Hidden Cameras turn it on for Awoo

oel Gibb talks about his art, love of reverb, and a stained glass window

The Hidden Cameras’ new record Awoo was released on Gibbs’ own label, Evil Evil.
The Hidden Cameras’ new record Awoo was released on Gibbs’ own label, Evil Evil.
Joel Gibb, posing with his bandmates, thinks recording music can be cathartic.
Joel Gibb, posing with his bandmates, thinks recording music can be cathartic.

Interview: Joel Gibb of the Hidden Cameras, tonight @ Elixir w/ Spiral Beach and Laura Barrett

Contrary to popular belief, Joel Gibb isn’t reluctant about interviews.

In fact, he enjoys talking about the music he’s been writing and performing with his band, The Hidden Cameras, for the past six years.

Awoo is the band’s most recent studio release, and doesn’t offer fans the lo-fi sound quality heard on their previous albums. Instead of their usual techniques for recording, Gibb and his band used more up-to-date technology to record their third record.

“[Missisauga Goddamn, released in 2004] was a conceptual project in terms of production,” Gibb said. “We recorded it onto two-inch tape. It’s a really heavy, old tape … really old school. That’s why it sounds a little dirty.

“Also, there are a million instruments on it. So even though it was very expensive, it came out sounding … dense, and a little bit lo-fi.

“[Awoo] we [recorded] onto a computer.” With that in mind, listeners will notice that the new record has a lot less reverb. Gibb used this echo-y effect in previous recordings simply because he enjoyed the sound. But with Awoo he wanted to try something different.

So, Jaime McCarthy, the band’s violinist, recorded in one of reverb’s natural habitats—a church—for the song “Heaven Turns To.”

“It wasn’t put through a plate, or any effect,” he said. “We put a microphone right by the violin, and a microphone at the other side of the room, and [we] let magic take its course.”

The trouble the band went through to produce this sound was apparently worth it.

“That string sound—I think—is our best string sound yet,” said Gibb. “I really love when the violin comes in [on “Heaven Turns To”]. It’s really sweet.” Gibb’s love of reverb was reflected by one of the band’s earliest tour schedules. The Hidden Cameras played in various churches throughout Toronto during 2001 and 2002.

“I was always looking around the city of Toronto looking for churches to play in,” said Gibb.

“We’ve played, I think, seven churches in Toronto. That’s been more my personal project as a booker of our band in Toronto.”

During the Hidden Cameras’ appearance at the Wolfe Island Music Festival this past summer, Gibb was enthralled by a stained glass window at a church on the Island.

“I was particularly drawn to this one image of a guy at a steering wheel on a boat, and Jesus, presumably, behind him guiding him,” Gibb said. “There wasn’t anything specifically Christian, aside from the fact that it was on a church.”

Taken out of context, claimed Gibb, the image isn’t necessarily a religious one.

Such an in-depth look into a stained-glass window could be expected from Gibb, who is an artist himself. In addition to writing and performing music, he’s a working artist with an exhibit coming up this winter in New York City.

The exhibit will take place during the first week of January at a gallery called Sunday, and will feature some of his collages and drawings.

Gibb’s art is also featured in some of the band’s releases. For their first album, The Smell of Our Own, Gibb planned and crafted the design used on 1,000 of the sleeves for the album’s vinyl edition. In a process he described as “more ghetto than a silk screen,” Gibb spray painted with a stencil the image of a camera on a tripod.

“It’s back-breaking and annoying. But the end product is very nice to have,” he said. “Hopefully, people will enjoy it in a different way, or experience the record in a different way. That’s a good payoff.”

Another project Gibb was involved in included the rest of the band. In the Boneyard was a performance of Awoo accompanied by the Toronto Dance Theatre. The performance was meant to showcase the record before its release, and was the band’s second collaboration with Toronto Dance Theatre.

“This time it was more thematic,” said Gibb. “It was more of a show, more integrated.”

Dancers and musicians wore costumes, and roles were exchanged throughout the set, with musicians dancing, and dancers fiddling with instruments.

“Aside from two songs, most of the material was from the new album,” said Gibb.

One of those songs, “The Perfect Picture,” was recorded after the release of Awoo. Even though the song wasn’t released on the album, Gibb was happy to have it out of his head.

“Once you’ve recorded and mixed [a song], it’s sort of out … it’s cathartic,” said Gibb, who doesn’t write songs with the intent of putting them on an album, but individually instead.

“I don’t write a record, I write songs. So some songs on our new record are quite old for me,” said Gibb. “I want the good ones to be released. It’s really good to get them out of your system and not have to think about them. ’Cause once you’ve written the lyrics and finished the song, there’s very little you can do about it.”

But once the song has been recorded and released, Gibb insists that he reflects on the finished product in order to give himself some constructive criticism, but not to lament.

“You don’t want to be lamenting how it should have been different,” he said. “That’s the song. It’s done.”

The Hidden Cameras perform tonight with Spiral Beach and Laura Barrett at Elixir. Tickets are $12 in advance, or $15 at the door.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.