East Coast electronic trio Neon Dreams faced a tough decision as one of the opening acts on Hedley’s recent cross-country tour.
The Halifax-based musicians were on the sidelines as a gathering storm of sexual misconduct allegations brewed involving Hedley’s lead singer Jacob Hoggard. In a swift decision, they dropped out of the tour in mid-February as a symbolic gesture of solidarity with the women levelling the accusations.
“We felt (their) voices… were the most important thing in that situation,” said Neon Dreams drummer Adrian Morris in a phone interview.
“We wanted to show our support in removing ourselves from the tour.”
A number of women have made allegations against Hoggard in recent months. A Calgary radio host says he groped her seven years ago, while a 24-year-old Ottawa fan told the CBC in February that she was sexually assaulted by Hoggard after meeting him at a hotel in Toronto.
Hoggard’s lawyer Brian Shiller denied the singer engaged in non-consensual sex, while Hoggard issued a statement that acknowledged he “behaved in a way that objectified women” and was “dismissive of their feelings.”
Two months later, Morris and his band mates have moved past the tour, but are committed to using Neon Dreams to back fundraisers dedicated to women’s issues.
They will join numerous Halifax artists on Saturday for Together Our Voices Are Powerful, an event raising money in support of the local Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. The lineup also features Makayla Lynn, Jodi Guthro, T. Thomason and Emily Stuart.
Morris talked to The Canadian Press about staying the course in the #MeToo era and what happened after Neon Dreams severed ties with the Hedley tour.
CP: You guys left Hedley’s Cageless tour eight shows into what was originally supposed to be more than 30 dates. Why did you decide to bail?
Morris: We all agreed that we didn’t want to be associated with anything that was going on with this situation. We didn’t feel right playing the shows. We played two more shows after the initial allegations came out, and it almost felt wrong hopping on stage each of those nights. We all knew where our morals stood at the time and felt that we couldn’t continue to be a part of the tour anymore.
CP: Your official exit came the day after you played a show in Moose Jaw, Sask., but what happens when you leave a tour that’s not over?
Morris: We drove straight from Moose Jaw all the way back to Halifax that day – so it was very sudden. We took shifts… our tour manager drove most of it, and then did shifts with our guitar player and DJ. We expected to be on the road (touring) until the end of March and this was like midway through February, I believe, when we decided to pull away. We took the best of the opportunity to focus on writing new music for the time being, and help out with organizations such as this one.
CP: Have you supported other women’s organizations since the tour?
Morris: We’ve done a fundraiser for Adsum, a women’s housing initiative here in Halifax, and we did that alongside a local shop called Vandal Doughnuts. Basically they created a doughnut named after us after that whole situation with the Hedley tour and we said, “How about we come in and perform some songs and raise money for a good cause?” That was on International Women’s Day… and this situation is just another opportunity where we can do our best to give back to the community.
CP: Have you had any contact with Hedley since leaving the tour?
Morris: No, we haven’t spoken to them since the last show.
CP: Do you think the tour experience is what pushed Neon Dreams to add their name to various community causes?
Morris: I think it definitely brought awareness… We still receive messages from Hedley fans to this day of them not approving of our decision (to leave the tour), so it’s made me and the rest of the guys a lot more aware of how difficult it is for someone to speak up.