Verses is a series in which we pair musicians together for an informal talk in the hopes that we will gain more insight into their lives, music and personalities. For the latest instalment, we set up a Skype conversation between Peaches and the Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb. Below you’ll find an edited version of that conversation, but first, some background on these two artists.
Much has been said in recent years of Toronto’s rising role in hip-hop and R&B (Drake, the Weeknd) or, on the other end of the spectrum, punk (Pup, Metz, F--ked Up), but in the past two decades Toronto has also produced some of music’s best outliers, including electro-shocker Peaches and folk-pop collective the Hidden Cameras.
These are voices that refuse to be boxed into a genre or scene, instead creating their own platforms and spaces that are inclusive and celebrate people of all genders and sexuality, proving to be the most progressive in a still highly heteronormative environment. Whether it’s Peaches putting gender identity front and center in her music, most prominently on her 2015 Polaris Prize longlisted album Rub, or the Hidden Cameras staging shows featuring gogo dancers in the churches of Toronto in the early 2000s, these two artists are determined to push boundaries, and question and laugh at the limits society has imposed on itself.
Over the years, both Peaches and Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb have found an extension outside Toronto, in the city of Berlin, Germany, along with a slew of other Canadian musical expats (and frequent collaborators) such as Gonzales and Mocky. Peaches and Gibb are long-time friends and collaborators as well, whether they're spending time on a houseboat together in Europe or jumping into the studio to lend each other a helping hand. This week, their paths will cross once again when the two co-headline a show in Toronto at the iconic music venue Massey Hall.
A week prior to the show, CBC Music brought Gibb and Peaches together (over Skype because Peaches was still in Berlin while Gibb has been spending time in Toronto) to talk about their upcoming show, the differences between Toronto and Berlin and Toronto Pride.
Peaches and the Hidden Cameras will be performing at Massey Hall on Thursday, Aug. 4. Tickets are still available here.
Peaches: What have you been up to? You’re not in Berlin!
Joel Gibb: I think we’ve been living opposite lives. Like, I haven’t been on an airplane or been to an airport in seven months and you’ve been on an airplane, what, every day or every other day?
Peaches: Yeah, for months and months at a time. When I make an album it takes a year, or a year and a half, and then I tour it for at least two years so, in a way, I haven’t been able to make new music so much. I’ve done a couple of collaborations: I just did a rap for Mr. Oizo’s new album and then I did one for Cakes Da Killa, but it’s more about performing right now for me because I just don’t have time, you know? I make some beats on my iMachine which is like a little beat maker on my phone but mostly, I’m just a travelling performance monkey.
Peaches: And you’ve been working on the final touches of your album and mixing it over the past few months, or is that done already?
Gibb: Yeah, just little last-minute overdubs and remixing stuff.
Peaches: But you like working in Canada more than you do in Berlin, don’t you.
Gibb: Kind of. I do want to work more in Berlin. I feel like I’m more of a laptop artist in Berlin, just like everybody else. I’ve done lots of vocal overdubs there and I remember I recorded some of your electronic drums on that last record in your studio, so little bits and things but I’ve never really done a full recording session in Berlin.
Peaches: Right, I guess I’ve never really done full instruments in Berlin.
Gibb: Would you call your first record, The Teaches of Peaches, a Toronto record?
Peaches: Yeah, of course, it’s my Polaris Prize heritage record! I made the whole thing in Toronto.
Gibb: And then Fatherf--ker, is that a Berlin record?
Peaches: Yeah, it’s totally a Berlin record.
Gibb: And Impeach My Bush is an L.A. record.
Peaches: I made all the demos and everything in Berlin but then I went to L.A. and all the real instruments were recorded there. I probably made new songs there too.
Gibb: And I Feel Cream is European.
Peaches: That was more London-based but then a bit Belgium, a bit of Hamburg, a bit of Berlin….
Gibb: And the new one is totally L.A. — wait no, “Free Drink Ticket” is very Berlin — but most of it was in L.A., right?
Peaches: The rest of it was in L.A. except for “Light in Places,” which was Berlin.
Gibb: Okay, so then I wonder what a new Toronto record would be like.
Peaches: I don’t know, I haven’t spent time in Toronto in so long but do you feel like your sound changes as you go from Berlin to Toronto? People always ask me, "Are you influenced by the city you’re in?" and I always say no, but then I listen to a song like “Light in Places” and it’s definitely more beat-driven and something I probably would’ve never written in Toronto.
Gibb: I feel like, in Berlin, I’m not influenced by it but it’s just a place for me to be quiet and have time to just do whatever it is.
Peaches: Yeah, Berlin is more like a great place to relax and hang out and take it all in and actually live.
Gibb: You’ve got to come to Toronto for longer than a couple of days sometime.
Peaches: I know, probably when this crazy tour is over. So what’s going to be different in your live show? Is that a weird question?
Gibb: Well it’s kind of like my country record I’ve been talking about for ages, you know. I think you were there when I was finalizing the lyrics to that one song. Remember I was asking you which was better, "wounds" or "words"?
Peaches: Oh yeah!
Gibb: The last record was really dark, it was all in F minor, and the new record’s soft and country and the band kind of revolves around the pedal steel so we’re going to preview a lot of that record and then [dive] into more energetic music before you play, to pump it up.
Peaches: I like how different our sets are going to be.
Gibb: It’s going to be the ying and the yang, you know?
Peaches: I guess I’m the yang. That’s the dark one, right?
Gibb: You can be whatever you want to be. I also hate being asked this: ‘What can we expect from your live show?’
Peaches: I always say everything.
Gibb: Well it’s like, screw you come to the show.
Peaches: Yeah, come to the show! Look on YouTube if that’s what you need to do.
Gibb: You can probably Google the setlist from last night’s show or whatever. But it is Massey Hall and I’ve got two waltzes planned. I’m going to do them back to back — you know "The Log Driver’s Waltz," right?
Peaches: Actually I didn’t know about it till you played it for me. Tell me more.
Gibb: I’m going to try and get people to waltz. I don’t know if it’s allowed but we should definitely get people to not sit the whole time. Are you going to spray champagne on those soft seats?
Peaches: I’m not allowed.
Gibb: Is your mom coming to the show?
Peaches: Yeah, but I don’t know what to do. Two years ago, my mom was in the show when I did World Pride in Toronto, she came on for "Mommy Complex" and waved a pride flag and danced around. Last year, when I was in Toronto, it was the day after Justin Trudeau was elected into office so we played "O Canada" to start the show and my mom came out, made a speech and then waved a Canadian flag.
Gibb: So she needs to know what flag she needs to fly this time.
Peaches: Yeah, what kind of flag should she wave now? What kind of flag do you think is relevant? What’s going on in Toronto right now? Let’s put it out to those CBCers, if anybody has a suggestion before Aug. 4.
Gibb: Well, there’s the weedification of Toronto. I don’t know, but there are dispensaries on every corner right now, that’s a new flag.
Gibb: Or the trans flag. I went to the trans march for the first time this year at Pride.
Peaches: I went to the trans march during World Pride [in 2014] and it was incredible because there were actually two marches. Half of them didn’t agree with the commercial one so they split off. The main one went down Yonge Street and the other went down, I forget which street, but all of a sudden it was just the trans march with no one on the streets which was incredible because nobody was staring. It was just everybody marching and screaming in ecstasy and just real freedom. There was no sort of like, extra commercial money going into it, nobody waving like, "Look there’s a trans person," it just made it so powerful.
Gibb: Did you hear about Toronto Pride this year?
Peaches: Yeah, about the action that happened; that it actually got discussed there and things got changed?
Gibb: Well, maybe. Hopefully. I just love that, that’s what the spirit of Pride is. It started with actual disobedience. I thought it was great. I showed up to the parade and nothing was happening. I had no clue what was going on and then finally, Black Lives Matter came down Yonge Street and it was so much fun. I didn’t even know what they had done, I just thought it was the great energy they had.
Peaches: It was incredible.