WATCH: Carl Newman of The New Pornographers: "I've always loved epic, sugary pop songs"

The New Pornographers frontman on his downbeat lyrics, upbeat music: "I make music to make myself feel better"

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published April 3, 2017 8:00PM (EDT)

This Salon Talks video was produced by Alexandra Clinton

The New Pornographers put out their first album, “Mass Romantic,” in 2000. Nearly 17 years later the band is still going strong with its upcoming release, “Whiteout Conditions.” The band’s founder and lead singer, Carl Newman, stopped by Salon studios to talk about what it’s like to make music in your “classic rock” years and the signature sound of The New Pornographers.

I asked Newman about the dissonance between his lyrics, which are often dark and even melancholy, and the actual music of his songs, which is typically upbeat and danceable.

I think there may be a logic behind our songs. They’ve always been like that. I think, for me, you listen to music and it makes you feel better. A lot of people listen to music and it makes them feel better when they’re feeling lousy. That translates into me making music. I make music to make myself feel better.

I think of pop songs that I love. I’ve always loved these epic, sugary pop songs, like "Daydream Believer" or "Happy Together," so when I’m writing songs, I just naturally go in that direction. But that’s a product of something being rough in your life. You’re writing music just to make yourself feel better. So lyrically, it may be a little downbeat, but the music is very upbeat.

Newman concluded: “I think people think I’m being flippant by having downbeat lyrics and upbeat songs -- but really it’s just a bizarre manifestation of my psyche."

Whiteout Conditions” will be released April 7 on Concord Records.

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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