The Chemistry of Two Hours Traffic

The Chemistry of <b>Two Hours Traffic</b>
Not many bands will admit their name comes from a Shakespeare quote, but for this four-piece from Charlottetown, PEI, it’s better than the other, far more dubious, explanation: that it’s the amount of driving time from tip to tip of their home province. Started by lead singer Liam Corcoran and guitarist Alec O’Hanley in high school, the name comes from the prologue to Romeo and Juliet and O’Hanley doesn’t mind its highbrow origins. "It’s one of those plays that you can’t really argue against,” he notes. "It’s one of those universal things. I like things that are universal, or have a mass appeal but are still, you know, fucking awesome.”

That mix of accessibility and awesomeness is in full effect on the band’s second album, Little Jabs. Driven by crystal-clear melodies that are written between Corcoran, O’Hanley and bassist Andrew MacDonald and the tight drums of Derek Ellis, Two Hours Traffic navigate their catchy hook-laden songs between the poles of Can-rock and bright power pop. Almost all listeners invoke Big Star when talking of their determined and sharp songs, but the band seem to take their strategy from a different source. "We’re big fans of the back to basics thing, like Nick Lowe,” O’Hanley says. "What he did was pretty awesome, like reacting against Pink Floyd and their big prog rock songs and writing the opposite thing, like these three minute pop songs. We’re big fans of back to basics, or playing songs that you don’t have dress too much.”

Part of the driving force behind the Two Hours Traffic sound has been Haligonian producer Joel Plaskett, who has been behind the boards since their self-titled debut in 2005 as well as their recent EP, Isolator. The choice of Plaskett was actually quite simple for O’Hanley. "He’s a really good dude, but the initial attraction was we were fans of his. He’s really knowledgeable and his attitude about music is so similar to ours that we feel comfortable working with him. He’s like a cool older brother to us and just a general, all-around great dude.”

Bands from PEI don’t usually get the sort of attention and notice that another band from, say, Halifax will. THT love living in PEI, but it also provides a new set of problems than for those on the mainland. "I think any problems they would get, we might get more of,” O’Hanley explains. "It’s tough to be in a band here because we have to cross a bridge and pay $50 anytime we want to leave. It’s not the most practical location for a band but it’s really nice and relaxed here.”

Another titbit is that three-quarters of the band are chemistry graduates; both Corcoran and O’Hanley have worked in labs. "I think the idea of chemistry is pretty neat,” O’Hanley says. "The fact you can reduce everything in the world to these little balls and see how they interact with each other.” As for the intersection of chemistry and rock’n’roll, O’Hanley is a little more vague. "There’s a connection, I’ve heard, between the math part of the mind and the musical part of the mind but who knows if it extends to chemistry or not. I’ve thought about it a lot but haven’t come up with any solid conclusion. It’s good to be well rounded. We’re geeks at heart.”