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The Gay Nineties

It's funny how a whole year (or two) can disappear when you're working a day job and also trying to do this amazing, beautiful music thing.

The Gay Nineties: Open-minded, cross-dressin', fun-lovin', hard-rockin'

Like any good rock band, their favorite pastimes are writing songs, drinking red wine and coming up with drag queen names.

By Scott Wood

Vancouver’s Gay Nineties is a group of friends—Parker Bossley, Daniel Knowlton, Bruce Ledingham IV and Malcolm Holt—who’ve all come together to make pop-friendly indie rock. Each member of the group has been heavily involved with the Vancouver music scene for many years. Other local music projects that various members of Gay Nineties have had their hands on include Fake Shark Real Zombie!, Malcolm and the Moonlight, The Good News and Mounties. I chatted with Gay Nineties member Malcolm at a party recently and he admitted that he pretty much only knows other musicians at this point in his life.

I asked Gay Nineties lead Parker Bossely some questions. He drank a box of red wine and answered them.

Scott Wood: Hello Parker (from Gay Nineties)! I've heard your single "Letterman" is not about David Letterman. Could you tell me what it is about?

Parker Bossley: Ha! If it was about David Letterman, maybe he would’ve put us up on the show! The song was written as a bit of a wink and a nudge at sexual frustration and falling in love with someone who lives far away that you never get to see. The afternoon that I wrote the lyrics, I was also feeling very nostalgic and thinking about my relationships early on in life—when you’re clueless and just trying to keep up (at least I was…) and everything just fell out onto the paper and became this song that I’m very pleased with!

Scott Wood: Gay Nineties are back with a second EP Liberal Guilt in late 2014 after your first one Come Together way back in 2011. What had to happen in those three years to get this group of friends to make another set of songs?

Parker Bossley: We’ve been spending our time touring and writing and recording and touring and re-recording… It’s funny how a whole year (or two) can disappear when you’re working a day job and also trying to do this amazing beautiful music thing. We definitely needed a little bit of time to be delicate with which direction we all wanted to steer this ship in.We had been experimenting with producers and had a hard time finding the right matches! There is a collective aspect to Gay Nineties and because of that sometimes things take a little bit longer. The thousand or so hours spent last year together in a van driving and listening to music on the road really stretched our collective imaginations—and you can hear it on the new EP. Change is good.

Hello folks, Scott Wood here! I'm the host of the interview show, which is a syndicated radio program you can find on several campus community radio stations across Canada. Each month, I profile one of the "hidden talents" in my local Vancouver scene. Basically, I am going to give the campus community radio readers the chance to get to know some of Vancouver's most interesting, up-and-coming bands.

Scott Wood: In interviews you guys get asked if you are gay a lot. One similarity I notice about gay culture and rock music culture is the appropriation of women's wear. Drag queens are obviously a big part of mainstream gay culture and mainstream male rock singers have a long tradition of wearing women's clothing-- hair metal is the most obvious example. It’s an interesting intersection of two different groups. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Parker Bossley: First thing. Who has the nerve to just ask someone point blank their sexual preferences on live TV/Radio?! It’s crazy. And completely invasive. Are you straight? Do you like rimming? Ha! I do like the analogy that you’re making though!! I wear women’s clothing because it’s hard to find inexpensive men’s clothing that’s actually thoughtful or interesting or vibrant. I think that’s really how it all started, poor musicians shopping in the used women’s sections to get something that’s worth wearing on the stage. Though, I’ve always been attracted to androgyny and drag. Gay Nineties play shows in drag whenever we can… Coming up with drag queen names is also a favourite past time of ours. Call me Whiskey Houston.

Scott Wood: Parker, you make up one-half of another band Fur Trade (along with legendary local indie musician Steve Bays), you are also a touring member of Canadian super group Mounties, and you've written songs for local vocal powerhouse Colleen Rennison aka No Sinner. When you are writing with No Sinner, let's say, what happens if a Gay Nineties song hits? How does your music making process work?

Who has the nerve to just ask someone point blank their sexual preferences on live TV/Radio?! It's crazy.

Parker Bossley: I also write with Matt Turner for our project Western Foil. I’ve really come to terms with the fact that I’m a collaborator. I work best with someone else in the room. If I’m home alone at my piano, I’m gonna reach for the wine before I grab the notepad. So, my solution has been to constantly have songs on the go with my favourite people. Songwriting isn’t about genre! It’s a therapeutic process, it should heal! Write as many songs as you can and maybe one will be good, ya know? That’s the way it works, at least for me. When I’m writing with Colleen, I’m encouraging her to lead the process, so no, that hasn’t happened yet. But it can happen! What’s the worst is when you write a song that you fall in love with that nobody ever records and just slips through your fingers. Although, Marianne Faithful did record unreleased Roger Waters songs twenty years after the fact. So maybe there’s hope after all for those songs still under the rocks… I’ve been listening to a lot of the newer Marianne Faithful records lately, the ones with Nick Cave and PJ Harvey cameos—I highly recommend them!

Scott Wood: Your press materials give this great quote from local radio rock icon Steve Bays (of Hot Hot Heat) “As soon as I heard them [Gay Nineties] play for the first time, I practically forced them straight into the recording studio.” Managing musicians can be like herding cats. How does anyone coax Parker into doing something he may not be ready to do?

The Gay Nineties

Parker Bossley: Hahaha! The best way to coax me into anything is probably to ply me with red wine and then get really heavy philosophically about how it needs to happen. In Steve’s case, I was honoured! He didn’t have to force much on us—although he did force his bewildering graveyard shift hours on us which was crazy at that time. We were all working awful jobs at 8am every morning, and we’d go straight to the studio after and just work all night long. Many a bleary eyed walk to the dreaded employer… That session was beautiful. We’d all like to work more with Steve! I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that.

Scott Wood: Daniel from your band once thanked your fans in an interview: "I don’t know if it’s cliché—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." Why is it uncool to like local bands? 

Parker Bossley: Well those are Daniel’s words, not mine! I don’t think it’s uncool to like local bands. I think he was maybe remarking more on if you’re a local band trying to rise out of the local scene and go to America or just tour Canada even, there can be a strange backlash from the community. We didn’t really feel too much of that because I don’t think we were really ever accepted by any community! We were never really going for that, outside of our friends and family. We just wanted to be on tour immediately. However, I’m really starting to feel the Vancouver love lately though and it feels great. Also, I’ve never liked so many bands in my hometown before. I feel like there are some solid things happening right now in this beautiful, grey, rainy city of ours.

Scott Wood: You are magically transported back in time to the historical Gay Nineties. (The Gay Nineties is an American nostalgic term referring to the decade of the 1890s). You are having tea with Oscar Wilde and a pioneering suffragette. What is the first thing you ask each person?

I wear women's clothing because it's hard to find inexpensive men's clothing that's actually thoughtful or interesting or vibrant

Parker Bossley: I’d ask the pioneering suffragette what her ideal vision of 2015 would look like. I’d also get her to take a listen to Bowie’s “Suffragette City” and ask her thoughts strictly as a music critic on the track. I’d ask Oscar to write a haiku regarding his Gay Nineties experience.

Scott Wood: I was interviewing Steve Bays about his band Mounties. Without prompting (and totally at random) he started talking about how sexy you were. He said "understanding the grit of life makes someone sexy." Here's your chance to return the compliment. What's something unusually sexy about Mr. Bays?

Parker Bossley: Eek! There’s quite a bit of fodder here that’s developed over the years... I would say the sexiest thing IMO about Steve Bays is his quick wit and dashing sense of humour. He’s like an ultra-handsome Larry David with a lush ‘fro. Ha! Oh! Also, he wears tight jeans REALLY well.

Scott Wood: Parker, thanks for answering my questions. Please introduce your favorite Gay Nineties video.

Parker Bossley: We made this video with our friends Dave Tomiak and Alexis Young when we were stranded on the road with not much to do. In the video, we accidentally kill our drummer Malcolm, and are then pulled over by a police officer who offers to join our band. I’m sure you can guess the rest… Hahaha… I don’t know whether to be proud or embarrassed by this one…!!!

Find more about Gay Nineties online.


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