A.C. Newman didn’t play the Folk Fest

By Garth Paulson

It’s not every day you get to talk to a genius. Every once in a while though, by some strange confluence you get the opportunity to sit and talk to the vastly extraordinary about the very things that make them who they are.

This is exactly what I did with Carl Newman, front man from indie pop superstars the New Pornographers and presently working under the solo moniker of A.C. Newman.

Any apprehension I might have had about talking to someone I truly admire was quickly washed away as the conversation immediately veered to Newman’s first band, the quirky, and largely unknown Superconducter.

“I kind of look back on that fondly because we didn’t give a shit,” remarks Newman. “It was honest. The band was never intended to do anything and we came across that way. It was my first band and we would do all sorts of weird things like wearing capes and playing shows on top of amps or from behind them.”

The bizarre metal leanings of Superconducter are now hardly apparent in the blissful power-pop Newman began crafting in the mid-nineties with another one of his bands, Zumpano, which he has come to perfect with the New Pornographers and on his debut solo album The Slow Wonder.

When asked why he decided to release a solo album Newman offers a simple explanation:

“I had put out two albums of straight ahead peddle to the metal for 40 minutes,” says Newman, referring to the New Pornographers Mass Romantic and Electric Version. “I wanted to pull things back a bit, to rock out in different ways. When I finished recording The Electric Version I decided to approach this music thing with an actual work ethic, I had a bunch of songs that had a been set aside so I got a FACTOR loan and made a solo album.”

The result of which could possibly be the best thing Newman has ever done. As he mentioned, The Slow Wonder is markedly different from his work with the New Pornographers. In fact he describes it as “a step sideways.” The same gleeful hook-filled pop that has become a Newman trademark is still evident throughout the album but The Slow Wonder also contains a much more minimalist sound than the blazing guitars of The Electric Version. The combination of familiar elements and departures makes the album near perfect, a fact many critics are eager to point out.

“That’s nice of them,” Newman causally remarks about the wide praise he has received. “That’s the kind of thing I’ve always wanted from music. I don’t want to be famous, I want to be good. I don’t want to become a star, I think it is possible to make a good living for yourself at an underground level.”

As long as Newman continues to release music of the calibre which the New Pornographers and The Slow Wonder have attained, praise is not about to dry up anytime soon.

“I’ve been living with the critical acclaim for a couple of years now. I’ve never done heroin but I imagine it must be what heroin is like. Right now the critical acclaim makes me feel normal, I don’t even really notice it, but if it went away I would miss it.”

Heroin might be a suiting analogy for Newman’s music, the combination of the irresistible instrumentation, his wonderfully giddy voice and his knack for delivering countless clever hooks in a single song seep into your system demanding repeated listening, and a near dependence, the only area where the analogy fails is that Newman’s music doesn’t possess the ability to kill its most devoted followers.

Fans will be given the chance to receive a live fix of this miracle drug and the opportunity to add to Newman’s continuously growing cannon of praise this Saturday as he tours in support of The Slow Wonder.

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