The city has long served as a primary muse for songwriters the world over. Penning forlorn tributes to New York or Paris or London seems natural. Doing likewise for the sleepy Toronto suburb of Mississauga seems a tad… off.
"It's an acknowledgement but I don't think it's in any means a tribute," says the Hidden Cameras' leadman Joel Gibb with regards to the title of track of his band's second album proper, 2004's Mississauga Goddam. "It's probably just the opposite. You'd really have to read the lyrics—the tone is pretty obvious."
As the singular driving force behind the Cameras' vision, Gibb has been re-writing the book of the indie rock longhand since the release of his 2001's demo masterstroke Ecce Homo. Gibb's ability to blend exquisitely crafted chamber pop with his unapologetically saucy lyrics has spewed forth a wave of critical acclaim both at home and abroad.
The Cameras signed to fabled UK's indie label Rough Trade (breeding ground for the Smiths) in 2002 and less than a year later, released The Smell Of Our Own, an album packed with countless layers of queer allusions and canary-tinged buggery. While much of Cameras' press has focused on Gibb's taboo lyricism, he is very much at ease with talking about this beast he's created.
"It's a bit weird but at the same time, you create this yourself. I want the chance to talk critically about the reality of my lyrics because the stuff I sing about is so gay and journalists ask all these questions, so I just end up talking about it all the time. I'm not complaining because the Hidden Cameras are still very much received in a musical context and are written about in music magazines. Still, I do actually appreciate talking to gay magazines too because they come at things from a different perspective."
While Gibb isn't interested in discussing the painstaking subtleties of the recording process, he professes to having a massive backlog of gems patiently awaiting his trademark golden touch.
"I have lots of songs that I need to produce. The title track of Mississauga Goddam is six years old and then there are songs on the new album that are only a year and a half old. It's a mixture and every record so far has been like that. At this point, Mississauga is a year old in my life so I'm pretty sick of it already. I want to make my new record."
For a band like the Hidden Cameras, their recorded output is really only a fraction of the whole. More than anything else, Gibb and company have built their reputation on their wildly theatric stage shows that set the Cameras apart from your average gay orchestral pop collective. Half-naked male go-go dancers and weirdo choral ensembles have become symbols for Gibb's angular creation but little by little, the Hidden Cameras are beginning to take leak into the public consciousness. Still, as fruitful as coverage on Much Music and the NME can be, Gibb remains intent on keeping his jocko homos under wraps for the time being.
"I don't mind being interviewed. It's not like it's torture and even if it is, there's no way you can truthfully say that because you're basically just talking about yourself. Of course, talking about yourself isn't always the best thing to do. Look at pop stars—they do so many interviews and press conferences to the point where they become kinda deranged. You see them in the media and they appear pretty out of it but it's just because they're so used to that lifestyle. I don't think I'm at that point at all but at the same time, this is the third interview I've done today. I've been doing a lot and it's getting pretty weird… but it's nice."
The Hidden Cameras have played a series of shows celebrating the early-August release of Mississauga Goddam (released through Evil Evil Records in Canada), but have saved the best for last in Toronto:
Aug 28: Toronto, ON, Harbourfront Centre – CIBC Stage
For more information on the Hidden Cameras, visit www.musicismyboyfriend.com
Writer: Cameron Gordon