What do you get when you put a glockenspiel, cellos, guitars, go-go dancers in balaclavas and a choir together on a stage? The answer is the eccentric experience of The Hidden Cameras.
The Hidden Cameras is a Toronto-based band defining a new genre of indie-rock music, described by front man Joel Gibb as “gay church folk music.” Founded by Gibb, The Hidden Cameras is an unconventional band — the members are ever changing, their live performances are one-of-a- kind and the music is diverse.
There is no defining moment when The Hidden Cameras were formed — it has been an evolution of music, beginning with singer/songwriter Gibb and developing into a large ensemble of strings and a choir. After the release of their first album, The Hidden Cameras began to perform in a variety of alternative venues — from art galleries to porn theatres and churches.
“I started playing music by myself and then with friends and friends of friends and people that liked music. It started very casually and gradually each show I would add somebody new to play with us,” Gibb explained. “It was like a social experiment.”
The unique sound of The Hidden Cameras has a lot to do with the wide range of instruments used. The more traditional instruments such as keyboards and guitars are present with the addition of glockenspiels, viola, tambourine and trumpets.
The members of the band — other than Gibb — are constantly changing, which gives the band a diverse sound. Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy and Arcade Fire contributor Mike Olsen are just a few of the notable artists that have been part of the The Hidden Cameras’ sound.
“The Hidden Cameras can be a band where people meet each other, and where people exchange ideas other than musical ones,” expressed Gibb. “I like that people move, that people are free to move in and out. It’s more than just a band in that sense.”
Ecce Homo was the first album released independently by The Hidden Cameras in 2001. The Smell of Our Own was their first studio album released in 2003 followed by Mississauga Goddam, Awoo and then Origin:Orphan was released on Sept. 22, 2009.
“We don’t sit down and write a record and we don’t sit down and record a record in two weeks or something,” explained Gibb. “I think that’s how some traditional bands do it. I have been working on three records over the past two or three years — slowly but surely.”
With such a diverse collection of band members and instruments, each song has its own unique theme.
“I wasn’t looking for a distinct sound. These songs have their own story,” stated Gibb.
The Hidden Cameras have just begun a North American tour, making their way through Ontario with one stop in Montreal before they head down to the U.S. where they will be playing shows across the country before the end of the year. Next year they will be heading over to Europe to showcase Origin:Orphan.
“I plan to reunite with our European string members in Glasgow for a bit of an acoustic set,” Gibb said.
The Hidden Cameras will be taking the stage at Call the Office Thursday Sept. 22 at 8 p.m.