Published Dec 02, 2019Combining the talents of some of Canada's biggest rock stars — Sam Roberts, Chris Murphy of Sloan, Dave Monks from Tokyo Police Club and Hollerado's Menno Versteeg — for a new project called Anyway Gang might seem like a sure-fire winning combination. However, Versteeg joked about having huge doubts during a recent interview ahead of that supergroup's recent debut LP release.
"Usually, if you put a bunch of lead singers in a room it's a recipe for disaster. But it's actually been really fun for us to share a little bit, and learn how to play with others," he tells Exclaim! cheekily during a conference call with Anyway Gang cohort Murphy.
After Murphy scoffed playfully and clarified, "I'm always joking too, just so you know," Versteeg went on to describe how recording their eponymous debut actually went: "It's been totally easy. We had a frontman war, maybe. But otherwise, this project has been about having fun."
Before the True North All-Star foursome banded together last summer — to toss around some of their half-formed three-chord song ideas — they had naturally crossed paths at venues and festivals, and been on some of the same touring circuits, not to mention being longtime fans of each others' work.
Anyway Gang elder Murphy, for instance, is quick to compliment comparative up-and-comers Hollerado. "Like most housewives and little girls, I knew about Hollerado through their unbelievable videos. I would be jealous of the time and the scope of getting everyone to agree to do the things they did," Murphy said of the Ottawa rockers' high-concept clips for songs like "AMERICANARAMA" and "Pick Me Up."
Versteeg is quick to cite Murphy as a key influence both musically and as a label head — the elder rocker and his Sloan bandmates having founded murderecords in the '90s, while Versteeg released Anyway Gang and several Hollerado albums on his own Royal Mountain Records. After that, they both joked about fellow Anyway Gang member Sam Roberts being the most handsome, but also one of the most accomplished and generous musicians they'd ever worked with. Tokyo Police Club frontman Dave Monks, meanwhile, endlessly impressed Versteeg as a "fantastic songwriter" who "keeps his bass lines so reserved. He's way better than Sloan's bass player, I'll tell ya that much."
Versteeg didn't stop ribbing Murphy there, describing how the Sloan bassist and singer would come to Anyway Gang sessions with nary a lyric ready, while also being over-prepared in other regards. "I had a three chord maximum rule for this new band's songs. Then Chris would come in with chords I didn't know existed!"
"Yeah I didn't know this rule," Murphy retorts. "But my unofficial motto is '12 chords and the truth,' and it's hard for me to pare it down."
Based on their quick-witted conversational quips, the band's potential for giggle-worthy onstage banter seems boundless. Versteeg says Anyway Gang are eager to hit the stage, though they will keep their touring plans as low-key and loose as their recording process and personal dynamic, before giddily pointing out: "We got an opportunity to play a casino, and the pay was ten times more than anything I'd seen with Hollerado. But we didn't want our first gig to be at a casino and look like a bunch of washed-up rockers. So we decided to play one gig at [Toronto's famed] Horseshoe Tavern" on Jan 17."
"I think what Menno means is that he has nothing against people who play casinos," Murphy retorts.
"Oh you've done it a bunch, right?"
"It doesn't matter who's played what," Murphy responds. "Sloan haven't played casinos exclusively. I'm looking forward to the Horseshoe show though, and I think they're turning it into a casino for the night. It was the only way they could get us all to agree to do the gig."
"We have a few shows coming up," Versteeg offers. "But we want to keep it super low-stakes, and take it one step at a time. The biggest mantra of this band is to not worry about anything. Just go and have fun, and whatever happens, happens."
Anyway Gang is out now on Royal Mountain Records.