By Michael Dunn
CALGARY – A musician finds ways to keep themselves busy in between recording projects. For veteran Edmonton songwriter Ayla Brook, a number of life events and factors led to him taking a long break between the Danny Michel-produced After The Morning After (2008) and his latest, (I Don’t Wanna Hear Your) Break Up Songs, released earlier this spring.
“I’d been living off music for about eight years, taking every gig, doing everything I could to make a living by playing, and I was pretty burned out,” Brook tells BeatRoute.
“Saved By Radio sort of ceased being a thing, so we couldn’t work with them to put out the record when it was finished, and we sort of shelved it for a while. Brent [Oliver, bass player] moved to Winnipeg for three years, and so there was no real rush to put the album out. I kept doing what I had been, doing the side player thing with Bombchan, and working as a sound tech, until it felt like it was time to put out the record.”
(I Don’t Wanna Her Your) Break Up Songs finds Brook and his Sound Men rollicking in a sort of early Wilco via Sticky Fingers style, with dashes of Lou Reed and Marc Bolan present in Brook’s laid back vocal delivery. That relaxed vibe is countered by the drive of the band, a full-throat throwback rock n’ roll unit featuring veteran Edmonton players Brent Oliver, Sean Brewer, Chris Sturwold and Johnny Blerot.
“A lot of the time people hear my name and think I’m a woman, so I thought the fellas in the band might think it was funny being called The Brookettes,” says Brook. “Well, they didn’t. Most of the best sound techs I know are women, but being that we’re all techs, and very reasonable, or “sound” people, if you will, we became The Sound Men.”
As the time passes between releases, Brook notices the difference between releasing records then and now.
“Well, there aren’t as many record stores, so you don’t have as much on-the-ground curation or the suggestions to fit people’s tastes or expand them that you might have once before,” says Brook, who worked in legendary and now defunct Whyte Avenue record store Megatunes for a number of years.
“The whole branding thing is a little new to me. The old ideal was that you weren’t supposed to be seen as trying to sell yourself, where now, it takes a massive amount of engagement to do so. You have to be on social media as much as being out playing, always putting your best face on things, and maybe that’s tough for some artists. But it levels the playing field a bit, like how are you gonna hear about some band form Saskatoon without that engagement? It’s a learning curve, but writing songs and playing music is still as fun as it’s always been.”
Ayla Brook & The Sound Men perform September 23 at the Ship & Anchor Pub (Calgary).Ayla Brook & The Sound Men, Ship & Anchor Pub