There are no words nor genre yet created to describe the uniqueness and talent of Derek Bishop. Elusive unicorns, brightly colored rainbows, gay carousels, all entangled amongst the excitement of flashing strobe lights in the hottest gay nightclub is probably the closest compilation I can find to describe his music.
On April 7 at 8 p.m., Bishop will be celebrating the release of his new album “Bicycling in Quicksand” at The Bowery Electric. He will be performing songs from the most distinctive musical creation to come along in a long time.
I haven’t ever heard anything quite like you. When I listen to your music I hear dance, I hear top 40, I hear a little EDM, but then I hear Broadway, and then, as in the case of “Automatic,” I feel as if I’m riding a carousel. Your music is so diverse and unexplainable. What was in that head of yours when you wrote those songs?
First of all, thank you for saying that. That’s like the best review. I want a copy of what you said and put it all over my website.
Don’t worry, it will be in the interview.
They were all kind of written around the same time frame, and in my head … I’m hearing some of the things that come true on the final product, like the harpsicord in “Automatic” and all that stuff. So I try to keep little Post It notes in my brain so that when recording I kind of remember all those ideas, cause you can get lost amongst all the different flavors that are spinning in there. But I wanted each song to have a distinct feel while also feeling consistency.
Oh, it does. Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
Let me look at the back and pick out a favorite, because they come and go, but I’m always drawn to “Automatic.” For that, I was really thinking I wanted to be a kind of Partridge Family, early ‘70s kind of sound—somewhat cheesy and kind of dorky, but also I wanted it to have that kind of creamy background vocals dripping through it. So I wrote something that felt mid-tempo that was kind of like a band of bizarreness, catchy that you could hum along to.
I loved it. I really felt as though I was on a carousel in Central Park, but like in the 1800s, not now.
That’s lovely. When we were recording it, somebody was walking down the hall and stuck their head in and said, “What is that sound? It sounds like rainbows.”
Yeah, definitely. Derek, do you have a tour planned to support “Quicksand”?
Actually, a tour manager set me up for three weeks of touring from like May 3 to after Memorial Day. It’s mostly on the East Coast, Boston, Cleveland, Nashville and then into Florida.
Are you going to play in New York?
I have the CD release show April 7, and I’m going to try to not really create the sound of the album but do the best we can. I have eight or nine people on stage. I wanted it to be representative of the album. We’ve been rehearsing, and it’s kind of great. I’ve got two girls for the backup.
Where is this going to take place?
Bowery Electric at 8 p.m. We’re doing an hour show, and then there will be a little post-party after the show.
Nice. How old were you when you began to write songs?
I wrote melodies long before I started writing lyrics. Even as a young piano-playing kid I would just come up with really catchy [tunes], almost sounding like singles. I wasn’t going around like, “Hey, listen to my songs.” I guess around college, after I moved to New York, I wanted to actually write lyrics. So I didn’t really grow up singing at all. That came much later.
Was your songwriting different before you came out?
You know what? I came out when I was 29.
So the first album I had was all about that. Having some life, that really gives you a boom, a great wealth of things to draw from. Honestly, I think when you’re in the closet hiding yourself and denying, you don’t get a chance to kiss anybody. You can’t really write love songs, because you never really experienced it. So the answer is yeah. I think I was writing general songs before that were just tacky. Once I came out and experienced everything, I had subjects that I could put into the words. All of this had greater meaning after that.
Sometimes your lyrics are kind of “dark,” yet the instrumental portions of your songs are happy. Are you a positive or negative type of person?
I’m a positive person. A lot of the darkness is not about things that are dark subjects. It’s making sure I cover all the bases. With anything, even a happy day, there is always a little roughness around the edges. Take Broadway, like one of those old musicals where everybody is just happy all the time. There’s no depth to it. So I want to make sure that there’s an extra layer of depth in there. I guess that’s why they say I have a dark side.
Do you ever intend to play Fire Island?
Honestly, we went there for the first time last year after living in New York for 20 years.
OK, I’m taking your gay card.
I know, I know. I thought it was great; it was a lot of fun. I’ve always loved the city. Even when I moved here people would ask where I went for the summer. I told them I just moved here, and I don’t want to go anywhere but here. I just love it. On summer days I’d rather bike ride up and down the river than lay out in the sun. There’s a small club of people like me that have never gone out.
Yes, Derek, but it’s very small, really small. When you’re riding the streets of NYC on your bicycle, what do you think of besides surviving?
That’s actually been when I come up with some of the catchier tunes and some of the lyrics. It’s kind of like biking or anything of that nature—it’s stress relieving, and also you get the wind in your hair, and it’s good. I try not to listen to music, for one thing. I don’t want a car to get in the way, but I want to make sure that my brain is open to come up with new ideas, and I’m much more creative in a situation like that. So if I start humming something catchy, I’ll pull over and record it. Actually, five songs from the CD started on my bicycle, including the title track.
The title track, “Bicycling in Quicksand,” is my favorite. Anyway, so what do you like so much about Stevie Nicks?I guess I kind of fell into her when I was real young. It was kind of fun in the ‘80s to like somebody that not everyone loved. It’s like when you’re gay, you have your own closet, your special world, your own artist that you don’t have to share with everybody else. I loved how different and rough she sounded. I just loved how she dressed. I always wanted to incorporate those elements into my music. I like that she’s 66 and still putting out good music, and it shows that there’s no age in terms of writing good songs and doing well. I find her a good role model.
If your life were a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
Both these two albums I have are written about my life.
You’re standing in a store window naked and holding a sign. What does the sign say?
“Please bring me clothes (and make sure they’re really great).” When I have a show I really wanna try and look good. I just don’t get it when people go up on stage in a baggy ass shirt and jeans. That’s a great moment for you; you should really put more effort into it.
I’ve seen some of your fashions. Where do you get your clothes? I love them.
If I see something, I grab it. A lot of it is scarves. I don’t care if it’s a woman’s scarf or a men’s scarf. I like the scarf thing. It’s kind of my Stevie Nicks thing.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I do, I do—especially if they’re hot. I definitely feel that two can have a connection. Of course I think that love at first sight is actually lust at first sight, but it’s the talking and the conversation and all that stuff, and if the spark continues…
Do you have a favorite bar in Manhattan?
You know, this is just gonna sound really lame, but it’s not a gay bar. It’s not even a fun bar. My favorite thing to do is have drinks out on the pier on the Hudson River. I love to sit there when the sun is setting in the summer. That’s my favorite time of the year.
You’re a new addition to a crayon box. What color are you?
No, it’s got to be a new color.
Leather. Is leather a color?
It is now. How about fuschia leather?
I don’t know if I could pull that off. That might be too much for me.
That would be so hot. Anything else you’d like to promote for yourself?
I’ve got the party in April. I’ve got the tour starting I think May 10. I’ve got my new video, which I just love: “Baggage.” We filmed that in the apartment one hot winter day. We didn’t have a lot of money, so I said, “Let’s just put up a screen and flash a lot of colors around,” and it worked. Just check out the music. I’m so proud of it, and I want people to give it a chance. It’s kind of hard to classify. It’s a little different than that boom, boom classical dance album. I just wanna talk about the music. Check out the stuff on my website. Lots of new things coming in the next few months.