With the recent release of their Brill Bruisers album, Canadian indie-rock group The New Pornographers kick off their forthcoming Brill Bruisers Tour on October 3rd in Vancouver (tickets here). While on-site for Riot Fest Toronto, we spoke with the band’s songwriter and vocalist A. C. Newman and vocalist and keyboardist Kathryn Calder to discuss the glamorous touring life, frosh week, and why they love the new album. Dive into the exclusive interview below:
AMBY: First off, welcome to AMBY and thanks for having a chat with us! You’ve played quite a few festivals this summer. What have some of your highlights been?
Kathryn Calder: For me, it’s been really nice playing new songs. They’re really fun.
A.C. Newman: That’s a good part of it. My favourite part of festivals is seeing friends and people we never see.
Kathryn Calder: It’s a big melting pot.
AMBY: It’s funny – a lot of bands tell me that they never get to see friends when they’re in their own city but they always end up seeing them at festivals or shows.
Kathryn Calder: Yea, exactly! Whenever you have friends in the music industry, the time that you get to see them is always at festivals.
AMBY: We’re at Riot Fest today, so which sets or artists do you look forward to catching the most?
A.C. Newman: Bob Mould.
Kathryn Calder: Death Cab for Cutie.
A.C. Newman: They’re on before us I think. I have a feeling I might just go back to the hotel room and fall asleep… I’m really tired [laughs]. That’s touring life. It’s hard sometimes because even when you love a band, it’s hard to watch them because I’m always thinking of somewhere I can lay down. The glamorous touring life.
AMBY: Seeing that we are at Riot Fest, what’s one of the crazier things to happen to you while playing a show?
A.C. Newman: We just played Queens College in Kingston and by the end of the set, we were getting drowned out by the freshman chant. We were playing a mellow song –
AMBY: And they were chanting in the background?
A.C. Newman: It was so fucking difficult to play [laughs].
Kathryn Calder: Things like that kind of make me laugh because they were just trying to have a really fun time at frosh week. There was a core of people who were really excited to see us and others who were just partying.
AMBY: It’s one of those situations where you want to be pissed but can’t really hold it against them.
Kathryn Calder: Yea, I don’t know. I was just thinking “do your thing”.
AMBY: Being the reason you’re playing so many shows this summer, we must discuss Brill Bruisers! Congrats on the release of the record.
Kathryn Calder: Thank you!
AMBY: I know that A.C. mainly writes the songs for the releases. With the band living all over the continent, what’s the process like when it comes to getting the tracks together with the members and making the songs come alive?
A.C. Newman: A long process.
AMBY and The New Pornographers: [laughs]
A.C. Newman: It’s so deep.
Kathryn Calder: We try and schedule rehearsals; we’ll have a show coming up and try to get together and take a day or two to refresh our minds. They’re always little snippets where we try to work it out. It’s complicated, it’s not easy.
AMBY: Comparing this creation to your last release Together, is there anything you did differently as far as experimenting goes? I know you [A.C. Newman] used a vocoder on Backstairs and had a lot of fun with that.
A.C. Newman: All of the stuff that goes “dodolalululado” and up and down is very locked into the beat. We’re really into using percussive elements. We don’t know what we’re looking for when we make a record, but we know when we stop and think “that’s awesome”. Once you’re half way there, you start to see a style emerge and that effects the decisions you make.
AMBY: I read that this is a celebration record and is one of your proudest releases you’ve put out to date. Why do you think the response has been so wonderful and why is it your proudest work?
A.C. Newman: To me, it feels closest to what I’ve always wanted us to sound like. I like the conciseness of the songs. Although I’ve been known to write these sort of rambling songs, I like it when I can write a very simple song. Those are awesome.
AMBY: And how about yourself, Kathryn?
Kathryn Calder: I’m a fan of all of the records, but I love all of the synth stuff. This record sounds very much like the band, but it also has its own special vibe. It’s really important as a band do have your sound but also fool around a little bit.
A.C. Newman: That’s always the game, I think. On other records it got to the point where I thought “I don’t care”. Now we think to just do whatever we want and whatever we love.
AMBY: There’s a lot of love between the whole band and you’ve been sharing these experiences together for quite a long time. With that said, what’s the best part of being in The New Pornographers together?
Kathryn Calder: Because I don’t write the songs, I feel I get to say this… I’m a huge fan of the songs. That’s a nice part of being in a band – you love what you’re playing.
A.C. Newman: I guess because a lot of them are my own songs, I love playing Dan’s songs. It’s fun to have songs that you’re extremely confident in. I like my own songs, but I don’t have that same feeling as when we play those other songs.
Thank you The New Pornographers, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout