Hot on the trail of a cross-Canada tour — promoting their seventh studio album Whiteout Conditions — it seems like the New Pornographers just don’t stop. For a band that’s been around exactly as long as I’ve been alive, they don’t wear their age in show-biz years.
Characterized by an ever-evolving discography and a champion collective of the very frontrunners of Canadian independent music, the New Pornographers embrace their new sound with ease.
Kathryn Calder, a member of the group since 2005, says that the evolution of each song is hardly limited.
“I remember that being so eye-opening for me, to hear the demo at the beginning and then to hear the finished song — it was entirely different always, because so much happened along the way, and it changed so much. It was refined over and over and over again,” Calder said.
Whiteout Conditions was subject to the same careful consideration, despite the fact that its contributors are displaced across the North American continent. Calder recorded mostly at her home studio in Victoria, B.C., an endeavour that she found newly empowering.
“It feels like a way to have this big, great team behind us [while also] having our own identity within it,” Calder said.
“It was neat for me to be able to get the songs, record my own parts, and kind of, do whatever I wanted to it on my own — it was a big thing for me personally,” Calder said.
As for the band’s collective creative process, Calder offers the following insights.
“Organized chaos would be a pretty good way to describe it,” Calder said.
The organization part comes from the band’s long-standing creative leader, Carl Newman.
“What’s interesting about Carl as a songwriter — and certainly a trick that I’ve picked up from him — [is that] he is not precious about anything that he writes. Up until we’re basically finishing the record, he’s still taking chunks out of songs and reworking them,” Calder said.
The album stands as the band’s first under their own label, Collected Works Records, which the group founded under the Concord Music family tree. Calder comments that this move was more symbolic than substantial.
“Essentially, our record was released through Concord, but they were really awesome and let us set up our own little record label — it’s really just for us — as a way to maintain the identity of being an indie band. It feels like a way to have this big, great team behind us [while also] having our own identity within it, ” Calder said.
That band identity, at first glance, seems especially crucial to the New Pornographers as a group of heavy-weight individual musicians, but Calder says that the supergroup thing doesn’t mean much to them.
“I think when we started — at least I’m pretty sure — we weren’t a ‘supergroup.’ It was like, ‘Yeah, this is a collection of our friends in Vancouver,’ and somehow the supergroup actually came to be, and we all kind of went off and had a bunch of really successful projects within the group,” Calder said.
One such successful project removed long-time member Dan Bejar — who performs his solo work under the moniker Destroyer — from the Whiteout Conditions personnel, but the remaining New Pornographers offer little discussion on the subject beyond confirmation that he’s still in band.
“[At each show], you can expect eight people on stage — no, seven people,” Calder said.
The New Pornographers’ stop in Saskatoon on Oct. 5 is marked with positive nostalgia for Calder, as she’s always felt a warm reception from the city’s audiences.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve done a full Canadian tour like this, and Saskatoon has always been a really great music town — I felt it in the early days, too, touring with my old band Immaculate Machine,” Calder said. “Saskatoon always felt like a relief.”
Emily Migchels / Opinions Editor
Photo: Jenny Jimenez / Supplied