Of all the artists playing Harvest, there is none I am more excited to see than Hollerado.
In my younger and more vulnerable years (call me The Great Gaio) as an undergrad in London, Ontario, I saw Hollerado play every chance I could. They were—no, they are—one of my favourite bands; but since moving out east, our paths haven’t crossed. Needless to say, when I saw the poster for this year’s Harvest, I was stoked to be able to see the band once again, and was flooded with nostalgia for a bygone chapter of my life.
For Hollerado frontman Menno Versteeg, this stop in Fredericton conjures up nostalgia of his own.
“Childhood,” Versteeg responded almost immediately, when I asked him to name the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of the city. Turns out, he spent the first five years of his life here, and fondly recalls memories of spring rolls at the Farmer’s Market and a house on Saunders Street. More recently, he recalls “late night feasts at The Diplomat” with his bandmates. Don’t we all?
Yet while news of their looming appearance may have simply created an interest in the past, their upcoming show is also a chance for me to enjoy the band in the present—a “present” that’s very much worth celebrating.
“To the people we’ve spoken to, everyone agrees this is our best record,” Versteeg says of last April’s Born Yesterday, the group’s third full-length album. Like their other releases, this latest set of songs offers up more of the high-energy, singalong-ready anthems they’ve become known for. “Guitars, lots of singing, really just having fun,” Versteeg describes his band’s sound. “It’s the most concise rock n roll record we’ve made.”
It’s more than just concise, though. One of the (many) reasons I’m excited to see the band now is because this latest album is also their most contemporary.
“It’s the most current,” Versteeg said. “It’s saying the things we need to say now.”
Indeed, across its 11 tracks, the album tackles such timely topics as mental illness (“Sorry You’re Alright”) and modern technology (“Age Of Communication”). One of its most prominent themes, though—addressed on tracks like “I Got You,” the band’s latest single, and “Grief Money,” which also has a Trump-skewering accompanying video—is its exploration of economic inequalities.
“I think that’s one of the biggest problems that’s happening to the world right now,” Versteeg elaborates. “There’s so much talk about a division between ‘left’ and ‘right,’ ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal,’ but the problems are really being caused by the division between ‘rich’ and ‘poor.’—and that’s such a shame to me.”
“People are being duped into believing that the enemy is the people that lie on the opposite side of the political spectrum, but the people making their lives hard are not those people. What makes their life hard is the fact that there’s so much income inequality, and the rich people who claim to be on their same side are the ones who are pulling this great con on them.”
When Versteeg speaks of such issues, he does so with passion and conviction, making it clear that he and his bandmates genuinely feel the emotions they express in their music. It’s a passion that was evidenced again when I asked him if he feels his band has a responsibility to address political topics like these—especially at this point in history.
“You don’t have to write a song about taking down the government, that’s for sure,” Versteeg explains. “But if you’re not against them, you’re with them. That’s really a fact … If you wanna write songs about rainbows and sunshine, that’s fine, do that—we need songs about rainbows and sunshine also.”
“But at least standing up once in awhile and saying that things are wrong, and telling why that’s wrong and educating people … That’s a responsibility that comes with this position. Music doesn’t need to be political at all, but you’re being a shitty human if you don’t try to leave the planet a little better than you found it.”
Words to live by; then, now, always.
Hollerado takes over the Toyota Barracks Tent on Sept. 16 at 11:00 p.m, following sets by Brookside Mall and Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire, both previously profiled. For tickets and more information, visit Harvestjazzandblues.com.