An interview with Hollerado

‘Outsiders together’ play Grant Hall 

Hollerado at Grant Hall Saturday night.
Photo: 

Hollerado’s offbeat, catchy indie rock set the house on fire during QPOP!’s Saturday headlining show — literally. Grant Hall’s fire alarm evacuated the building mid-song, drenching the small but resolute crowd as it waited outside for the show to continue. 

Lead singer Menno Versteeg’s provided a spoken word recap — including sound effects — to bring the returning crowd up to speed. 

“I was like [guitar sound effect] and you were all clapping,” he said as he flailed his arms at the committed audience. 

The band’s returning set included hopeful singles from their upcoming album. The new songs followed Hollerado’s mold — a manic indie-rock sound topped with a generous amount of hooks. Some fan’s were lost with these new songs, but quickly regained their footing with older favourites like ‘Americanarama’ and ‘Pick Me Up’. 

A few hours earlier, in a cramped dressing room, drummer Jake Boyd told me their following is built on shared weirdness between band and fans. Versteeg jokingly agreed that their fans certainly aren’t cool. 

“And neither are we,” Boyd said. “We’re outsiders together.”

Verseteeg, Jake Boyd, guitarist Nixon Boyd, and bassist Dean Baxter grew up on the same street in  Manotick, ON. They remember pouring over punk rock records in their teens as they developed the DIY ethics that would guide their careers.

“The real ideals of punk is do whatever you feel like and love that and embrace that,” Versteeg said. 

My own experience growing up with the genre agrees — it’s music reserved for people avoiding the popular table (and often the dance floor), but not every member of the band had the same taste. 

“I had two Backstreet Boys CDs,” Baxter said, prompting some ribbing. “I had two Limp Bizkit CDs. I had Chumbawumba.”

“Dean did it all,” Versteeg said, his voice deadpan.

After forming in 2007, the band plucked away until 2009, when they won a hefty $25,000 in Live 88.5 FM’s “Big Money Shot” battle of the bands competition. The win kick-started their career, helping to create their own record label, Royal Mountain Records, and create three studio albums. 

The label continues to grow.  with Canadian up-and-comers Alvvays and PUP now call the label home alongside a growing list of other young musicians. But the band is still coy about the label’s future.

“We want to sell it to a computer company for a billion dollars,” Versteeg said. “Sell it to the Internet, somehow.”

“The ideal is to have the resources to make the records that you believe in,” Nixon Boyd, said, chiming in after a few jokes about a Microsoft-Google-Royal Mountain merger. “Helping bands [we] love is the ideal and so far we’ve been able to do that. “

Aside from the band’s business aspirations, Hollerado has built a reputation for quirky, viral-ready music videos. The quartet has been ostrich racing, hot-air balloon flying and bike riding in Holland. 

“You get 20 or 30 thousand dollars to make a music video,” Versteeg said. “What have you always wanted to spend 20 to 30 thousands dollars on? Well we want to go ride ostriches. So, that’s what we spent 30 thousand dollars on.”

The videos underlie Hollerado’s guiding philosophy — a giddy commitment to offbeat ideas and sounds. The band admits that they’re only truly successful when they stick to their roots.

They point to ‘Firefly’, a pop song written for their previous record, 111 Songs. The song was a successful studio experiment, but it was never true to the band’s identity.

“It feels like we put a mask on every time we play that song,” Nixon Boyd said. It’s just not fun to stray from the initial idea of the band, they explained. 

Nine years ago, they hoped to combine Weezer and The Rolling Stones simply because they wanted to listen to it. 

Versteeg said the band has finally delivered on that first idea with their upcoming album, while admitting every band says that. 

When I asked what fans could expect, the band jointly answered “rock.”

Then I got more sound effects. “Duh-duh-duh — beh-de-beh — duh-duh – psst psst,” Jake Boyd sang, while playing air guitar. “Kind of like that.”

See all of our QPOP! coverage on qjlongform.com

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