STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Canadian indie rockers The New Pornographers are no strangers to success. Since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, “Mass Romantic” in 2000, the group’s impressive ascent up the U.S. record charts has solidified their standing as one rock and roll’s rising stars.
Their sixth and latest release, “Brill Bruisers,” (2014), their highest charting album so far, has earned The New Pornographers critical praise and commercial success. As Billboard Magazine proclaims, “… the album features the group’s most beautiful, whimsical harmonies yet.” The band has appeared on both “Conan” and “Late Night With David Letterman” on the strength of the album’s singles “Champions of Red Wine” and “Dance Hall Demine.”
“This is one of the first records where we wanted to make something that was very focused,” said Carl Newman, from his home in Woodstock, New York. “I definitely wanted it to have a vibe that ran throughout the whole thing. We wanted it to have a certain energy. I feel really happy about it. When we finished the record and it came out, I felt bullet proof in a way from criticism, and I felt really good about that. Usually, with everything you do you’re never quite sure. If anybody has anything bad to say about this record I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do.’ I think this is us doing what we do very well. If you don’t like this record, then you probably don’t like us.”
“Everybody jumped on this record like it was written as a tribute to the Brill Building,” adds Newman. “It really wasn’t. That was sort of accidental. That was one of those things where I was looking at the title “Brill Bruisers” and I went, ‘Oh, that’s good, ‘cause it’s also got the Brill Building connotation. And then everybody jumped on that. But I thought it fit. When I saw those two words together. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s good.’ I liked the alliterative glam quality that it had. I thought it fit. The sound of it fit the album.”
“I like the fact that, right when we started playing these songs live, they fit in very seamlessly,” said Newman. “Sometimes it’s weird working in the new songs. You’re worried that people think that they changed the energy somehow, ‘cause you’re focusing on this new record. I feel like we can play all the new songs on “Brill Bruisers” right next to our other songs, and it totally makes sense.”
Formed in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1999, The New Pornographers (sporting a line-up that currently features Carl Newman (vocals and guitar), Kathryn Calder (vocals, keyboards, guitar) John Collins (bass), Todd Fancey (lead guitar) and Blaine Thurier (keyboards, synthesizer)) secured a level of individual notoriety before assembling as a group. Their name derived from the Japanese film “The Pornographers,” chosen by Carl Newman.
The band released a series of successful albums including “Mass Romantic” (2000), “Electric Version” (2003) (U.S. Top 200), “Twin Cinema” (2005) (U.S. Top 50),“Challengers”(2007) (U.S. Top 40 and the first album featuring the vocals of Kathryn Calder, replacing Neko Case in 2005, whose solo career left her unavailable to perform with the band) and “Together” (2010) (U.S. Top 20).
Music reviewers placed their first four albums in the Top 40 on The Village Voice’s “Pazz & Jop” year-end polls.
Blender Magazine ranked “Mass Romantic” as the 24th best indie album of all-time in 2007. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked their “Electric Version” album No. 79 of the “100 Best Albums of the Decade.”
“What we’ve always done has been sort of a rock and roll love letter,” says Newman. “I’ve never been overly concerned about blazing some new path. It’s always been about making the kind of music that we want to hear based on music that we love with the hope that our personality comes through.”
“I’m happy just to still be here,” adds Newman. “When October comes around, it will be fifteen years since “Mass Romantic” came out. It’s just funny to think about your place in the rock world. Because there are bands that are way smaller than you, and they just zoom past you. And then there are bands that zoom past you and just fall back again. I feel like we’re just sort of the tortoise and the hare. Not that we’re winning the race, but it’s just amazing to still be in the race. It’s amazing that I’m still allowed to make music.”
IF YOU GO
What: The New Pornographers
Where: Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia.
When: Concert is at 8 p.m., Sunday, July 12.
Info.: Call (215) 232-2100 or visit www.utphilly.com. To stay up to date with The New Pornographers, visit www.thenewpornographers.com.