The New Pornographers’ frontman talks about glockenspiels, his new solo disc and those easy, breezy ’70s sounds.
There’s one thing you need to know about A.C. Newman‘s new solo album, Shut Down The Streets: It’s not a New Pornographers record.
Maybe that’s obvious to some given the absence of his fellow porn buddies (although Neko Case does make an appearance), but it wouldn’t have been out of bounds for fans to expect the singer to retreat into the warm confines of the band’s pumped up brand of powerful, indie pop. Instead, Shut Down The Streets is Newman’s most meditative and orchestral record to date, washing itself in the low key sounds of ’70s pop rock radio.
Sorry Twin Cinema fans, but, you know, deal.
We caught up with Newman prior to his upcoming show at Brighton Music Hall on Oct. 23 about the ’70s, following his musical muse, and drawing the line between his solo work and the Pornographers.
So you just did a record release show, right?
It went really good. I only played, like, six songs, so it was a short teaser. But it’s as really awesome because it was the first time we were able to get the band together to play the songs live, and it was really tight. I think it sounds really good.
You’ve played countless shows, but is there a special energy or feeling to unveiling those new songs for the first time?
Yeah, yeah, It’s very interesting, especially because you’re playing new songs with new people. And I’m trying to be faithful to the record, so we’ve got a glockenspiel and flutes and clarinets. I’m just trying to make sure I have everything I need.
Is it more difficult to prepare for a tour with so many moving pieces?
No, not really. Luckily there are a lot of musicians in Woodstock (New York) where I live, so it wasn’t that difficult.
It was actually pretty easy.
The record is a lot more ornate and textured. Was there something appealing about putting together a record that was more elaborate and orchestrated?
I think I knew I wanted to do something that was a little more seventies, for lack of a better word, you know? I was listening to a lot of Gerry Rafferty and stuff like that, a lot of seventies Gordon Lightfoot. I just liked the combinations of sounds they brought into their music.
Did you come up with a lot of that stuff as a kid?
Not that much. I wasn’t actively listening to it, but that stuff was on the radio and I heard it. I don’t know. I think a lot of times I just start writing songs and start accidentally moving in a certain direction. At the start when I’m writing songs, I’m not trying to write in a certain genre. The first song on the record, “I’m not Talking”, that was just an idea.
I just thought, “Hmm, I like this.”
Then I thought about what would be the best setting for the song, and I just felt like I should go for this ornate, really breezy feel.
I just think it’s a slight nod to a lot of those old record that I’ve always loved. Like, I’ve always liked Glen Campbell and stuff that has a nice, light and easy feel to it. I just tried to make a record that i sort of had been hinting at for years.
And this is it all coming to fruition?
Yeah. I don’t know if it’s come to fruition yet. Maybe by the next record it will have come to complete fruition. But yeah, this is me moving toward something I’ve always wanted to do. When I talk to people about this record in the context of all my other records,
I always say I just try to be honest in what I do.
I’ve always just done what I feel like doing in that moment.
You knew what kind of record you wanted to make and what sound you were going for. Was it hard going into recording the record with such a concrete plan?
It can be. I don’t follow a very exact plan.There are definitely songs and lyrics where I thought “This really fits.” But then there are songs like “Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns”, which was more like “I have this pop song, and I want to record it.” All the other stuff is very wistful,
but that was a song about how in the middle of all these tumultuous things in your life, sometimes you don’t want to deal with all the bullshit of making music and all the absurdity of it.
These songs have a more personal lean to them. Did that make them a better fit for a solo record as opposed to tracks for a New Pornographers record?
They’re definitely a little more personal, or what I’d call more singer/songwritery. To me, they just didn’t seem like something I would do in the New Pornographers. And that’s why I thought it would be ok to have Neko (Case) on it, because it still wouldn’t sound like the New Pornographers. I think although there are personal songs in the Pornographers, we’re more of a rock band.
It’s more collaborative, whereas this is more of a reflection of you as a songwriter.
Yeah, you could say that.
BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL
158 BRIGHTON AVE