Peter Elkas's Party Line

Peter Elkas's Party Line
One of the least likely beneficiaries of the mid-‘90s Halifax pop explosion was a hotshot quartet from Pointe-Claire, Quebec called the Local Rabbits. More bluesy than pop per se, the band added a great deal of depth to the roster of Sloan's murderecords, releasing two Canadian classics (1996's You Can't Touch This and 1998's Basic Concept) and earning a reputation as one of the country's most explosive live bands. After the long-delayed release of their ingenious third album This is It, Here We Go in 2002, the cult faves played but a handful of shows before splintering off to pursue other projects. Fans bemoaning yet another Rabbits hiatus took heart when this break afforded guitarist Peter Elkas an opportunity to create the stunning EP Party of One, which he recorded with Don Kerr in 2002. Maple Music has now enabled Elkas to add four new songs and turn Party into an even more remarkable full-length.

Though a more than capable solo artist, Elkas admits he feels lonely in the spotlight. "It's definitely different and it hits me in strange places," he says. "Even just getting my new record was a bit weird in that the little celebrations and failures about it are things only I can recognise. So there's definitely a camaraderie that's missing; it's not as much fun in a way, you know?"

Truth be told, Elkas wasn't completely on his own. As a producer and drummer on Party, Kerr had a lot to do with making the record sound as amazing as it does while also keeping time in a formidable rhythm section with bassist Doug Friesen. "Even though the final arrangements were what I predicted they'd be, there was still a bit of collaboration going on," Elkas says. "It certainly wasn't as drastic or extreme as the songs with the Rabbits, which would always end up being much different than what I'd first brought to the table."

Lyrically he continues to hone a believable blend of irony and sincerity on songs like the affable "In My Den," and "Build a Harmony" which should please fans expecting the rockin' jauntiness of the Rabbits. Romantic laments like "Turn Out the Lights," and "Skipping Stone" are soulful tearjerkers that showcase Elkas's musical diversity.

In some ways the newest songs are among the darkest Elkas has penned — a fact he acknowledges and can even account for. "Well, there is the natural perspective of growing a bit older but I really believe it has a lot to do with living with Rob Benvie [Thrush Hermit, The Dears] for a year," he says. "That whole time, the guy was working on his novel, The Safety of War, and he was perpetually in that editing process. He also cranks out tunes every day, so I learned some things from him and got more comfortable with my lyrics.

"With the Rabbits I spent a lot of time trying to find my place as a songwriter in my own right, getting into guys like Springsteen with these epic, romantic lyrics and realising that that wasn't what I was best suited to discuss. Living with Rob, I learned to write the way I talk a bit more and deal very specifically with situations. The more candid I became, the darker things seemed."

It's not all doom and gloom for young Elkas though. While he continues to describe the Local Rabbits as being "on hiatus," the gifted singer-songwriter is buoyed by his new label and is optimistic about his own prospects.
"Maple's really given me some good justification for pursuing a solo thing. It's not to say that I prefer being on my own but, given the circumstances, it's really what I see in front of me right now."