Promise kept, at a cost

Ontario band Hollerado promised to create an original, “custom” tune for every fan who bought a pre-sale package to help fund the group’s White Paint album. Two years and 111 new songs later, the exhausted musicians finally lived up to their rather ill-conceived commitment.

Ontario band Hollerado promised to create an original, “custom” tune for every fan who bought a pre-sale package to help fund the group’s White Paint album.

Two years and 111 new songs later, the exhausted musicians finally lived up to their rather ill-conceived commitment.

All the custom songs, made up from provided details about each fan’s life, are available digitally.

“It was a serious case of act first, think later,” admitted singer Menno Versteeg, who performs on Sunday, June 26, with his band at Bo’s Bar and Grill in Red Deer.

He calculated his indie rock group had made about $7 per song when the cost of the T-shirt and album was subtracted from the total cost of each package.

Oh well.

The bright side is one of these tunes, Firefly, which Versteeg wrote for his wife, has been getting radio play.

The song was written about a difficult period in the couple’s life. They lost virtually all of their belongings in a Toronto apartment fire of unknown causes in 2013. Versteeg and his spouse weren’t home at the time.

One of the few things items saved from their ruined residence is a guitar a thoughtful firefighter had wrapped in a blanket and removed from the water-logged basement.

Despite having terrible time with the insurance company, which turned items like Versteeg’s collection of 1,000 vinyl records over to a restoration company (Versteeg said hundreds of dollars were charged to “clean” warped and unplayable records, reducing the overall amount that could be used to replace other needed household items), the losses didn’t really matter in the end.

“We didn’t get half of the things we lost back after the fire…” said Versteeg. But the episode highlighted the adage that material things aren’t important.

“It was reaffirmed for us in such a stark manner,” he added, that he considers the fire a positive experience.

Hollerado, formed in Ottawa in 2007, is known for performing upbeat tunes inspired by rather harrowing incidents.

So it Goes from White Paint (2013) is about Versteeg’s grandfather’s real-life encounter with a Nazi officer during the Second World War. The Dutch resistance fighter, who was held by the Germans, asked the Nazi officer what he would do if his own country was occupied and his cities burned? The officer responded he would probably do the same as his grandfather had done.

Since his life was ultimately spared by the German official, his grandfather later returned the favour by testifying at the officer’s post-war trial.

This long-ago encounter was brought home to Versteeg when he met the grandson of the Nazi officer, with help from the Dutch government in 2013.

Hollerado, which also produced the tunes Americarama and Juliette, is now in the process of making a new album that should be released later this year. The yet-unnamed release will feature more seemingly light-hearted tunes about heavy issues.

For instance, there’s a song about Versteeg’s roller-skating godfather, who’s never been shy about showboating for an audience.

“He gets tons of looks doing this amazing dancing,” said the singer, who admitted the tune “is about how I’d like to be more like him, just to be able to be myself, instead of having all this anxiety and neurosis.”

The best songs usually come from the darkest places, he admitted.

The band, which used the money from winning an Ontario battle-of-the-bands contest to fund their own Royal Mountain Records, will perform in Red Deer with up-and-coming artists from their label: Alvvays, Pup and Little Junior.

There’s a $10 cover for the 8 p.m. show.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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