One-on-One with Menno Versteeg of Hollerado (and, unexpectedly, Molly Rankin)

by Michael

In what would become my favourite interview for the blog thus far, I met Menno Versteeg, lead singer of Hollerado, at the Piston in Toronto. Hollerado had just finished their set, ending with “Do the doot da doot doo.”It was the first night of the craziness that is North by Northeast in Toronto.

I thought that when I wrote this article it would be solely about the band and their music, but with Hollerado the picture is a lot bigger. They are a huge contributor to the Canadian music scene, and it could not have been more evident during the interview. During the interview Joel Clifton from Dinosaur Bones stopped by to say hi to Menno, as well as Andrew Alba, one of the hosts from AUX TV.

Anyways, I suppose I should get to the band. The members of Hollerado grew up together on the same street in Manotick, Ont. They played in a cover band.

“We only had one bar in our town, and everybody knows everybody so you can’t drink at the bar because they know you’re underage. So we would play in the bar so we could drink,” Menno said. They played covers of old Yardbirds and Rolling Stones songs.

I was surprised to learn that Hollerado have moved out of their residence in Montreal and are now living out of their van. “We’re nomads,” Menno said.

Not that they’re poor in any way. At the end of last year they won an Ottawa battle of the bands, using the prize money to form their own record label, Royal Mountain Records.

Since Record in a Bag was released in physical form earlier this year they have risen and risen. It made me wonder how it happened.

“I really have no idea,” Menno said. “I know we work our asses off… We were lucky, we got lucky, I don’t know…”

Record in a Bag was certainly unique when it was released to stores- it is literally a CD in a Ziploc bag, also filled with confetti and other assorted prizes. Their first wildly popular single is “Juliette,” a song Menno explained was, yes, about a death. However the song is meant to be seen as a celebration of a really spectacular life. The video even featured Canadian actress Margot Kidder.

Menno has said their next release will probably just be a normal record, which prompted me to ask him what else he might want in a bag.

His answers: the meaning of life in a bag, and beer in a bag, a discovery he made while on tour in China.

Hollerado, aside from being an incredible rock band, are also inventors in the making.

“We’ve got a lot of inventions up our sleeve,” Menno said. “We can’t tell them, [because] they’re not made yet… A type of alarm clock and a type of duck… You’ll hear about it soon.”

Hollerado, aside from being an incredible rock band and inventors in the making, are also one of the most involved bands in the independent scene. They gave away their old van to a Montreal band called Mille Monarques, and they’re apparently still getting emails from bands asking for the van.

“We got one today, [and it said]: ‘Hi, we’re in grade nine, we have one song and we’re going to make a music video for it. We’re too young to drive but we would like your van. We only have one drum and a guitar and a harmonica. Can we have the van?’ I want to give them a consolation prize,” Menno said.

Menno believes very strongly in helping out other bands. He said that Hollerado wouldn’t be where they are now if people didn’t believe in them, so they have to show that they believe in other bands by doing whatever they can to help them. Menno said that this concept is extremely important in a music community.

So what does the future hold for Hollerado?

“The one I’ve learned is to expect nothing. Maybe someone could come up and say ‘Come play at my house.’ Or someone could say ‘Your van just got stolen and North by Northeast is canceled because you don’t have any gear.’ I don’t fucking know,” Menno said with a laugh.

When I asked him which Canadian artists he was listening to, he said Molly Rankin, a Prince Edward Island folk-pop artist who played before Hollerado at the Piston show. This led Menno to go and grab her She EP for me and to also make me interview her.

Molly Rankin grew up with a Celtic background but ended up looking into a “Smiths/Kinks/Roy Orbison thing.”

“I can’t deny that there’s a Celtic influence, ” she said. “But I’m definitely moving towards the latter.”

Molly was originally going to stay in PEI only for one summer but ended up staying permanently because she found the community to be so thriving and supportive. And PEI has definitely produced some stellar bands like the Danks, Two Hours Traffic, Smothered in Hugs and Boxer the Horse.

Many PEI musicians appear on the She EP “doing favours” as Molly put it. She mentioned how musicians would drive for hours to help her out to be rewarded only with beer. This being her debut, I wondered how she sees her future.

“I’d like to tour the EP a little more… ideally I’d like to put out an LP and just kind of condense the sound,” she said.

As for Canadian artists she’s listening to, Hollerado and Boxer the Horse (she waxed poetic about both). Expect a review of the She EP sometime soon.

The night was certainly one that I won’t soon forget, and this is only the beginning of NXNE.

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