Interview: The Gay Nineties

Gay Nineties (Photo by Leigh Righton)
Gay Nineties
(Photo by Leigh Righton)

The Gay Nineties have a wonderful talent for simultaneously sounding driven and detached. On the bands first EP, Coming Together, alternative noise-rock married with old-school aesthetic (even the band’s name is a reference to the 1890s). Bassist and singer Parker Bossley and guitarist Daniel Knowlton crafted brash, bold crescendos, backed up by the steady drumming of Malcolm Holt, to create a loud and unapologetic EP that earned them critical acclaim and a budding fanbase. With the release of “Letterman”, the band’s newest single, as well as the addition of keyboardist Bruce Ledingham (The Fourth) to the fold, the Gay Nineties are mellowing out, becoming more polished in their approach but no less urgent in their delivery.

We meet Parker and Daniel in a quiet park on a fine spring morning. The duo sip on coffee, calmly observing the world around them with the serenity usually only afforded to monks and the severely hungover.

LotusLand: What is the origin of the word “craydar”?
Parker Bossley: Craydar originated in the 1990s when crayfish were first discovered, and then slowly, through ebonics, “cray” turned into a hip-hop word. “Dar” is taken from the word “humpdar,” which is something Daniel likes to say on tour for some reason. So craydar was just the next logical step once I saw this thing [gestures to microphone].

I see. Speakings of the 90s, you guys are the Gay Nineties, which of course refers to the 1890s—

PB: You’ve done your homework.

I try.

PB: Or read the first sentence of our bio. [Laughter].

Moving on. If you guys were teleported back to the 1890s, what would you do first?

PB: I would want to have a drink with Oscar Wilde.

That could get you in some bad situations.

PB: In a good way.

Daniel Knowlton: I would start to over-powder my face. Because there was a lot of face-powdering going on.

PB: Can we take back modern day inventions and then become rich? And like, just go back and bring like a taser?

DK: I thought you meant going back to the 1890s to change history and prevent things from happening so we don’t have to deal with this shit today.

PB: Oh, yeah we would do that. But what would you undo? That’s a risky move, Daniel. You might not even exist.

What’s happening with the band right now? You guys have just wrapped up an album, right?

PB: Correct! We’re just in the process of wrapping it up. We’re just recording a few more songs with Scott Turnan, and then we’ll be going into Steve Bays’s studio to start mixing. We released “Letterman” to the world, and it’s actually been doing really well on the radio, which we’re proud and happy and lucky about, and we’re releasing “Hold Your Fire”, our second single, in June. And we’re shooting a music video for “Letterman” in like, a week! And playing a show on Friday. The 18th at the Fox Cabaret, with James Younger.

Do you guys have any hints about the new album?

PB: Hints? Like, how cryptic are we talking here?

As cryptic as you like.

PB: Right, I’ll let Daniel do this one then.

DK: Hints, eh? I think for me, what I love about the project that we’re wrapping up is that a lot of people say that the state of the music industry now is all just singles. Song, song, song, song, song. And we’ve definetly kept that in mind, but there’s something about the platform and format of a full-length album that just really lends itself to that musical journey. Kind of like how in the 70s people would put some headphones on, kick back, and listen to an entire album, and then listen to it over and over and over again. And I like the idea of like, musical interludes, outtakes…

PB: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of interludes. For me, it had a lot to do with Bruce Ledingham, our keyboard player.

DK: The fourth. Bruce Ledingham the Fourth.

PB: Oh yeah, that actually is true. He was also the fourth member to join the group, which is really interesting. But he really brought the idea of making sounds an experience, as opposed to me. I’m such a songwriter that I forget that sometimes that just sound is satisfying. There doesn’t need to be movement sometimes. But he introduced the idea of doing interludes, and having outros of songs, and slow fades, you know what I mean? Etherealness. And I’m loving it. And for me, that’s what’s turning this record into a record as opposed to a collection of songs.

On “Letterman,” there’s a very cleanly produced sound, whereas Coming Together was more noise rock. Where does this new album fall between those extremes?

PB: If those were “A” and “B,” it’s somewhere a little more askew. It’s definetly not between “Letterman” and Coming Together.

DK: It’s more of a lateral move.

PB: There’s also a lot of influence from Yacht Rock, which is on this.

DK: In a way, it’s hard to compare. Coming Together was us as a three-piece trying to make as much noise as possible. And now that we have Bruce as a fourth member with his sort of analog key setup, it’s added a lot of space for the songs to breathe and a lot of room for the parts to develop.

PB: We’re definitely not as noisy. We’ve softened up on the noise, but we’ve become more high-fidelity.

Sounds fun. You guys have already mentioned the influence of the 1970s-ish era, and with an EP called Coming Together, I have to ask; what is your favourite Beatles song?

PB: That’s a good question. That’s an ever-changing question. Let me properly think about this.

DK: I like how you picked up on a Beatles reference, because I think we were more talking about people actually coming together. Like orgasms. Is that what John Lennon was talking about?

PB: I kinda get that on “Come Together.” 

Then again, those lyrics were ripped off from a Chuck Berry song.

PB: That makes sense. [Singing] He got muddy water, he one mojo filter/He say “One and one and one is three”/ Got to be good-looking cos he’s so hard to see.

DK: I like “I Feel Fine”. I love that opening note that’s a recording of I think either John or George’s guitar just being leaned up against an amplifier too hard, and it makes that weird sort of decay of a note, and then it just breaks into that happy little riff.

PB: Probably my favourite thing right now, because it changes every week, would be “Hey Bulldog,” which I’ve been learning on the bass, because it’s the sickest bassline. I never really heard or noticed the song before, but it’s a badass song.

DK: What about “I’ve Got a Feeling?” That’s a good jam.

PB: When we were on the road, we were driving home from Golden, and Malcom was trying to sleep in the van. I was just trying to keep Bruce stoked. Bruce drives quite a bit but this was like a 10 hour drive. I put on “I’ve Got a Feeling” and just cranked it and it was like “Ragghhhh!” I was about two bottles of red wine in, though. I was feeling a little loose. Getting turnt. And Malcom was so upset that I aroused him from his sleep, but the song just does it to me.

DK: But you were so excited that the song was playing that you just turned around and punched me in the dick.

PB: [Laughter]. I did that as well. We don’t drink in the van.

Is that your best touring story?

PB: No, it’s totally not the number one touring story.

What is?

PB: I don’t know what is. We have so many, but they’re all so stupid though.

Parker, you were a part of Fake Shark Real Zombie. How does your approach to the Gay Nineties differ from your approach to that band?

PB: My approach to Fake Shark Real Zombie was to be a wild bass player, and as a bass player I brought a lot of funk elements, as I do to most of the projects I play bass in. But I wasn’t working particularly as a songwriter. I wasn’t doing the lyrics or any of that kind of stuff, so it was more coming up with riffs. It was a very democratic band, as in we all came up with our own parts and then just put it out to the world, whereas with Gay Nineties I’m doing actual songwriting and lyrics and as a band we’re working together on all of our parts. It’s quite different. I was also going through a phase at that time where I was trying to be as crazy as possible. I’ve settled down quite a bit since.

DK: Yeah, a little bit less of a liability. You don’t hurt yourself as much anymore onstage.

PB: Yeah, I used to fall around a lot.

Most artists go through a lot of different names while recording before they finally decide on a final one. What was the worst name you’ve ever recorded under.

PB: Oh. Probably “The Heck.” That was my first band. We were 16 year olds doing prog-rock. It was pretty crazy, I remember the guitar player was really good. We were pretty incredible, but we just couldnt figure out how to write a good song. That was the problem.

DK: The worst name I’ve ever performed under was a project that only performed one show and only wrote one song called “Also Hearts Also”. Which might also be the best band name. Gay Nineties just kinda came up.

PB: We had a few ideas.

DK: Malcom was searching the internet one night and came up with Gay Nineties. I’d love to see his search history.

PB: And how he got to that point. Like maybe he searched “Jazzy Jeff nude” or something. [Laughter.]

What’s next for the band?

P: Well, we’ve just started our relationship with Copilot Management company, and Brent Bain is running it. He’s got us on a pretty tight schedule for the next 6 months. We’re gonna be going out to North by Northeast and doing quite a bit of showcasing. Just kinda trying to ride this buzz that’s happening thanks to this single.

Anything to say to the fans?

D: I don’t know if it’s cliche—maybe it is—but I always like to thank people for listening. Thanks for digging it, and thanks for laying yourself on the line to potentially be labeled “uncool” by Vancouverites for liking a Vancouver band. Thanks for sticking your necks out for us guys, we love ya!

The Gay Nineties will be playing the Fox Cabaret with James Younger on Friday, April 18th. Be there or be the opposite of craydar.

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