About the track, Menno said: “Detonator is about that moment when you stop saying to yourself “I’m such a fuck up” and start asking “why am I such a fuck up?” It’s a long and a hard process, but an important one, and that’s reflected in the wordier than usual verses. I wanted the detail in the lyrics to act like dots in a pointillist painting, disparate images that when taken together convey a singular emotion.”
About the accompanying video, which was directed by Justin Singer, he continued: “I grew up in a small town in Ontario and it seemed like everyone drove a dirtbike or a skidoo or an ATV or all three. When the director suggested the video revolve around a daredevil dirt biker who experiences a tragic crash and the subsequent anguish of imagining how his life might have turned out, I thought it would make the perfect visual metaphor for the subject of the song. While we were filming, a Monarch butterfly landed on my finger and stayed there for fifteen minutes. I have always thought of seeing butterflies as little hello’s from loved ones who have passed away so, needless to say, singing this song to a Monarch gently flapping its wings in my hand was a surreal moment.”
“Detonator” is premiering now via Clash and is the latest track to be shared from his debut album, Strangers Like Us, out on October 16th 2020 via Royal Mountain Records (the Canadian label home of Mac DeMarco, Alvvays, U.S. Girls, Orville Peck). It follows the release of “Elevator,” which Exclaim called “a fitting exploration of mental health” b/w his take on Weaves’ “Walkaway”, and “Dig A Hole,” which unearthed a bit of his family history involving the beloved Toronto landmark Honest Ed’s, a fantastically gaudy discount store recently torn down for the construction of condos. As part of their Next Big Thing feature, HMV said “his gift for melody is phenomenal” and Mystic Sons made Mav Karlo their Artist Of The Week saying: “With a smooth and laid-back aesthetic that channels retro crooners as much as more contemporary names, his latest material is quickly becoming a must-hear listen.” Clash said, “dealing in simple, stark truths, Mav Karlo’s work is unadorned and affecting, matching his from-the-heart lyricism to a stripped down palette”.
His first full-length, Strangers Like Us closely documents an especially tough period in Versteeg’s life, and ultimately arrives at an undeniable courage in its commitment to truth-telling and unsparing self-examination. Produced by Chris Coady (Amen Dunes, Beach House, Future Islands) and recorded at two iconic studios (Sunset Sound in L.A. and Sonic Ranch in the Texas border town of Tornillo), Strangers Like Us features gracefully sparse arrangements and centres on Versteeg’s lyrical storytelling, revealing a narrative voice deeply attuned to the beauty in the ordinary and routinely overlooked. Despite a stripped-back approach, Strangers Like Us draws incredibly rich texture from Versteeg’s delicate melodies and warm vocal work, and from the spirited performances of guest musicians Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls (on vocals), Charlie Spencer of Dizzy (keys, drums), and Versteeg’s Hollerado bandmate Nixon Boyd (guitar, bass).
Naming Tom Petty and John Prine among his inspirations, Versteeg first began creating as Mav Karlo last year in the midst of constant upheaval, equally driven by an urge to expand his horizons as a songwriter and a need for the raw catharsis of unfettered expression. An album elegantly steeped in memory, Strangers Like Us navigates the often painful act of looking back with grit and clarity and unbridled imagination. Versteeg says, “A lot of the record is about looking within and trying to find the source of your pain, trying to figure out why you behave the way you do, but by the end there’s a sense of starting to trust yourself. So even though there might still be self-doubt, it’s a confident kind of self-doubt—an understanding that everyone feels this way sometimes, and you’ve got to just keep pushing on.”