Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Songs of Canadian road trips

Woodpigeon's Mark Hamilton says the group's new album was inspired by West Coast family trips

Mark Hamilton
Wistful and nostalgic, Woodpigeon’s songwriter and singer Mark Hamilton says he can’t help but give in to his romanticism and love of travel.
“I’m a wanderer,” says Hamilton, who, along with the other seven members of the band, is releasing a digital EP, For Paolo, on Jan 24 via Boompa Records. The album explores love and memory, paying homage to road trips Hamilton took with his family as a child.
Hamilton, who was raised in Calgary, keeps a base there and in Vienna. “The past five years I’ve spent half the year in Europe and half in Canada.”
Hamilton recalls the long stretch of Prairies and never-ending sky between Calgary and Vancouver.
“Every summer we took the same route to Vancouver and back again. Every second year we would add on Seattle, and on alternating years we would go instead to Victoria,” he says. “My parents have always enjoyed this trip, and so it became an annual event for us growing up. I have a lot of memories of being in the family truck, pulling our small trailer behind us. A lot of them are related to small mishaps: waking up with hornets on my bare legs, not closing a window fast enough while loading onto a ferry and getting covered with water.”
But it’s not these memories, or the gorgeous scenery, seascapes and mountain peaks, that have stayed most with Hamilton all these years; it’s the cassettes his family listened to on the road.
“I really do remember the music tapes that we’d listen to, as it was always the same box of cassettes that came with us, and very seldom was anything added to the routine listen. There’s one ’60s one-hit-wonder tape that I’d love to listen to again, as there’s some supposed hits on there I’ve never heard anywhere else, and when I’ve tried singing them to people, no one has any idea what I’m singing.”
Hamilton’s own work with Woodpigeon spans five full-length albums.
The second track on For Paolo, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Mark,” is a haunting song with soaring harmonies. “I just want to be one of the mindless happy; I just want to be one of the oh so lucky,” he sings.
“We’re part of the generations immediately above and below us that seem somewhat disenfranchised with the world. I think that in the age of Facebook and Twitter, struggle and longing grow even stronger,” he says. “It’s harder to feel those sorts of true connections with people through a computer screen.”
Hamilton says that while in Vienna he wanders the city with his jaw wide open, cycling, reading and letter writing at his favourite spot at Café Speri, once frequented by Freud.
He suspects the next Woodpigeon album will be inspired by the city of dreams.