SoundTown Series: Catching up with the New Pornographers

Categories: Interview

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The New Pornographers are one of those bands that seem like they will just quietly endure, continually putting out quality from the indie-pop front lines. Since the 2010 release of their fifth studio album, Together, various members of the Canadian supergroup (a term which the band seems to pointedly eschew) have all been staying busy. Gimme Noise caught up with songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Carl Newman over the phone to chat about what he's got in the works and what it was like to pull in friend Will Sheff (Okkervil River) on his last album.


Your last album, Together, came out last May. Anything in the works right now for the New Pornographers, group or solo stuff?

I'm trying to write a bunch of stuff right now... that's pretty much what I've been doing. I'm just starting to write lyrics, so we'll see. It's just a musical thing. I've always noticed that when I start writing the songs it becomes more personal because it makes more sense.

Your last album featured a cast of super-talented contributors, like Will Sheff of Okkervil River--who's also playing SoundTown.

Yeah, I mean, it was funny because he basically came in as an afterthought and on the song "Moves"--Song 1--I was gonna do the vocals, and then he came through [the studio] to say hello, and we put him in the vocal booth and that whole thing took about half an hour. Most of the time I've spent with Will has been just hanging out, but it was interesting. I sang with [Okkervil River] when they played on Fallon, and the night before I sang with them in rehearsal. It's interesting to see how bands work... Every other band seems way more professional than us. I always feel like we're amateurs, but then other people feel like that, too. I remember Tad from the Hold Steady when he was like, "You guys seem so professional!" and I just laughed at him.

Are you looking at collaborating with anyone new on any upcoming projects? Is there anyone in particular you'd like to work with?

There's lots of people I would love to work with, but personally, I've always been very solitary in the way I've worked, so I don't know if I'd be a very good collaborator. I think it would be a very good idea, but even with people I like... I just think I'm very controlling about my own record. Plus, I'm afraid that if I let someone into my inner circle, they'll discover I have no idea what I'm doing, and then the jig is up, you know? (laughs)

You guys have been doing this for a while now--officially, since 1997. How do you feel your music has evolved?

That's a tough question. I mean, I think it's evolved so naturally that I don't even notice myself evolving. I think we just get more confident in what we do, I suppose. But I don't know, if you made me listen to all five of my records in a row and then throw in my solo records, I wouldn't know what to think. I don't know if I'd find a pattern... the pattern would be me I suppose.

I get that. At the same time, you guys have seen a lot of changes--from the band itself to the music industry and the way things work. How do you make sure your soul is being fed by what you do?

I don't know, I mean... we've never become super huge, so I think to a certain degree we're still kind of hungry. I think some bands they become so huge and make millions of dollars that they think, "Why am I doing this anymore?" But I think like any other musician, this is what we do for a living, and we remember how lucky we are that we get to do this, and never take it for granted. We just try and write songs and record them and hope that people still like us.

What's your favorite part of performing?

I like how performing live in front of people, it transforms your songs into something different. You know, sometimes when I write a song it just seems like a bunch of words and chords, and then when you play in front of people, it has a life of its own, and I like that. It's always a strange feeling. I remember making that leap from audience member to guy on stage, and that was such a strange line to cross. It still feels very surreal to me, and that's cool. I still feel very nervous about it... and I'm more nervous now than ever, I think maybe because I care so much more now.

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