Merging the distinct styles and personalities of songwriters on record can be a difficult endeavor. The musical camaraderie of Eric Ott, Nate Laban, and Sean Yadisernia is a testament to this process and its potential. Their collective experience in music spans decades and includes well-known Seacoast acts Mercuryhat, Eric and the Anxiety, and Laban’s solo incarnations. They’ve earned several nominations for various Spotlight Awards, including one this year for best rock act as Thrift Store Ransom, and Ott has taken home two awards for his songwriting.
“Montreal,” their first full-length album under the name Brook, Bear and the Elephant, is an ideal balance of two seemingly competing styles. Ott’s contributions are rooted in folk, pop-Americana, and alt-country, while Laban’s have evolved out of an eclectic, but decidedly heavier, punky sound that, even when unplugged, always produce considerable power.
“Tired Moon Eyes” exemplifies the lyrical and musical intersection of their respective styles. Here, Ott’s Bob Dylan-influenced folk has been energized, now channeling Jeff Tweedy over Laban’s driving, palm-muted riffs that recall Tom Petty rather than Fugazi. The upbeat song culminates in a chorus that’s cheerfully laden with poppy “ba ba ba bahs,” but masks a darker meditation on mortality.
From the Wilco-inspired “Crushing Cloud” and Ott’s signature folk sound on “Strung Photographs,” to the humorous and choppy punk n’ roll of Laban’s “5 Inch Knife,” the record remains cohesive despite its diversity. On the standout track “Death of a Salesman,” Laban’s infectious melodies bounce on a powerfully simple two-chord structure. “I could never kill myself, trying to be like someone else,” he repeats. Having benefitted from each other’s influence, Ott and Laban aren’t trying to be like anyone else — they’re reaping the rewards of evolution.