When the Hidden Cameras began blurring the lines between the indie rock, performance art and queer undergrounds in the early 2000's, a door was opened for other like-minded fusion fiends to follow suit. The punk/big beat jibber jab spewed forth by Toronto's Kids On TV might be miles away for that folky stuff the Cameras sing but they do share the Cameras' propensity for over-the-top performances and rainbow-tinged underpinnings.
"Kids on TV started when Mike e.b. and I were doing burlesque at places like Buddies in Bad Times theatre," says head Kid John Caffrey. "We were trying to change what burlesque was and how it was perceived, and to mess around with what was appropriate for different spaces. We began to create music for our own performances and that sparked something, that's where we took it."
While Mike is no longer in the Kids fold, John has surrounded himself with a sordid supporting cast that includes guitarist Chris Mills, drummer Minus Smile and Roxanne Luchak, who tempers the Kids live performances with her video manipulations, slide shows and other morsels of eye candy. In addition, the Hidden Cameras' Maggie McDonald often beefs up the band's performance with vocals and guitar. Kids On TV are known as a live act first and foremost but they've also begun digging into their influences in the recording studio. Their debut EP, the awesomely-titled Hustle! was released in the fall of 2004 and a full length should be ready in the first half of 2005.
"I wouldn't say burlesque is the only inspiration on Kids on TV; it was what we were doing at the time so we took something from that," says Caffrey. "Musically, a band like Les Georges Leningrad blows me away. We like Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Fifth Columnůbands that tell stories and have a performance aspect."
Caffrey adds, "When we record, we tend to make music for headphones. There's a lot more detail to the recordings that to our live shows and we try to focus on those details. It leans more towards an EDM-type sound. There's a DAF sample on thereůthey're an old German electronic band. It's chunky hard dance music."
Word of the Kids' antics has already spread to New York City, where the band has performed on a number of occasions. On one of their most recent trips, a chance meeting with the ubiquitous Boy George led to a strategic re-record of the Kids' "Breakdance Hunx" replete with added vocals from George himself. The city's been too kind to Kids On TV and it's plunked the band in some most unique performance environs.
"We've played some crazy dirty parties in New York," says Caffrey with a chuckle. "One time, we played an underwear party where it was mandatory for everyone to be in underwear. We also played something called Octoberfist, which was a celebration of Germania and fisting. It was pretty nuts. I didn't get to see the actually fisting demonstration÷ but it was there somewhere!"
While Kids On TV are accustomed to blending in at parties like these and at local venues like the now-defunct queer hotspot the Toolbox, Caffrey says the band never tones down their shtick even when travelling in more pious realms. For a unit that thrives on fun, energy and showmanship like Kids On TV do, anything short of everything would be paramount to career suicide.
"I'm OK with pushing things in the smaller communities; I enjoy it, actually," says Caffrey. "We've played Kingston a couple of times and going in, there were a lot of preconceptions about what this university/jail town would be like. But kids freak out there. There's not a lot of stuff going on so when out-of-town bands like us play, people rejoice and the shows end up being really great. One of the times we played Kingston, they were holding "Dance Wars" between two team who were fully decked out in costumes with gold chains and painted-on hair. It was like the dance-off in that old Run-DMC video. Stuff like that can sometimes put a big city like Toronto to shame."
The Kids On TV have the following shows slated for the coming months:
Feb 3: Toronto, ON, Poor Alex Cabaret - Pitter Patter Nights (w/ Wax Mannequin, Lunch Meat)
Feb 11: Toronto, ON, Lee's Palace - Wavelength 250 (w/ The Constantines)
Feb 18: Toronto, ON, Gladstone Hotel - AIDS benefit
For more information about Kids On TV, please visit www.newmusiccanada.ca
Writer: Cameron Gordon