There simply isn’t a limit on the raw creativity that resonates throughout the latest project from The Elwins, who are set to perform at Bo’s Bar and Grill Nov. 17th.
As pointed out in their bio notes, ‘If 2012’s And I Thank You got The Elwins’ metaphorical foot in the door, then their latest long-player, 2015’s Play For Keeps, is the boys blasting it wide open.’
“In a way, we didn’t want to feel like we had to tie anything to the last record,” said singer/guitarist Matthew Sweeney. “We wanted to do whatever we were feeling good about.”
Indeed. Even before releasing And I Thank You, their full-length debut, The Elwins – which also includes drummer Travis Stokl, guitarist/keyboardist Feurd and bassist Frankie Figliomeni – were one of Toronto’s emerging groups to show such undeniable promise.
Meanwhile, Play For Keeps builds on the foundation of fun pop music they established with its predecessor.
“Prior to doing any writing or recording, we talked about our previous record – what we liked and what we learned from it and from the process and where we see ourselves at now musically in terms of what is meaningful to us and what inspires us to write songs,” explained Sweeney. “So we kind of formed a vision of what we wanted the next record to sound like.”
With that in mind, they began the songwriting process. “The way we operate is that anyone can write, and we all bring our song ideas to the table. And it’s all up for discussion.
“That helps keep things cohesive, because it has to go through that filter of everyone’s input. In addition to that, we worked with a fantastic producer by the name of Derek Hoffman.”
The guys credit Hoffman with putting a welcome modern pop sheen on the record. Meanwhile, mixing came courtesy of the dynamic duo that is Gus van Go and Werner F (Hollerado, Said The Whale). “I think something he did really well was that he brought a really great kind of pop sensibility to the record that was different from our first record – a little more ‘in your face’ and radio friendly – a means of presenting ourselves in that way.
“And even though the songs all differed in style, he helped keep things cohesive from a production standpoint, and he made sure there was a common thread among all of these different songs. We went into the studio and were totally blown away at how well he works and how musical he is and what he brings to the table.”
Taking the best bits of pop and rock music from the past five decades, The Elwins have delivered a dose of dancy bliss that appeals to virtually anyone. Cuts like You Have Me and the terrific opener Bubble are described as ‘blasts of ‘60s-inspired pop not far removed from the band’s earlier efforts’.
“We tried to take everything up to the next level, sonically speaking,” added Feurd. “We wanted to be really open and try a bunch of things we hadn’t done before.”
So Down Low clips along at a brisk pace with an irresistible charm as well, complete with a sunny, catchy chorus.
Other gems are the shimmering pop of Bringing out the Shoulders, Off the Wall, and the striking disc closer Shining Star.
Sweeney’s own musical journey began as a youngster when his mom gave him an option of either delving into hockey or taking piano. He chose the keys. A few years later, he picked up an electric guitar and really found his niche. And then his vocal talents began to be truly recognized as well.
A packed 2015 touring schedule has to date seen them tour North America, Japan plus a bunch of European countries including England, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Spain. It’s been an absolute delight from the start.
Meanwhile, while the music and performances never take themselves too seriously, the same can’t be said for the band itself.
“We’re very passionate about this, and we have lofty goals for this album,” said Sweeney. “For us, this is our job. We’re about pushing ourselves as hard as we can to reach our goals.”