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Hollerado stays on the music, off the mountain

Ottawa indie rockers play GLC on Nov. 17



Juno-nominated indie band Hollerado are motoring down the TransCanada between Sudbury and Sault Saint Marie "on our way out to see you guys... on a really expensive Canadian tour" (nudge-nudge) when Pique reaches lead singer Menno Versteeg on his cellphone.

"It should have been called the Total Milk Run Tour," Versteeg says with a laugh, adding that Thunder Bay comes next.

Hollerado are Versteeg, who along with vocals plays guitar, Dean Baxter on bass, Jake Boyd on drums, and Nixon Boyd on guitar. They're buddies who grew up on the same Ottawa street, forming the band in 2007. Famously, they won a battle-of-the-bands competition put on by an Ottawa radio station in 2009, receiving the grand prize of $250,000 to take care of their touring and equipment costs.

Fresh from a show at the Commodore in Vancouver, they play GLC on Nov. 17 at 9:30 p.m., a big double gig with The Zolas.

Versteeg says they haven't yet toured for their album White Paint, which came out in February, so they are making up for it. After reaching the end of the country and the end of November after almost 50 dates, they are off to Germany, Holland and France for eight more stops.

"It's been great, it's what we do," he says. "We've been doing this a long time. We played in Moncton and it was our second time in Moncton and there were 30 people there on a Tuesday night and it was a hard show to play but then we thought about it and the last time we played there were 15 people. So it's twice as good. It's growing but it's a long road."

This year, the band released "So It Goes," a very personal song for Versteeg, who wrote it for his grandfather's experience in the Dutch underground fighting against the Nazis in the Second World War.

"It was definitely a unique experience. The part where we went to Holland and researched it was very special for all of us. We all love history and human stories. Just being taken on some tours of places like the prison he was in... it's some of the amazing places this job has taken us," Versteeg says.

One unexpected outcome has been people telling him similar stories about their own grandparents. Others, he said, told him his song encouraged them to talk to their own grandparents about their lives.

"That makes me feel good. That this song made a connection and helped some people to reach out and learn more about their history," he says.

Hollerado hasn't played Whistler before, though they did hit Live at Squamish a few years back, which "had one of the best hospitalities we've had at a festival."

Versteeg says he did play Whistler once with his old punk band, one Christmas years ago. It was an experience he hopes Hollerado doesn't repeat, though not because the gig was bad.

"Our bass player was a snowboarder. We told him, 'Don't go snowboarding, you're not allowed. You'll break something.' He's like, 'Aw, no I'll be fine,'" Versteeg recalls.

"Sure enough, he falls off this cliff. I think he's the first person to live after falling off it and he got airlifted out. He only broke his wrist, the only thing he needed to play bass. We rigged up his cast and taped a guitar pick to it.

"It was on the news that a guy fell off this cliff and lived, and word spread. The next day, we had our show and it was completely jammed. Everyone wanted to see this kid who lived."

Versteeg says it is fine with him that Whistler Mountain opens the day before their GLC gig, but he doesn't want to risk another bass player or any other band member, even if it draws more people.

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