Interview: Woodpigeon

Woodpigeon - Photo by Marta Wilkosz

Woodpigeon - Photo by Marta Wilkosz

Woodpigeon may be a Canandian band, but the man behind it, Mark Hamilton, has roots and a history that extend much further – across continents even.

One only need to look to his last album, 2010’s “Die Stadt Muzikanten,” to see an example. Here, Hamilton returned to his German-Austrian roots, and spent some time working in Berlin, a city which transported him back in time, tugging at the heartstrings of his nostalgia.

“It still feels like the most artistically, kind of, alive city that I’ve been to,” he said, a fondness tingeing his voice.

It was in this course of writing the songs that later came to be the album’s 15 tracks that Hamilton stepped away from his highly-personal method of writing, instead taking on new personas and functioning as a storyteller.

This was perhaps the only way for him to properly connect his present self with his past, but in the time since the album’s release, Hamilton has once again returned to the place of himself as, well, himself.

“I’ve returned to speaking solely for myself,” he said, stating that in hindsight, the record felt a bit too detached for his liking. “I think no matter who you’re singing through, you’re still singing about yourself anyway…[so] to keep my sanity, I needed to pull back.”

The result of this pulling back is a new album, one which will be likely be out in February or March of next year.

“I finished the new record two days ago…and then I hopped directly on a plane,” the 33-year-old said, speaking Monday afternoon from a flat in Scotland.

Now begins an approximately two-month-long tour, with a lot of staggering between performances, and, for the most part, Hamilton taking the stage on his own.

“It’s just me and some loop machines, so sometimes it sounds like lots of me,” he said laughing. “But it’s pretty, I mean it’s really like cushy, you know?”

He elaborated, explaining that 2011 has been more about focusing on playing solo and allowing himself to be a little bit vulnerable, a little bit more exposed.

“This whole year has been about touring solo, to just meet new people and bring the songs to people…I actually find it more comforting to play it solo…there’s a joy to that,” he said. “I think in the past I always, kind of, maybe, not that I was hiding, but there was an element of layering things up, you know? But now, now it’s trying to make things speak for themselves.”

The actual writing process for Hamilton incorporates this idea as well, and he admitted that each album typically consists of about 80% him playing on the track, and 20% other members.

But that involvement of other instrumentalists is one of the main ideas surrounding the Woodpigeon project. In fact, throughout the tenure of the band – which once boasted 14 members and now has eight – Hamilton estimated that there have actually been more than 70 musicians who have contributed to the project.

“Everything that’s changed has never really been like a conscious sort of chosen thing. I mean, the people that I started playing music with were all friends and we were just doing it as an adventure. We had no aspirations,” he said. “[But] it was always in the back of my mind that there was always going to be different people playing different songs.”

Hamilton also said the gradual transformation songs undergo and the way in which the song ideas in his head become a reality is one of the bigger payoffs of that collaboration.

“Essentially every record also gets made twice, so with every record there’s also a solo record version of it too, and that’s the version that gets made first,” he explained. “[And] one of the most amazing things is when you start layering things on recordings and you hear all the parts finally working together.”

Yet even having to narrow down the most satisfying thing about Woodpigeon is difficult for Hamilton.

“I’m actually totally in love with every single step…it’s all overwhelmingly pro,” he said. “I get to do these magical things and meet people that I really admire…it still blows my mind every time I go somewhere and people want to listen to this stuff. I’m just always so grateful and amazed.”

Woodpigeon plays Friday at Wasserturm Kreuzberg in Berlin, as part of the weekend-long Indie Pop Days. The show begins at 19.00.

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