This past August, at Peter Breeze’s live concert at the Sunset Beach Pride Festival, one of his female fans screamed non-stop for the entire length of his first single “Boy.”
If her lungs and enthusiasm are any indication, Peter Breeze is going to be a star.
He’s just about to drop his first full-length album and is planning its release to coincide with his 23rd birthday on Nov 11.
So, really, only two questions remain: how big a star is Breeze going to be and how soon?
Breeze sings. He has danced for Queen Elizabeth II. He also spent some time in Hollywood and has made a name for himself in Vancouver’s indie film scene. Not bad for a 22-year-old queer boy from Calgary.
Breeze took a night off his hectic recording schedule to meet up with me in his manager’s Yaletown apartment a few weeks ago. When asked what all the hype is about, Breeze explains, “The reason why I’m so excited to get my music out there is because I want to show the community something that doesn’t really exist right now. Instead of us dancing to a female singing about a boy they want so bad, it can be a gay male singing about a boy they want so bad.
“It’s about gay men acting, singing and dancing as gay men.
I have an opportunity to take the community to a whole new level in terms of music and I’m going to make it work.”
Though articulate and well spoken, Breeze doesn’t need to open his mouth to get your attention. Most people can get a sense of what he’s about just by looking at him: young, fresh and irreverent.
He even has the word “untouchable” tattooed on his right wrist, a suitable statement given where he hopes he’s headed and what he seems to be capable of.
Even in his downtime, he’s still dressed to turn heads. Wearing black skinny jeans, Nirvana shirt and a printed Stussy hat with rainbow stencilling, he has presence to spare.
He also has an easy-going way of talking that would put the typical standoffish Vancouverite to shame.
The only thing we didn’t see eye to eye on was his height.
He told me he’s 5’11” which, for the record, makes me about 6’4.”
And yes, Peter Breeze is his real name, though technically he is Peter Breeze II. Named after his father, who was a dance teacher and singer, Breeze comes by his musical and performing gifts naturally.
“You could say my father is an inspiration,” Breeze says. “For me creativity has always been organic. I write the lyrics to all my songs.
“Great producers are an important part of the process,” he adds. “Collaborating with local producers like Sugar Boy and Armstrong Jr has helped me make the music I’ve always wanted to make.”
Breeze moved to Vancouver two years ago for film school, where he studied acting. “I learned a lot about myself. The things I believed about myself were reaffirmed and a lot of questions I had were answered.”
When he wasn’t in school, Breeze was a regular fixture in clubland, where he earned a reputation for his no-hold-bars dancing.
“Nightlife is different for everyone. When I walk into a club I finally feel like my environment is matching what’s going on in my head. It’s chaotic and it’s loud and it’s fun,” Breeze explains. “I’ve always sort of looked at going out as a job in a weird way and I’ve always been adamant about going out, not because I didn’t like what my life was but because I loved it so much and I found something that inspired me.”
Despite his relative youth, he’s been out and unapologetically gay for years. “I came out partway in Grade 10,” he explains. “There was an older guy who was pursuing me and I remember saying, ‘I’m not gay, I’m not gay’ and then I realized that maybe I was.
“I didn’t come out all the way until Grade 12. For me, it wasn’t about a personality trait, it was about loving men. That was five years ago and I haven’t looked back since.”
As for influences, Breeze explains, “I’m not as inspired from music as I am from personalities. I’m more inspired by Andy Warhol, Courtney Love and Michael Alley because of the people they are but not necessarily because of the sound they created.”
When pressed, he admits, “Right now I’m listening to Jay Brannan, a gay singer songwriter from Manhattan. He has the most amazing songs. His voice is incredible.”
He tries to avoid comparing himself to other acts and believes that who he is sets him apart from other musicians. “My music reflects me, which is why it stands out. I am Peter Breeze and nobody else is.”
When asked if he’s modelling his career after other queer stars, frustration temporarily makes Breeze’s voice sound hard.
“I would like to say I had a million, but I don’t even have one. This is part of the reason why I am so driven to enter the entertainment industry. I’ve looked for gay role models my whole life but they aren’t out there.”
He butts his cigarette out with a series of stabbing motions.
“Jake Gyllenhaal was recently voted to be a number one gay icon. Why? Because he’s hot? Because he played a homo? Where’s the actor who’s gay who can play the gay role? I think the entertainment industry in general is lacking a strong, in-your-face gay performer. That’s what motivates me.”
He has some advice for young queer artists who are looking to make it big without compromising who they are. “I spent so much of my time arguing [with] people who told me that if I wanted to be successful, I had to learn how to be straight. Once I embraced the fact that I was gay, and I could use it to my advantage and people would accept it, was when my career reached a turning point and things started to really happen for me.
“Don’t be afraid to identify yourself as gay, make music or films that are gay, talk about being gay or write about being gay because it is something that needs to be done.”
The question remains, is he just a party kid with a microphone?
“I know I’m talented and I have something to say,” he laughs. “If people want to say that I’m a club kid with a microphone, I don’t care. That part of me is what got me here.”