Holy Roller — William’s Coffee Pub, London, Ontario — February 11, 2013
By Jaymin Proulx
On a blustery winter afternoon, I sat down with Holy Roller, a London, Ontario funk and rock band consisting of Dave John (bass), Spencer LeClair (lead guitar), Kieran Morgan (drums) and Todd Speziale (rhythm guitar). With three members present, we talked about their upcoming show at Lee’s Palace on Thursday, February 21, where they are playing with Liars to the Sun and Radio Free Universe. They self-describe their sound as having been influenced by a myriad of bands including The Beatles, Oasis, The Black Keys, Wilco and Bob Dylan. These humorous, good-natured guys discussed music, their fondness for The Beatles, and some of the worst jobs they have ever had.
Jaymin: So tell me a little about the show at Lee’s Palace Thursday evening. What can people look forward to seeing?
Kieran: (laughs) There’s going to be pyrotechnics, there’s going to be…
(All three laugh)
Spencer: Straight Canadian rock n’roll, you know, three different songwriters, lots of harmonies and just a diverse sound. We’re not really a one genre band.
Jaymin: If not one genre, then can you describe to me what your music is?
Spencer: It’s hard to say because we have some straight-up rock songs, we have some country songs and it’s rock n’roll, I guess?
Kieran: It is kind of hard to put it into some kind of package.
Spencer: Chordy songs……
Kieran: It’s a four-piece band that plays guitars, drums, bass…it’s us! It’s Spencer, Dave, Todd and me, basically. That’s what we sound like.
Jaymin: What is the concept behind that name? How did you come up with it?
Dave: Actually, when I was at school with Spencer, we played in a group that had many names. One of the names that Spencer came up with was Holy Roller, because that’s the name of a tank (points outside to an army tank in Victoria Park) you see. Basically, we were just brainstorming ideas for a name of a band and Holy Roller came up and we all decided it was the lesser of many evils.
Jaymin: Have you ever played in Toronto before? You guys are a London band, so have you ever played other cities?
Spencer: No, we actually haven’t played in Toronto before. We played at shows in Oshawa and Hamilton, but we actually haven’t played in London either, yet. So it’s kind of interesting…we’re kind of getting our breakthrough in Toronto. We want to play at more shows in Toronto in the upcoming months.
Jaymin: Okay, let’s talk about the cities you are from?
Spencer: I’m from Hamilton, I grew up there, went to London, Western (University of Western Ontario) for school and met Dave.
Dave: I’m from London, I actually live just outside London, in a little butt-fuck town called Dorchester.
Jaymin: (laughs) It’s fine, you’re allowed to swear.
Dave: I actually went to school in Dorchester, then went to school in London (University of Western Ontario) where I met Spencer. That’s were our musical romance started.
Kieran: I’m from Whitby, Ontario, just east of Toronto. I grew up in that pokey little town and came to London as well for school (Music Industry Arts at Fanshawe College) and that’s how I met Todd, he’s our other guitar player. He was a year behind in the program and we ended up living together, became friends and he went to high school with Spenny (Spencer). And that’s how we…
Dave:…fit in together perfectly.
Jaymin: So now, when you think of bands that you listen to, it’s hard to just have one band on rotation all the time, but if you could list your three favourite bands that you…
Spencer: Can’t live without?
Spencer: Well, for me that would be Wilco. I’m a big Wilco fan. Number two and three, I would probably say… I’m a big fan of a band called Two Gallants, really cool folk but heavy band. And number three, I’ll go with a good ol’ Canadian, Tragically Hip. Can’t go wrong. Cool stuff.
Dave: Number one is probably Dear Hunter, that’s Dear Hunter with an ‘a’. Number two is Wilco, again. And number three, it’s kind of cliché, but I grew up with the Beatles. They are the greatest band ever.
Kieran: Who are the Beatles (dry laugh)? If I had a gun to my head (laughs)? If I had to be on a deserted island, the Beatles would definitely be number one, because they had a profound influence on me - good songwriting
Jaymin: So they have influenced you in some way?
Kieran: For sure.
Jaymin: That segues to my next question. What is a band that you aspire to be like or say to yourself: “That where I would like to take Holy Roller?”
Spencer: As far as the singer/songwriters, probably The Band. Like, just their whole aesthetic, the way they write songs, the way they work together. That’s kind of what we want to work towards; not always musically or sonically sounding the same, but just like the whole aesthetic.
Dave: This is a hard one.
Jaymin: You can always choose more than one band. There’s always more than one band… I always notice there’s more than one genre that cheers you up, like Radiohead, if you want to calm down and zone out, or Pink Floyd if you want to day-dream, or Enrique Iglesias if you want to get your day going.
Dave: Yeah, I mean, not really career-wise, but I have to say the Beatles, number one, just because there’s such a great range of sound there. There are so many different genres within just one band.
Jaymin: They had a lot of different sounds in their time.
Kieran: They were around for seven years. They were around for such a small amount of time, but they had a humungous ripple effect. They are the perfect model for any musician who aspires to be a musician, because of what they went through and their evolution as artists, their songwriting—they were pretty awesome. But I think as a band, Zeus. They are making great waves in the music industry.
(Mutual ah-ha moment).
Jaymin: Okay, what’s the worst job you ever had?
Spencer: I had two, they’re both equally bad. I worked at a shotgun range. It was like, basically when you are 13, they hire you under the table for six dollars an hour and you work in this tiny little box in the ground, and it launches targets for the shotguns to shoot. It only launches one target at a time, so every four seconds you have to put a target on the machine and spend the whole day doing that, when you are 12 or 13 years old. The other one was working at a spinach factory. That kind of sucked; just go home and smell like spinach!
Dave: For me, I worked at this winery when I was young called Carolina Winery. It was a Christian run organization and we had to pick black currents - $20 for a bucket picked, but it would take you and a friend about eight or nine hours to fill a bucket, so it was essentially slave labour. You may make a couple of bucks an hour for a bucket, if that if you worked your ass off all day. Good Christian wages right there.
Kieran: I had so many bad jobs! I don’t think I’ve ever had a good job. But mine would be my most recent job, I worked at a pollution plant. So basically, all the waste water and sewage goes in this place and it sends the water back out to the river. The glamorous job of that would be the electrician, the maintenance guys and the operators that run the plant. But I was the temporary worker, so I had to do all the shitty work, no pun intended. There were some pretty dirty things I had to do there. You get sick because you’re around all this fecal matter.
Jaymin: How many instruments do you each play and what other ones do you dabble with?
Spencer: I mostly play the guitar for the band; I play most of the lead stuff. I play a little of bass and I sing lead as well. Everyone except Dave sings.
Dave: I play bass and I play a little keyboard, not really so much live because it’s hard working out with only four members, we have to switch around our instruments, but primarily bass for the band.
Kieran: I play drums but I play guitar as well, bass, and I dabble with keys. I play all sorts of stuff, like trumpet in high school. Todd plays a bunch of instruments as well. He plays bass a little. We all dabble with most things—I think you kind of have to today. You can’t really get by with one instrument…unless you are incredibly good at it.
Dave: They all sort of play over to one another. When I started playing keyboard, it helped me out with my bass playing as well. So it’s all part of the same thing.
Spencer: And rhythmically, the rhythm is still there, no matter what instrument you play. We all can play drums…we know what to do.
Jaymin: That’s great. Well, thanks for the interview guys! I’ll see you Thursday night.