The Hidden Cameras would seem to be more than simply a band. The Toronto-based outfit, led by singer/songwriter Joel Gibb, which began in 2001, have gained a reputation for elaborately chaotic stage shows that can include go-go dancers and choirs and often resemble a cult playfully assaulting the crowd with a postmodern serenade. They have described themselves as “gay church folk music.” I recently got a chance to chat with Joel Gibb about The Hidden Cameras, their upcoming LP, and just what they’re all about. However, when I ask if there’s anything that’s key to know in order to best “get” this travelling and revolving musical collective he’s assembled, he admits that at its core The Hidden Cameras are less complex than they might appear.
“You know, I never really like that question. I don’t want to be rude, but I really don’t know how to answer it. I like letting the music speak for itself. I’d tell people to listen to the music.”
My discussion with Gibb came the day after the live premiere of The Hidden Cameras’ latest, something which he was apparently still feeling… but in a good way: “I’m recovering from last night. We played our first show last night at the Great Hall as part of Long Winter, this festival of sorts organized by Fucked Up, which is so cool. We played basically our whole new album as a medley, without stopping.” The Hidden Cameras currently have dates scheduled throughout Europe and Canada this January and February. When I ask him how he would characterize The Hidden Cameras live, he tells me, “It’s more about the energy than perfection, the energy and the connection with everyone. It’s not about playing the songs perfectly, exactly as they sound on the record. A live show should have that tension, where it can fall apart at any moment.”
Gibb tells me that the band will be in the US around June and he tells me that they’re really hoping for a Philly show. But, until then, their LP, Age, drops next Tuesday, January 21st, their first LP in five years and sixth overall. He also tells me that the album, which already boasts a single (“Gay Goth Scene”) with an award-winning music video, is something that is relatively new for The Hidden Cameras.
“This new record has its own world. I’ve always organized my songs into lists and this is one of my lists. It’s sort of an experiment in writing songs in a minor key, which is a bit different from anything I’ve done before – I don’t think there were any minor keys on the first album. There are no acoustic instruments, besides string and horn. This album is a bit darker, more electronic than previous recordings.”
I ask Gibb what inspired Age and he tells me he found most of his inspiration in his teen years: “It’s about adolescence and coming of age and it’s about my adolescence and getting into goth music and industrial music and punk. It doesn’t sound like a goth album, but you can definitely hear that it might have that as an influence.” Gibb tells me that the reason Age took so long is because he’s actually been working on various varied projects.
“This one took a long time to make, but it’s because I’ve been recording, slowly, two completely different records. I’ve spent a lot of time working on an album that will hopefully come out later this year. It’s a rootsy, folky album, inspired by country and Americana, which will include things like pedal steel and banjo. Certain moments sound very old school country… but I’ve also spent some time recently working on a number of house tracks.”