Seattle Weekly: Your new album, Twin Cinema (Matador), sounds rawer and more garagey than the first two New Pornographers albums, 2000's Mass Romantic and 2003's Electric Version. Did you set out to make it that way?
Carl Newman (guitar/vocals): You really think it sounds [that way]? Good. I know Kurt [Dahle] wanted to go for a more [John] Bonham–esque kind of drum sound. There's a lot more natural reverb on things. I think the points that rock, rock harder than any other of the records, like that guitar solo at the end of "The Jessica Numbers."
The lineup keeps expanding from album to album–at first it was basically seven people, and now there are nine, with Kathryn Calder and Nora O'Connor.
My niece, Kathryn, is a real ringer—she's amazing on keyboards and a great singer. She's really the only new person. [O'Connor] never plays with us live. She's a friend we use as a session vocalist. On Electric Version, we used her because we basically couldn't get Neko [Case, vocalist] as much as we needed her. Nora's the female singer on four songs on [that album]; it's funny, because nobody's ever really noticed. I want the band [to] just sound like a band, not like a bunch of individuals. With [Twin Cinema], people are going, "I can't tell who's singing." I think, "That's good. Who cares who's singing?"
You write most of the New Pornographers' songs but there are always a few by Dan Bejar of Destroyer. Does he bring his songs to the group differently than how you bring yours?
He lets us run with them—basically, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law with Dan. He trusts our instincts. A lot of the stuff we record, he's not around for it. We practice with him to get the skeletal arrangement. He'll come in and work on his songs, but sometimes we'll work without him. I look at his songs a lot differently than my own. I'm a fan of Dan, whereas with my [songs], I don't have that luxury.
There's a song on the new album called "Sing Me Spanish Techno." How much Spanish techno have you actually heard?
My girlfriend was talking about living in Spain. I said, "Well, speak some Spanish." She said all she remembered was the choruses from Spanish techno songs when she was dancing in clubs, which caused me to respond with the title of the song. That was a weird one—usually I have the music and the words come later. That one, the phrase inspired the big hook of the song. That was rare.
The New Pornographers play an in-store at Sonic Boom Ballard, 2209 N.W. Market St., 206-297-2666, at 11 p.m. Tues., Aug. 22. Free.