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Porn Star

The New Pornographers' A.C. "Carl" Newman is on the bus.

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A.C. "Carl" Newman is the pied piper of cool, bringing irresistible pop songs to the masses with the harmonious help of his fellow Pornographers. We got him on the horn direct from Grand Rapids, Mich., where the band was prepping for a gig just days before the tour stops in the River City. Among other things, we uncover the frontman's love of Canada's unlikely curling heroes, soul food and indie-rock goddesses.

Style: You're playing Richmond in a few days and I think the last time you were here was when Neko Case had a busted foot and was on crutches. Is everyone in good health this go round?

Newman: Yes, so far so good. I think that was a day or two before she finally left the tour. I think she kept bumping her cast so much that it pissed her off. She was like "That's it, I'm going home."

You guys are a pretty big band, are you crammed into one tour bus?

We are actually. We usually have a bus and a van, but this time it's only eight days out so we're just cramming into one bus.

Does Neko still travel with her dog? And, how does that work out with everyone in such a small space.

She's actually never taken them out on tour with us. She's got like four of them now, so I'd be surprised if she toured with them.

A menagerie of sorts, huh?

Oh yes.

It looks like Virginia is as far south as you all will be going on this tour. Do you all enjoy getting down here and enjoying some of our Southern hospitality? Eat up on some soul food, perhaps?

If we can find it, yeah. I love that stuff.

Do they have soul food in Canada?

They might. There's not much of it in Vancouver, that's for sure.

Speaking of Canada, what's up with the curling fascination?

It's just our sport. It's like America and NASCAR. It's one of those things where other people look at it and go "Really, does that count as a sport?" But, what I really love about curling is that the guy who wins the gold medal can be like a forty-something, balding guy. Like, it's the only sport where you look at the gold medal winner and he looks like a guy down at the local pub.

Back on topic, a recent show at Calvin College got cancelled because of the band's name. Did you get pissed off or laugh it off?

It doesn't piss me off. That sort of thing just happens. It's our name; it doesn't usually affect us that much. Sometimes it does. That wasn't that big of a deal. Everybody involved with the show at Calvin College was very apologetic and felt really bad. It's not like there's any ill feelings. It's one of those classic things where, if our name was some violent name like the Killers it wouldn't be an issue. But, Pornographers is terrible. Just like anything, people prefer violence to sex. That's just how it is.

I was curious if the press blew that up a bit. Along the same lines, there was a big fuss over some rude comments you all made on stage at Lollapalooza about Lady Gaga's upcoming show there. Exaggerated or accurate?

I think we were completely misquoted actually. I think someone thought I said she was "Awful," when I actually said "Awesome."

Well, that kinda sucks.

It doesn't really matter to me. What does anybody care what we have to say? That's how I remember it, but maybe I'm wrong. Whatever the case, I was joking. Whether I said she was awful or awesome, I don't really have an opinion either way.

Let's talk about "Together," your latest album. You guys did a special release where in some cases it was packaged with an EP of Outrageous Cherry covers. How did that come about?

I've always been a fan. We had about half a day in the studio after doing our tracks, so we had time left. We thought, why not knock out some covers? I started thinking about songs that I liked that we could learn really quickly. So, we did Outrageous Cherry songs with really no idea what to do with them. Then, I thought that it would be a cool little extra to add on.

Are you friends with anyone in Outrageous Cherry?

Oh yeah, Matthew [Smith, Outrageous Cherry's leader] is a friend. I've known him for a few years. I love their songs and so, I wanted to draw attention to someone that I'm a fan of and not many people know of.

Earlier this year, I talked with St. Vincent about playing on your record and she was super excited to be a part of it. Whose idea was it to have her sit and play guitar on the album?

It was pretty simple because we were working on the record in Brooklyn and our producer, Phil had just worked with her and knew her. I thought on "My Sheppard" we needed a really good guitar solo and our guitar player had already gone home. He said, ‘What about Annie? She's an amazing guitar player.' She came in the next day.

She's so awesome.

I know. It was pretty amazing to sit there and watch her play. She's like a female Hendrix. She's got a cool way about her. Some women in rock bands seem like they're trying to pretend to be guys, like L7 or something. They're like "Hey, we're rockin' it like guys." But, there's some women like Annie or Carrie from Sleater-Kinney who just have this amazing female, rock swagger. It's like a model, like that's how you do it. That's how to be a cool woman in a rock band.

This album is full of insanely catchy songs, per your usual fare. How does one perfect the art of infectious song craft?

I don't know. I guess it's just that those are the kinds of songs that I want to hear. I've always loved pop music, so when I sit down to write songs and I'm trying to figure out good ideas from bad ideas, I just lean toward pop hooks.

I say catchy in the best of ways, not like how-I-can't-get-"Magic"-from-Xanadu-out-of-my-head-today catchy.

That's an amazing kinda catchy! Man, I wish I could write a song that good.

Any more solo stuff on the horizon for you?

I don't know. I might be doing [more] outside of the band, but I don't think I'd call it AC Newman. But, I really don't know. Sometimes, when you give something a certain name it's kind of loaded with expectations. So, if you want to do something different you have to give it a different name. Not everybody, but. …

Lastly, I have to call you out on something. Your Twitter said that you were recently watching "Dancing with the Stars." Guilty pleasure?

I actually don't watch it. I think we watched it once or twice because Margaret Cho was on it. Other than that, no. I hate that show.

So, it was really just sarcasm?

I don't know why I wrote that. It makes me sad that it's the No. 1 show on TV. It's depressing that only a few million people watch "Mad Men," but 30 million watch "Dancing with the Stars."

I guess the only thing worse would be if they came out dancing to New Pornographers music, right?

Actually, that would be awesome. I love that kind of stuff, because then it becomes some kind of weird conceptual art thing. At least to me. For everyone else, it would just be more shitty "Dancing with the Stars."

The New Pornographers perform at the National with Tokyo Police Club on Monday, Oct 18, at 7 p.m. $20-$25. 612-1900.

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