DFW Music News

20 Years In, the New Pornographers Say Side Projects Kept The Band Together

Carl "A.C." Newman (center) says freedom to play with others is what has kept their band together.
Carl "A.C." Newman (center) says freedom to play with others is what has kept their band together. Jenny Jimenez
The New Pornographers play Friday, May 5, at Granada Theater
The New Pornographers have been making power pop for two decades. Oddly, guitarist, vocalist and frontman Carl “A.C.” Newman attributes the longevity of the band to the fact that many of its members have other succesful projects that take time away from it. “We’re not a band that tours eight months out of the year," Newman says. "That made it to where we don’t grow to hate each other.”

The New Pornographers formed in Vancouver, British Columbia, in '97 and attracted attention three years later with the release of their debut, Mass Romantic. Now they're on the road promoting their seventh album, Whiteout Conditions, released last month.

The band has never had a hit single, per se, but every album seems to yield songs that people really want to hear again and again. The New Pornographers' music is timeless and happy.

“I want to cheer myself up with my music,” Newman says. “That mainly comes out in the music. When it comes time to writing lyrics, then it’s harder. That’s why there’s that constant dichotomy of our songs: happy-sounding songs with certain downbeat lyrics.”

Vocalist Neko Case has a succesful solo career in country and guitarist and vocalist Dan Bejar is the frontman of the rock band Destroyer. Members have come and gone over the years, and Bejar is sitting this tour out, but somehow the tours and recording sessions keep coming together, year after year. The lineup visiting the Granada will include keyboardist Blaine Thurier and bassist John Collins.

We’re not a band that tours eight months out of the year. That made it to where we don’t grow to hate each other.” Carl Newman, The New Pornographers

tweet this
Newman enjoys the specialness of the New Pornographers playing together, when they're all able to carve out the time. The infrequency also accommodates his lifestyle, since he's moved to upstate New York and become a family man.

“At some point in your life, you can’t be on the road constantly,” he says. “It’s depressing to think that I would miss a lot of my son’s childhood because I’m on the road.”

Newman is nevertheless always working on music from his home studio. “That helps a lot just to have that,” he says. “Sometimes it becomes a place you hate going to because you treat it like a job. Most of the time I’m glad that I have it. It’s nice to have the freedom to do what I do.”

Newman has his own solo career. He's released two solo albums in between New Pornographers albums, but he has no plans to release another solo record at this time. Right now, all of his song ideas go toward future New Pornographers material.

But Newman is quick to add that they're not forgetting about songs further back in their catalog on this tour. He's not a fan of bands who ignore their early albums as they progress in their career. “We’ll always do one or two songs from the first record in our set,” he says. “And we always do a couple of songs from Electric Version and we do about three songs from Twin Cinema and three songs from Challengers. We try to have it career-spanning."

There will also be plenty of new material. At the Granada Friday, he says they'll perform at least four songs from 2014's Brill Bruisers and six or seven from April's Whiteout Conditions. The show will be their third in Dallas.

“I’ve always liked it there," Newman says. "We kind of go where we’re told.”

The New Pornographers, with Waxahatchee, 9 p.m. Friday, May 5, Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave., $40, granadatheater.com.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs