While Menno Versteeg and the other members of Hollerado undoubtedly cursed in the past about the daily rigours of touring across Canada, that’s definitely not the case this time around.
The band announced earlier this year that they would be going their separate ways after a dozen years together, and they have been feeling nostalgic on what is supposed to be their final trip — at least for now — across the country as a band.
“I’ve had little moments of second thoughts, little moments of ‘I’m gonna miss this.’ All the time, yeah. All of us,” Versteeg said over the phone while driving in thickening Toronto traffic on his way to Guelph, where he and his bandmates were playing a show that evening.
“We just got off a month on a tour bus, driving through the Canadian Rockies together, and it’s the first snowstorm of the year, and it’s the middle of the night. It’s 2 a.m. and we just finished a show and we’re having a beer on the bus together. It’s like, ‘Oh, man, I’m going to miss this clubhouse that we have’ — but not enough to not put it to bed.”
It’s not just the venues that get the band reminiscing, but the towns and cities as well.
“We’ve been going to the same coffee shop in Saskatoon for 10 years, you know?” he said.
The current tour, which stops in Kingston on Thursday before it wraps in mid-December with three shows in Toronto, has offered Versteeg and bandmates Dean Baxter, Nixon Boyd and Jake Boyd a chance to put their band’s 12-year run in perspective.
“We realize how lucky we’ve been. Not many bands last this long, and last this long as absolutely best friends in the world. The same members for the whole time. Not only that, we’ve made dear friends all over the entire world,” Versteeg reflected.
“And it sounds so cheesy. None of us got rich or even close to it, but these experiences and the friendships are absolutely priceless.”
“If MastercCard reads that quote, I will certainly do an ad for money.”
The band floated the idea of ending things while making their latest record, Retaliation Vacation.
“While we were making it, we’re kind of like, ‘Hey, guys, this kinda feels like the last one.’ That kind of ignited the fire to really dig into it, have the most fun we could,” Versteeg said. “I truly think it’s our best record.”
Even though this is their last record, that doesn’t mean he’s ruled out playing again sometime in the future.
“If someone offered us ‘you better get back together’ money, we’d be idiots to turn it down,” Versteeg laughed.
“First of all, I don’t think we got big enough to make that kind of money. And then, second of all, we are stopping. We’re all going to focus on other stuff. We’re all going to clear our minds. We just want to not think about Hollerado for a bunch of years. I’ll never say no.”
For his part, Versteeg has other projects on the go, including his work as co-founder of Royal Mountain Records. While the Toronto indie label was created initially to release Hollerado’s first record, it has since helped launch the careers of Canadian bands Pup and Alvvays, and has since expanded into artist management as well.
“I treat every band how I want to be treated as an artist,” he said, “and that’s not lost on the bands.”
Versteeg and his company made headlines earlier this year when they started a mental health fund for its artists, who can access up to $1,500 a year for treatment.
He has lost two friends in the past year alone because of mental health-related issues.
“I’ve had a lot of fun (touring), but I’ve seen a lot of pain, suffering and anguish from everyone to my closest friends to myself to people I barely know,” he said.
He was in Toronto that day, in fact, to meet with other music industry folks in the hope of persuading them to provide the same health-care benefits to their “front-line” workers, the musicians, as they do their office staff.
“Everyone’s acknowledging the problem right now, worldwide in the business, but no one’s willing to do something about it,” he said. “(Only) then you can start to make real change. That’s my goal.”
He also has some other musical interests to pursue, too. There’s the new “super” group, called the Anyway Gang, he formed along with pals Sam Roberts, Sloan’s Chris Murphy and Tokyo Police Club’s Dave Monks. The four men playing three chords are releasing their first album Nov. 29.
“And I also have a cliche singer-does-solo-record-after-band kind of thing on the go,” Versteeg laughed.
For now, though, there’s the final Hollerado tour to focus on for the next three weeks or so.
Like all of the other stops the men from Manotick have made and played on this tour, Kingston holds its fair share of memories for them.
Their first gig was at a comedy club (the old Time to Laugh), he remembered before rattling off a succession of them. They’ve played at Queen’s University four or five times alone.
“One time the fire alarm went off mid-show and they had to clear out the venue,” he chuckled about one of the on-campus shows. “And it was pouring rain outside.”
Kingston holds special meaning for Versteeg as the family of his wife, actress Annie Murphy (who plays Alexis Rose on Schitt’s Creek), live in Kingston.
He remembers opening for Billy Talent at the arena with members of The Tragically Hip in attendance, as well as his grandmother-in-law.
“I got the whole crowd to say hello to her,” he reminisced.
“I thought that was pretty neat.”
What: Indie rockers Hollerado on their farewell tour. Luni Li and Jimbo are the openers.
When: Thursday, Nov. 21, 8:30 p.m. (doors at 8).
Where: BluMartini, 178 Ontario St.
For more: www.hollerado.com