Solo contender

By ZETH LUNDY  |  March 10, 2009

When Newman formed the New Pornographers in Vancouver, he altered the way he'd been writing, and that led to songs like "Letter from an Occupant" — "boneheaded Ramones-like" songs, as he puts it, songs that steamrolled over some of Zumpano's more serpentine or precious tendencies with delirious immediacy. The change in methodology also afforded him a new freedom in arranging his music. "Starting with the first New Pornographers record, I've never had any problem hacking songs up. That's the great thing about technology. If you're recording a song and don't like the way it's going, you just hack it up: get rid of the chorus, put the bridge where the chorus used to be. Anything goes."

The New Pornographers' debut, Mass Romantic, was a hacked-up dark horse when it was released in 2000, a series of juiced refrains where every verse, chorus, and bridge should have been. Their next two albums, Electric Version (2003) and Twin Cinema (2005), lifted their giddy pop to cartoonish and cinematic heights, making them the toast of indie-dom. "When we first started making records, the idea of it being a career seemed inconceivable to us. We'd just make the record we wanted to make, because why wouldn't we? What difference did it make? If the record did well or stiffed didn't seem to matter. Now we've got all this pressure to compete on a worldwide level, which is kind of frightening."

Newman humbly defers to albums by contemporaries like Animal Collective, the National, Spoon, and Sufjan Stevens when talking pressure. Although he considers himself a massive music fan first and a performer second, his band's most recent effort, Challengers (2007), peaked at #34. This may not seem odd at a time when major labels are harbingers of doom and indie music is storming the Billboard charts, but Newman remains skeptical about his success. "If you went back and told my teenage self that one day I'd have a record in the Top 40, I would not believe you. Shit happens in this world. It doesn't mean you become a rock star . . . but it's better than not being in the Top 40."

A.C. NEWMAN + DENT MAY & HIS MAGNIFICENT UKULELE | Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | March 14 @ 8 pm | $15 | 617.562.8880 or

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