The Gay Nineties refers to the 1890s, with its decadent and ground-breaking art, witty plays, society scandals and the beginning of the suffragette movement.
Gay Nineties is also the name of an alternative/glam rock quartet from Vancouver that aspires to shake things up, musically and lyrically.
“Our manifesto is ‘Be free,’” said the group singer and bassist Parker Bossley. “We believe in being free to do anything you want to do, as long as you’re not hurting anyone else. It’s conducive to a healthy world. …”
Given that Alberta’s political landscape was recently upended after 44 years of Conservative rule by the election of a New Democrat government, Bossley is hugely excited about this change. “And they said it couldn’t be done!
“Alberta is like a brand-new province,” the 25-year-old exclaimed. “I’m so proud of you!”
Gay Nineties is coming for a fifth time to Red Deer on Sunday, May 24, when the band plays with Zerbin at Bo’s Bar and Grill.
Bossley, along with guitarist Daniel Knowlton IV, keyboardist Bruce Ledingham, and drummer Malcolm Holt, plan to play tunes from their new Liberal Guilt EP.
While Bossley doesn’t like forcing messages on anyone, he said the eight-track release gets about as political as the band’s ever been.
He believes listeners will hear stirrings of discontent on songs such as Hold Your Fire. “I feel like, for the first time in Canada, people are starting to get squashed. It’s like they don’t have a choice,” said Bossley, referring to anti-terrorism Bill C-51. The legislation, which grants the Canadian Security Intelligence Service unprecedented access to personal information on Canadians, raises concerns about personal liberty, privacy and freedom of expression.
His songwriting for Gay Nineties attempts to “tap into what it means to human … I’m trying to live a life based on love,” he said.
But the singer, who also plays with Hawksley Workman in the band Mounties and was formerly in Hot Hot Heat and Fake Shark Real Zombie, sees this as a challenge, given the state of things.
Bossley is also upset that members of the Canadian military now act as soldiers instead of peacekeepers. “It’s all a little terrifying.”
The tune Dangerous Minds questions conventional thinking, while the best-known single, Letterman, is about a long-distance relationship Bossley was in. “I was so excited about it,” but it soon fizzled.
He remembers coming up with the lyrics to Letterman while “living on Main and 12th, in a beautiful, tiny room. Every morning I would hear a children’s choir singing from the church across the street. …” The “angelic” sounds made him unaccountably nostalgic for his childhood home in the “burbs” of Abbotsford.
Bossley was a gymnast from his preschool years to age 15. The singer, who was influenced by David Bowie and Prince, didn’t take up the guitar until about age 14, due to an unfortunate childhood incident.
He was given a new guitar at the age of five or six — right after he’d watched Garth Brooks smashing his instrument on TV. “I wanted to do that too, so I smashed my guitar as soon as I got it.”
It was many, many years, Bossley recalled, before anyone would trust him with another one.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $10 in advance or $15 at the door (plus fees) from the venue or Ticketfly. For more information, please call 403-309-2200.