The life of Menno Versteeg reads like a script to a powerful Netflix series. It has all the necessary ingredients to keep you on the edge of the sofa, binge watching until the early morning. The excitement of forming an influential band (Hollerado) with childhood friends, setting a successful label (Royal Mountain Records), the horrors of watching one’s house burn down to dealing with mental health issues while on tour.
The highs and lows that shaped Versteeg are extraordinary and powerful. And in a way, so is his music. Since Hollerado’s debut in 2009, Menno Versteeg has been an influential figure on Canadian music scene. He’s played all the important music showcases and festivals in the country and the US, toured China, formed super-groups, stormed charts, set up businesses that signed breakthrough artists such as Pottery, Orville Peck & Alvvays (you probably should now go and Google The Rankin Family) and recorded solo material.
His new double A single came out on 29th June under the stage name of Mav Karlo via Royal Mountain Records with the promise of an album in the near future. ‘Elevator’ is part Damien Jurado, part John Faye (of The Caulfields fame) poetic folk songs about life and the traumas it deals you. The track was immaculately produced by Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House) and features guest vocals from Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls (look them up, having a bit of proper musical education never killed anyone). It is powerful and honest, catchy and radio friendly and more of a conversation than just a song. ‘Elevator’ is accompanied by a minimalistic animated video where the main character journeys though the world while looking for his head. How apt for 2020.
The other side of the single is ‘Walkaway’ – a cover of a song by Canadian indie pop quartet Weaves (you know what to do with that search engine now, don’t you?). It’s not a full take over of the song, but Versteeg has made it his own version and he feels comfortable and genuine while singing it.
What I like the most is the unsweetened honesty of Mav Karlo, the raw emotional connection with his listeners. Maybe it’s just me, but listening to the single at night felt like a much needed chat with a friendly stranger. And sometimes this is exactly what one needs. It will probably be a few months before Mav Karlo’s album is out. All we have to do is to wait, patiently. I’m gonna kill the time by pestering Paul Gross to make a TV series about Versteeg’s life.