No one would expect Hollerado to come completely out of left field on their new album, dropping Scott Walker levels of weirdness or anything like that. Still, for a poppy rock band, the Ontario quartet surprised me with their latest LP, White Paint.
What’s so unexpected about the record? I asked my friend Matthew Blackwell, proprietor of Review Times and longtime Hollerado fan, to get into it a bit. See what both of us had to say and a music video from the band after the jump.
White Paint is out now on Royal Mountain Records.
MATTHEW BLACKWELL This is in some ways an unexpected departure for them while also sounding like the Hollerado that some of us know and love. Every song on White Paint has the straightforward party rock jams that Hollerado perfected on Songs in a Bag, but the whole album also sounds overstuffed with ideas.
It somehow doesn’t seem right to call an album like this “proggy” even if it seems to want to be taken on those merits (with the tracks bleeding into each other and with even the most straightahead songs, like “Fresno Chunk (Digging With You)”, maintaining deceptively twisty structures). The album feels to me like Hollerado were absolutely bursting with ideas, and rather than flesh out those ideas into full songs double-album style, they jammed them together in individual tracks.
For my money, it works out really, really well, while avoiding a lot of the pretension associated with self-consciously proggy albums. “Don’t Think” sounds like Hollerado was simultaneously playing Malajube’s Labyrinthes and a Cheap Trick album, Zaireeka-style, when they came up with the track. With its poppy chorus and “woo-oo” backing vocals, and the detours into harmonized guitars and double-time breakdowns, it’s probably one of my favourite “complicated’ pop songs in a few years.
Not everything is that overstuffed though, which would probably get tiring over the length of the album. (And for an album composed almost exclusively of party jams, this is one of the best-sequenced pop albums in awhile, though that usually comes with the territory when you have songs bleeding into one another.) “Thanks for the Venom” and “So it Goes” are propulsive and insanely catchy (with the latter sounding like vintage — or, you know, as vintage as these sorts of things get — mid-2000s indie rock), and “Desire 126” sounds like the best Cars rip since the early days of Weezer.
Honestly, I was a little worried that White Paint was going to be a bit of retread of their earlier stuff, especially since Hollerado went from being basically unknown to being pretty major radio staples with stuff like “Juliette” so quickly. Most bands would just cash in on that kind of popularity. (For my money, the least successful tracks on the album, like the aforementioned “Fresno Chunk”, sound too much like their first full-length. Not that it’s a bad song, just that it doesn’t quite fit the new sound.) This album, though, is refreshingly different for them. Not a major milestone in any way, of course — the album maintains a slick crispness in its production and songwriting that doesn’t push a whole lot of boundaries, even given the structure of the album — but it’s a perfectly replayable pop album, and that’s nothing to turn one’s nose up at.
JAMES BROTHERIDGE This is why I was interested in your opinion to begin with: I knew you were a fan from old times and would have ideas about their arc as musicians. White Paint seems like such interesting album for them at this point, which I think you picked up on too. They’ve had their share of play on 104.9 The Wolf; they’re doing that big tour with Billy Talent and Sum 41. It feels like they’ve been accepted into Canada’s rock machine, at least from where I’m standing.
Then here comes this record that, after the quick open of “Wonder, Velocity, Charlie and Me”, dives into “Don’t Think”, a highlight for you and me. They’re showing off a scope as musicians that’s grander than what I’ve come to associate with them, while bringing a real metaphysical bent to the lyrics.
But then! They go on to “Thanks for Venom” and “Desire”, two relatively straightforward pop-rock tracks. They don’t feel out of place necessarily coming after “Don’t Think”, but it makes me wonder about what Hollerado’s ambitions are for this album, whether they’ve got a slow push to more adventurous music in mind.
How cohesive do you feel all these influences are on the record? And you see a way forward for the band from this sound, or have they arrived at something more or less sustaining?
Also, feel like putting your Hollerado concert story on the record?
MATTHEW BLACKWELL OK, the story is this: my girlfriend and I first heard Hollerado when we were chatting with the bearded dude from Said the Whale, after they had just played a house show with Rah Rah in the house we were living in then. He was mildly intoxicated and proceeded to tell us about this crazy band from Montreal that would record EPs and release them in Ziploc bags. Apparently, he was told by one of the Hollerado members to hand out a few copies of their most recently released “Record in a Bag” to people who might like it and/or promote it in the cities that Said the Whale were touring in. Seeing as we had just put on this house show, he thought that we would be those people. (Side note: if you know — or don’t know, more like it — anything about anything I’ve ever tried to promote for anything in my life ever, you know that I’m terrible at promoting things.)
Anyways, my girlfriend and I listened to that album quite a bit — for awhile, it was basically the only album on my girlfriend’s work computer, so she listened to it quite a bit more than I did. Then we saw that they were coming through Regina, at the Club, so we decided to go check them out.
They had had car troubles, meaning they got there about an hour later than they were planning to. It didn’t really matter, though, because there was only five of us there — my girlfriend and I, the bartender, a guy who’s at every Club show and one more. It would have been really easy for Hollerado to pack it in, but no — instead, they played a sort of campfire-style acoustic set with their touring band, playing basically any cover song we could come up with and playing their hearts out for their very small audience. It was endearing as all heck; drinks were bought for each other, free merchandise given out. THAT’S how you turn lemons into lemonade. (The band also regaled my girlfriend and I after with stories of then-DisBAND host Greig Nori and his views on that year’s winner, Stereos, which was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard.)
I definitely think that, with most other bands I can think of who have found the level of success that Hollerado have while basically coming out of nowhere, they’re usually content to repeat whatever success got them there in the first place. I can imagine a world where we have an album of ten “Juliettes” or “Americanaramas” coming from them, so the very fact that they went a different direction is to be applauded.
I think that “Don’t Think” is easily the best song on the album, and the more I listen to the album, the stranger its placement seems. It almost works as a fakeout, suggesting that the rest of the album will be just as complex and twisty when that’s not really the case. But still, even on the more straightforward pop songs on the record, there’s something just subtly different and more developed about their sound that I really responded to. They’ve managed to avoid the dreaded curse of “maturity” while still making their songs sound deeper and more polished. That’s quite a bit tougher than it might seem, especially on an album like this one that’s still so very poppy and radio-friendly.
White Paint does indeed feel cohesive to me, but only in a very skewed kind of way — basically, even though the album changes direction from song to song, it all sounds like Hollerado, which is pretty impressive in its way. The secret weapon might be their lead singer, in that he makes everything sound distinctive. At first, I thought that his “perpetual cold”-sounding voice might be working against these songs, especially the more technically demanding ones; but in the end, he’s kind of the glue that holds these songs together. I think there are definitely ways that Hollerado can build from here, though. I’d personally like to see them take “Don’t Think” and run with it — not necessarily to make their next album proggier or anything, but just to take that same overstuffed songwriting style and do a bit more with it. Then again, not everyone like Malajube’s Labyrinthes as much as I did, so I can also see them doubling down on the power pop stuff too. Either way, I think Hollerado will probably remain in the same category of “pleasant, but not mind-blowing pop music.” Which, to be frank, suits me just fine.