Frontperson’s Kathryn Calder and Mark Andrew Hamilton discuss the ins and outs of their captivating and immersive sophomore album ‘Parade’, a technicolor dream coat of lush sound and vivid warmth.
Stream: “Parade” – Frontperson
The spirit of springtime comes alive on Frontperson’s invigorating sophomore album.
There’s so much more to life than sunshine and rainbows, but our days are short and time is precious: Why not do it all – capture the highs, the lows, the in-betweens – with a tender, loving smile? A musical technicolor dream coat of lush sound and vivid warmth, Parade stays true to its name as a refreshing party for the ears. It’s a captivating celebration that blankets the ears and stirs the soul. Through thick and thin, Frontperson promise a good time for all.
Say it out loud
I watch the words drip out your mouth
And you split your lip with honesty
And then we stood in line all day for the parade
Nothing much left to add
Nothing much left to say
Sometimes you’re left
Sometimes you leave
Tear out the seams
Threading through my mind like a bad dream
A strand of gold shines in the light
It must be almost time to call it for today
Released April 29, 2022 via Oscar Street Records, Parade is an exciting return for Montréal’s Frontperson. The band of Kathryn Calder (vocalist and keyboardist for The New Pornographers) and Mark Andrew Hamilton (AKA Woodpigeon), Frontperson first introduced their lilting sound with 2018’s debut album, Frontrunner. Blending indie pop, folk, alternative, and singer/songwriter stylings together into a delectable melting pot of influence and inspiration, the duo craft invariably sweet, catchy songs that run the gamut of emotion and experience, coming to life with time-tested and listener-approved elegance, grace, and the boldness to do new things.
“I feel like this album is an extension from the last one we made, but also quite different,” Kathryn Calder tells Atwood Magazine. “The last album we made in a museum studio, with all kinds of crazy synths and instruments available to choose from, and this time we made it at my and my husband’s home studio, which was cozy and comfortable, and it felt perfect. For me, this time it was about capturing the time and place I was writing in, at the moment I was writing it. I don’t think I had a particular vision going into this record until I started writing for it. These days I really like using soundscapes to bring out melodies and lyrics, so that’s how I began the process of writing. I was making ambient synth demos, and singing in a stream of consciousness style to those demos, and then I picked through the takes to find what I wanted to keep, what felt exciting and interesting to me to keep working on, and I put the songs together from that. Then, when Mark and I got into the studio together, we built on each other’s songs, and it moved forward in a very easy and effortless way (although of course still tons of work) until we had this current collection of songs.”
“For me, this record feels like an extension and a continuation of the first one, but also demonstrates how much more comfortable and exploratory we are with one another now,” Mark Andrew Hamilton adds. “Very few people get to make records in museums or in a comfortable home setting just a short walk away from the ocean, and when I listen to our two records I can hear both of those places vividly in the music. For me, Frontrunner has an element of wind-up jewelery box fragility and order to it, whereas ‘Parade’ is somewhat messier and wider, sometimes a little less strictly formed. I can hear the ocean in it.”
“I know that I wanted to somehow expand our sound palette while focusing more on a smaller number of instruments, and really exploring those instruments,” he continues. “But I was also happy to feel how somewhat less narrative this record was forming into than the last one, which felt more like very specific short stories whereas this one seems more about certain moods or suggestions of shared experiences. I think if I had any sort of vision for this album it was really to just see what would happen and travel together to wherever we were going to end up. I didn’t really have any preconceived notions about it going in, but I did like how the songs we were writing for this project act as a bit of a call and response to one another.”
Both Calder and Hamilton feel that Parade is more mature and more self-assured as compared to their debut – a testament not only to their growing more comfortable as musicians writing and playing together, but also to their individual and collective growth over these past few years.
“First and foremost, all I can think about is just all of the changes and experiences we’ve had in the last four years — a worldwide pandemic, grad school, babies, breakups, new relationships, and a rather big deal of music we’ve also made with our other projects,” Hamilton reflects. “It doesn’t feel like four years to me, but it feels like many more in a very positive way. I’m so comfortable in this project that it feels like I’ve been in it for the last two decades rather than not even half of one. But I do think personally it’s been a huge period of growth and change for me. Perhaps this will make me sound like an Upper East Side heiress or something, but I found a therapist that fits and I feel so much more self-assured and content than I did even four years ago.”
He continues, “I think that as an album Parade makes a bigger splash from the opening notes than our first record did, even though I have such warm memories and thoughts for that record (like they say, you love all your children equally). But in terms of how it introduces us and captures our artistry, I actually think it does that in a way that’s perhaps somewhat more linked to home and comfortable surroundings. We weren’t in a museum trying to figure out how a 60 year old synth worked only to find out it sounded terrible. We were with instruments we know and love, in a space we’ve both recorded in extensively before. I listen to it and I hear comfort and confidence.”
Calder agrees. “The last album we made was our first album together, and we were still kind of getting to know each other and figuring out how the other person makes music,” she says. “This album had none of that ‘getting to know you’ hesitation and we just took the demos we had written and agreed on and added parts together until it felt finished. I think over the last few years I’ve really settled into my style of writing. Perhaps it will change, but I have learned what works for me, so I can let go of what doesn’t and focus on what does. As a partnership, I think we’ve built up a lot of trust over the last 4 years (also, 4 years?!), so I’m excited to start working on the next thing, and see what we come up with together!”
For me, when I think of this record, I think in sounds, and I think of the sounds and keyboards I was drawn to while making it, which were: Clavinet, Buchla, and Vibraphone.
– Kathryn Calder
The scene is immediately set with; opener “Parade,” a compelling colorblast of a song that, in retrospect, was an all-too obvious pick for album title.
“To me, making a Frontperson album feels sort of celebratory, like a party. So why not call it Parade, and make it a party everyone else is invited to, too?” Calder says. “The song ‘Parade’ is not really about that, the title refers to a feeling of anticipation, waiting and watching something go by that you aren’t directly part of, but a witness to. That’s what I like about calling the album Parade. It has a different meaning to me than the song. It’s both.”
“Throughout recording we kept saying, “Just you wait!” to each other, and at one point I joked that should be the title of the record, but Kathryn demurred – suggesting that a bad review could read, ‘If you’re hoping for a good Frontperson record, well, just you wait!’” Hamilton laughs. “When I first heard ‘Parade’ (the song), I knew it was the opening track. And it makes sense to me that it’s also where the title of the record comes from. After the record was sequenced and sent off and finished, I took another listen to it and by the time it gets to ‘I Fall Out’ it actually kind of sounds like a marching band in a parade too, and I liked that. Also, I like how much the thing just moves, so it also makes sense to name it for something that is a moving mass of people and ideas.”
Parade continues to wind its way through emotional unveilings and vast sonic swells as Frontperson get things underway. They light a soothing fire through the endearing melodies and gentle harmonies of “Messy Roomz,” and before immersing our ears and souls in the mesmerizing “Reach Out” – whose colorful synth work proves as tasteful as it is hypnotic. Highlights abound throughout Parade; driving rock songs like “Calgary ’88” and the impassioned “Tattoo Boy” prove as enchanting and memorable as the kaleidoscopic indie pop indulgence, “I Fall Out.”
“I love Kathryn’s synth utopia on ‘Ostalgie’, and I’m very proud of ’Tattoo Boy’,” Hamilton says on the subject of favorites. “Very, very happy with ‘Visions’ and also ’Table of Contents’ and the Lord of the Rings / Never Ending Story synth solo on ‘Messy Roomz’ will make me smile for the rest of my life. I love Kathryn’s lyrics, and those lines from ‘Visions’ are some of my favourites on the record. I also remember a conversation we had about ‘Reach Out’, which I think has some truly lovely lyrics in it. At one point Kathryn wasn’t sure what it was saying, but when sharing my interpretation of it, particularly the lines, “nothing ever goes the way you want it / despite what they say,” we ended up keeping them as they were. That song makes me think of my mother and her undying love, for some reason, and the wisdom of those lines in particular. Things may not work out, but reach out, it’s OK. As for the lyrics I brought to this album, I can honestly say I’m pretty proud of them and think they hold up. A personal favorite might actually be ‘I Fall Out’’s verses and the lines in the chorus, “don’t count me out / call’s coming from inside the house.”
Calder and Hamilton overlap a bit, but she cites her own standout songs for different reasons. “I really like how ‘Visions’ turned out, how the verse to the chorus moves, and I love ‘Ostalgie,’ how Mark and I trade vocals in a way that feels really fluid,” she says. “I also love the ending of ‘Reach Out,’ how instruments drop off slowly one by one until the end. I love Mark’s lyrics in ‘Tattoo Boy’ and ‘Ostalgie’ – I think they are so beautiful and full of heart. This line in ‘Tattoo Boy’ in particular I love: “My name on your left collarbone, that ink never dries.” I also liked my lyrics in the song ‘Fastest’. I really tried to embody the feeling and memory of being a child, and how sensory that time of life is. Where things are vivid in colours, tastes, feelings and experiences. But as far as specific lines go, one that makes me laugh because it sort of sums up how I feel a lot of the time is from ‘Visions’: “The whole thing makes me feel a little uneasy, then again, what doesn’t?”
There’s truly something to be said for the chills and thrills Frontperson manage to conjure up during Parade‘s 41-minute run.
It’s an album of friendship; of dealing with your own dirty laundry and inner skeletons; of navigating life’s harder moments, and not accepting that you don’ (and you won’t) have all the answer. Frontperson lean into this heavy material with a smile, tackling life’s complex nature on an album that manages to inspire hope and self-confidence in its listeners. As we wrote at the top, there’s so much more to life than sunshine and rainbows, but still, this album shines – giving us an opportunity to bask in the spirit of springtime.
“I hope people love the music, and find some meaning for themselves in the lyrics,” Calder shares. “I hope this music can accompany people in their life, and attach to some fond memory, or get them through something tough. I think that’s what I hope for with all the music I create, that by making it, I hope that others will find something for and of themselves in it too. I’m just grateful that I get to keep making music and writing songs, that I get to make the music I’m inspired to make, and hopefully there will be lots more music in the future.”
I think Kathryn nailed it there,” Hamilton adds. “I’m always grateful for the moments people give us in their ears. I think what I take away from it is a shared confidence drawn from the joy of our collaboration and how it makes me feel working with Kathryn. Sometimes as a musician you can get distracted from what’s important, when you’re bogged down with the logistics and economics of how to release something, but in this project I don’t feel that. Frontperson has really helped me narrow the focus onto the making as the most important part of artistic expression. And I’m looking forward to much more making to come too.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Frontperson’s Parade with Atwood Magazine as Kathryn Calder and Mark Andrew Hamilton go track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their second album!
:: stream/purchase Parade here ::
Stream: ‘Parade‘ – Frontperson
:: Inside Parade ::
“Sometimes relationships get strained, and this song is about trying to find our way back to one another. It’s also a bit about how we spend so much of our time waiting and planning for things to happen in the future, and we often ignore the small moments that actually make up our day. There hadn’t been rain in weeks in B.C.” – Kathryn
“You know how sometimes sounds and bands you hated as a kid are suddenly exactly the sounds you love when you’re older? Growing up I hated Mark Knopfler’s guitar tones and his way of playing, yet for some reason when recording this song came up, I jokingly started playing it like Dire Straits. Kathryn said, ‘Yes that! Do that!’ and that’s how we came to the version on the record. This song has been with me for a while, first as a driving piano thing, then as a folky acoustic thing, but here it’s got a special Dire Straits meets a prog keyboard fantasy thing going on, and it’s one of my favourite things we’ve done yet.” – Mark
“This song is about coming to terms with past disappointments, and wishing things had gone differently but they didn’t. It’s also about wishing you could help someone, but you feel you aren’t really able to do very much. Musically, I had a lot of fun with the demo on this one, trying out some new synth sounds, and together Mark and I turned it into a song that feels like it’s forever slightly falling apart.” – Kathryn
“I grew up in Calgary and the 1988 Olympics were a particularly exciting time, even though this song has absolutely nothing to do with that. With our records, I particularly want to approach the guitar in different ways than I have before, so this song which was originally quite strummy instead became palm-muted in the best throwback way circa-’88. The lyrics range from growing up gay in the prairies to getting felt up by a statute in Vienna, of realizing the place where you shared a pretty magical first romantic moment is in fact a pretty unattractive place in the daylight. I’ve also always struggled with the use of ‘baby’ in a song (although in public, ‘babe’ is so much worse, isn’t it?), so why not make it the whole hinge of a chorus rhyme scheme? I’m in.” – Mark
“Ostalgie (Für C. Bischoff)”
“I love commemorating the people who’ve truly touched my life in song, whether the lyric is a direct tribute to them or their personal characteristics are just a jumping off point for me. C. Bischoff is a truly amazing lifelong friend in Berlin who’s an eternal inspiration to me, in part because she’s also very in touch with the full range of human emotions from light to dark. Thinking of some of our Berlin adventures together while also reading Gunter Grass’ ‘From Germany To Germany’, ‘Ostalgie’ came together. I wanted the lyric to refer to tiny details and small memories that to some people might have seemed inconsequential, but for others make up entire histories. I also like the idea that sometimes people choose to take themselves “off the map” and disappear.” – Mark
“I wrote this one about kids who love to go fast and be first (and who doesn’t?). It’s one of those things about being a kid, you want to be the best, or the fastest, or else it’s no fun. I tried to put that spirit into this song.” – Kathryn
“With Kathryn beside me, things that may be hard to sing about are infinitely easier. ‘Tattoo Boy’ is quite specifically about a rather intense affair with a partnered fellow covered in tattoos. We texted incessantly while I was in Japan, went on a weekend getaway to see Cate Le Bon play in upstate New York, and were somewhat inseparable except when his official boyfriend was in town, at which point I didn’t hear a word from him. I don’t like drama in real life, but I certainly love it in music, so I cut things off and put it all to song to wash my hands of it. Not gonna lie, but I’m pretty proud of the lyrics in this one, and I think of it as a bit of a sequel to ‘He Follows Me’ from our first record. In my songs, I also like tipping my hat to other songs by artists I love, so yes indeed, that “call your boyfriend” line is directly inspired by Robyn’s ‘Call Your Girlfriend’, a song I can still listen to on repeat and get chills from.” – Mark
“Table of Contents”
There were a few images I had in my mind for this song. A memory of my empty apartment before moving to my current home about 10 years ago, which captured the nostalgia of leaving my old home, but also the excitement of moving somewhere new. Another was an image of my cat. She can flatten herself very low to the ground when she’s staking out a place, and becomes absolutely still, trying to be invisible. Memories of late nights working on music, when time becomes a strange experience. You’re very tired, but still with energy to finish your thought. Time seems to move slightly differently, and there’s a particular feeling I can’t really explain that goes with that. A bit psychedelic, I think. The feeling of being in a wide open landscape, feeling small but also peaceful. Flashes of feelings put together into a song.” – Kathryn
“I Fall Out”
“At some point in demoing for this record, I discovered GarageBand on iPhone and tried writing a few things using only the instruments available at my fingertips in the program. ‘I Fall Out’ was a first attempt at programming virtual drum machines and playing string sections on my phone. When it came time to record it, we of course shifted everything over to instruments we played in studio – all except for the solo, which is right from the iPhone. When I started writing lyrics, I thought about what an up piece of music the song was, so why not sing about the act of falling out of love as opposed to in. And it also dawned on me while writing these lyrics that I keep my romantic life pretty far from my social media (I like to think it’s because I’m just a very private person, but I’m sure part of it also has to do with fear), so there’s some comments on that in there too.” – Mark
“I woke up one morning after a boring but stressful dream, which I sometimes have, and wrote the lyrics to this song. These dreams have a pattern, which is that everyone is waiting for me, and there’s some reason why I’m delayed. It’s usually because I’m trying to finish something, or find something, and I can’t, and it just goes on and on in this loop, where I’m just trying to get to where I’m supposed to be and I can’t. The lyrics to this song were a mash up of a few of the more memorable dreams, like the one where I’m late to my wedding, everyone is waiting for me, and I’m late because I can’t find my shoes. I found that one sort of amusing when I woke up.” – Kathryn
:: stream/purchase Parade here ::
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