In the last year, PEI-based four-piece Two Hours Traffic has gone through some massive transitions. Founding member Alec O’Hanley left to pursue other projects forcing a “necessary” lineup change, with bassist Andy MacDonald switching over to guitar and introducing a new member, Nathan Gill, on bass, while Liam Corcoran and Derek Ellis stayed put on guitar and drums respectively.
The group also amicably split with long-time producer Joel Plaskett, making the choice to move inland to record an album in a place other than Halifax for the first time ever. In total, the band has created three full-length albums and a handful of EPs, including its latest, Siren Spell, which precedes the release of Two Hours Traffic’s upcoming, as-of-yet untitled full-length (the first with the all-new lineup) due out this February via Bumstead.
I caught up on all of the changes with Corcoran via phone from Toronto as the band prepares to play a few shows in Ontario and the Maritimes before heading down to New York City for CMJ 2012 later this month.
This has been a really big transition year for you guys. How is everything going? Was it a smooth move into the new lineup and working with a new producer?
It did work out pretty smoothly. It’s been a long time since Territory came out, and we knew it was going to be a while before the new record, so we had a lot of time to rehearse with Nathan on the bass. We did get to take our time, so by the time we started playing live we felt pretty good. I really feel we’re hitting our stride as a live band, for sure.
Working with the new producer, Darryl Neudorf, was a bit of a risk only because we hadn’t met him in person, and we were just walking into the room blind on the first day. We’d heard a lot of great things about him, and he’d done a lot of good work with other people. We just kind of went for it and ended up getting along with him really well, and we’re super happy with how the record turned out.
Is it strange not to have Alec there while you were recording the new album, since it was just the two of you from the beginning?
It was really different for sure. Andy and I had to step up in a way that we hadn’t in the past because Alec was very hands on, and we kind of had to take over some of that control. The whole attitude here I think was pretty different, but it was a necessary change.
Why would you say it was a necessary change?
By the end of that cycle of touring around the Territory album, it was just clear that we were all kind of unhappy, we weren’t enjoying what we were doing. Not to say that it was anyone’s fault specifically, but that lineup just wasn’t clicking the way that it did years ago. And Alec is involved in some other projects, and he kinda wanted to be in a bigger city, so he’s moving to Toronto. It was just the right time for him to do that, and we just had to figure out what our next move was gonna be.
All of you guys are still based in PEI then?
That’s right. So we had to find someone from PEI, which was kind of difficult because everyone is playing in different bands and things like that. Originally we were looking for a guitar player, then we made the decision that Andy was going to play guitar and we’d try to find a bass player, so that’s what ended up happening with Nathan. And of course, Nathan wasn’t a bass player at all; he was a guitar player, and we tried to convert him. It was a tough thing for everyone because we were throwing four albums’ worth of stuff at him to learn on an instrument that he was new to, and he’s done really well.
So when you were recording the new stuff, were you in PEI or Ontario?
We recorded in Ontario. Mono, Ontario, is the name of the town, and Darryl has a studio on his property, so it was a rural area, which is really nice. We’ve done all of our recording in Halifax to this point, and it was a nice change of scenery.
Does a change in venue equate to a change in the way you approach recording?
I think there’s definitely a different headspace. In Halifax we’d be at the Masonic Temple, which is right downtown, and there’s a lot of distractions. Like you can just go out wandering around, and I think that will change the way you’re feeling in the studio. In Ontario, we were just on a farm property, basically, and we didn’t really know anyone in the area, so it’s just a little easier to focus, I would say. And we didn’t have a lot of time. But we got everything done, and that may have been more difficult if we had been in a city somewhere.
You’ve just released a four-song EP, Siren Spell, and two of those songs—“Amour Than Amis” and “Audrey”—will be on the full-length album. Do you think those tracks are pretty good indicators of what the LP will sound like?
A little bit hard to say. “Audrey” has kind of the element—we were trying to take a kind of Motown element and use that in our songs, so that’s a few tracks on the album. “Amour Than Amis” stands alone in a way. What’s going on with the bass drum is kind of singular to that song. But there are a few other types of songs that aren’t really represented on the EP, so I think there should be some surprises when we do release the album.
This is going to be your second time playing at CMJ, right? Do you play in the States often?
Second or third, I know we did a few times. We have done a few regular shows in New York, but it’s always a very quick pass, in-and-out kind of thing. So we haven’t done a ton of stuff in the States. We’ve kind of just dabbled so far.
Is that a conscious decision, that you’re not really interested in jumping over quite yet?
We’d love to. It’s just we’ve done pretty decently in Canada, and we definitely want to branch out to the States, but it is a difficult thing to do if you want to do it the right way. So with this new album we’d like to, hopefully, do a fairly decent tour of the States.
Two Hours Traffic plays Arlene’s Grocery on Wednesday, October 17, as part of CMJ 2012.