You’re about to read a really enthusiastic Q&A with Toronto’s most charming indie pop band right now, The Elwins. Well, we’ve definitely laid claim to say they’re ours, but truth be told, the charm’s coming straight outta Keswick. But if we’re going to hold hands with any band and give them the warmest of welcomes, it’d be this one. Known for their relentless show schedule around the city, their funky merch, facial hair, cute videos and smile-inducing interactions, The Elwins have blown up around Toronto over the last year. Matthew Sweeney (vocals/guitar), Feurd Moore (keyboards/guitar), Christopher Shannon (bass) and Travis Stokl (drums) recently returned from a tour to and from SXSW after the release of their long-awaited album And I Thank You and now they’ll be playing at Soundscapes to celebrate Record Store Day this Saturday.
In the Q&A with Feurd Moore, you’ll learn about how into crafting they are, Elwins underwear, learning how to play in front of kids and if the magic lies in the moustache.
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When and how did the band start, and how did you get to where you are now?
Feurd Moore: The band started from a friendship in high school. It was awesome. We played talent shows and crawled through each others legs! After high school Matthew and Travis started a band as a duo, which became ‘The Elwins.’ Shortly after myself, Feurd, joined slappin’ da bass. We played shows here and there but kept it pretty chill. After a little while, I graduated college and joined the band full time. It was at that point we said ‘LET’S DO THIS!’ and started rocking and rolling for real. Since then we made a full length album, got another member, the one and only Christopher Shannon, and just got busier and busier! It’s been a fun and amazing experience thus far. We got here by playing lots of shows and always having a good time!!
Can you explain the story behind your new album and the recording process?
FM: We had an amazing time making this record. We decided to really step it up from the previous EP. It started with a recording/writing experiment where we wrote and recorded a song every week for quite a while. Most of the material came from that project. We had over 40 songs to begin with and cut it down to 14 to record. Then we set off to Philadelphia! There we did pre-production and demos with Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man). He helped us arrange the songs and tighten everything up. It was our first time playing a whole bunch of the songs as a band. After that we flew over to Seattle where we recorded the songs with Ryan Hadlock (Blonde Redhead, Stephen Malkmus) at the BEAUTIFUL Bear Creek studio! This place is an old horse barn converted into a studio. We bunked up there for 25 days of recording. We had sandwiches, played with dogs and had many a latte from Cafe Lorraine. Most recommended! We finished up in Toronto mixing with L. Stu Young (Prince, Sum 41) and mastering with Joao Carvalho. All in all it was a dream come true!!
You guys like to make a lot of videos and make unique merch – what got you into doing that?
FM: We have always been interested in making silly videos and crafts. It all started in high school, we would make weird videos and put music to them in garageband. We had a computer music class where we were really allowed to do whatever! That morphed into the videos we make now. It seemed like a cool way to reach people through a different medium. Also we’ve always been into sewing and crafting, so making homemade merch was a nice way to have fun and have something unique at shows. We get a lot of help from our wonderful friends and family making homemade goods. Since then we started getting other items like the mugs and sunglasses that we just thought were cool.
What’s your favourite kind of merch to sell?
FM: For a while we had Elwins homemade underwear. That was always my favorite. It is a pretty extensive process to make them and we haven’t had it for a while. But it was awesome!!
How did you develop your stage shows?
FM: Our show came from a mix of different things. One thing that had a big effect on it was a tour we did of summer camps last year. Playing for kids is amazing. You really have to change your whole attitude towards playing music. If you just sat there and played a song they don’t really know what to do. But if you tell them to dance and freak out, and also set the example, they will go crazier than anybody!! I think we learned a lot from playing those shows and learning how to get people into it. Also we learn from the greats!! We have seen and played with so many great bands who have amazing live shows. Some that come to mind are Arkells, Sweet Thing, Zeus, Tokyo Police Club, Maylee Todd and there are so many others. We always try to see what other people are doing that really works to reach an audience.
Do you think having a more unique and creative extra side to bands helps boost their audience or appeal?
FM: I think that using different mediums and experimenting with putting yourself out there can help reach a wider audience. Different things appeal to different people, so the more ways you try, the more people you can reach!
Does the Elwins magic lie in the moustache? What do you think about all of your facial hair and style attention?
FM: I think the magic of the moustache(s) lies in the beholder. If someone think there’s magic there, I wouldn’t tell them otherwise!! It’s fun for bands to have an image. It’s cool that we like having beards and other people can get with that as well. It’s another thing that we can have fun with and experiment. Matt just shaved his off!! Sometimes I do think that ‘Feurd’ is my moustache and is remotely controlling everything I say and do from my upper lip. I may never know!
How was your trip to and from SXSW? What were some of your favourite parts?
FM: The trip was so fantastic. We were on tour with two amazing bands, Jukebox The Ghost and SPEAK. Amazing music and amazing dudes! SXSW was awesome as well. Austin is such an amazing city. We ran around and played some really fun shows. Definitely one of the highlights was going to The Salt Lick BBQ outside of Austin. All you can eat real Texas BBQ! We also played a lot of lawn bowling and made a human triangle.
What’s it like being a musician in Toronto?
FM: Toronto is awesome. It’s full of opportunity and there’s a lot of cool stuff happening all the time. I feel like it’s a really great place to be.
You’re often considered as a Toronto band, but you technically reside in Keswick, do you feel much of your time is spent driving back and forth? Is that a hassle or completely worth it?
FM: We do spend a lot of time driving to and from the city, but it’s not really a hassle for us. We have a wicked set up in Keswick right now and it is a great place for us to focus and work full time on the band.
Do you play activities or certain kinds of music while driving?
FM: Travis and Chris are kings of music in the van. They have the most extensive taste in music, and are both into really different stuff. One time we attempted to make it all the way through Chris’ iPod on shuffle. Many, many thousands of songs. Somewhere in the middle it was sabotaged and we never made it through. We also often call Travis the ‘Playlist Prince’ for his ability to make amazing mixes for the car, or any occasion! We have also experimented with various games and philosophical discussions about guitar chords.
Where do you like to play in Toronto?
FM: I remember the first time we played at Sneaky Dee’s was really cool. It’s an awesome venue. There are sooooo many places to play in Toronto and they all have awesome things to offer. We are playing at The Phoenix on June 9th with Zeus which I am stoked about! I really love that room.
What other local acts do you like?
FM: Some of my favorite local bands are Zeus, The Pinecones, The Bicycles, Arkells, Tokyo Police Club, Doctor Ew, T H O M A S, and so many more! Toronto is so full of amazing talented people and we can’t imagine having better friends!
What’s on your Dork Shelf (movies, books, music, games)?
FM: Travis just got a book called ‘Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth’ all about the history of pop music. Looks really amazing! I was just about to watch the movie ‘The Amazing Mr. Bickford’ which is a movie Frank Zappa made about a claymation artist he worked with, Bruce Bickford. It’s all Bruce’s claymation and Frank Zappa’s music. Also we were all really nerding out on the ‘Draw Something’ game on our phones. Fun!
What’s next for The Elwins?
FM: There is a lot coming in the next while! We are doing an Ontario tour at the end of May/beginning of June, leading up to the Toronto show at the Phoenix with Zeus! Also we are working towards a cross canada tour in the Fall, and in the process of developing a Monkee’s style web series that we are super excited about. It’s going to be called ‘Meet The Elwins’!!!
What else should we know about the Elwins?
FM: We tweet, we’re neat and we think you’re sweet!