“Brood & Bloom,” the first full-length album and second release from the Kingston- and Toronto-based Kasador, is a time capsule of the past two years in the life of four guys who have been through a lot.
They’re putting it all in the lyrics of this effort, reflecting on loss, what it really means to live and tour as a band, relationships and even dabbling in politics.
For those familiar with the band’s 2016 self-titled EP, and who really liked the poppy dance-y songs, there’s a fair amount of that here as well. But don’t expect a dozen songs to groove to while cleaning the house.
This album has substance. It has weight. And it’s incredible.
It’s out today and is definitely worth your time.
Bottom line: Keep an eye on Kasador and check out one of their shows if you haven’t yet. It will be well worth the time — they’re just about to break and this album will go a long way toward that end.
Here’s a little tour of the album:
Brood & Bloom — Right away, this is not what Kasador sounded like on the EP. It’s moody, it doesn’t just build up, it creeps. Guest vocals on this from new drummer Stephen Adubofuor and Miss Emily.
“This song was always meant to set the tone for the album – when we get knocked down, we get right back up,” says singer, guitarist and co-founder Will Hunter. “The thought behind the phrase Brood & Bloom is of taking the time to reflect on the ‘bad’ and taking that fear, hate, pain, sadness and making something positive – like an album. I think seeing the song reach the unexpected places it did (being our first song back in the game) really helped redevelop our confidence in our art and in our live performance.”
Cameron Wyatt takes the lead on vocals here and has really turned into a charismatic showman when they perform live.
Come Get Yer Money
This song came out of 2017 sessions with a couple of former members and kind of reflects that, with a different feeling from the rest of the album, which was written half in 2017 and half in 2018.
“We felt that it still had strong merit for the album because it stems from the same emotion of feeling let down by someone (in this case politicians) and instead of complaining, taking that frustration and telling them to take their money and shove off,” Hunter says. “To us it feels cohesive in spirit but also we also spent time remixing it to make guitars and the synths more of our current sound vs the cleaner sounding first version that came out in 2017.”
This song is a little lighter, sonically, and a lot more uptempo than the track before and after it and has great singalong characteristics. It’s become a crowd favourite since they started playing this song nearly two years ago.
Sometimes inspiration strikes in the middle of the night. Luckily for Hunter, that’s what happened, just as he was dealing with a bout of nerve-induced insomnia. The lyrics are kind of snarky and have a kind of bravado that was a little surprising on first listen — “Maybe I’m broken or I’m just that vain,” he sings — but it’s more self-questioning and doubt, he says. “I am having a conversation with myself, second-guessing every decision I have made to get to that point in my life,” Hunter says.
The band took most of last year off to write music but also to address some major personal choices and situations, which ultimately inspired the album’s maturity and introspection. During that break, however, that doubt became a very real presence for Hunter.
“I developed some insomnia and anxiety about what I was doing with my life,” he says. “I feel a large part of it came from not playing shows, something I both love and feel like I need to have in my life.” When he felt particularly stuck or anxious, he’d book a solo acoustic show at Sneaky Dee’s and found that would help shake some of the nerves.
On some level, musicians know that being in a band and touring, living that particular dream, will come with some sacrifices. It has to. That’s part of the price of being successful at any level.
One of the album’s first gut-punch lyrics is in this song: “How’s my nephew/does he ever ask where I am?” Oooofh.
Wyatt changed the feel of this song, written in one of the 2017 sessions at the Bathhouse, wanting it to have a more nostalgic feel, a contemplation of the tradeoffs of living the dream. The guys sat together and worked on the lyrics together, creating “a song more about letting people down and having to push aside relationships in the pursuit of success in a career,” Hunter says.
Adds bassist Boris Baker, “It’s something that’s an unfortunate reality, it comes with the job, and is probably a big reason many musicians struggle with mental health or get out of a career in music. Going in, you kinda know you’re gonna have to miss some big moments with those you care about… the reality of being a touring musician, which also recognizing that what usually keeps us going is the support of our loved ones, who we don’t see as much as we’d like.”
Guns, Love & Money
This is the first of two songs directly inspired by Hunter’s dad, Myles, who passed away nearly two years ago and to whom the album is dedicated. He was a singer-songwriter himself and also had a passion for politics and social justice. Hunter says he thought about how his dad would’ve responded to the Women’s March and March For Our Lives in early 2018 — the song almost has a walking beat to it, which might be coincidental — actions the elder Hunter would’ve supported.
“He was the first person to encourage me to experience new things and gave me confidence to pursue what I wanted in life, whether it was traveling, writing songs, going to school, etc., he was always confident I could pull it off.”
Self-doubt comes back for the bridge, bringing some darker lyrics about the sad realization we all have when growing up, that our parents are just people like the rest of us, figuring it out as they go.
There’s an optimism and honesty here that hits closer to home than other songs, but that’s par for the course on this album. “Maybe just cross the aisle anyway,” he sings. What would you rather have, the satisfaction of being right, or the relationship?
This is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it track, lasting about a minute, but it’s a perfect sonic minute. It was supposed to be a full song, but Wyatt brought in the portion he’d written in advance, played it on an electric guitar, and that was that.
“If darkness is open, you are the vacant sign” might be the best line on the album. This is soaked in blues and smoke and it’s just damn good. It also leads seamlessly into…
Givin’ It Up
Here, again, we have Wyatt leading the charge on a very dance-y number that’s got some sass and funk to it.
“An upbeat song with a dancey groove and catchy guitar hook has been our wheelhouse for a while and we wanted to go back to that vibe for this song,” he says. “I always find myself wanting to add a stronger dance groove or a funk influence to our songs, so for this one, I was really able to do that.” It’s also a personal song, he says, with lyrics inspired by daily frustrations as much as learning from them and finding a new way forward. There’s also a killer solo when this song is performed live, with Wyatt standing on amps in full guitar hero mode, a position he’s more than earned through the development of this album. It’s been a fascinating transformation to watch, not to mention incredibly fun to see happen in real time.
Again For Me
This is the album’s emotional core and its soul. This song, the album’s third single after “Brood & Bloom” and “High Rise,” is a love letter and almost a eulogy from Hunter to his late father. He used some lines from songs his dad wrote for the lyrics and sat down to write it at a piano, another first for him.
“Take a moment, save a smile…Life is all but guaranteed, so won’t you do it again for me,” he sings.
“I wrote this song because it’s how I felt in the studio,” he says. “We had all had hard years and going into the session to finish this album was not an easy feat. Our motto for the past little bit is one step forward and two back, it’s just how things have been working for us. Actually getting into the headspace to record was sometimes challenging. I was by myself at a piano fiddling around and this line from one of my dad’s songs came out. It was really an organic thing, which added to how raw it is.”
It’s a stand-alone song in a way, as it has a totally different feel than everything else in the Kasador catalog, but he was encouraged by Wyatt, Baker and Adubofuor to not only write and perform it, but put it on the album.
This song is a beautiful, personal, emotional piece of work and if the band decides to add it to the setlist on occasion, it’s bound to create some very powerful responses.
So here’s where some of the ghosts of the past come back for a visit. If the voice sounds a little different, there’s a good reason — the song was written in those 2017 sessions and features lead vocals from the band’s previous singer and keyboardist.
There’s also a nod to Gord Downie in the first verse — as a band whose members live in Kingston, and considering the very close familial ties between Kasador and the Hip (Boris Baker is the son of Rob Baker, who also helped produce the album with Gord Sinclair).
“The song was written while Gord Downie was going through this treatment and the Hip were on their final tour,” Wyatt says. The reference — I won’t give it away in total — is in thanks to “Gord and his perseverance to his art even through an incredibly difficult time.”
But that’s not all the song is about.
The lyrics are also about struggling with addictions and other demons. “The first verse is about drug addiction and the second verse is about a relationship, it’s about not being able to quit something that you know is bad for you,” Baker adds.
I Believe Terribly
There’s a nifty little effects layer here that feels like a throwback to some vintage Pink Floyd, layering a looping guitar solo and a muffled and distorted voice message. There’s also the hooky guitar and groove that the band enjoys so much.
Wyatt wanted to see if he could write a song using only two chords, or at least that’s how the song started. “While it didn’t quite work out that way in the end, the core of the song revolves around two chords,” he says. “The muffled voiceover is actually the playback of a voice note on my phone where I was recounting an insane out-of-body dream I had. It ties in with the song’s theme of duality and competing with that voice in your head.”
This was the final song written for Brood & Blood and the guys were feeling encouraged to be more open to experiment with their sound. “If we were going into the studio to record an EP, we probably wouldn’t have written this song, we would’ve written something more straight ahead for our band, something we see as a Kasador tune. This tune is a great example of how making an album really lends to more exploration and creativity,” Baker says.
Could’ve Loved You
If Kasador were going for a pop radio hit, this has as good a shot as any single they’ve previously released for getting picked up. Songs about heartbreak and realizing one choice clearly would’ve been better than the one that was taken fit right into that groove, as do songs about admitting when mistakes have been made. This is a redemptive song, albeit tinged with a little regret. “I could’ve loved you, should’ve loved you when I had the chance/ It wasn’t easy but I changed into a different man/We’d build until the pressure breaks/then I’d call and tell you everything.”
The last track on the album brings it full circle. Where “Brood & Bloom” is about making peace and moving forward, “Undone” is about feeling unsatisfied, on the need to do more, the urge to make changes and not really knowing what SHOULD happen next.
The lyric “I fear no success or love won’t make me feel undone” is about “being afraid that no matter what you’ve achieved, you’ll never feel completely satisfied,” Wyatt says.
The song fades out at the end in a way that syncs up with the intro to “Brood & Bloom,” so if the album is on repeat, it’ll flow seamlessly, Baker notes. “Brood & Bloom” is this brooding instrument with positive lyrics, and this tune is really quite depressing lyrically but has a very cheery instrumental. That duality is what this album has been about.”
Nothing’s a straight line, nothing is ever just A to B, there are always curves and sudden drops and unexpected roadblocks and hazards. For a band that’s changed members a few times, soldiered on through deep personal loses, took a year-plus off from touring and is standing firmly on the edge of something massive, it’s a song that resonates.
Brood & Bloom was produced by Graham Walsh in addition to Baker and Sinclair, engineered by Nyles Spencer, mixed by Mark Vreeken and mastered by Adam Ayan. Guest performers include the band’s former drummer Julian Laferriere, former keyboardist and vocalist Nick Babcock and Emily Fennell. “Again For Me” and “Undone” were produced by Nyles Spencer.