Juno award-winning indie rockers The New Pornographers perform at Peterborough Musicfest on July 9

Almost 22 years after the release of their critically acclaimed debut 'Mass Romantic', Vancouver-born band will deliver the goods at Del Crary Park

Juno award-winning Vancouver-born indie rockers The New Pornographers perform at Peterborough Musicfest in Del Crary Park on July 9, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Concord Records)
Juno award-winning Vancouver-born indie rockers The New Pornographers perform at Peterborough Musicfest in Del Crary Park on July 9, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Concord Records)

In the music business, strength in numbers on its own doesn’t guarantee lasting success. But strength in talent … well, now you’re on to something.

Since forming in Vancouver in 1997, indie rock band The New Pornographers’ success has been, and remains, a testament to the musical magic that is inevitable when the talented come together as one entity.

With eight studio albums to its credit — the latest being In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights — a winning formula of combining multi-vocalists with power pop elements has consistently won the The New Pornographers critical acclaim and a legion of fans.

On Saturday, July 9th at Del Crary Park, all the evidence one needs of the truth of that statement will be revealed when The New Pornographers take the stage for Peterborough Musicfest’s 35th season. As always, admission to the 8 p.m. concert is free.

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The band’s attention-grabbing name was chosen by singer and guitarist Carl Newman, who was inspired by the 1966 Japanese satirical film The Pornographers as well as a song of the same name on the first record of fellow Vancouver indie rock band The Destroyers. He also thought it was ridiculous when bands use “new” in their name, like the British pop group The New Seekers (formed in London in 1969 by Keith Potger after the break-up of his Australian group The Seekers), so he added that to the name.

These days, however, the band sides with the popular belief the name comes from a quote by televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who once called rock ‘n’ roll “the new pornography.”

“That came after the fact,” Newman says in a 2019 interview with Chart Attack. “Somebody told me that and I thought it was so good that I was going to make it my new story.”

VIDEO: “Letter From an Occupant” – The New Pornographers

Three years in the making, the band released its debut album Mass Romantic in 2000 — the first of four albums voted into the Top 40 of The Village Voice’s Jazz and Pop annual poll of hundreds of music reviewers.

The record also won the 2001 Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year.

In a December 2021 interview with Jonathan Dekel published in The Toronto Star, Newman said the initial critical review of Mass Romantic produced a revelation that still resonates.

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“I was seated in our publicist’s office and I remember reading the first rave review of the album,” Newman recalls. “It was the first time I’d ever gotten a glowing review like that. They were just going ‘This is an absolute masterpiece’ and I remember thinking ‘Holy shit, this is the beginning of something really big.'”

Newman couldn’t have been more right.

From 2000 to 2006, either one of the band’s albums, or a solo album released by one of the band’s members, ranked in the top 40 on Village Voice’s poll list each year. The band’s third studio album, 2005’s Twin Cinema, was nominated for the 2006 Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year.

VIDEO: “Your Hands (Together)” – The New Pornographers

In 2007, Blender magazine ranked Mass Romantic the 24th best indie album of all time. And, in 2009, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the band’s second studio album, Electric Version, at number 79 in its listing of the 100 Best Albums of the Decade.

More than two decades since the release of Mass Romantic, Newman remembers thinking it was “another mediocre album.”

“When the record came out, it was like the world had to convince me that it was good,” he says.

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It was good — very good — and listeners were yearning for more from Newman et al.

Of note, each of the The New Pornographers’ original members was doing very well in Vancouver music circles prior to coming together.

Notable among them is singer Neko Case, whose exceptional career as a solo artist saw her release seven albums and receive a Grammy Award nomination in 2014 for Best Alternative Music Album for 2013’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You — likely the longest record title in the history of music, modern or otherwise.

VIDEO: “Champions of Red Wine” – The New Pornographers

“Ironically, I now see Neko more than I ever have before,” notes Newman. “When we were making Mass Romantic, we had to fight to get her into the studio for like a day or two over the course of two years.”

Alongside Newman and Case, the current band lineup features original members John Collins (bass) and Dan Bejar (vocals/guitar). Also in the mix are Todd Fancey (lead guitar), Kathryn Calder (vocals/keyboards/guitar), and Joe Seiders (drums/vocals). Touring with the band as a backing vocalist and percussionist since coming into the fold in 2021 is Nora O’Connor.

The New Pornographers’ latest album, In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights, was released in 2019 and has brought forth three singles to date, the first being “Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile” followed by “The Surprise Knock” and “One Kind Of Solomon.”

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Earlier high-charting singles in Canada include “Your Hands (Together)” (2010), “Brill Bruisers” (2014), and “High Ticket Attractions” (2017).

“Ultimately, we never became super famous but it got to a point that I always dreamed about,” reflects Newman. “All of the bands that I loved were underground bands signed to (prominent indie labels) Matador, Merge, or Sub Pop. To become one of those bands was a dream come true.”

With Pitchfork having recently named The New Pornographers one of its most influential artists of the past 25 years and a late 2021 re-issue of Mass Romantic drawing new listeners while quenching the enduring thirst of longtime fans, Newman says — tongue in cheek, or perhaps not — Newman’s coming around to the band being seen as “an oldies” act.

VIDEO: “Falling Down The Stairs Of Your Smile” – The New Pornographers

“I think it’s for somebody else to look at us and go ‘Look at those geezers,'” he says. “We’re just going to be onstage and just feel like ‘Yeah, it’s us.'”

Peterborough Musicfest is presenting 16 free-admission concerts during its milestone 35th anniversary season, each staged Wednesday and Saturday nights at Del Crary Park in downtown Peterborough.

Overseen by general manager Tracey Randall and staff, a board of directors, and numerous volunteers, Peterborough Musicfest’s stated mission remains “to provide diverse, affordable live music to enrich cultural and economic prosperity in our community.”

For more information on this concert or the entire 2022 season, visit www.ptbomusicfest.ca or phone the Peterborough Musicfest office at 705-755-1111.