Raising The Bar
PEI power-foursome bring a dash of darkness to the party
by Chris Morin
TWO HOURS TRAFFIC
Some bar rock bands are as exciting as an eye exam or driver’s licence renewal. Every once in a while, though, the genre is redeemed by a group with the smarts to give the party purpose.
Prince Edward Island’s Two Hours Traffic, for example.
Two Hours Traffic started gigging in 2000 as a two-piece with guitarist-singers Liam Corcoran and Alec O’Hanley. Drummer Derek Ellis and bassist Andrew MacDonald signed on during the group’s time at university in Charlottetown. Now an energetic power-pop quartet, 2HT released an EP, April Storm, in 2003, then connected with indie rock star Joel Plaskett. They hit it off, and Plaskett produced all the group’s subsequent full-lengths — including the Polaris-nominated Little Jabs (2007) and their latest album, Territory.
Two Hours Traffic plays sing-along-style party tunes and puts on a high-energy show. O’Hanley agrees the group fits nicely under the bar rock banner.
“When you get a packed room of drunken music fans who are all in sync with what you’re blowing out of your amplifiers, that’s a really cool feeling,” says O’Hanley. “If you can get the dudes in the back of the room getting the bottles of Moosehead in the air — although I think you people from Saskatchewan drink Pilsner — that’s always a good moment.”
And what can Pilheads expect? On this tour Two Hours Traffic is balancing power tunes and mellower numbers. “In the new songs we’re testing on the road, we’re definitely trying to keep people moving,” O’Hanley says. “We do occasionally foray into the mid-tempo area but we always try and keep the songs upbeat and energetic.
And lyrically? “The majority of the album is concerned with relationshipping,” he adds. “There are songs about getting stomped on and about stomping. But we did make an effort to expand our palette. I mean, we’re trying to tackle some of the notions that we spend a lot of time thinking about — there’s one [song] that hints at alcoholism. But it was still definitely a fun record to make.”
The band, not surprisingly, has potent regional mojo. In fact Two Hours Traffic was recently showcased on the Great Canadian Sound Quest, a CBC Radio 2 deal that recruited 13 artists from across Canada (including Regina’s Jason Plumb) to write songs celebrating roads.
2HT contributed a song about Dixon Road — a geographical landmark that’s a sort of PEI cultural epicentre.
Still, O’Hanley says the group works hard to escape East Coast Rock Band stereotypes.
“It’s not so much that we’re from Prince Edward Island, but we find there’s more of an East Coast or Maritimes stigma,” says O’Hanley. “A lot of our early reviews would dismissively compare us to the Halifax Pop Explosion-era bands. We like those bands, but we hadn’t really listened to them much when we were recording our first album.
“I do remember Sloan’s “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” video being a pretty big moment for me,” says O’Hanley. “But at the same time it’s something we’ve had to try and sidestep — and I think we’ve done that fairly well.”