Band leader Carl Newman discusses creating their new album “Continue as a Guest” during the pandemic.
Like most musicians during the pandemic, Carl Newman, founder of Canadian indie rock band The New Pornographers, hunkered down in his home studio in Woodstock, New York, determined to use his forced downtime in a productive manner, revisiting unfinished material and bringing the songs to fruition.
The resulting effort, “Continue as a Guest,” the band’s ninth studio album since their incarnation as a musical collective (which also has Alexandria’s own Neko Case and Kathryn Calder as members) in 1997 finds the material more low-key than previous outings. But for Newman, it was inevitable that the mood of the pandemic would find its way into the music.
“It was hard not to write during the pandemic and ignore it,” Newman tells District Fray. “To write songs during that time and to ignore what I was feeling or what was going on in the world, it just felt false to me.”
Reworking the songs in all manners, Newman also reached out to an outside member of the band to aid in the writing for the song “Firework in the Falling Snow”: Speedy Ortiz’s lead singer and guitarist Sadie Dupuis. Given the wonders of modern technology, all of this was done online.
“I still haven’t met her,” Newman admits. “I wrote her. I said ‘Hey, I have a song I can’t crack. Do you want to help me out with the lyrics?’ And she said ‘Sure’….I’m sure there’s probably a few band members that don’t know that she co-wrote that song.”
Another decision Newman embarked on in January 2022 was to stop drinking.
“There was not a come to Jesus moment,” Newman says about quitting alcohol. He was not a full-blown alcoholic and viewed his sobriety like a New Year’s resolution.
“I just kept going with it and after a while, it kind of had some momentum. It wouldn’t destroy my life to have a couple of glasses of wine. I don’t think I would relapse because then my clock would start again, and I don’t want to restart the clock. I’m at a year and three months.”
Newman, who used to have a few drinks to relax before hitting the stage now realizes that being sober has made him a much better performer.
“I’m better at playing live now because I’m sharper,” Newman admits. “It feels really good. I feel like all cylinders are firing.”
The New Pornographers will play 9:30 Club Friday, May 19 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 20 at 5:30 p.m. Sold out. To learn more about The New Pornographers and their music, follow them online at thenewpornographers.com and on Instagram @thenewpornographers.
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