Guilty pleasure

By MICHAEL ATCHISON  |  March 10, 2009

You do something on "The Changeling (Get Guilty)" that isn't done often, which is to create a big, vibrant rock song in 3/4, or waltz time. I think it's interesting to write in 3/4, but not have it be waltzy, which sometimes makes me argue with drummers. Because if I play a song in 3/4, I'll go, "Don't make it go boom-chick-chick, boom-chick-chick." 3/4 is a good time signature; it's kind of natural sounding. It doesn't have to sound like a waltz.

Your songs are densely packed with words that seem inseparable from the melody. Do you write words and music simultaneously? The melody always comes first. It's a tricky business, trying to fit the words in there. Because I do want them to be seamless. It's like writing a haiku. You're trying to have a narrative inside your song, but it has to squeeze into a certain amount of syllables, and it has to have a good feel. I don't want to rush words in there and have it sound clumsy.

The album has a timeless quality, and a warm analog feel. Did you have any records that you wanted to emulate? Not really, but if there's any record that I've ever tried to emulate in the last five or 10 years, it's Fleetwood Mac's Tusk. A song like "Challengers" [from the New Pornographers' album of the same name] to me is almost like a pastiche of Fleetwood Mac. I wanted to do something that sounded like one of the quieter songs on Tusk, like "Save Me a Place."

Some acts know they have 78 minutes of space on a compact disc, and decline to edit themselves. Get Guilty is a tightly constructed 12 songs in 42 minutes. How much do you consider the overall context of the album when you're assembling songs? Sequencing is a big thing. It's tricky. Like the song "There are Maybe Ten or Twelve." I don't think that could go anywhere else except song number one. I moved it around on the album and it just sounded wrong. There are three songs on the album that are in 3/4 time. I thought, "Where do you put the 3/4 songs?" In the end, I thought they work together in a 10-minute suite in the middle of the record.

Most people would have been tempted to space them out. That was initially what I was thinking of doing; like, people will think it's weird. But most people don't notice. You could make a record that was entirely in 3/4 and nobody would really care. They would just think your record was extra-lilting.

What should people expect from your solo show? I don't know. I was talking [recently] with Aimee Mann about that exact question, how it is the most impossible question to answer. [Laughs] I guess expect greatness.

A.C. NEWMAN + DENT MAY AND HIS MAGNIFICENT UKELELE | Club Hell, 73 Richmond Street, Providence | March 13 @ 8 pm | $14 | 

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