Catching Up With… AGet Guilty is the fifth album in
six years penned, at least in part, by the prolific A.C. Newman, but
only the second stamped with his name alone. He's not afraid to
openly admit that being in a successful band is hard work, either.
Get Guiltyand Newman is already working on demos for the New Pornographers’
follow-up to 2007’s Challengers while prepping for his
month-plus jaunt through the states in support of his latest pop-rock
adventure (a good chunk of the dates will feature Dent May & His
Magnificent Ukulele).Catching Up With… AIn one of those fleeting moments where
Newman catches his breathe, Paste caught up with the
inexhaustible creative flame via phone in his Brooklyn home to find
out what went into the slick, refined production of his latest, the
subconscious creation of timeless hooks and the tightrope-balancing
act of power as the designated leader of the Pornographers.
Paste: How is everything
going in your world, Carl?Newman: I’ve been home for a
while, relaxing in a way. You know, my record just came out, so I’ve
been doing stuff connected with that. I’ve also been writing and
working on demos for the next New Pornographers record. Anytime I’m
able to work at home, I don’t really consider it work. Being able
to sleep in your own bed is key. When I’m on tour, that feels like
Paste: I’ve always had
a hard time working from home. I usually end up at a local café
or library because if I’m at home, I always find myself getting
distracted or falling asleep.Newman: I definitely have to do
that. Like, well, especially since my wife left her job about a year
ago, it always used to be in my life that my girlfriend or wife would
go to work and I would just be by myself working all day long, but I
don’t really have that anymore. I definitely need to go to a space
to work, and that’s usually the practice space. It’s a windowless
room, which is good to spend a few hours. I just started doing it a
couple weeks ago, but I try whenever I have the chance to go in at
least for a couple of hours and try to do a little bit of work. When
you put yourself in a windowless room where there is nothing else to
do, you have no choice but to work.
Paste: Get Guilty
shares the hook-heavy, pop-rock mentality of The Slow Wonder,
the main difference being the level of production, which has more
layers, more texture, more depth. It's not nearly as simplistic.Newman: On The Slow Wonderwas surprised. The New Pornographers did a five or six week tour [in
support of] Electric Version, which ended in September of
2003, and I got home, got together with a few friends and we started
practicing. At the beginning of October, we started recording it. It
was finished by December. It was an interesting exercise because I
got it in my head that I wanted to make a record, and I said to
myself that I wanted to finish it by the end of the year. I didn’t
tell anybody I was making it, and my goal was to get it to Matador
before Christmas so they could listen to it over the holidays. I was
really into the idea of being all action and no talk. I just wanted
to throw it on their desk and say, “Look at what I did.” Which
was easy to do then because no one was anticipating that I would ever
make a solo record, but [Get Guilty] was different.
Paste: How did the
recording process of Get Guilty compare?Newman:with the New Pornographers, so there was other stuff to do along the
way, which kept me sane. If you descend too far into a record, it can
drive you insane. It’s good to have little breaks here and there.
In the end, this record is way more
dense and a little more rock. People thought my last solo album was
so mellow, but of course you can’t really stop people from thinking
what they want. I definitely took some time in crafting it this time
around; I can’t help that to a certain degree. I’m always wanting
to add some weird, little texture in there. Maybe it’s some kind of
Paste: With all the other
things going on at the time, did you find yourself writing and
recording songs for Get Guilty, returning to those tracks a
few days later and wanting to wildly edit or redo what you had done?Newman: There is some of that,
but there is also a lot of going in and saying, “This song is too
messy” and having to try and strip it down…figure out what works
and what doesn’t work. I find that’s the most painful part of
making a record, you know? When I’m working on a song, I’m doing
lots of overdub and just like, experimenting with other things.
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to leave it or pull back. It’s
an interesting game.
Paste: I come across the
same sort of issue with writing. If I step away from a piece for a
day and return, I have a wildly different perspective on what I’m
trying to do.Newman: That definitely happens,
and I’m definitely a big fan of trying everything, you know?
Sometimes, your first instinct works. Sometimes you’ll work on
something and come back a month later and go, “I had it the first
day.” There have been songs where I’ve just used the demo on the
final record. But sometimes, the song needs those months and months
of you toiling over it before it becomes the song you want it to be.
And I haven’t really found a method for figuring out which is
which, and for that reason, I find myself trying everything in the
hopes that nothing will be missed.
Paste: It’s a healthy
exercise.Newman: As long as what comes
out the other end is what you want it, you know? Sure, it’s a waste
a time to spend days and days on a song and then just scrap it and
use the earliest version of it, but it’s all part of the journey.
You had to do that to find out, you know?