Sled Island: Woodpigeon soaring to new heights
After tons of time spent touring across Europe, Woodpigeon, led by Mark Andrew Hamilton return to a festival close the group’s heart. Hamilton recently spoke with The Reflector:
Reflector: Woodpigeon is quite popular in Calgary. Does that add pressure to the band to succeed and set an example for the those that look up to you guys?
Hamilton: We’ve had an interesting couple of years where we play London, England far more than we play here at home. Our last big Calgary show was this past October! In terms of any sort of pressure, I don’t really feel that sort of thing coming towards us from our Calgary friends. I think Calgary’s a very proud city when it comes to musicians doing good — one of my favourite moments last year was going to see WOMEN and Chad VanGaalen play at the Borderline in London. I’d played at St. Giles’ Church with Andrew Bird the night before, and then here were some familiar faces playing brilliantly in a packed room. I think it’s also a pretty big thing that Calgary’s got four spots on this year’s Polaris Music Prize longlist, and that that sort of thing is just going to increase.
R: For those that have never been to a Woodpigeon show but are thinking about checking you at Sled Island, how would you describe your show? Where do your major influences come from? How many members of your huge group will be at Sled Island?
H: I believe we’ll have eight folks playing at Sled Island this year. As for what to expect, seeing as we haven’t really played to Calgary in almost nine months, our set’s composed of some all-new songs we’ve not played to anyone anywhere, and a couple of complete top-to-bottom re-constructions of some early tunes that don’t sound anything like they do on the records. As for major influences, if you’re speaking in terms of influence over performance and what I’m doing when I’m on-stage, I have to admit my mind’s pretty blank there. If I could list my primary influence as ‘putting my fingers in the right place and hoping I hit the notes with my voice,’ then I definitely would.
Sled Island Spotlight
Show: Thursday, June 25th @ Central United Church — 09:00 p.m. — All Ages
Band website: www.woodpigeon-songbook.com
R: What has Sled Island done for the music scene in Calgary in just two short years of existence? What’s your personal experience with the festival?
H: I’ve been involved with Sled Island from the start. I was the guest curator of the festival’s first year, and Woodpigeon played with The Constantines at The Grand Theatre. Last year, curated by Spiral Stairs, we appeared alongside Grizzly Bear and Kris Ellestad at the Central United Church, where we’re playing again this year with Mt. Eerie. Phil Everum of Mt. Eerie stayed with me in Edinburgh a few years ago, and I’ve been trying to get him to come to Calgary ever since I returned here. Finally the planets have aligned, so it will be great to see him play again. I think Sled Island’s brought a level of excitement and community to Calgary — the poster show kick-off at artLife and the all ages kick-off at Cantos were both busy and buzzing, and rather beautiful experiences.
R: What was it like touring through Europe?
H: Our European experiences are always rather stellar. We’re flying out again in three weeks for our third UK/European tour this year so far (we’ve already done one in February and another in May). I’ve actually lost count as to how many times Woodpigeon’s toured overseas, but know for certain we’ve toured Canada a grand total of 0 times in comparison. In terms of impact, I didn’t much consider those sorts of things, and I still don’t. We’re a group of friends from the Canadian prairies who make records in little studios with people we like playing with. Everything else that’s happened has been such a complete surprise and adventure that it would be impossible to question or analyze it like that.
R: How rewarding was it to make the Polaris Music Prize Longlist?
H: It’s been a pretty interesting experience, to say the least. At first, it’s easy to think, ‘Oh. OK. We made a list of 40 other albums,’ which seems pretty lengthy. It’s when you start thinking about all of the albums with far higher profiles than ours that didn’t make the list where it gets a little heavier. Enough critical minds in Canada voted for our album within their top five records from last year. It’s a nice compliment to receive. I suppose it’s grown on a few people since it’s release, and that’s a nice feeling.
R: Are you looking forward to other bands on the lineup on Thursday like Rural Alberta Advantage and Mt. Eerie?
H: Absolutely. Mt. Eerie’s been a personal songwriting hero for ages now, and I’ve heard very good things about the Rural Alberta Advantage. Lest we forget, Knots is starting off the show, and I think Neal Moignard’s a local genius. If I was asked for my Polaris List top five, I’d have his new record on there indeed.