London band Broomsticks and Hammers are all folked up following the release of their first studio album, Mirrorbox.
The 11-track LP is equal parts intimate and insightful. If you’re a fan of Canadian folk, it’s definitely a must-listen.
LondonFuse met with singer/songwriter Bill Needham, bassist David Jury, and guitarist Paul Aitken for an interview at Fuse HQ, with a few acoustic guitars and a bag of their signature coffee in-hand.
Broomsticks and Hammers is influenced by some of Canada’s best, including the likes of Blue Rodeo and The Band. While you can catch traces of these influences in their music, the songs remain very much their own.
Needham’s wry lyrics see to that.
Producer Simon Larochette worked his magic bringing the tunes to life – including hosting a wrap party/gang vocal session at The Sugar Shack with the band’s family and friends.
A quick look at the track list reveals several women’s names. It is not a coincidence, nor is it a tale of broken hearts. Rather, Mirrorbox began as a conceptual album, telling the stories of strong women.
However, when it came time to choose tracks for the album, the concept took a back seat to selecting the best of the best.
Spinning 33 1/3
Fans of the band will have to act quick – the first run of the album was pressed on clear vinyl, while the second pressing will be standard black.
Former drummer Breck Campbell did the design work for the album, with artwork that makes the most of the 12-inch cover. The music was also made for vinyl, Needham said. It gives the songs more life and brings out a rawness that just doesn’t translate to digital.
For the band, seeing the finished product was something of an eye-opener.
“When we got the vinyl and put it on it was like, ‘Oh! This is a real thing now.’” Aitken said. “We were really stoked.”
Mirrorbox is an album best listened to over a relaxing cup of coffee, which Broomsticks and Hammers will happily provide. They teamed up with Patrick’s Beans on a special blend that’s available for sale from the band. It’s far tastier merch than a t-shirt or sticker.
Needham said Mirrorbox is a drastic change from Broomsticks and Hammers first album, Postcard, which was recorded live at the St. Regis. Many of the songs on Postcard were written just a week before the actual recording.
You wouldn’t know it to listen.
Since Postcard’s release just a year ago, the band has undergone both style and lineup changes. Still, some of the Postcard tracks also made their way onto Mirrorbox.
Needham, Jury and Aitken form the base of the band. However, Mirrorbox was recorded with a full blown septet, complete with keys and fiddle accompaniment.
It’s not often they get to use such a large lineup. Rehearsal and recording schedules, other gigs and obligations, budget and travel… It’s not an easy feat to arrange, though the band was able to bring their entire lineup together for Mirrorbox.
Pursuit of cameos
Funny story about the song Moe Berg – he actually performs on his namesake track!
Three weeks after the track was written, Bill had a random encounter with the Pursuit of Happiness singer. Ultimately, it led to a guest appearance on Mirrorbox.
“He was cool,” said Needham. “He listened (to Moe Berg) and really enjoyed it.”
So much so that he agreed to do a speaking part on the song. It took a few takes and some awkward phone tag to nail the part, but B&H fans will no doubt enjoy a little taste of I’m An Adult Now.
Jury and Needham knew each other for a long time before the band formally got together. Broomsticks and Hammers began as a bunch of guys getting together to play music on a Friday night. They played mostly folk cover tunes ranging from Grateful Dead to Celtic standards. Those jams were a big part of their folky sound.
It was also at these jams that Needham – the band’s primary lyricist – started slipping in some original material.
From there, it developed into the B&H fans know today.
While Mirrorbox was recorded over several sessions, listeners will hear a finished product that sounds as if it could be played in a cramped kitchen party. It’s evident that everyone involved had a good time.
“If I can’t play music with a smile on my face,” Jury says. “There is no point to it.”
Fuse photos by Gerard Creces – live photo by Nicole Borland