The Elwins, play Saint John

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The Elwins, an indie pop-rock foursome from New Market, Ontario, released their sophomore album “Play For Keeps” on February 24th, 2015 and are currently wrapping up their Cross-Canada tour, with a final stop at Peppers’ Pub in Saint John on December 12.

Their latest album, “Play for Keeps”, took almost two years to complete. The band began writing in summer of 2013, and went on tour until early 2014  when they slowed down and put their focus into finishing the album. They spent the following year recording, mixing, and perfecting their twelve track album until it’s release in February of 2015.

The record has common themes of young, innocent love, angst, and instability. While some tracks seem to be centred around an unrequited attachment or mixed feelings, it is juxtaposed with these optimistic, happy melodies. It’s impressive how the band can take a subject that is the quintessential tale of woe and place it into the care-free atmosphere they create with their music.

It’s nearly impossible to feel bad about one’s own fallouts and failed relationships when listening to this record. It’s like if your dog ran away to follow its dreams because it felt you were holding it back and then four happy guys in hawaiian-style printed shirts told you their dog did the same. While it doesn’t get your dog back, it shows how happy you can be, despite the lack of a dog in your life.

The Elwins’ musical journey began at Huron Heights Secondary School, where a teenage Matt Sweeney, currently on vocals, and Travis Stokl, now on the drums, began playing music together. The duo added Feurd, who plays keys and guitars, to their roster, forming a band called Honey for the Bears, with the three bonding over a shared taste in music; The Strokes, and Frank Zappa according to Feurd who spoke with The Baron over the phone.

After pursuing further education Feurd turned his focus back to music; reconnecting with the other two bears joining the band in its current manifestation as The Elwins.

In February of 2012, The Elwins released their debut album, “And I Thank You”, which was well received and praised for its “sunshiney” and “jaunty” rhythm and “fun” melodies. Shortly after the release, their bass guitarist left the band and open calls for a new bass player were made ultimately bringing in Frankie Figliomeni to fill the void.

“He was also from our hometown and learned all of our songs,” recalled Feurd.

“He came in and played with us and did great so we told him he got the job, as long as he could come on tour with us like five days later.”

The Elwins have a distinct sound that is difficult to compare. It’s in-your-face enthusiasm and clean, bright riffs might make you think it’s a pop song like a modern beach boys, however Matt Sweeney’s vocals are very alternative, like if Cage the Elephant took prozac. Overall the music is very modern and fun, reminiscent of Vampire Weekend. All these factors combined make for an authentic experience and set Play for Keeps apart from others.

The band plans to kick off 2016 by beginning on their third album, followed by more touring of the US, Europe, and Canada from February to April. Their current cross-country tour concludes at Peppers Pub in Saint John on Saturday, December 12, doors @ 8pm.