The next time you’re riding the HSR and the cell-phone junkie in the seat beside you won’t knock it off, remember: it’s OK to laugh.
That's the message singer-songwriter Yitka Karlik is looking to send with her cheeky new song Wonderbus #2 and its equally over-the-top music video.
A brassy, boozy-sounding tune, it satirizes the sometimes-dreary task of taking the HSR, likening the experience to visiting a “zoo” on wheels.
But instead of finding caged fauna, sings Karlik, you encounter species of a different sort: kids in clunky strollers, Java junkies clutching their brews “just like black trophies,” unwashed riders, and stressed-out drivers working to contain the chaos.
But Karlik says the song is meant with love and was inspired by her years using public transit.
“I think all these situations are everywhere around the world,” she told CBC Hamilton during a Friday interview. “I think I have a good sense of humour and I wanted to lighten up the situation.”
Born in what’s now the Czech Republic, Karlik says she regularly rode buses and streetcars in her home country and has spent many hours navigating the HSR in 22 years since she moved to Hamilton.
The song’s title is a reference to bus service’s Route 2, which runs along Barton Street East from Stoney Creek to James Street North before veering south towards downtown Hamilton.
“That’s the main bus I took for six years to get to work,” said Karlik, a hairdresser by day. “I met nice people, I made friends and my neighbours were taking the bus all the time.”
With a little help from those friends — and from filmmakers Nathan Fleet and Ingelbert Lievaart — Karlik has translated Wonderbus #2’s carnival-esque vibe into a music video for the track.
Karlik chartered a city bus for the shoot and enlisted dozens of friends and acquaintance to bring the musician’s vision alive. (Her husband David is the video's HSR driver, a role he plays in real life.)
“I wanted to make people feel important and to create memories down the road,” Karlik said. “Now everybody who’s in it has memories forever for their children and grandchildren.”
At least one local celebrity to make an cameo in the clip is Jed ‘The Dancing Guy’ Lifeson, who has become renowned for shuffling musically down Hamilton sidewalks to get himself from Point A and Point B.
Karlik has released two English-language albums, 2006’s Contradiction and 2010’s Diplomatic Dream. But Wonderbus #2 stands out among her regular, more “emotional” fare.
“I wanted to bring something positive to people,” she said.
“That was the only intention, to bring people joy and laughter.”
Wonderbus #2 is available to download on Karlik's Bandcamp page.