It was musical love at first sight when Kathryn Calder of New Pornographers and Mark Andrew Hamilton, aka Woodpigeon, met in a studio some time in 2015. The result is the duo’s new collective, Frontperson, whose album Frontrunner comes out Sept. 21. Today, the video for the track “Long Night,” starring the transgender Montreal artist Tranna Wintour, premieres below.
“It was just like this conversation you casually have with somebody that turns into a real project,” Calder tells Billboard, while Hamilton adds that, “I remember talking to (Calder) for 10 minutes or something and we said, ‘We should make a record together. Yay!'”
The bi-coastal duo — Hamilton in Montreal, Calder in Victoria, B.C. — began trading songs, which Hamilton calls “audio postcards,” during 2016 and convened to record Frontrunner last year with producer Colin Stuart at the National Music Centre studio in Calgary, as well as musicians who work with groups such as Peach Pyramid, Dojo Workhorse, Raleigh and nehiyawak. It also features a guest appearance on “Postcards From a Posh Man” by former Iron Butterfly keyboardist John Leimseider, who curates the National Music Centre’s keyboard collection.
“Leading up to it I wanted to make a dance record and Kathryn was, ‘I want to make a folk record’ — and we made something that’s at times neither of those things and at times both of those things,” says Hamilton, who adds that the collaboration overall has been “so easy. I can’t remember having a disagreement or argument about anything. It’s just been fun and laughing and doing great songs.”
Calder initially had “a ’60s British psychedelic-folk direction in mind” for “Long Night,” which took on a more chill flavor with the addition of synthesizers and drum machines. “It turned into this hybrid song,” Calder recalls. “There’s weird little sounds all over it, which really changed the atmosphere.” With Calder open to visual interpretation ideas, it was Hamilton’s suggestion to bring in Wintour. “She’s kind of like a mother figure here in Montreal,” he says. “She does a lot of things for the queer community and the trans community, and I thought about how much fun it would be to make Tranna look as beautiful as possible and give her her Mariah Carey moment. I think it’s something really fun to watch and captures the song really well.”
It’s also not an issue with Calder or Hamilton that the video doesn’t really tell viewers anything specifically about Frontperson. “I think how a band is represented unfolds over the course of time,” Calder says. “I think you’ll be able to take a collection of all of our videos and that will kind of be who we are and what we are. We’re kind of this collection of ideas and people and filmmakers and musicians, and a video doesn’t necessarily have to be this very cohesive, focused thing that really makes a statement about who we are — although I think the (“Long Night”) video does make a statement about who we are.”
Frontperson will play shows in Quebec and Ontario, including the Pop Montreal festival, at the end of September and are currently working on other live dates. Meanwhile Calder and Hamilton consider it to be a going concern, with, Hamilton says, “lots of songs” that didn’t make it onto Frontrunner and more being added regularly. “Kathryn is the most diplomatic rejecter of songs I’ve ever met,” Hamilton notes. “But there are always more songs. There’s one kind of proggy, metal thing we were trying to work out, and plenty of other ideas. We’ll see what surfaces in the next movement. I’m confident we won’t be run out of things to do.”