While they were having a quick bite to eat with friends at the Choo Choo Diner before sound-checking for the show at the Phoenix The Elwins were nice enough to let me invade their dinner to ask them a few questions. We discussed their latest album release, musical collaborations and their quirky promo vids.
These guys are quite possibly the nicest dudes making a lasting impression on the indie rock scene here in Toronto, and I had a wonderful chat with them that afternoon. I’m a big fan of their sound and overall demeanor and was excited to pick their brains.
Have you guys played the Phoenix before?
Matt: Nope, this will be our first time. Actually, Feurd has played The Phoenix.
Feurd: I have played on that stage as a guest on guitar when Tokyo Police Club did those 3 Christmas shows last year. It was a great stage.
As Toronto venues go, do you guys have a favourite?
Feurd: This is one of my favourites for sure.
Matt: Massey Hall is my favourite. I also like The Drake.
Feurd: I like the Dakota too. I like playing at The Dakota. It’s a fun stage.
You guys have been everywhere lately. Touring all over Ontario. Any highlights that you would like to mention?
Feurd: Last night in Waterloo was pretty awesome. And London last weekend was amazing.
Oh right, you guys played Alex P Keaton’s right?
Feurd: Right, we played with Young Rival – those guys are awesome, they’re super solid dudes.
I’m a big fan of the Beyonce cover you guys did with Luke Lalonde.
Matt: Thank you!
How did that come to be?
Matt: A buddy of Feurd’s actually contacted us.
Feurd: Yeah I actually studied music at Humber. And I did a recording project there – and the guy that engineered that project contacted me because he was starting a mastering company. They were doing this series to promote the company called ‘The Mojito Sessions’. The company was called ‘Mojito Mastering’. For the series, they would have a band come in, and a guest musician in too, to do a cover song. He’s going to engineer it; mix it and master it and all that, and then they do a video with Mitch from Southern Souls. So that’s how it happened. So we thought ‘ what should we do?’ and got a list of songs together-and contacted Luke because we’ve always wanted to work with him.
Matt: We wanted to do a song that would be difficult to do. Like a pop song, but try and make it our style.
Feurd: Yeah. We ended up really liking the original. It’s so good.
Matt: Yeah, in the process of learning it we ended up really liking it. The music video is really awesome. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. It’s really bright. She has like seven different costume changes in that video.
All your promo videos and context videos are all very eccentric. Does a lot of planning go into those?
Feurd: All our video stuff is pretty on the fly. We usually go into it with a loose kind of script, and go off that. Try to come up with something fun to do, that kind of thing.
Your Movember Video for the song you guys wrote for the cause is particularly memorable. How did that campaign go?
Matt: Really well. The whole idea behind it was to raise awareness for prostate cancer, and other types of men’s health issues that are brought up during Movember. And, we also looked at it as a cool way to get exposure. We met a lot of people with the Movember Organization, they were really supportive and great about getting the video out there. We ended up raising a lot of money for the cause, so it was a great success.
Let’s back track a little bit: What’s your origin story, how did you guys get together?
Matt: Well, Travis and I met in high school. And actually, the 3 of us were in an old band before The Elwins. Then Feurd went off to school for Jazz Guitar, and Trav and I just kept rocking out in his basement. Writing songs. We came up with The Elwins; as just the two of us. Feurd came on and played as he was available. Eventually we decided to take it to the next level and do it full time. Now, Feurd lives with Trav in a house in Keswick. And I live down the street.
What influences your writing and your style?
Matt: We like a lot of different types of music. We actually like pop music a lot. We like The Beatles. Stuff like that.
Feurd: …Beach Boys…
Matt: Travis is super awesome at music knowledge. He’s like an encyclopedia. He really provides the band with mixes that constantly exposes us to music that we haven’t heard of. So through that we find a lot of inspiration.
Feurd: He’s like our channel for new music. We don’t really need to listen to anything unless Travis listens to it first. He will actually go through and get rid of stuff that he doesn’t like and only have us listen to what he thinks is good.
Do you have anything to say to that Travis? While your mouth is full of salad….
Travis: Well thank you guys, for that.
All laugh again.
Matt: This guy. So humble.
Feurd: This guy!
Travis: Yeah I do that. I don’t know. I like listening to music a lot.
Matt: I would go as far as to say that you’re almost obsessive about music. Like, when Travis wants to relax at home, he organizes his iTunes. He goes through it and deletes songs he’s unsure if he likes still or not.
Feurd: We call that trashing.
Matt: Travis has become addicted to his trash noise on his computer. You know that crumpling paper noise? He turns up his volume to the max whenever he trashes something.
Are there any local bands, and up and coming artists that are making an impact on you guys?
Feurd: Definitely Zeus. We love them and their new record is amazing. One of our collectively favourite bands from Toronto, The Bicycles, are making a new record right now. That makes us very happy because they haven’t been active in the last couple years or so, so we’re very excited about that.
Is there any other artists that you guys would want to collaborate with?
Feurd: Yeah. We actually have on our Google docs a huge list of artists that we want to collaborate with. Actually just last year on Christmas…was it Christmas?
Matt: Yeah it was Christmas morning.
Feurd: We went to a cottage with two friends of ours: Drew Smith from the Bicycles, and Tom Gill, these are two guys that we really respect and we love them, we just went to a cottage with them for 3 days and recorded a short 3 song record. Just recorded it ourselves-it was just a fun kind of, let’s just go write songs at a cottage. We want to just do that kind of thing maybe twice a year. Just with a bunch of different musicians from the list. All these people we’d like to do it with; that range from friends of ours in Toronto, to people in like St. Vincent, or Dr. Dog because we love their songs. So many people we’d like to collaborate with. It’s such a great experience, and you learn so much that way, writing with them, hanging out with them, it’s a really cool thing to do, so we want to do a lot of it.
You guys have a really heavy online presence; Twitter, tumblr, Facebook all that stuff. Do you guys take turns doing it, is it hard to maintain?
Matt: It’s fun to divvy up. We’ve split up a lot of the responsibilities. Feurd is Mr. Twitter. Feurd and I share Instagram, which in turn gets posted to tumblr. I take care of the Facebooks, Trav’s got the Myspace, which has kind of gone downhill –
Feurd: He does a bunch of other online stuff though. That’s not necessarily social networking type stuff.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right. We don’t really plan things too heavily –
Feurd: But we do like to post regularly. We don’t really have downtime with it or whatever. And we keep finding weird apps on our phones that result in hilarious things that we can post. So we try and do that.
Yeah, I saw that. The Boom Gif App looks really cool – seeing it on your tumbr really made me want to get the app!
Feurd: Yeah, I like that app a lot.
You have a large following on all of the social networking sites you use. Is it something that happened gradually? Or can you recall a specific instance where there was a huge boom of followers one day?
Matt: I think it was a gradual incline that happened over time, although it has been increasing a lot over the last little while. We went on tour with this great band in the states called Jukebox the Ghost. It was just over the course of 3 weeks, but we made a lot of fans through that – we would just play a show every night in a new city, and it was really cool. Really productive.
Feurd: It was cool to play to people who had never seen us before.
So a new city every night. How was that?
Feurd: It was amazing.
Matt: Our friend Lauren was with us actually. She was amazing to have on the road. She took care of us like a mother hen. She was amazing.
Feurd: I think we actually called her mom. Tour mom.
Lauren: Yeah. That didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all.
Matt: She’s just so much more mature than us.
Lauren: I’ll take that as a compliment.
Can you offer any advice to any bands out there that are trying to do what you’re doing?
Matt: I think it’s important to have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish before you start out so you don’t get discouraged. I think it’s a really difficult thing to do, and there’s a lot of things that you encounter that can slow you down, or discourage you. I know that that’s really helped us; we like to focus on the future and think about what we want to accomplish. It really kind of fuels us and keeps us going when things aren’t necessarily inspiring; like when you’re in the grind of things. So that’s really helped us I think.
That’s a really good answer. What are some of your long-term goals, and short term goals.
Matt: Well, we just released an album in February, and we’re big fans of the Junos and the Polaris Prize. We’re shooting to be very involved with that somehow. So we’re really hoping to be considered for the emerging artist award at the Junos. That’s one thing that we’re hoping for this year. Long term goals: we made a list of bands that we’d really like to tour with. Like, Dr. Dog, and Wilco. Some of our favourite names and favourite people.
For anyone who may not have heard you guys before, how would you describe yourselves (musically speaking)?
Matt: On the back of our business card we wrote ‘Jolly Indie Pop Rock” I don’t know if that works? I think that’s pretty good. Maybe you can also add throwback to that. I think that’s an important element to us.
Any closing remarks?
Travis: Rock and Roll Cootchie Coo.
Feurd: That’s an amazing thing that Travis’s dad says all the time!
Matt: I think that’s perfect.
Travis: That’s how I would describe our sound.
Thanks guys for sitting down with me!
Matt: Thanks for the awesome questions!