The New Pornographers’ lead singer/songwriter Carl Newman tells Billboard.com the indie pop/rock supergroup-of-sorts never thought past its 2000 disc “Mass Romantic” (Mint Records).
“It was just kind of a labor of love, the first record,” says Newman. “We didn’t really anticipate being a real band. We didn’t have any plans for the future, whatsoever. Because it was so secondary [to our other projects], it was hard to get together and finish it. After a while, it was just a challenge. It was like, ‘I’m going to finish this record. I don’t care what happens to it after.’ I didn’t really think of a second record. But within a couple of months of [“Mass Romantic”] coming out, we suddenly realized we should do another record, because something weird was going on.”
For this Vancouver-based band — which features Zumpano’s Newman, filmmaker Blaine Thurier, Thee Evaporators’ Todd Fancey and John Collins, Limblifter/Age of Electric’s Kurt Dahle, Destroyer’s Dan Bejar and alt-country singer Neko Case — the weirdness resulted in a Juno Award, critical acclaim and indie-rock fans for the band’s uniquely crafted pop sheen and carefree beats.
Last month, the act released “Electric Version,” its second album, and first for Matador Records. A bit more polished than the first, the new album is yet another batch of tunes invoking Blondie and Roxy Music on a power-pop roller coaster.
The set debuted at No. 12 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums chart and No. 9 on the Heatseekers tally. It has sold 21,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
“There was a little bit of pressure but you have to trust in your instincts and assume that whatever made the first record good, you’ve still got,” said Newman. “And that’s all we did.”
Response to “Electric Version” has been positive and the band is already talking about recording a third disc late this year for a spring 2004 release. One possible hurdle involves working around so many different schedules and projects (Newman is currently working on his own solo disc with no timetable for release).
Despite the success of the New Pornographers, its members refuse to let the attention go to their heads, instead opting for a streamlined approach towards touring: no roadies.
“We have a sound guy this time around, which was a first,” prides Newman. “I think it was money well spent. I think there is something kind of funny about the fact that we are this kind of popular band and like 1,000 people are sitting there waiting to see you and you are out there plugging your pedals in. I think it is good to communicate this DIY aesthetic, just that we’re not above [setting up]. I want somebody to watch us and say, ‘That could be me,’ because that’s how I feel. I just feel like a person who is a big music fan and for some reason is not in the audience anymore. Now he’s on stage.”
The band will begin a second leg of touring July 1 in Calgary, which will wind up July 15 in Cleveland. A southern U.S. tour will follow later this summer, as well as a European jaunt in the fall.