The New Pornographers’ self-deprecating success

The New Pornographers’ frontman A.C. Newman talked with us about the band’s indie-rock gold status.

The New Pornographers formed in the late 90s as singer/songwriter A.C. Newman (second from left) entered his 30s. The band, which includes alt-country artist Neko Case and Dan Bejar of Destroyer, are coming to the First Avenue Mainroom Wednesday.

Courtesy of The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers formed in the late 90s as singer/songwriter A.C. Newman (second from left) entered his 30s. The band, which includes alt-country artist Neko Case and Dan Bejar of Destroyer, are coming to the First Avenue Mainroom Wednesday.

Jared Hemming

Since the New Pornographers’ classic power-pop debut “Mass Romantic” came out 14 years ago, singer A.C. Newman said the band’s continued career has been a pleasant surprise.

The album’s triumph caught Newman off guard because, at the time of the New Pornographers’ debut, he was already 32.

“It’s made it so I’m in my 40s now and I still have a music career,” Newman said. “I feel [that] people who get popular when they’re 22, when they’re in their 40s, it’s usually long gone. The fact that it came later might’ve given me longevity.”

Now six studio albums in, the New Pornographers’ tour supporting the powerful, poppy “Brill Bruisers” is bringing them to the First Avenue Mainroom on Wednesday.

On “Brill Bruisers,” Newman and co. refine their standard indie rock sound with catchy, wordless choruses and all-encompassing alliteration on tracks like “Dancehall Domine,” “Fantasy Fools” and “Brill Bruisers.”

On the road to professional musicianship, Newman said “Mass Romantic” pulled him out of his day job at a guitar shop, where one day he and his co-workers bought a magazine with the album’s review in it at a gas station.

“I was sitting there with my co-workers, reading our review in Rolling Stone,” Newman said. “I wanted a rave review in Rolling Stone — and we got one.”

Newman’s hesitant self-deprecating air influenced the New Pornographers’ catalogue.

“For a long time, what drove me was just trying to be better,” Newman said. “I’d finish a record and go, ‘That’s OK, but it’s not good enough.’”

Perhaps a side effect from growing up with red hair and bullies — as referenced in the music video for the band’s “Moves” — kept Newman an underdog.

For “Brill Bruisers,” however, Newman, now 46, gained the confidence to ignore any malcontents’ critiques.

“I feel like this is one of the best things we’ve ever done,” Newman said of the album. “For the first time, I’m going into it like bad reviews don’t hurt my feelings; they just piss me off.”

All rage aside, Newman said part of the New Pornographers’ success lies in the mellow power dynamic between its members, including solo artists Dan Bejar of Destroyer and Neko Case.

“It seems pretty smooth,” Newman said. “I mean, I think Neko and Dan have their own things. They’re not absolutely fighting to get their way on a New Pornographers record.”

Despite being the main creative force behind the band, Newman said the New Pornographers’ progress in the early 2000s strengthened the band’s bond of being mutual fans of one another.

“I’m a fan of the other members of the band; I don’t know if they’re fans of mine,” Newman joked. “Maybe they’ve grown to hate me.”

For Newman, who also records solo work, the New Pornographers’ continued foray into danceable power-pop grows from the band members’ other outlets.

“I think it helps that everybody else does other things,” Newman said. “I know this band is good because of the different influence of the band members. Whenever I’m working on a record, I feel very conscious of listening to what other people have to contribute.”

Newman also cited a lack of ego for the band’s lasting momentum as solid rock songwriters.

“I think it’s important to have some humility,” Newman said. “[I] know that we’re not the biggest band, we’re not the best band. But we’re pretty good.”

 

What: The New Pornographers with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: First Avenue Mainroom, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $25

Age: 18+