Guest Blog – Pop songs and pigeons by Karla Kane of The Corner Laughers

Left to right: Charlie Crabtree, Karla Kane, Khoi Huynh, KC Bowman. Photo: APW Photography

The Passenger Pigeon went extinct in 1914, the same year the Great War began. To commemorate the centenary of those two events, my band, The Corner Laughers, has released an ode to the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, in the style of a First World War-era song (but with synthesizers, for no good reason, really).


kkmidsomm1Bassist Khoi Huynh, who wrote “Martha,” has been an avid birder since childhood, when he formed his own group and corresponding publication, the intriguingly titled “Save-the-Birds-Club Bird Club Book of Birds.”

I was voted “most likely to hug a tree” in high school and earned my master’s degree with a dissertation on the California Condor, a bird which came very close to extinction in the 1980s but has since made a comeback of sorts. The California Condor is the topic of another song. We’ve been lucky enough to witness a few condors being released into the wild. We’ve also made the long trip to an annual vulture festival several times and for five years were volunteers with a local wildlife-rescue clinic.

I’d Rather Count Cormorants With You” was inspired by guitarist KC Bowman declaring he’d rather go birding with us than watch the Super Bowl (we prefer the superb owl). Incidentally, KC, all-American boy that he is, named the Bald Eagle as his favorite bird (drummer Charlie Crabtree is partial to penguins).

Birds appear in the artwork of many of our records, illustrated by fellow bird-enthusiast Anna Saccheri. “Poppy Seeds” sports our official state bird, the California Quail, while “Ultraviolet Garden” has a hummingbird. “Tomb of Leopards” has our rock-dove logo and the motto “Be kind to pigeons.” And “Transamerica Pyramid” boasts San Francisco’s famous wild parrots of Telegraph Hill.

We love touring in the UK and when we aren’t on stage you can find us traipsing through parks, searching for birds, foxes, and hedgehogs.
“Midsommar”, the A-side to “Martha,” was partially inspired by one such trip to England. It’ll be part of our next full-length record, too.

We’re midway through recording that album and haven’t yet decided which creature to feature in the artwork this time around. Any suggestions?


Corner Laughers Midsommar Band Photo


20 Replies to “Guest Blog – Pop songs and pigeons by Karla Kane of The Corner Laughers”

  1. Great to hear that birds form such an important part of your lives and your music – not many bands would come up with a song called ‘I’d rather count cormorants with you’!
    You asked for suggestions as to what creature to put on the artwork for your next album and I’d like to propose the Turtle Dove. This species was a quintessential part of the English summer – especially its calling, but has suffered a massive decline and is now absent from many parts of the country and may, like Martha, disappear altogether (at least from this country). It is also a gorgeous looking bird that would grace any album cover.
    Good luck with the album!

    1. Jonathan – and the Turtle Dove is mentioned in the Song of Solomon ‘The song of the turtle is heard in the land’. It is gorgeous.

    2. Thanks, Jonathan! Very sad to hear about the Turtle Dove’s decline. Around here we have mostly Mourning Doves, plus a few aberrant White-winged Doves.

  2. Sadly you don’t need a creature you just need the words ‘Extinct’. If you are ever touring the UK try out the Music on the Marr next to the RSPB reserve of Geltsdale. 90+ breeding species. Going from strength to strength –

  3. Good stuff but not the only song about an extinct animal released this year. Check out ‘Tasmanian tiger’ by Marc Almond – incidentally, another species that we know the precise date of its extinction.

  4. If we’re talking bird inspired bands, then I recommend Shearwater as well. Their album Rook (i kid you not) is superb, and its predecessor Palo Santo (even better) features a cockatoo on the cover.

  5. What a great little tune, with an equally great blog.
    I was so fascinated by the idea of a tune titled “I’d rather count cormorants with you” that i bought a copy of Poppy Seeds from iTunes – it has been playing on repeat for most of the day!!

    Ever thought of writing a song about the Egyptian Vulture?


    1. Thanks very much, Rob! I hope you’re enjoying the music. Strangely enough, I actually did write a song called “Tool-Using Vulture” once, although it hasn’t made it on to any of our official releases.

  6. Sorry about accidentally hitting the “dislike” button. I just wanted to see what it would do, and now I can’t undo it. But I don’t dislike this article at all. I like it very much.

  7. Great yet poignant song! (It would be interesting to hear it with a real new orleans style jazz band, with a bit of sporanao sax, clarinet, trunpet, trombone ensemble improvising part through!). By the way, I’m in a small band called the Cambridge Corncrakes, and we play Louis Jordan’s “Ain’t nobody here but us chickens”, but occaisionally turn it into “Ain’t nobody here but us corncrakes” – another once common bird that is in perilous decline, although subject to a great conservation action and even an innovative reintroduction programme in Eastern England. So, here’s to avoiding more Martha’s!

    1. Humphrey – thanks very much for that. What instrument do you play? And/or do you sing?

      1. It’s a four piece that was formed for the Cambridge Conservation Forum xmas party last year: Josie Chambers vocals (PhD student at Cambridge), Tim Johnson fiddle (WCMC), Pamela Abbott (bass) and me on piano (both Natural England) – so a good cross cultural band! – but we could do with a drummer or other front-line instruments if you know of anybody! also Josie if off to Peru for some time so if you fancy a bit of warbling yourself????

        1. Humphrey – wow! I know three of you then. Unfortunately, I don’t warble I crake – but then, we need more crakes!

          How do I, we, find out where you are playing?

          1. Probably best by following Pamela or my tweets! @pamela_abbott or @HumphreyCrick

            Next Gig on Monday (4th Aug) at Shepreth Wildlife Park for their Tiger Day – which will include leading the singing of Happy Birthday to Amber their 16 year old Tiger!


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