There’s a consistency to the efforts of Canadian indie rock outfit The New Pornographers. The band’s seventh album, “Whiteout Conditions,” comes three years after the sixth, which came four years after the fifth. For nearly 20 years, there’s been a new New Pornographers record more or less every three years, with slightly different, but always recognizable, takes on the band’s signature power pop.
“Trying to do something different without abandoning who you are — I feel like that’s been the last 15 years of my life,” lead singer and songwriter Carl Newman says.
“Something different” was, in some ways, required for “Whiteout Conditions.” The band’s longtime drummer Kurt Dahle left the group in 2014, and Dan Bejar, the songwriter behind Pornographers standouts like “War on the East Coast” and “Myriad Harbour,” is absent here due to commitments to his band Destroyer (he is still a member of the Pornographers — think hiatus rather than departure).
amNewYork caught up with Newman in advance of the band’s appearance at Terminal 5 to talk about the changes — some subtle, some not — that take place in a band 17 years into its existence.
For a band that started with that press label “supergroup,” you’ve been a remarkably stable unit over nearly two decades. What was it like heading into the studio with a new drummer and without Bejar?
Having a different drummer felt like a good shake-up. I feel like it changed the dynamic in a very good way. It sort of opened us up to do things that we maybe wouldn’t have normally done before. There are songs on this record where there’s a drum kit, but also Casio tracks and obviously robotic drums in with the real ones. And with our previous drummer, that would have been more difficult to sell. It was fun to open up and get a little weirder on that front. And not having Dan on the record was weird, but on the other side, in the experience of working on my songs, this record was no different. If you want to know what this record would have been like with Dan on it, you could basically take this record and add three songs from the next Destroyer record. That would be a pretty good approximation.
The songs on “Whiteout Conditions” seem to be more driven than on albums past — I’ve seen you describe it as “bubble gum krautrock.”
I wanted the album to have a sort of drive, but I didn’t want it to be aggressive, so I think that’s where the idea of having a krautrock feel came in. The idea of having a fast song and driving it with an acoustic rather than an electric guitar — and even vocally, I like the idea of the vocals being a little more laid back. The last song on the album, “Avalanche Alley,” is 180 BPM but the vocal delivery is pulled back. All of that was fun to me, little things like keeping the strong structures simpler.
This album has some of your most politically charged lyrics in recent memory, like on “High Ticket Attractions.”
It was one of those songs where, when I started writing lyrics, I couldn’t avoid what I was thinking. There was a lot of anxiety about where America is going, and it leaks out. … You can’t avoid it. Even if you’re writing what you think is just stream of consciousness, your consciousness is thinking about something. Maybe it’s coming out of you in a fractured way, and you might think, “oh, this doesn’t mean anything.” If you read it again obviously it means something. Your mind doesn’t often spew out complete nonsense. It always means something.
IF YOU GO: The New Pornographers are playing Terminal 5 on Wed. April 26, 8 p.m, $43, 610 W. 56th St., terminal5nyc.com