In late May, the newest version of the Turbo Haus opened its doors to the public. The intimate venue, located on St. Remi and Notre Dame on the second floor, will be hosting some of the heaviest upcoming events. Last week, I talked to owner/booker Sergio Da Silva about the creation of the space.
The building was originally used as a bank built by the Molson family in 1905. Da Silva and his partners, Patrick Bennett, Mike Niro and Jordan Brown, had their eye on the property when they were in search for a new base of operations Through their extended network, they came in contact with the owner, who had planned to turn the long-abandoned bank into condos, but couldn’t due to it being a heritage building. Once the property was purchased, the four partners called in a few favours to help with the lengthy process of renovation. “Everything had to be cleaned from top to bottom,” Da Silva explained. “In the middle of February, we were in here in hazmat suits with pressure washers, cleaning off the walls. A lot of the work we did ourselves.”
The idea to run their own venue started a few years ago, when Da Silva’s band Trigger Effect had a small practice space on St. Antoine. They invited traveling bands to play in their room and would ask for donations at the door. They later moved into a bigger room in the building, where they acquired a liquor license and had the walls painted by street art collective En Masse. This is where Trigger Effect filmed their video for Vital Force. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until on November 20, 2013, Trigger Effect frontman Nick Babeu suddenly passed away. “I didn’t have an interest in playing without Nick.” Da Silva recounted, “We had this money that we accumulated being in a band. We weren’t a band anymore so we had to put it towards something.” Turbo Haus continued at its old address until earlier this year when musicians were told to vacate the dilapidated building, which was set to be demolished and turned into condos. Da Silva and his partners had an inkling that the structure would eventually go down, so they were prepared to make the move when it was announced. Among the things that they transplanted were the hardwood floors, which they installed into the new Turbo Haus. At first, the crew was on the fence about stealing the floor, “And then we asked, ‘What would Nick do?’ Nick would steal the floor, so that’s what we did.” Da Silva chuckled, “He’s always here in spirit. We were always so close to him so we always knew what he would want us to do, we always have him as a guide.”
One reoccurring character in every Turbo Haus has been Doris, a plus-sized mannequin who appeared on the cover of Trigger Effect’s debut album, Dare to Ride the Heliocraft. “Pat saw her in the back of a junker’s flatbed pickup. He followed that person for maybe 45 minutes to see where he lived. Once he parked the car and went inside, [Pat] called the rest of us. We went to this guy’s house and stole it out of the back of his truck. She basically followed us everywhere since.”
Below Turbo Haus is a fancy bar called Loïc, which is run by the Turbo Haus crew and their friends from Honey Martins and Choice Harbour Catering. The bar features an extensive wine list and haute-cuisine bar snacks. “That’s where are partners Mike [Griffin], Max [Ruiz Laing] and Marley [Sniatowsky] come in,” Da Silva said. “They’re from a more high-end restaurant background, which is about the best customer service you can buy.”
Da Silva doesn’t charge anything to rent out Turbo Haus for a night, however he is only interested in working with people who are serious about their craft: “A lot of promoters just say yes to a show and don’t even show up. That kind of thing drives me insane. We don’t work with those kinds of people. As soon as we see it one time, it’s not going to work. Same thing goes for the bands, if you can’t be bothered to show up on time, if you don’t practice, if you’re just in a band to say that you’re in a band, that doesn’t help me and it doesn’t help anybody else.” Although the venue is completely sound-proofed, there have been a few cases of patrons yelling and drinking outside, giving incentive for neighbours to complain. “It’s a residential area. We got to keep everybody in check, while still being polite,” Da Silva said “I can’t stop somebody from drinking in a park, I don’t own it. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. But at the same time, people have to realize, we need to be able to pay the bands and the way we do that is by selling beer. That’s really what it comes down to: we don’t sell beer, we don’t have a space.”
Turbo Haus is completely booked up until December, with approximately 20 shows per month. In the new year, Da Silva is hoping to book a few comedy and dance acts: “It’s a multi-disciplinary space, it’s not just for punk shows. And that’s a big thing I think people don’t realize, we made it look a certain way so people would feel that they can use it for more than one purpose. We want people to feel welcome, we want to treat them as if they know us personally. We would like to go with this for a couple more years, see how it goes, and then hopefully, open up a bigger space.”
For more information on upcoming events, go to www.facebook.com/turbohaus. Turboohaus is located at 5011 Notre Dame W.