Feature: A Conversation with Richard Gibson of Optical Sounds

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Since 2008, Richard Gibson and his brother Robert have quietly been operating the underground Toronto-based psych label Optical Sounds. A genuine individual who’s passion for music seeps from his pores, Richard has forged a scene–largely centered around the Kensington Market bar The Embassy–that recalls the prime of the psychedelic heyday.

Home to many of the city’s finest psych and shoegaze bands, Optical Sounds brings together the kind of artists who self release their material, but wave a collective flag and gig constantly around town with one another. A musical collective in its truest sense.

Earlier this week, Optical Sounds released Psych Pop Vol. 2, a compilation featuring songs from artists on the label along with some that are part of its extended family. You can hear the compilation for free via Bandcamp or streaming below. You can also see many of these bands performing live this Saturday night at the compilation release party taking place at The Great Hall.

Richard was kind enough to take a bit of time to chat with us about the label, himself and the new compilation. Read on for the full conversation after the jump.

Tell us about the origins of Optical Sounds.

Optical Sounds was started 6 years ago, 2008 I guess, by my band at the time The Hoa Hoa’s and The Disraelis. My brother Robert also has helped massively in making it an actual thing,he’s the best. Both bands had been playing shows together for a while and we both had records recorded that we wanted to put out. We couldn’t really find a label at the time so we decided to start Optical Sounds.

I got the name from a Human Expression song called “Optical Sound” that I was really into at the time (great tune!) plus I thought it a fitting name for a psych label. Our focus at the time (2008) was to release those 2 albums The Hoa Hoa’s Sonic Bloom and The Disraelis’ Demonstation and throw a few parties.

It just stated to grow when our pals Planet Creature started a band and then a bunch of our other friends in bands in Toronto wanted to get involved and it just kinda happened naturally. We are all just friends and like similar music, so we all got on well. The main inspirations I suppose were the likes of Factory Records and Bomp! Records and general D.I.Y

Where do you come from? Describe your musical background.

I am originally from St. Catharine’s Ontario but I’ve been living in toronto since i was 19. I moved here (Kensington Market) in 2003 i think. I came to start The Hoa Hoa’s with Lee and Femke, whom I was hanging out a lot with at the time.

My family doesnt have much of a musical background to be honest. My uncle got me into playing guitar when I was abou 10. I always loved music, though, and my family have always encouraged my musical endeavors. My mum and dad are from Glasgow Scotland, more the sporting type [Laughs].

What, to you, is special about Toronto’s underground psych scene and music scene in general?

Toronto has a great music scene right now, though most stuff I hear is not my cup of tea really. All the bands on the Psych Pop Vol. 2 compilation are totally tops and there are many many other bands I think are good that are not involved with the label or anything too many to name really.

I’m amazed at how many groups I stumble upon at random shows at The Silver dollar, for example, that are just great and just getting started. So the future is bright I think.

Tell us about the Psych Pop compilations and the bands featured on the latest one. How did you find these bands? What drew you to them?

Well, the Psych Pop compilation releases Volume 1 and 2 have basically just been promotion comps for the label and the groups we have played with and become friends with over the years.
Like I say, all the people that are on this compilation have been friends of mine for a while, so it’s not like I went looking for them per se, more just meeting them through some sort of psychedelic life [Laughs].

Tell us about the Psych Pop comp release party happening this weekend.

The release party is at the Great Hall on Saturday March 15th. The bands playing are Sun Stone Revolvers, The Disraelis, Prince Ness, Mimico, The BB Guns, Tess Parks, The Auras, B-17. With DJs Adreinne and Katie who are both really fun and excellent DJs. No tickets, just pay at the door. It’s 10 bucks at the door. 10 dollars for 8 bands and DJs. Oh and also General Chaos Steve Lindsay is doing the lighting, so it’s going to look wild!

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