When contacted by the Times & Transcript last week for his interview, Hollerado guitarist and lead vocalist Menno Versteeg was in the process of loading his band’s gear into Toronto’s famed Air Canada Centre for a performance there that evening.
Hollerado, performing in support of Billy Talent at Casino New Brunswick in Moncton on Monday night, are not regular performers at one of Toronto’s most prestigious and largest venues. So the sense of wonder and astonishment apparent in Versteeg’s voice is understandable.
Getting to perform in front of large crowds night after night seems to be sitting well with Hollerado. What has struck Versteeg and his band mates Nixon Boyd, Dean Baxter and Jake Boyd in a positive way is seeing the way that Billy Talent interact with all those who come into contact with the band. And we are not just talking fans.
“This tour with Billy Talent has been amazing on so many different levels. As a band, you can’t help but learn from watching those guys,” Versteeg says. “It has been so great to see how Billy Talent has been from their crew to the staff at the venue. They display a genuine and utmost respect for everyone that they come into contact with. That’s an important quality for any band, no matter what level you are at.”
It hasn’t always been catered meals and arena load-ins for Hollerado, however. The indie-rock group initially had little luck getting anyone to pay attention to them. That all changed after the band met producer Gus Van Go prior to recording their debut album Record In A Bag.
“Gus really believed in us since day one,” Versteeg says. “When we met him, we had no money, no fans and just a few songs that we had recorded on our own. He heard us play, met us and liked our stuff. We ended up living in his house while we made Record In A Bag with him. He really put his heart and soul into that first record. Our subsequent friendship stemmed from his belief in us.”
While the group had a big believer in Van Go, he was one of the few outside the band in the early days. Versteeg says that the band shopped Record In A Bag around to various labels with virtually no one showing interest in helping bring Hollerado’s music to the masses.
“We shopped the record around hoping to get a ‘real label’ to release it for us. No one was interested though; the general consensus was that the record didn’t really fit into anything,” Versteeg says.
Influential Canadian label Arts & Crafts ended up jumping on board with Hollerado helping raise the band’s profile on a national and international level. Their video for the track “Americanrama” became a viral video sensation of sorts with its elaborate choreography and impeccable timing. It currently sits at an impressive 1.2 million views on YouTube.
Versteeg says that when it came to the release of the group’s newest record White Paint, there was no shortage of labels willing to work with the band this time around. Ultimately, the group chose to release the record independently while securing distribution from Universal Music.
“We didn’t choose the independent route out of spite or anything like that. We simply learned how to do things ourselves. We kind of understand how labels want to see bands prove themselves but there is always the question ‘Will they make money?’ After the first record did so well, labels were a little more willing to believe in us. That’s just the way of the music business these days.”
Given the tight bond that Hollerado formed with Gus Van Go during the recording of their first record, it should surprise few that the group enlisted Van Go to produce White Paint.
“Making White Paint was somewhat overthought but also somewhat easier than making Record In A Bag. It had been a long time since we made that record and so we had a lot of material to work through. Some songs like “Pick Me Up” came together in like 10 minutes while other songs seemingly took hours and hours. In creativity, there is room for all processes.
“Gus is the perfect guy to have on our side because he can hear those songs that have the potential to become something special. But he also knows when we need to stop overthinking things. You need to have the opinion of someone you really trust in the when you’re making the record.”
Article published in the April 12, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript