Reviews:: A Day with Two Hours Traffic

Last night I sat down at the Plaza and cringed. Seriously. I'm old, I know that, but the 99.3 crowd of Fedoras and power drinking coupled with the rock star antics from a band I wasn't into - Whitfield - was almost too much. I wondered how one of Canada's most promising pop acts could end up here, but then I remembered the guys in Two Hours Traffic are barely old enough to rent a van.

These are the types of shows you are supposed to play when you head across the country for the first time. Missing ferries, leaving your guitar in Nanaimo, eating takeaway food as you cram into the green room 15 minutes before your set up; these are lessons you expect a group of 20 year olds to have to learn.

What you don't expect is a group of 20 year olds to sound so good. Two Hours Traffic took the stage sandwiched between bands with booming guitars, orchestrated outfits and light shows you'd expect to see on a huge stage, but it was THT that actually possess the talent to play those stages. I mean, these guys weren't old enough to be seen on the OC, let alone have their music played on it (Limelight), but they already have a deeper understanding of pop music than bands who've been trying for years.

From the opening chords of Stuck for the Summer, the Charlottetown quartet ripped off a tight set of pop tracks that made the crowd dance. Pop music is a fickle beast. Tread to far and people hate you, experiment too much and people despise you; but get it right and you make people smile, and as you looked around the floor last night, almost everyone was doing just that.

Instead of complicating the mix, THT used crisp guitar lines, simple keyboards, driving drums and (the surprising star of the show) the perfect sound of Andrew MacDonald's bass. He yellow-paged his set (letting his fingers do the walking) and provided the hooks on several tracks letting Liam and Alec to play off his lead. The band's high energy, harmonies and keyboard riffs really worked the room nicely, and tracks like Nighthawks and Backseat Sweetheart sounded huge.

The band was tight and the set was super high energy and fun. To be the second band on a four band, radio sponsored night and get people that have never heard you play to dance around unashamed is something you don't expect to be a part of. But when they closed the set with Jezebel, THT might have started their ascent to the top of the charts and instead of using Big Star to describe their sound, soon it might soon be description of the band itself.

Earlier in the day I had a chance to talk with lead guitarist, Alec O'Hanley about the tour and the new record. Check it out, and check these guys out when they hit your town.

I'll have pics up later, but my camera was not happy this AM.

AO:: Yo yo.
HH:: Hey man, how's it going today.

AO:: Not too bad. We are just sitting here at the ferry terminal. We missed the ferry.
HH:: Jebus. You guys have had a run of bad luck on this part of the tour.

AO:: I know. We missed the ferry yesterday too. This morning we made the reservation and got to the terminal but then realized we made the reservation for the wrong ferry, but no big deal other than rescheduling the CBC Radio 3 thing.

HH:: So will you be back in time for the show?
AO:: Oh yeah. No problem. Just a few extra hours at the terminal.

HH:: Ok. Well we might as well get these questions out of the way so you can get back to killing time. First things first.. How are you guys doing after the accident?
AO:: We are getting by. We got a driver and a big 15 passenger. We had to get a driver because we are all under 25. Even though they said they would rent it to us, when we got to the counter they said it was their policy. So that's a pain in the ass, as we missed the Victoria show, but we are chilling in Nanaimo.

HH:: So how are you going to get home?
AO:: Not even really sure. Right now our dad's are looking into it. I might have to fly up to Edmonton for a court appearance and testify against the drunk driver. It sucks, as we missed the show in Vctoria, as we are always excited to play new cities and we were really looking forward to playing Victoria.

HH:: Let's talk about Little Jabs.. I am not sure I've come across a record that was met with such universal appeal. Bloggers, critics, casual fans - everyone seems to have jumped on board. How does it feel to have your record so well received?
AO:: We never make any bones about being universal. I don't think having a broad base of appeal is not a bad thing. Some of the best bands can tread the line - between art and pop. We are not at all ashamed to be a pop band. I mean, the Beach boys - were inventive artistically and still made great pop music. I don’t think you need to obscure your music. That being said, we are all really pleased to have the critics on our side. You always love to hear kind words about your music, so reading these things in your room is great (laughs).

HH:: The record is super up-tempo and catchy - and is often deemed a perfect summer record. Now I don't know if you guys think that description is selling the record short, so what was the band's goal when you went into the studio?
AO:: You can't write a poppy record and not have it linked to summer. Pop has its roots in the surfing thing, the California coast, girl. It's just the way it is, but we don't mind hearing that at all. Summer's my favorite season, but really it just means we are writing great pop songs, and it's not like you can't listen to the record in September.

HH:: You worked with Joel again… but I heard you also recorded some of the album with Ian McGettigan in his house in TO.
AO:: Yeah, that was crazy. We recorded some stuff with him in this place on Richmond Street. It was so weird, as we were jammed in with crazy metal bands, and beside an opera singer. We were in Rob Benvie's space - the Camouflage Nights space I guess - for a few days, but Ian is a great guy with amazing pop mind.

HH:: Yeah, we actually went to High School with Joel, Ian and Rob. I was in most of their classes. It's pretty crazy to see them now and try to understand all they've accomplished. I mean, Joel's as big a name as you can get in Canadian music and when we were 17 we'd see them play for fun at small clubs.
AO:: Joel is the nicest guy you'll ever meet. He really is, and we are eternally in their debt for what they've done. I mean, I know Sloan took them under their wing and now Joel wants to do the same with us. When he first talked to us he said he was so into us because we reminded him of them back in the day. We are very lucky.

HH:: Now, there's not a lot of press given to PEI. So let's give you a chance to defend your home province. What's the biggest misconception about PEI, and what's the one thing everyone should do when they go to the Island?
AO:: Misconception, I'd say that people assume there is not a vibrant music scene. That's not true at all, there is just no big press machine, like in Toronto. I mean, Halifax has the coast. There is nothing like that in PEI, no credible magazine of that sort. As for what someone should do… definitely make their way to the North Shore and go to the beach. Oh, and go see a Smothered in Hugs show. They are an awesome band, probably my favorite. They are recording with Charles Austin now and you'll hear a lot about them in a few years I bet. I know I'm biased, but the Scene is pretty sweet.

HH:: After the shows out west you start making the long trek home in time for Pop Explosion. The lineup is pretty amazing. How excited are you guys for that, and are there any bands you are hoping to see when you are in Halifax?
AO:: To be honest I have really checked the lineup. Who's playing?

HH:: Well, they have a big Arts & Crafts show, so that will draw some people.
AO:: I really like the Stars. I saw them when we played the Hillside. Amy Milan's voice is great. Are they playing?

HH:: No, but it's like Apostle of Hustle and Most Serene Republic.
AO:: Oh I saw Apostle of Hustle play. Very cool. That will be a good show.

HH:: Eric's Trip is getting back together too.
AO:: Really? That will be the show. I'm really into Elevator in the last 6 months. I'm late to get on the ball, but better later than never.

HH:: You are around for a great time in Canadian music. People are really supportive of Canadian acts and interested in the Canadian scene. Is the next step for you guys trying to tour the US and build up an American fan base?
AO:: That's the ultimate goal I guess, to get us on mainstream radio. I guess I'd say talk to us in a year. We haven't made a real effort, we haven't even toured down there, but it would be great to crack radio. You know, get a few nuggets of truths into the stream of shit. I'd love to get over to Europe. All these bands tell us how well you get treated over there. So that is quite appealing. That's the good thing about this band. Every three months we get hit with a pleasant surprise.

HH:: Last question - when Shane reviewed your record for herohill, he was talking about heroes of the sidewalk and said, "Fill our bags up with booty, they won't know what to think about us cutie, we'll be the heroes of the sidewalks in our town", which makes it the best song about Trick or Treating that I've ever heard." So, is it really about trick or treating or is he a moron?
AO::(Laughs) That's the best interpretation of the song...I've ever heard. When we read that we were like, it IS a Halloween song. It was completely inadvertent, but good on you! We like it.

HH:: (laughs) Excellent.. Well get on the Ferry. I'll see you tonight.
AO:: Talk soon. Thanks.

MP3:: Backseat Sweetheart

@ 3:58 PM, Anonymous matthew kicked the following game:

These guys are so great. I'll have three chances to see them in the next month, so I really should do that!


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