More than four years since the release of its critically acclaimed album “Together,” Canadian indie rock pop band the New Pornographers has re-emerged in the pop scene with its latest record, “Brill Bruisers.” Having made a more conscious effort to unite the album musically and lyrically, the arpeggio- and synthesizer-heavy “Brill Bruisers” has brought a new element of consistency to the band, who performed Friday night at the Wiltern.
The Daily Bruin’s Emaan Baqai spoke with A.C. Newman, the New Pornographers’ songwriter and lead vocalist, about the band’s latest album and his hesitance to be associated with the power pop genre.
Daily Bruin: How would you compare “Brill Bruisers” to your last album, “Together”?
A.C. Newman: I think “Brill Bruisers” is the first record where we had a definite idea of the kind of record we wanted to make. We didn’t want to have any ballads on it because I felt like I had enough on my solo record, so there was a sense of wanting to make it very upbeat. In the past, we’d just go to the studio, make a record and not be overly concerned about the overall theme or style. I really don’t know how to define the style of this record. It’s … sparkly?
DB: What inspired you to connect “Brill Bruisers” with a theme?
AN: I think a lot of my favorite bands – Spoon and The National – make albums that have that vibe. Their records sound exactly the same. Some people might call that zany, but I love when a band has a very specific style.
DB: In one of your interviews with SF Weekly, you said you didn’t like how the band was defined as power pop. How do you define power pop, and why do you try to distance yourself from it?
AN: I don’t know that much about power pop, but it seems like it’s just one kind of song. It’s usually a four-piece band with two guitars, bass and drums, and maybe one person harmonizing. I think we’ve always had a lot of different influences so I guess it’s pretty annoying when someone tries to dismiss you by talking about you as if you’re just one thing.
DB: How do you try to create an unaverage pop sound?
AN: Sometimes, when you’re working with a song, you’re messing around trying to get musical ideas and sometimes you just hear something that sounds unique. And that’s what I gravitate toward. You don’t want to sound like another song; you wanna sound like yourself. There’s not a lot of thought put into it – you just start working, and when you hit what works, you know.
DB: Who do you feel are the band’s strongest influences?
AN: There’s a lot of Electric Light Orchestra (influence) on this record. I feel like I’m always influenced by a lot of classic stuff I’ve listened to. It’s hard to avoid the influence of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, (Burt) Bacharach and (Hal) David, Jimmy Webb. I feel influenced by Belle and Sebastian, or Neutral Milk Hotel, because that was the music that we listened to a lot when we first started the band.
DB: Do things feel different this time around, without your previous drummer, Kurt Dahle?
AN: The change is pretty subtle, actually. Joe Seiders, who’s drumming with us now, is really great. You lose something when a band member leaves and you gain something new with a new band member. I feel like we’re the same band, and we’ve been practicing so much; we’re as good as we’ve ever been. And that’s not because of the change of band members. It’s more, we really put our heads down and said, “Let’s work really hard.”
DB: I read in Glide Magazine that you chose the band name after watching a Japanese film, “The Pornographers.” Why did that name stick out to you?
AN: I thought (the name) was just a strange, clinical term that somebody that makes porno movies is called a pornographer. It seems like too nice of a word. It’s just something that I loved the sound of; it has nothing to do with any love for pornography.
DB: How does your solo album “Shut Down the Streets” differ from the material you create with the New Pornographers?
AN: Well, there used to be no difference. When I listen to a song like “Prophets,” I think, “this could’ve even been a Pornographers song.” But only recently have I decided that there should be a difference between solo material and band material. My solo album was much more low-key and personal, whereas “Brill Bruisers” was definitely a lot more over the top.
Compiled by Emaan Baqai, A&E; contributor.