I listen to our first few singles compared to where we are now, the most inspiring thing is hearing the growth of our ability to communicate what we want and collaborate together to get the best possible version of a song. One of the things that has continued to get stronger as we have continued making music is the climate we create together when we’re making something. Every idea has a safe space, and nothing is ever dismissed without at least trying it first. It’s like a little ecosystem. I couldn’t imagine a more fun way to make music; everyone is always so involved and takes such care and consideration into everything that makes the track.
I also would say that our producer, Micah Tawlks, deserves as much credit for that growth as any of us. I’ve never been around someone who is so talented and knowledgeable, and so selfless. He is able to pull magic out of the five of us and the approach is different for each member. He’s a part of our family at this point, and I couldn’t imagine getting to make something like Bluebeard with anyone else.
What do you hope listeners take away from Bluebeard? What have you taken away from creating it and now putting it out?
Joseph Settine: I hope that when people listen to Bluebeard, they can walk through the gateway and find that place in their world that brings them weightlessness. When I listen to the songs now, I am back in the living room of the mountain house – laughing and having the time of my life with my best friends. I hope that people can feel how much our love for each other fueled the songs themselves, and I hope that it makes you feel grateful for the ones you’ve surrounded yourself with.
Lastly in the interest of paying it forward, who are you listening to these days that you would recommend to our readers?
Joseph Settine: Oh wow so many people – I will name a few of my favorites. Izzy Heltai, Gatlin, Mk.gee, Rachel Chinouriri, Kate Bollinger, Medium Build, Indigo De Souza, Dan Reeder, and Briston Maroney. I could go for ages on that question, but we will just leave it at that!
“Headfirst” – The Brook & The Bluff
2023 Tour Dates
The Brook & the Bluff
:: tickets & more info here ::
9/18 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
9/20 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up
9/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda
9/22 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
9/25 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
9/26 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
9/27 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
9/30 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
10/1 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
10/3 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line
10/5 – St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall
10/6 – Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi Annex
10/7 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
10/8 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogarts
10/10 – Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
10/11 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
10/13 – Detroit, MI @ The Shelter
10/14 – Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground
10/15 – Montreal, QC @ Petit Campus
10/17 – Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom
10/19 – Philadelphia, PA @ TLA
10/20 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
10/21 – Washington, DC @ 930 Club
10/22 – Boston, MA @ Royale
10/25 – Norfolk, VA @ The NorVa
10/26 – Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre
10/27 – Charlotte, NC @ The Underground
10/28 – Atlanta, GA @ The Eastern
10/30 – Columbia, SC @ The Senate
11/2 – Birmingham, AL @ Avondale Brewing Co
11/3 – Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl
11/5 – Knoxville, TN @ Mill & Mine
11/8 – New Orleans, LA @ Toulouse Theatre
11/9 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues
11/10 – Dallas, TX @ The Studio at the Factory
11/11 – Austin, TX @ Scoot Inn
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© Noah Tidmore
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