A brilliant and witty symphonic art-pop whirlwind, Joel Gibb’s The Hidden Cameras are, above all, a vibrant, kitchen sink in which swirls music, theatre, art, dancers, strippers, videos, projected lyrics and heavy-duty audience participation.
Originally Toronto-based, the fizzy Gibb now lives in Berlin; the Cameras are touring their latest album, Origin:Orphan (Arts & Crafts), with a stop at Lido on April 18.
You’ve called your music “gay church folk”.
Yeah, I wrote it on a flyer in 2002. I don’t think that it really refers to the new record at all. That was a specific time in the band’s existence: we used to perform in churches. But the band is more than that. We’re still gay though! No, not all of us, but it’s still gay music, for sure!
You connect a camera to a child’s brain on the cover of Origin:Orphan, your latest album. That’s pretty freaky.
That’s just a little collage I made: the head is from a medical textbook from the 1960s. I got the camera from Google Images. There’s not a specific message to it, actually. Some artists want to tell you exactly what they mean — I don’t like telling somebody, “This is what you have to think.” Like, “In the NA”, the single from the album. “NA” can be anything, so when someone asks me what it is, I don’t wanna tell them! I’m more an interpreter of how the audience reacts to my art.
Like a camera?
I am a songwriter and my work is observing the world and my experience.There is a little camera in my brain watching everything. There’ s also a very nice play by John Van Druten [inspired by Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories] called “I Am a Camera” and I think that’s a great idea because we are a sort of camera in respect to what surrounds us.
Your live performances are quite eccentric.
We have musicians, dancers, performers: it’s a theatrical, musical thing. We try to take the line away between the audience and the band and make it complicated – to bring people on stage so that it doesn’t just feel like a band. Some bands work on a level, like “We are the band.” “We are here.” “We are gonna look cool.” And “You have to stay over here.” I prefer interacting with the audience. Every show is different.
And your locations are often a surprise.
I like doing unconventional things. The first show we had was in an art gallery. And then we played porn theatres and in many churches in Toronto. The Porn Theatre in Toronto! It was crazy; we had a lot of fun. I think that was the point that we really started to be known in Toronto.