Recently, the video for a song called Americanarama, by a band from Ontario called Hollerado was brought to our attention.
I may be tragically jaded, but the DIY “human 8-bit” video struck me as a blatant attempt at the painful to watch endeavor of “going viral,” through a concept I had seen before (sort of; see Guillaume Reymond’s human pixel creations). OK Go have built their career on it, and we only begrudgingly cover their videos that just manage to outshine music that’s barely worth covering on its own.
So we passed on Americanarama. The video, the music, they just weren’t that cool. But then Hollerado’s Menno Versteeg wrote a thank you note to Bob Lefsetz for plugging the video in his email newsletters, which he published this morning. What Versteeg had to say about how the band got to where they are caught our attention more effectively than any clever viral video could. It wasn’t just a realization of a cool idea, but a manifestation of the attitude on which Antiquiet, if not rock and roll itself, is built.
This is what you do. This is how you survive. You don’t take no for an answer. You don’t take impossible for an answer. You don’t cry about your obstacles, you outsmart them.
If you’re a band bitching about how hard it is to make a living making music, or how computers ruined your day, please, shut up, and take notes.
Hello Mr. Lefsetz
I am a longtime reader of your column, first time writer. I wanted to say thanks for talking about us last week. Besides getting a whole bunch of new people to take notice of Hollerado, it really meant a lot to me personally to have you talk about what we are doing.
We are a DIY band through and through. I would love for you to get to know our band a little more.
– We come from a small town in Ontario called Manotick
– We have been touring relentlessly for 4 years
– For our first american tour, no one wanted to book us. So, instead of booking shows, we drove as far way from our homes in Canada as we could get. We would then show up at venues where a show was going on and tell them we were 2,000 miles away from home, had a gig booked down the street but it somehow fell through. “Would you guys mind if we played a short set here tonight?” IT WORKED! We played countless shows this way.
– Since we rarely got paid more than a few drinks and sometimes pizza, we needed to make gas money.
– We had a laptop with the the tracks to our demo CD. We would go to Best Buy, get a CD burner and a couple spindles of blank CDs. We would burn a hundred demos in the parking lot and then return the CD burner to Best Buy. we would then put the demos in ziplock bags (hence the name of our first record, Record In A Bag).
– Once we had a stash of demos we would drive to the nearest mall and set up shop in front of Hot Topic (probly the most shameless thing we have done for our band). We would stand there for hours, with discmen and demos asking anyone who would stop to take a listen if they wanted to buy a demo in a bag. We could sell the discs for 5 bucks and still make $4.50 to put towards gas.
– We did this for 2 years. Anything to avoid having a real job, right?
– In February 2009, we released our first full length album for FREE online.
– That same month we invented the “Residency Tour.” We took the old concept of playing a residency one day a week at the same bar and made it psycho. We booked 7 residencies for the month, one for each night of the week. Every Sunday of that cold February we played in at the same club in Boston, every monday at Piano’s in NYC, Tuesday was Lacolle Quebec, Wednesdays at Hamilton ontario, Thursdays in Toronto, Friday in Ottawa, Saturday in Montreal. Repeat 4 times. 28 shows in a row. over 12,000 miles of crap Canadian winter driving in 28 days.
– In February 2010, we started our own record label to release Record In A Bag in stores in Canada. Although every distributor we talked to said it was impossible, we were finally able to convince one (Arts And Crafts) that we could literally package Record In A Bag in a ziplock bag filled with goodies. So far we have sold over 10,000 copies of it in Canada. With no label support, our first single Juliette went top 5 in mainstream Canadian alternative radio.
– Things began to take hold in Canada and we soon became privy to the Canadian grant system for touring acts. Still, when they gave us a budget to play a showcase in China, we took the budget and stretched it for all it was worth. We turned it into a 3 week tour deep into China. We recorded a song in Mandarin Chinese and released it on the internet in China. We were able to return for another tour 6 months later.
– We can play our instuments. We play live and we play live a lot, hundreds of shows a year, we sweat. We take requests. We play covers we don’t know. We play for the audience, as much as each other, because without them we would still be in back Manotick, working jobs we hated. We play anywhere anytime. It is what we love more than anything.
– We listen to good bands (Petty, Roy Orbison, The Clash, Booker T, Paul Butterfield, John Prine). We have a strong conviction that pop music does not have to suck.
– We are 4 best friends (2 of the guys are brothers). We intend to do this for a long time. We want to have careers and catalogues that we can be proud of. Personally, I think, our song for the video you talked about is not nearly our stongest. Since then we have written a whole bunch more, and like anything else, they are getting better with practice.
– I truly believe we have a few songs on our album that really have heart and are really about things. I’d love for you to listen to our record, because although we are happy with what the video has accomplished creatively and exposure-wise, we are a rock band and the bottom line is that we make songs.
It is for these reasons that i would like to invite you to see us live when we play in Los Angeles later this month.
Thanks for reading