New Pornographers’ Kathryn Calder is more than a fill-in
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Early in the interview with New Pornographers vocalist / keyboard player Kathryn Calder I figured I’d try a bit of a joke.
Calder said she was recovering from a solo show played the night before in Duncan, a small town an hour north of her home of Victoria, British Columbia. While people mostly know her from her New Pornographers role, she said a few also remember her work with former band Immaculate Machine, as well as from her solo album, Are You My Mother?, released last fall.
“I haven’t done many solo shows yet,” she said. “I’ve planned a little tour in a spot when I knew New Pornographers weren’t going to be doing anything. It makes it easier.”
It was here that I suggested that if Calder needed more time to nurture her solo career, she could always hit up fellow New Pornographers vocalist Neko Case to fill in on her parts while she was gone, which resulted in Calder’s good-hearted, if not polite, laugh at my rather lame joke.
It’s a joke because part of the reason Calder was asked to join New Pornographers in 2005 was to fill in for Neko Case when Case is away doing a solo tour. Calder first began working with the band on ’05’s Twin Cinema album. “I wasn’t really in the band yet,” she said. “The reason they invited me in was to see how well I’d fit in with the sound. I guess we were recording in early 2005 for Twin Cinema and in June I had my first five dates with the Pornographers. That was the trial period, and I guess they were happy with it clearly. In August they just started to invite me along.”
Calder is credited with back-up vocals and piano on that album. By the time 2007’s Challenger was released, she was a full-blown Pornographer, having spent the past two years touring with the band. “Carl (Newman) gave me a more prominent role of that record,” she said.
Calder plays an even more prominent role on the band’s fifth album, Together. Released last May on Matador Records, the album was a departure from the New Pornographers’ more inward-sounding, intimate recordings, to something more, well, robust. Opening track “Moves” launches with a guitar-and-cello riff that would feel right at home on a latter-day Zeppelin album before it lets go into a piano bounce and frontman Newman’s familiar, groovy summer-time vocals. Neko Case takes over for track two, the swinging “Crash Years,” while Dan Bejar’s sinister snarl is front and center on big-pop rocker “Silver Jenny Dollar.” Mixed among it all is Calder’s sweet vocals, giving the band its distinct harmonic sound.
“I was more involved in this one than any other record,” Calder said, adding that she spent a lot of time at Little Blue recording studio in Woodstock, NY. “We hadn’t heard the songs before I arrived at Woodstock. You get played these songs and have to jam them out.”
It wasn’t until after the recording that Calder discovered that the album would be dedicated to her mother, Lynn Calder. “She had just passed away in July 2009,” Calder said. “We went to record in September. The songs were written by that point and I was still reeling obviously and they dedicated it to her, and I thought that was nice.”
More than any other New Pornographer’s album, Together is a mix of the band’s generous vocal talents. “Carl even said that it’s the first album where he thought he was singing the least,” Calder said. But having that much talent means that — like Calder and Case — everyone has side gigs. As A.C. Newman, Carl Newman had something of a hit with 2009’s Get Guilty (Matador Records), and Bejar is known as much for his other band, Destroyer, as for New Pornographers, having released arguably one of the best albums so far this year with Kaputt, on Merge Records.
Because of all these side projects, you never know who you’re going to see when New Pornographers rolls into your town. For next Thursday’s show at The Waiting Room, Neko Case will be along for the ride, while Bejar most likely won’t be, Calder said.
“We have various incarnations for all eventualities,” she said of the ever-changing line-up. “We have the ability to play as a 6-piece, 7-piece and as an 8-piece. On our last big tour we were a 10-piece.”
With Bejar gone, Calder said the band will “just fill in his parts and won’t play that many of his songs. We can also play some of his songs with Carl singing Dan’s parts. It’s just how it has to be.”
With Case along on this tour, Calder said the two will be doing a lot of singing together. “Carl is very clever when he arranged it,” Calder said. “I play piano and play the same thing whether she’s there or not. I’m always doing my thing anyway. She sings her songs and I sing with her, and we’ll sing at the same time, providing a powerful female assault.”
Calder said expect a 7-person line-up at The Waiting Room “and there will be lots of singing and foot stomping, and I’ll even bring out my accordion for one song. It’s going to be a lot of fun.” And that’s no joke.
The New Pornographers plays with The So-So Sailors, Thursday, April 21, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $22 adv. / $25 DOS. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.
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I’m a bit surprised that this New Pornographers show hasn’t sold out yet. What’s up with that, Omaha?
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An addendum rather than a correction to yesterday’s Poster Child item: Jeremy Buckley e-mailed to say that he has two partners in his new business — Dub Wardlaw and Scott Hatfield from Duffy’s. Regardless, there’s no question that Buckley is “all in” on this one: As part of the deal, he no longer works for The Bourbon Theater, though Poster Child is booking shows for the venue. When will we begin to see Poster Child-produced shows in Omaha?
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Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Jersey guitarist / instrumentalist / one-man band Delicate Steve (real name: Dave Marion), who’s new album, Wondervisions, was released on Luaka Bop, a label created by Talking Heads’ David Byrne. AMG compares him to Animal Collective (not quite) and Dirty Projectors (getting closer). Opening is Bad Speler (a.k.a. Darren Keen) & DVH (a.k.a. Dereck Higgins). $8, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr., Lightning Bug is headlining a show that also includes I Was Totally Destroying it, Cashes Rivers, and what I believe is the stage debut of Pony Wars, a new band featuring Craig Korth (Oil, Brave Captain). $7, 9 p.m.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.