BROOMFILLER is a Toronto rock band which has recently released their third album, Third Stage Propellor Index. This follows up their two previous albums, 2002’s Watching the girls go bi and then Enter the Storm.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with the mastermind behind the band, Richard Leko. We discuss the origin of the band name, his songwriting process, and what went into the recording of each BROOMFILLER album.
First of all, can you explain the name BROOMFILLER to me?
Many moons ago, I was drumming in a 3 piece band and was rehearsing in our guitarist / singer’s living room. His younger brother came home from school and we all said hi to him, and he seemed unusually mopey. So we asked him “what’s up?” He eventually told us that in one of his classes the teacher had put up several scrambled words up on the chalk board and all the students had to guess what the word was. Well, he put his hand up to answer one of the scrambled words on the chalk board. The teacher asked him what it was, and he said confidently “LIDBOY.” The class laughed, and he then had to justify his answer, by saying that it was a person that stood near a garbage can and made sure the “lid” was on. Or something to that affect. Of course everyone laughed more. He told us that the word actually was “BODILY”. So naturally, we all laughed at him thinking that LIDBOY was the stupidest answer ever!! The guitarist/ singer said that if he ever had a side project, that he would call it LIDBOY. We all laughed, again, thinking how stupid this sounded. We went back to jamming more and then after the jam as we were packing up, we were all still laughing about it. I told him that a LIDBOY makes about as much sense as a… BROOMFILLER. It was just a word that came out of my mouth without any thought or reason. Again, we all laughed thinking that was even MORE stupid then LIDBOY. I then tried to “one up” my friend and said, “well, if I ever have a side project, I’ll call it BROOMFILLER.”
Well, about 6 months later, that band folded and I couldn’t find another band to drum for. So I eventually decided to front my own band as the guitarist and singer and play all MY songs for a change that I’ve been demoing on my 4 track over the years. I found myself a drummer and a bass player so we could play them live. That band was called – BROOMFILLER.
And how the heck do you come up with an album name like “Third Stage Propeller Index”?
I unfortunately lost both my parents in 2014. My Dad in Jan 2014 and my Mom in Dec. 2014. So needless to say, 2014 was a horrible year for myself and my family. Shortly after my Dad passed, it definitely kicked me in the ass to get back doing music again, as the last album, Enter the Storm, was released in 2006 and we toured heavily for it, and totally got burned out. So, I picked songs that I had worked on and shelved in various forms, and started to finish or start pre-production on them. Almost all of these songs, my parents heard me playing in their basement many years ago in one form or another, and so there was a connection to them that way.
I decided to play all the instruments on the album, as I had already done so for Enter the Storm, and half of Watching the girls go bi (2 previous albums), and booked a week up in Pembroke, ON with Jordon Zadorozny to get it done.
The album name was on a list of useless and meaningless phrases that I always keep. I like making up words and nonsense phrases etc. “Third Stage Propellor Index” was one of them. However, after my Mom passed and months later when I started continuing work on the album mixing etc, the idea of that title started to make perfect sense to me.
My Dad was the First Stage. My Mom was the Second Stage. And now that I’m alone in this world (along with my Brother and Sister), this is currently the Third Stage. The propellor index is basically like the steering wheel, and I’m in the driver’s seat. Third Stage Propellor Index is my current path trying to navigate as long as I can before I pass.
It’s a dark idea / explanation, but this album was and still is, tremendous in my healing.
How long did you tour Enter the Storm? Cross-Canada tour, or where did it take you?
Enter the Storm was released in both the US and eventually Canada, but the focus for that album was primarily in the US. We did 2 huge US tours – A 7 week US Spring Tour in March – May (41 shows in 46 days) & a 9 week US Fall Tour in Oct -Dec (54 shows in 60 days). It was a brutal schedule, but they were both amazing tours. We went all over the US. Past tour dates are on various websites online and will be added to our site (broomfiller.com) soon as well.
During the break after that tour did you continue working on music in any other way while putting BROOMFILLER on the backburner for a bit?
After that 2nd US tour, I was burned out. We toured just with the 3 of us in the my van. No roadies, No manager, nobody but us in the band. I was wearing like 12 different hats all the time AND our bass players for each of those tours did not have a driver’s license, so all of the driving duties were between myself and our drummer. It was beyond brutal!! So, again, I was burned out after all of that. I didn’t want to do that again anytime soon, in the same capacity. I still wrote a lot of music, and we played the odd show in Toronto here and there, but that was about it.
When I had the urge to get going again, it was difficult to co-ordinate things and the month or 2 month delays turned into years, and eventually I was okay with just not touring anymore.
However, that all changed after my Father passed away, and It was a serious kick in my ass to get back on that horse and do what I was always passionate about: Music.
What’s your songwriting process like? Lyrics first, or a melody, or guitar part?
I always write on my electric guitar. Utilizing clean or dirty or a combination of both. Certain riffs will come up, or chord progressions or weird odd melodic off-chords that sound really cool to me (the opening riff of “Milly” is a perfect example). But when I find things I like, I’m immediately mapping out the drums and a vocal melody, which is just usually me singing jibberish over and over to secure that vocal melody line. Bass parts are always the most fun to write, and usually come 2nd last just before the lyrics. Lyrics ALWAYS come last. SO last in fact that they are to the point that I’m stopping recording to write lyrics sometimes. Demos are usually filled with nonsense lyrics, which are quite embarrassing for anyone to hear. However, that’s my process and it works for me. Once, I did try to write lyrics first, and then build music for that… and it was absolutely horrible. I tend to keep everything that I write, and shelf them for me to go back to later, but I think that one was probably long lost and forgotten (on purpose).
For most of BROOMFILLER’s albums you’ve gone full Trent Reznor and written and recorded every instrument part?
Yeah, and that happened totally out of happenstance. When I hopped out from behind the kit and formed my own band, I had already been amassing a large number of songs that I demoed on my handy 4 track. All of the parts (bass, drums, guitars, vocals) were already written and performed by me. I knew what I wanted, and needed help playing them live. In the first few incarnations of the band’s live lineup, we played the other member’s songs etc, but when any arguments happened between members, and/or the “threat” of taking away “that riff” from a song, or “you can’t play this song ’cause I wrote it” started coming into the arguments, that was when I had enough. It was going to be one person writing the songs, or nothing. I didn’t want to go more metal, or more classic rock or more whatever anyone else wanted to steer the band towards. I just wanted to play the songs that I ended up writing. It sounds a bit one sided, but after trying to be as open as possible to everyone else’s ideas, the direction of the band just seemed to go nowhere and go in a circle. In many of the later years, BROOMFILLER was compared to so many bands that I have never previously heard of before: Bad Religion, Millencolin, Bracket, Husker Du, etc etc. So when I was informed of these bands, I went out and bought their cassette tapes or CD’s and immediately loved them. It was the opposite of what you would expect. Typically you hear these bands, and then start writing in a similar vein of them and/or their style. Not the case. I was SUCH a huge Rush fan (still am), and none of the songs that I wrote for BROOMFILLER sounded anything like Rush, which confused a lot of my friends who knew of me and my musical pursuits.
Getting back to the question, yes, I played all the instruments on half of Watching the girls go bi, all of the instruments on Enter the Storm, as well as all of the instruments on Third Stage Propellor Index.
For Watching the girls go bi, my reasons were that I really wanted to hear certain songs played on the drums a certain way, and had to fight for certain drum fills or a certain feel. I decided that since I was paying for the entire recording session, that I’d play the songs that I’d want to, to get the feel and essence that I wanted.
For Enter the Storm, I actually had no live band at that point and decided to polish all of my demos into actual full on recorded songs for a new album. I built a home studio and recorded that album at my place as well as engineered and mixed that album on my own. It was a definite learning curve.
For Third Stage Propellor Index, I have had the same guys playing with me live for many years now, but after the loss of both my parents, and the meaning behind the songs (to me) and how it related (to my parents), I wanted to record this album on my own. I had discussed it with them, and they were all very understanding and supportive. I booked a week up in Pembroke, ON with Jordon Zadorozny, and I played every instrument on that album, except for Jordon playing 12 string guitars on the intro, and tambourine during the solo in “A Different Way of Falling”. Jordon was amazing to work with. Such a creative genius, and I’ve been a fan of his band, Blinker the Star, for many many years.
How does this album compare to your previous works?
I believe that this is a more mature album. It’s definitely the most emotional album for me (personally), as the connection with its subjects and contents is undeniable. There is more use of synth and pads and keys overall in some of the songs, and I’m really liking the direction that some of these songs have taken. Valerie has become our 5th member live for local Toronto shows, and has played these keyboard parts amazingly, which ads so much dynamic to our live sound. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to tour with us during the Western Canadian tour we just did, but we’ll see about future shows / tours. It really thickens up that wall of sound and brings the songs to life in their true representation.
How did this most recent tour go? Any memorable shows (in a good or bad way?)
The tour was amazing. 17 shows in 18 days. It would have been 18 for 18, but we had a show drop out in Winnipeg and couldn’t do anything to fill the date. Was great seeing people from our previous tours come out to shows, and is always beautiful to meet new fans and keep in touch.
We will be hitting Eastern Canada in early spring 2016!!
Early on, you guys hit my hometown, Sault Ste. Marie. I hope the city brought it that night!
The Soo has always been good to BROOMFILLER!! We always look forward to including that in our tour routing!!