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Ritual Nightclub

Hollerado Comes Home to Ottawa

Hollerado return to Ottawa this week, opening for Tokyo Police Club.

Though Toronto-based quartet Hollerado has been living in The Big Smoke for a few years now, their foray into music began right here in Ottawa. The band members —Menno Versteeg on vocals and guitar, Nixon Boyd on guitar, Dean Baxter on bass, and Jake Boyd on drums — grew up on the same street in Manotick, a small suburb in the south end of Ottawa. Before becoming the infectiously catchy power-pop group Hollerado, though, they were the not-so-glamourous Haulerado, a moving company that operated out of an old van. In 2009, having been a band for just two years, they won Live 88.5’s Big Money Shot, a local battle-of-the-bands competition with a cash prize of $250,000. With their bank accounts comfortably padded, the guys set out to conquer the Canadian music scene — and they haven’t looked back since.

Hollerado’s Menno Versteeg chats with WHERE Ottawa’s Erica Eades about growing up in Ottawa, the band’s favourite local venues, and their upcoming tour with Tokyo Police Club — which stops off in Wakefield at the Black Sheep Inn on Dec. 13, and in Ottawa at Ritual Nightclub on Dec. 14.

What was it like growing up in Manotick?
Well, back then there was no bus linking Ottawa to Manotick. There was nothing for us to do! Sometimes we could cause trouble; other times we’d play guitar.

When did you start making music together?
We always just kind of jammed. Growing up on the same street, it was something that happened all the time. We didn’t really decide to be a band until 2007, though.

Where did you perform when you started playing gigs around Ottawa?
We would play anywhere that would have us. You don’t really get to be too choosy when you’re starting out as a band. We booked a lot of gigs just by showing up and asking to play. We ended up at a lot of house parties, and at community events and parks.

What were some of your favourite local music venues growing up?
They used to have shows at the Legion in Manotick, but it eventually got shut down. With all-ages venues like that, people don’t really care about going to see bands and being part of it; they just go because that’s what’s happening on a Friday night in Manotick. But if I could convince my parents to drive me into Ottawa, I would see shows at SAW Gallery. And there used to be a place called Liquid Monkey that had all ages shows.

Do you remember the first concert you ever saw in Ottawa?
Oh, totally. One of the first shows I saw was a band called Punchbuggy. But the first big concert I ever went to (I think it was the summer after grade six) was Another Roadside Attraction at Landsdowne Park. It was The Tragically Hip, Midnight Oil, and April Wine.

What are your go-to spots when you’re back in Ottawa?
Going for a drink at The Dominion Tavern is often on the schedule if we’re going to see old friends. In Manotick there’s a place called Hard Stones – it’s the one pub in town. My wife is from Ottawa also, and we like to go to the chip truck at Bank and Sunnyside [M&G’s Chip Wagon] to get poutine.

When you play Ottawa this week you’ll be opening for fellow Canadians Tokyo Police Club. How did this come about?
They’re just buddies of ours. They live around the corner, and we always have barbecues at each other’s houses and hang out. It made sense that when it came time to play some shows we play together.

What else should people know about Hollerado?
We have a new record coming out on February 26 called White Paint. We haven’t put out an album in four years, so I’m really excited to get it out and show everyone what we’ve been doing since then.




Diamond Rings Play Ottawa: Q&A With the Imaginative Songwriter

Diamond Rings play Ritual Nightclub on Dec. 7.

John O’Regan is beginning to get his due. The Toronto-bred artist goes under the stage name Diamond Rings, and his latest album Free Dimensional has garnered incredibly favourable reviews. In fact, the feedback has been so positive that O’Regan recently made an appearance on U.S. network television when he played on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Although compared by some to Bowie, Depeche Mode and Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Diamond Rings brings a fresh new look and sound to Canadian music. WHERE Ottawa’s Matías Muñoz speaks with O’Regan in advance of his Dec. 7 concert at Ritual Nightclub about staying levelheaded while on the road and his favourite Ottawa spots.

You’ve had the opportunity to tour with bands such as PS I Love You and Stars. What have your experiences connecting with other artists meant to you?
It’s really nice to be on tour with friends. I’ve had the opportunity to tour with bands that at one point earlier in my career I looked up to a lot, but now we’re friends. To share the stage and to get to know some of them personally is a real honour for me. I consider myself a contemporary rather than just a fan — I feel lucky.

How do you stay grounded when on the road?
I think the nature of touring keeps you pretty grounded. It keeps you on your toes, in the best possible way. A lot of the work that happens on tour isn’t especially glamourous, it’s all that grunt work that goes into making the one hour I get on stage sound and look as close to perfect as possible. I think it’s that aspect of it that adds to the magic of the whole thing. A lot of people work really hard to make it all possible; the stuff that happens on stage doesn’t happen automatically.

Where do you like to go when you’re in Ottawa?
I love eating schwarma at Marroush (now called Three Brothers), which is right down the street from Ritual Nightclub where I’m going to play. You kind of get these habits and traditions when on tour, and you don’t want to change them up. That’s my Ottawa thing.

To what extent do you use your music to speak to gender stereotypes and other issues you see within the industry, and culture in general?
I think at the end of the day I want to connect with people, that’s why I write music and do what I do. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care what people thought about my work, or if I said I didn’t care if people didn’t like what I do. That being said, what I do and what I project sonically and aesthetically has to feel real and different in order to present something to the world that is otherwise lacking. Certainly, in some respect, there is a willingness to transform or push peoples expectations of what is possible in a live or recording context, or a visual context, in relationship to the way they view me.





Hot Date: Yukon Blonde Invades Ottawa for Three Nights

Yukon Blonde play Ottawa Nov. 16-18, opening for The Sheepdogs at Ritual Nightclub

Life on the road is never easy. There are the strange hotel beds, the lack of sleep, and, perhaps worst of all, the excessive time spent cooped up in the old tour van. Add in a lost passport, a few traffic jams and a stint at an American police station, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be feeling a bit worn down.

Not so for Kelowna, B.C.’s Yukon Blonde. Following a gig in Atlanta, Georgia late last month, frontman Jeff Innes discovered his passport was missing. After a grueling morning with the local authorities, the guys were forced to head back out on the road – sans passport. WHERE Ottawa’s Erica Eades caught up with Innes as the road warriors made their way down to Birmingham, Alabama for the next stop on their tour — which includes three shows in Ottawa, November 16-18 at Ritual Nightclub. Despite the day’s events, he was endearingly optimistic as he spoke about their latest tour, the evolution of the group, and what’s up next for the shaggy-haired indie-rockers.

You’ve been touring incessantly since releasing Tiger Talk back in March. Have you had any downtime at all?
No, not really. We’ve been on tour non-stop since September. We also didn’t really have any time off this summer because we were playing a lot of festivals around the United States, and we did some stuff in Europe and Canada.

With all that time on the road, have you guys even thought about your next record?
We have three months off coming up, so we were discussing whether or not we wanted to write and record a record in that time. Three months is typical for how we work – we try to get some songs done quickly and then record them. But I think we’re actually just going to take this time off to write a bit and then just rehearse. We want to get our live show really good and find the right guys to come tour with us.

Tiger Talk was a major departure from your self-titled debut album. What inspired this change?
Well, touring, for one. That was a big eye-opener. We’d be playing songs every night, and the songs that we just started naturally gravitating toward were the faster, more upbeat songs on our first record. We kept writing songs that never made it on anything, but we just kept touring them because they were fun to play. Then I started listening to a lot of 80s punk rock — a lot of Buzzcocks and Misfits — so that was pretty inspirational too. But I think we were mostly just inspired by playing.

Do you think the band’s found its sound with Tiger Talk?
Well, I don’t want to force anything. And I don’t want to make the same record, that’s for sure. But I do think we’re onto something. I just think that we’re still finding our path. I’m really proud of Tiger Talk, and everything that we’ve been up to lately, but I don’t want to stay on that course. I’d like to challenge ourselves and make something different.

You mentioned that your latest album was inspired by 80s punk rock. What have you been listening to lately?
We’ve been listening to a bit of new stuff, actually, which is weird, because we don’t listen to a lot of new music. Have you heard the new Ariel Pink record?

No, I haven’t.
OK, well, everybody hates it. But we put it on and we decided to give it a shot, and we all really like the record. It’s so weird. You’ve got to listen to it. But overall, nothing’s really moving me right now. Nothing’s blowing my mind. As a band, we always just go back and listen to our favourite albums of the early 2000s. We just remember that as this golden era of music. And then I start to feel old. We’re like those 80s mullet guys who are just refusing to listen to anything new.

You’ve got three back-to-back shows booked in the nation’s capital this weekend with Saskatoon’s the Sheepdogs. Why did you team up with them?
Um, because they’re awesome dudes. They’re the coolest guys ever. We hadn’t really crossed paths with them before, and then this year we’ve been seeing them everywhere. Finally they were just like, “Come on tour with us!” I just thought it would be such a cool thing. Despite the fact that they’re the raddest dudes ever, it’s also allowing us to stop off in a number of cities for a few nights. That’s so leisurely for a tour! I love it. It seems like it’s just going to be a really, really good time. And I think we could use that right now.

What should audiences expect from the shows?
Well, it seems like it’s going to be a bit of a party tour [laughs]. Yeah…it’s going to be a party.


Yukon Blonde will be opening for The Sheepdogs Nov. 16, 17 and 18 at Ritual Nightclub.