Two Hours Traffic is just about ready to head home

by Gregory Beatty

Two Hours Traffic

Two Hours Traffic
City Square Plaza / Friday 19
Mae Wilson Theatre / Saturday 20

When I reached Liam Corcoran by cell on April 3 he and his bandmates in Two Hours Traffic were about two hours east of Saskatoon. They were on their way to a gig in the Bridge City before hitting Edmonton, Vancouver and Seattle on a tour that had seen them start out in the Maritimes, then whip down to Austin to play SXSW before resuming the Canadian leg of the tour in Ontario.

The Charlottetown-based pop rock group is touring in support of their fourth full-length, Foolish Blood. On their way home from the west coast the band is stopping off to play JunoFest showcases in Regina April 19 (City Square Plaza, 10 p.m.) and Moose Jaw April 20 (Mae Wilson Theatre, 9 p.m.).

“We did JunoFest when the Junos were in Halifax [in 2006],” says Corcoran. “There was so much going on, and it was pretty spread out. I remember having a good time, but it was kind of a quick in and out for us.

“It will be cool to see it in Regina. And we’re lucky to be playing with Rah Rah, who are so beloved in Regina. That’ll be a good experience for us, I’m sure. Although by that point we’ll be itching to get home. But we’ll hopefully have some fun over those two days.”

The high octane pairing will undoubtedly be a popular ticket at JunoFest, but it’s not as if Two Hours Traffic will be coasting on Rah Rah’s coat tails. The band has a Polaris Prize nomination to its credit, after all, for its 2007 album Little Jabs.

It’s also had songs featured on several popular TV shows like Gossip Girl and The O.C.

Founded in 2002, Two Hours Traffic has strong roots in the east coast music scene, says Corcoran.

“Halifax has a great history, and I think we’ve been heavily influenced by Sloan, Thrush Hermit and that family of bands. So we’ve always seen ourselves as descendants of that scene in the ‘90s,” he says.

At present, though, Corcoran feels Charlottetown’s music scene is doing as well or better than Halifax’s.

“We’ve got some really great stuff going on in PEI, and for whatever reason there’s a bit of a dip in Halifax. There’s a few good venues in Charlottetown that support live music, and a lot of encouragement for new bands, so there’s a good handful of really great bands playing regularly.”

Following Foolish Blood’s release on Feb. 19 reviewers, including Prairie Dog’s Aidan Morgan, honed in on love and romance as central themes. Corcoran agrees with that assessment.

“Our first record that got any attention was Little Jabs. It was a classic relationship type of beat. On Territory [2009] we didn’t want to be seen as just writing about those sort of things. We wanted to branch out — with mixed results, I would say.

“With Foolish Blood we talked about it a lot and we decided we would go back to the love beat almost exclusively because we felt it’s what we’re best at. Five years have passed since we made Little Jabs so we felt that while we were talking about the same subject we had new things to say.”

When Two Hours Traffic was first starting out, Corcoran adds, “we were pretty naïve. We hadn’t even really been in a lot of relationships and here we were writing about them. This time around we’re definitely approaching it with more life experience. A lot of the songs on the record talk about the difficulties of being in love as opposed to it just being all roses.”

The band also experienced the pain of separation in another way.

“After we were done touring Territory our lead guitarist Alec O’Hanley moved to Toronto,” says Corcoran. “Andy MacDonald, who used to be our bass player, is now the lead guitar player. And we have a new member, Nathan Gill on bass.”

Rounding out the band is drummer Derek Ellis.

“It was a long process,” Corcoran says. “It took about a year to find the right guy. We did a lot of rehearsing and it did take a while to feel comfortable again. But it was a rewarding process, and we’re happy with the way it turned out.”

That wasn’t the only change on Foolish Blood. The band also made a switch at producer from Halifax musician extraordinaire Joel Plaskett to Darryl Neudorf [New Pornographers, The Sadies].

“We made an EP a long time ago,” says Corcoran. “It was the first thing we ever did, and it was on our own. Since then, we’ve done pretty much everything with Joel. We were all in agreement that we needed to branch out and try something new to get out of our comfort zone.”

The band didn’t look too far afield to find Neudorf, says Corcoran.

“We have a friend Matt McQuaid who’s from PEI. He’s played in a lot of bands, including Holy Fuck. He lives near Darryl about an hour outside of Toronto. He recommended him, so we sent him our demos.

“He really liked them, and understood a lot of our influences,” says Corcoran. “We liked what he had to say, and listened to some of the records he’d produced in the past, and it seemed like a good fit. And it worked out quite well.”

Despite all the changes, the recording process went smoothly, Corcoran says. “We put a lot of songs together as a three-piece before we actually found Nathan — rhythm guitar, bass and drums. Then Andy would put the lead guitar on the demo. So we had pretty good versions of all the songs [and] pretty much handed Darryl the whole album in rough form.”

After JunoFest, says Corcoran, Two Hours Traffic will head home for a few days before traveling to Europe for three weeks.

“Our CD got released in Germany so we’re going to do a little tour there,” he says. “That will take us into June. And we’re planning to go to Australia at some point, although I don’t know when.”