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The New Pornographers: Rise to fame

Rise to fame

Family connection
Photo: Erica Henderson

The New Pornographers prove they have staying power

There are certain things musicians just don’t do well. Getting up early is one of them. But Carl "A.C." Newman is visiting his parents in B.C., and, as such, my 10 a.m. phone call has his clock saying 7 in the morning. He’s surprisingly ready to go.

"I’m still on East Coast time, so it’s okay, but I’ve actually been training myself to get up earlier – my girlfriend works at Matador and she gets up early to go to work and I feel guilty just lying around." Newman, the main brain behind the sprawling body of the many-legged indie beast that is The New Pornographers, has been calling New York home for the last half year, but maintains a necessary connection to Canada’s West Coast. We discuss the phenomenon of geographical branding when talking about his group and a certain Montreal "wolf" band whose members are all from Victoria.

"I’ll claim Wolf Parade as being West Coast. I mean, you move somewhere for a couple years, and all of sudden, if you do well, that city wants to claim you. But that’s sort of like me saying that I’m now a New Yorker."

One could see the interest in wanting to claim The New Pornos as one’s own these days, since their latest album Twin Cinema has been called the best pop album of 2005 by many and has done exceptionally well. Meaning that on top of garnering more of the critical acclaim they have always received (for their 2000 debut Mass Romantic and 2003′s Electric Version), they are currently selling a shitload of records.

"With Electric Version we sold 5,000 in the first week and we thought that was a lot of records. With Twin Cinema, apparently we sold something like 22,000 in a week, which was a number we couldn’t even understand." As both preceding albums have been strong, I ask if there’s something about this album, or conversely the current music climate, that he thinks may have been responsible.

"You know, I think we’ve just had a normal career arc and things have just been building. But no, I’m not exactly sure why this one is doing so well. Sometimes things just take on a life of their own and start building momentum. Or maybe it was the Internet." I venture that perhaps it’s because they’ve taken their time releasing albums, instead of just churning them out. "Well, if you count all my solo releases [FYI: Newman's Juno-nominated The Slow Wonder is not to be missed], I have sort of been churning them out." Newman, playfully, is not making this easy.

All right. Perhaps it’s because the group’s membership reads like a who’s who of West Coast musicians (as instructed, I didn’t say "supergroup"). From Dan Bejar of Destroyer (who Newman gleefully informs me is on the cover of this month’s Fader) to John Collins of The Evaporators and Kurt Dahle of Limblifter and Age Of Electric, there is no shortage of talent involved. A more recent addition was Kathryn Calder of Immaculate Machine, who was brought on board for the album and upcoming tour to first complement and then replace the very busy Neko Case, who is about to release her latest solo album. Calder, it turns out, shares a somewhat convoluted familial connection.

"A little while ago I found out I had a sister that I didn’t know about, and she had two kids. I knew the daughter was into music, but it was John [Collins], actually, who saw her band play and then put two and two together. I didn’t think there was any way it could work, but it turns out it does."

In summation: Who knows exactly why The New Pornographers work, but they do. And, holy shit, I can’t believe some people start every day this early.

The New Pornographers
With Belle & Sebastian
At Métropolis, Feb. 26

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  3 comments

  • by Max Webster - February 23, 2006, 3:18 pm

    What’s hard to figure out about the popularity of the New Pornographers? Listening to them gives you an audio sugar high with all those big, fat, sweet hooks. And then they get their indie cred from having those whacked out videos. I still adore the one for their cover of Toronto’s “Your daddy don’t know” — you know, with Neko looking every bit the Stevie Knicks with the teased hair and hat.

  • by Zachary Masoud - February 24, 2006, 7:36 pm

    Belle and Sebastian with The New Pornographers opening up, that will surely be an absolute recipe for instant success. The only thing is, I personally like The New Pornographers a little more but I understand that Belle and Sebastian’s seniority is what’s the cause for their headlining.

    The New Pornographers are truly one of the best bands in the indie scene. What makes them great is their absolutely special sound which you could only get by listening to their music. Their music is quite fun to listen to and has you moving a little and the lyrics are absolutely perfect. This is a great band which all should give a chance and if possible, check out this show!

  • by Mark St Pierre - February 26, 2006, 7:46 pm

    These guys are really something special – a true West Coast supergroup. Just look at their membership – Don Bejar from Destroyer, Neko Case, Kurt Dahle of Limblifter fame – the list goes on and on. The last time they played our fair city – a mere matter of months ago at La Tulipe – they completely blew the roof off of the joint with their eclectic pop pastiche – every member bringing something slightly different to the equation – from the velvety smooth and sultry vocal stylings of the beautiful Neko Case to Dan Bejar’s more guttural lilt. I only wish that the show wasn’t so totally sold out as I wouldn’t be here in front of a computer bemoaning my misfortune!!!

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