Published Jun 28, 2019How many more Hollerado albums does the world really need?
That self-deprecating question was looming over the band —frontman Menno Versteeg, bassist Dean Baxter, drummer Jake Boyd and guitarist Nixon Boyd — as they sat down to write their new album, Retaliation Vacation. After more than a decade together, the Manotick-bred/Toronto-based group were beginning to run out of steam.
The "ah-ha" moment came when they were writing the jubilant anthem "One Last Time," Retaliation Vacation's lead single. The song's chorus, "We can do this one last time," became a thesis for Hollerado's next move.
"It kind of gave us a boost of energy and inspiration," says Versteeg. "It's like, 'Let's write our last record!' — as opposed to just writing a record in the middle [of our career]."
"We're trying to lead by example of how to draw something to a close," Nixon chimes in, "and be as graceful as possible about it and not go kicking and screaming."
Reinvigorated, the four friends wrote a batch of songs that stay true to their power-pop roots while also offering uncharacteristically earnest reflections on themes like self-love and mortality. Audiences familiar with Hollerado's confetti-strewn live shows might be surprised by opener "Straight to Hell," an acoustic ballad about exclusionary religious doctrines. There are two songs featuring a children's choir, plus a swaggering electro-rock anthem called "Time on Earth," with a beautifully existential declaration of love: "All I've got to give you is my time on Earth."
"It definitely reflects where we're at as a band," Nixon says about the heartfelt tone. "It reflects on time passing, and entering and exiting stages of life."
Hollerado's upcoming tour may be the end of the road for the band, but they remain active in the GTA music community: Nixon Boyd is a busy producer who operates Banquet Sound studio; Jake Boyd plays drums in the indie rock group Girlfriend Material (featuring two members of Tokyo Police Club); and Baxter stays involved with local music through his role at Hamilton's Collective Arts Brewing.
And then there's Versteeg, who has become a powerful figure in the music business as the co-head of Royal Mountain Records — the label home of Alvvays, Mac DeMarco and Finn Wolfhard's band Calpurnia. Recently, Royal Mountain made headlines by creating a metal health fund for its roster: artists signed to the label each have access to $1,500 to confidentially spend on mental wellness.
Versteeg explains that the idea for the fund came from his own successful experience with mental health treatment.
"I've started my own therapy," he says. "When we were on the road, we couldn't afford it, and there was this mentality of, 'Toughen up. Have a beer. It's gonna be fine.'"
Nixon adds, "It's an industry with absolutely no guarantees, so it would be great if it were at least a healthy one to be in while you're taking part."
With so many different projects on the go, this isn't so much the end of Hollerado as the beginning of a new chapter for these four friends: "We're just opening the doors to other ways to grow as human beings," offers Nixon.
Laughing, Menno adds, "That's a very 2019 approach to a relationship. We're going to see other people and still love each other."
Retaliation Vacation is out now courtesy of Royal Mountain Records.