Q+A: The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers are a power pop band from Vancouver that are known for their unique sound, courtesy of their many vocalists.. Since their beginning in 1997, the band has released seven studio albums, with Whiteout Conditions which was released in April. With a show in Ottawa on Oct. 12, The Charlatan caught up with vocalist and keyboardist for the band, Kathryn Calder.

The Charlatan (TC): So, my first question is regarding musical influences for the band: is there a particular style of music you use for inspiration or anything else?

Kathryn Calder (KC): It really depends on what everyone is into at the moment. Every record will have a different message depending on what we used to inspire that album; it’s a very natural morphing process. Carl [Newman] likes to use a lot of broad and varied resources, a lot of bands that are known for using harmonies. With our latest record, we used a lot of Krautrock.

TC: Krautrock?

KC: It’s a style of German rock from the 70’s. It’s got a pioneer drum beat to it, it’s very trance-inducing.

TC: Interesting. Alright, so you’ve been a band for quite some time now, how do you cope with conflict or various ideas for how a record should be?

KC: Well, Carl and John [Collins] usually have a vision for the record, and everyone will add their parts, or it’ll be morphed into something else. Sometimes, parts will just cut out in order to have something else in the record. It’s a very fluid songwriting process, it’s constantly changing. It’s an interesting one too, because there could be changes made during the mixing stages of the record or at any other point, but it’s a record everyone’s happy with at the end of the day.

TC: Just out of curiosity, seeing as you’re already quite a big band, would you ever consider collaborating with another artist?

KC: As in mixing or another vocalist?

TC: Let’s say vocals?

KC: Oh, um, I don’t know. I guess it would depends on if anyone came along. We’re always open to new ideas and working with different people.

TC: What could fans expect from your new record?

KC: They can expect lots of vocal harmonies, they can be pretty complex. Lots of twists and turns. Lots of Neko Case [vocalist of the band], lots of krautrock. Honestly, fans should listen to the album, music is hard to describe. It can’t be put into words, it doesn’t have the same effect as listening to the album. Music should be described in music.

TC: That’s very true. Do you prefer to perform at live shows, like being on tour, or live audio performances, like radio shows?

KC: Performing in front of people, no matter the venue, gives a level of feedback and it’s an awesome dynamic. Radio sessions still have audiences there, they’re usually behind the camera so sometimes, you won’t see them until the set’s over and you realise there was an audience there. Honestly, they’re kind of their own thing though. End of the day, you have to sing the best you can and play the best you can.

TC: Lastly, are there any tips you would want to give to someone who’s looking to make a career as a musician?

KC: I guess there’s a couple things. The first one I would say is tenacity; you have to be able to stick with it. The more you do it, the better you get at it. It’s hard to keep going sometimes and it can be very easy to stop, but you gotta be able to stick it out. Constantly playing gigs, and even just practicing helps so much. It also is a good idea to learn about the business part of everything. Just keep coming back to it though, because there’s so much uncertainty being a musician. You keep asking yourself “Will I be successful?”, and if you do find success, then the question becomes “Will I stay successful?”. On top of it all, people need to remember that our identities are so much more than being a musician. Embrace your life outside of music, and it takes a lot of the pressure off, which I feel helps one become a better musician. It’s all about letting go of all the stress that comes with it, and just being the best musician you can be.

TC: That’s great, thank you so much for letting us speak with you.

KC: You’re welcome.