Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Addictive Pornography

The New Pornographers is, in a way, Canada’s Traveling Wilburys.

The Vancouver band is often described as a supergroup, and rightfully so. Zumpano frontman Carl Newman and Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar are at the songwriting helm, joined by Kurt Dahle of Limblifter, keyboardist Blaine Thurier and bassist John Collins (The Evaporators, Thee Goblins), who also engineers the band’s recordings. As if that wasn’t enough, alt-country bombshell Neko Case lends her raw, heart-tearing vocals to the pop collective.

The Pornographers’ debut album Mass Romantic was released in November 2000 and eventually made its way past the Canadian border patrol, much to the delight of listeners here in the States. Filled with a cavalcade of three- and four-part harmonies, guitars, keyboards and ultra-catchy melodies, Mass Romantic‘s twelve songs channel Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and Cheap Trick into a musical blender set to “puree.”


The following is the first half of an interview conducted with the New Pornographers’ Carl Newman. The second half will appear in the next issue of the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Emmie magazine.

BH: You recorded Mass Romantic piece by piece over a fair amount of time, which isn’t surprising since everyone in the group is or was involved with other bands. When you record the next album, are you going to take the same approach?

CN: Well you know, it’s funny because we’re recording the new album now, and it does seem to be taking a while … we are kind of having the same problems, in a way. And it’s not even about being in other bands, it’s just about having other things to do. We know we’re going to record it with John [Collins, bassist], but John has other recording things he has to do. Plus, the band itself takes up time now with all the touring we’re doing.

BH: How did “Letter From An Occupant” end up in the movie Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back?

CN: It actually happened really quickly. I guess Kevin Smith heard our record and was really into the song, and it got tagged onto the movie at the last minute. I think the movie was almost set to go, because I remember they called us up and said “Kevin Smith really likes the song and wants it in the movie,” and they seemed in a real hurry. It seemed like it was less than two months after that call that the movie was released, and I think that’s why it didn’t end up on the soundtrack. I don’t know if it would have made that big of a difference, but I was kind of choked when I realized that Afroman song was a big hit; I thought “f*ck, I hope that soundtrack doesn’t sell a million copies,” because I’d be banging my head against the wall.

BH: Fortunately, for your sake anyway, that song was short-lived. Nothing against Afroman, of course.

CN: I’m kind of ambivalent about the whole thing because I made a decent amount of money from the song, and it’s really quite a bad movie. It’s kind of harmless, though — I guess putting your song in a movie doesn’t really mean anything.

BH: I saw the [“Letter From An Occupant”] video on 120 Minutes and something like “from the motion picture Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back” was in the credits.

CN: Well, if that makes them play the video, then god bless them. But they’re showing that on M2? Really?

BH: Yeah.

CN: For us, I feel like we’re just so far off the pop music radar that for our video to even be shown on M2 once is a shocker. I mean, it’s on once and a few million people see that, right?

BH: I suppose so, especially now that M2 is more widespread. Does Much Music (Canadian music video channel) air the video?

CN: I don’t think we do. We’ve had quite a bit of press in Canada, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we started doing well outside of Canada. It’s a strange thing for this Canadian band to come out of nowhere and all of a sudden get all this attention. In Vancouver and Toronto, we had a medium-sized radio hit with the song “Mass Romantic.” The two big rock stations in Vancouver and Toronto were playing it a lot for a while, which is really kind of odd because we started getting these people at our Vancouver and Toronto shows that seemed a little too mainstream, so that was strange. Of course, much like we imagined it would be, it was very short-lived. I think a band like us is, for most people, a novelty appeal.

BH: Well, not that I have to tell you this, but pop radio hits have to disappear as quickly as they appear. That’s pretty much the way it works at this point.

CN: Yeah, it’s not like we’re going to change the style of everything that gets played on the radio.

BH: Right. And don’t take this the wrong way, but Mass Romantic is too complex of a pop album for the mainstream listener.

CN: That’s why it’s a shocker to me that it ever got played at all. When I listen to the song “Mass Romantic,” it’s a really upbeat song, but structurally, it’s kind of strange. It kind of stops on a dime about three-quarters of the way through and becomes just a vocal and a fuzz guitar, and I thought that seemed like a strange thing for the big radio stations to be playing three times a day. I wondered what people would think when the Offspring ends and that song comes on, and yet it happens.

The New Pornographers play the Annex Saturday evening at 9:00 p.m., with special guests The Frames from Dublin, Ireland.

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