Holler at these boys

Hollerado tells the Journal why they’re giving away confetti, golden tickets and bonus tracks

Bassist Dean Baxter and lead singer Menno Versteeg of Montreal band Hollerado, seen here playing a show during one of their two tours of China in the past year.
Bassist Dean Baxter and lead singer Menno Versteeg of Montreal band Hollerado, seen here playing a show during one of their two tours of China in the past year.
Credit: 
Supplied photo by caleb byers

Montreal band Hollerado’s recently re-released Record in a Bag is what its name suggests: a CD in a Ziploc bag. But the music is only the beginning.

“People like the packaging so far,” lead singer Menno Versteeg said on the phone from Montreal. “I don’t want to blow the surprise, but we put in different stuff when we play live.”

The album, which was re-released on Feb. 9 after having been available for free online for the last year and a half, comes with confetti, goodies and bonus tracks. Some bags feature golden tickets with prizes such as free Hollerado shows for a year or the band’s services for a birthday party.

The band is composed of Versteeg, guitarist Nick Boyd, bassist Dean Baxter and drummer Jake Boyd. The members all hail from Manotick, Ont., a small town outside of Ottawa.

One of the fast-rising acts in Canadian music, gaining a reputation as a model for do-it-yourself musical acts, Hollerado have toured China twice in the past eight months and have also toured across Canada and South America.

“We’ve gotten to see some places I didn’t think I’d be visiting anytime soon,” Versteeg said. “It’s just an amazing adventure.”

This time last year, the band was in the midst of a 28-day tour where they played month-long residencies in seven different cities. They played Sundays in Boston, Mondays in New York, Tuesdays in Lacolle, Que., Wednesdays in Hamilton, Thursdays in Toronto, Fridays in Ottawa and Saturdays in Montreal. The band logged more than 11,000 kilometres on the tour.

Versteeg said this February has been just as tough as last year, though.

“It’s harder work than last year because last year was just kind of routine—you drive, you wake up, you play and you don’t really have to think very much. We sort of miss that, actually.

“Now we’re recording, we’re writing, we’re doing press and we’re doing a whole bunch of different things.”

Last November, just before their second China tour, the band won a cool $250,000 in promotional dollars in a contest run by an Ottawa radio station.

Now the band has started its own record label, Royal Mountain Records. When I talked to Versteeg, they were in the studio with Jace Lasek of Montreal band Besnard Lakes recording some new songs.

“We’re free to record what we want, when we want, with no label. That’s a really cool thing. We’ve always been do-it-yourself and this has kind of enabled us to do it ourselves even more,” Versteeg said. “We’re setting up in the studio and we’re trying to make some weirder-sounding stuff we’ve ever made. We didn’t have to justify what we’re going to do with it. We can just come in here and have a good time. That’s amazing, that’s what I’ve always wanted.”

Touring China, Versteeg said the band busked outside the Forbidden City in Beijing.

“Crowds gather really, really fast if you start busking because we’re such an anomaly,” Versteeg said. “They’re not used to people making a scene. As soon as we started busking, we literally had a crowd of 200 people within minutes. Then the police come and break it up pretty fast because they don’t like crowd gathering.

“It’s definitely the most nervous I’ve ever been, about to play in Tiananmen Square.”

Last summer, the band was hand-picked by The White Stripes’ Jack White to open at a Toronto show for The Dead Weather, one of his side projects.

The 2007 video for Hollerado’s first single “Americanarama” features Kids in the Hall star Dave Foley, and the band’s latest video for their song “Juliette” features actress Margot Kidder, best known for playing Lois Lane in the Superman movies.

“She’s our friend Molly’s aunt, totally by chance,” Versteeg said. “We just asked Molly if she could send her aunt the music, Margot liked it and that was that.”

Versteeg said the band’s growing notoriety doesn’t affect them.

“I’m aware of our status as a new buzzing band, I mean people are talking about that, but I kind of tell them, ‘Well, let’s talk when I can buy you dinner,’” he said with a laugh.

“We’re still a band that no one’s heard of—our career’s just starting. We’re able to go to cities that aren’t our own and play to a few people, and that’s fantastic. That’s how I see our hard work is starting to pay off.”

Hollerado play The Mansion Feb. 25 with Final Flash and Gentleman Husband. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door.

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