The Brook & the Bluff’s Southern Harmonies

The Birmingham-bred quartet on their captivating new album, Yard Sale, and the canine friends they make on tour

Photo: Noah Tidmore

From left: Fred Lankford, Alec Bolton, Joseph Settine, and John Canada of the Brook & the Bluff.

The Brook & the Bluff’s Southern roots run deep, beginning with the band’s name, inspired by the Birmingham, Alabama, neighborhoods guitarist Alec Bolton and lead vocalist Joseph Settine grew up in. Born in Mountain Brook and Bluff Park, respectively, the duo founded the band in 2015 during their senior year at Auburn University. More interested in making music than their majors, they soon decided to pursue their dream full time, rounding out the ensemble with drummer John Canada and bassist Fred Lankford and eventually relocating to Nashville.

Heavily inspired by the Beatles, the band’s latest release, Yard Sale, features ten melody-driven tracks full of bluesy harmonies. As with their debut full-length, 2019’s First Place, all four of the musicians lend their choir backgrounds to producing mesmerizing vocal blends. 

We caught up with the band to talk about the new album, the return to touring, and the dog friends they make along the way. Read the interview and listen to a couple of tracks below. Yard Sale is out now and available to order here.

How would you describe the new record’s sound?

Settine: We tried to imagine what it would be like if we were a band in the ‘70s in Laurel Canyon, and make what that record would have sounded like. 

Canada: I think we wanted people to feel nostalgia. We wanted to transport people back. 

Settine: For us it was the ‘70s. For a listener it can be any time from the past that could bring them little moments of joy. 

So, why is it called Yard Sale? 

Settine: A lot of the stuff that we were writing about was this idea of being stuck pacing over the same thoughts and trying to get past that. For me, especially during the pandemic, it was a lot of negative self-talk. To snap yourself out of that is a really hard habit and cycle to break. The concept of Yard Sale, from the lyricist perspective, is like opening up your head and picking out some things from your brain—like a yard sale of thought. 

How has the South influenced your music? 

Settine: I definitely think there’s a certain relaxed feel to a lot of our songs that comes with being Southern. If you listen to a song like “Doobie Bronson,” that’s probably as close to straight up Southern rock as we’ve ever gone. And then, obviously, it’s in our name. I think it’s pretty central to who we are as a band. 

Bolten: When the band first started, we listened to a lot of Southern musicians like Alabama Shakes and St. Paul and the Broken Bones. 

You’ve been touring extensively this fall. What’s it like playing live again after the pandemic-forced hiatus? 

Settine: The level of energy is unmatched. I think the gusto for wanting to be back seeing live music has reached this fever pitch.  Everybody is just so happy to be there. It has taken the shows to the next level. 

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Canada: Five minutes before we walk on stage, we’re always like, “What’s our walk-on song?” We don’t have a set one for each show, so it’s fun to choose depending on the vibe of each night. We’re like, “Let’s do ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ or ‘The Boys Are Back in Town.’” 

Settine: We take a shot of whiskey. In Texas I did tequila just because…when in Texas. 

What’s been one of your favorite road trip stops? 

Lankford: Fuel City tacos in Dallas. It’s right off the interstate, connected to this big gas station. The cash-only tacos are $2 a pop, and you’re just not going to get better food than that. We’ve also been to the Grand Canyon twice. 

I’ve noticed you post a lot of photos and videos of dogs on Instagram. Tell me about #dogsoftour.

Settine: One of the best parts of tour for me is seeing and meeting dogs. It re-energizes me. There was a venue dog we met in Austin named Fergus, and he was awesome. It was his birthday. Lucy is my dog, and she’s a border collie with silver and black spots. She is not with us because she’s crazy and has way too much energy. Maybe one day. 

What’s coming up that you’re especially excited about? 

Settine: A week before our tour ends, we’re playing at home at the Alabama Theatre [November 24] in Birmingham for the first time. All of us being from there, it’s like a childhood dream. It’s a bucket list venue.