Carl Newman of New Pornographers on why Washington is his favorite place to play
By David Malitz
Indie rock troupe the New Pornographers is often called a supergroup, and it's understandable as to why. There's a whole mess of indie-famous folk in the band. Alt-country chanteuse Neko Case. Destroyer's idiosyncratic iconoclast Dan Bejar. Even keyboardist/vocalist Kathryn Calder is prepping her first solo album. But the group really belongs to Carl Newman. He's the unquestioned ringleader who writes the majority of the songs, dictates recording and touring schedules and is the architect of the band's pristine pop sound. The band's fifth album, "Together" is another collection of classy and catchy tunes and the entire gang will be in town to support it with a pair of sold-out shows at 9:30 club on Tuesday and Wednesday.
And that's how it always is for the band in D.C. - a pair of sold-out shows at 9:30 club. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Newman said Washington was his favorite city to play because of how well the band is received here. I asked him why he thought that was. He didn't really know. But then we talked about D.C., killing time on tour, "Avatar" and why "Lost" reminded him of a song by Canadian group Original Caste . We also talked about music, but we'll get to that when we run part two of this interview on Click Track tomorrow.
You're always in D.C. for multiple nights. Are there specific things you like to do and places you like to go on that extra day?
I always like doing all that touristy stuff. It's kind of awe-inspiring just to walk around. What's that pool called -- the Reflecting Pool. When you're walking along that between the two monuments and you go to the Lincoln Memorial. A lot of massive history has happened there. It's always amazing to go there and remember America at its finest ideals. There are things I haven't seen yet that I'd like to. Like the Bill of Rights. Are there are any big art museums?
Sure. There's the National Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn, all of that.
I'd like to do that. Have a day off there. Especially when I lived in Brooklyn, when I'd go do touristy things on tour it would make me remember all the great things there are to do in New York. So I'd get home from tour and then two days later I'd go to the MoMA. Because all of a sudden I was in that mode where I was like, "We have so much at our fingertips!" And I feel that way now having just come back from a day off in Amsterdam where we went to the Rijksmuseum. It was pretty amazing to just go and look at Rembrandts and Vermeers.
(Talking "Lost" and "Avatar," after the jump.)
I know you're a big "Lost" fan and I don't want to bug you about it too much but - did you catch up on everything?
I did. When I was talking about the Rijksmuseum, that's what I did on my day off in Amsterdam. We went to the Anne Frank House, we went to the Rijksmuseum and we watched the last three and a half hours of "Lost."
Were you satisfied?
Uh. Yeah. I think so... When you're watching you could tell they were just winging it. There would be some twist ending and you'd say, "Where did that come from?" You better be willing to finish this sentence, "Lost."
I didn't think the ending was too much of a cop out.
No, no. It totally made sense. It did a better job of explaining the final year than explaining the entire show. They seemed to explain the entire show in a kind of matter-of-fact way. Like they did that whole story of the Man in Black and Jacob guarding the light on the island. So they just go for a mythical explanation. It didn't really explain it. That magical island they've been on? Oh, it's a magical island. You didn't know that? And the fact that they have to guard this magical light seems a lot like that song "One Tin Soldier." It's like they say, there are only six plots in the history of mankind. And that's a popular one. Mythology just repeats over and over again. There was the burning bush in the Bible. Some light at the core of everything. I just watched "Avatar" and that was pretty much the idea behind "Avatar."
How was that? I didn't really have much desire to see that one.
You know, I really wanted to see it in the theater, in 3D. But I just couldn't find the time to do it. So I just saw it in "2D" on my 42" screen at home. And without all the 3D and the massive spectacle, I thought it was, for the most part, a really stupid movie. When it just goes into full action mode it's a great movie. Then it sucks you in the way any action movie does where you're thinking, "Boy, I sure hope that bad guy gets it. I sure hope the good guys win." But when it's acting and they're developing the plot? You're thinking, "Oh, give me a [expletive] break." And my wife had already seen it so as I was watching it I was just telling her, "This is what happens, isn't it?" It was so by the books.
I guess that's probably the point. You're trying to make the biggest movie ever so you don't want to make it too weird.
But they telegraph it so much. You know the general gist of it is that he's a guy in a wheelchair and he's put in this alien avatar body. And immediately he gets onto the planet and this alien woman is about to kill him because he's an intruder and she realizes, "Oh, the forest fairies seem to gravitate to him. They are pure spirits and they only love pure spirits." So you're like, "Oh, so he's the Jesus? He's the Jesus of the planet. He's half-man, half-alien." And it's never explained why he's the Jesus of their planet. He just is. Or the Luke Skywalker of their planet. Or the Keanu Reeves of their planet.
So you also play music in a band, maybe we should talk about that.
Yeah, sometimes when I'm not watching TV.
Be sure to visit Click Track tomorrow for part two of this interview. Topics discussed: Crafting set lists, getting Bejar on the road and much more.
June 21, 2010; 1:50 PM ET
Categories: Be specific | Tags: Carl Newman, The New Pornographers
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