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Woodpigeon Migrates: Canada to Vienna

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Mark Hamilton, part of the Canadian Woodpigeon collective, has been touring with Jose Gonzalez's band Junip of late. The bewitching folk-pop is delicate and catchy -- the sort of music you'd be listening to on a bleak November evening with hot-dogs and camp fires.

I met up with Hamilton to get his take on the controversial Canadian prime minister, gay lyricism and life in Vienna.

Rachel Preece: You have previously stated that you hide your frustrations in quite delicate, pretty songs -- how come?

Mark Hamilton: I guess that we all rage in different ways. As for the content of the songs, however, it's not just frustration -- it's hope, romance, life, death, happiness, disgust, and all the rest of it. That it comes out delicate and pretty most of the time perhaps just speaks to the only way I've really figured out how to make music so far... Living in Vienna at the moment, I'm certainly developing a taste for the more beautiful things tinged with a darker side.

RP: You have written a fascinating blog response to the now infamous Aguirre-Livingston piece "Dawn of a New Gay." The general consensus seemed to be that the author had a fairly valid argument about the situation for homosexuals right now, if he were to talk about his own experiences, but it was irresponsible to lend his voice to gay people as a whole. Have you dealt with the topic of homosexuality in your songs?

MH: Every love song I've ever written (or every song I've written from a first-person autobiographical perspective) has been written as a gay person. The most direct collection of songs from a distinctly gay point of view, however, is BALLADEER: To all the Guys I've Loved Before. I honestly wouldn't know how to sing or write honestly from any other perspective, really...

RP: What are your views on controversial Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

MH: I think we should also take to heart the words written by Jack Layton before his death earlier this year and fight for Canada as the great nation it truly has, and can once again be.

But above all, I think it's most important that Canadians and other citizens of the world make the effort to stay informed on what the Stephen Harper government is doing (as it's important to do so with any government in power). Information is the most important tool we have to make sure our leaders are doing the jobs we've voted them in to do. I certainly didn't vote for Harper, but now that he's here, we as a nation's people need to keep watch and make sure our voices do get heard over the din of what's happening. Whether that's occupying Calgary's Olympic Plaza or holding up folded paper signs during parliamentary functions, the act of informed dissent and questioning of those in power is what's important.

RP: Your latest release is called Fra le Nuvole -- why the Italian reference to clouds?

Fra le Nuvole is a collection of some EP tracks put together with a pair of brilliant graphic design artists (Elyron) based in Torino. The Italian title seemed fitting -- a reference to daydreaming, which is similar to the mindset in which the songs were primarily written. Without the pressure of a capital-A 'Album' to put them on, it was a rather dreamy experience to just sit and play them without any pre-conceived notions of what their function would eventually be.

RP: You recorded the album both in Calgary and in Stockholm -- why did you split the location?

MH: My good friend Hampus Noren lives in Stockholm and we'd often spoken of making music together. I sang back-up on one of his songs ('No Song' by The Second Band) and he recorded and co-wrote 'Music for the Naturally Unhip' on Nuvole with me. I wish I could say there was some exciting plan for recording in Stockholm, but it was really just an organic afternoon where we realized we finally had some time to get something done... And so it was.

RP: You're now based in Vienna -- why the change?

MH: Love and romance and all that mess.

RP: The music scene in Vienna is pretty good, have any bands caught your eye?

MH: I've looked at a few things that look quite interesting, but haven't really had the chance to go out to any shows other than Little Scream at the Vienna Waves Festival. Once I'm a little more settled, I'll make my way out of the flat for some shows a little more often, I'm sure.

RP: You've travelled extensively; do you have a favourite city?

MH: Whenever I'm asked this question, Edinburgh automatically springs to mind... But today I'm also going to mention Riga, because I haven't been quite so blown away by a city in ages. And wow -- I just had a first tour through Spain, and Murcia, Bilbao, and Barcelona are really quite impressive places. I guess I also disagree with part of the question as I know I've seen quite a nice part of Europe, but I've never made it to Asia, Africa, or South America... Still quite a lot of the world left to see.

RP: What does the future hold for Woodpigeon?

MH: Just now I'm finishing the mixes for the next album which will come out at some point next year. It's sounding good, so I'm quite excited to put it out there.