Any artist who's ever spent several consecutive weeks on the road will tell you same thing: Being able to do a gig and then drive 10 minutes or so afterward to your own house, where you'll be surrounded by your own stuff, and—wonder of wonders—actually be able to sleep in your own sweet, soft, and wonderfully familiar bed is the manifestation of a dream once thought unattainable. And for New Pornographers mastermind Carl Newman, a Woodstocker since 2009, this elusive dream will be realized on July 9, when his band once again headlines the just-down-the-road Bearsville Theater.
"Yeah, it's pretty great being so close by," says Newman via phone. Just back from a European tour, he's relishing his five-year standing as a local after having transferred to the Hudson Valley, like so many others, from New York. "Right now, I'm baking cookies for a Woodstock Day School benefit. Kind of just being a regular upstate guy, I guess. [Laughs.]" Presently, the New Pornographers are touring on their sixth album, Brill Bruisers (Matador Records), which came out last August. The record once again sees the indie supergroup winning delirious applause for their ingenious intermingling of transcendent, Brian Wilson-worthy pop arrangements, crunchy guitar riffs, and soaring Association/Mamas and the Papas vocal harmonies. Its title—also the name of its lead-off track—though, isn't an allusion to the hallowed 1619 Broadway songwriters' hive known as the Brill Building, although that would certainly be a logical guess given Newman's flair for pop classicism. Instead, it's a truncation of the song's working title and a product of his penchant for alliteration. "Originally I was calling it 'Brilliant Bruisers,' but then that got shortened to 'Brill Bruisers'—just because it sounded cool," says the singer-guitarist, who in his solo guise as A. C. Newman was profiled in the October 2012 issue of Chronogram. "When I'm writing songs, I'm much less concerned with what words mean than with how they sound. So, yeah, I love alliteration." Underscoring the point, Brill Bruisers also includes the synth-squiggle-infused "Fantasy Fools" and the giddy, pounding "Dancehall Domine."
Formed in 1999 in the Vancouver area, Newman's original home, the New Pornographers have since maintained a "slightly amorphous" lineup that also includes guitarist and singer Dan Bejar (Destroyer, Swan Lake), bassist John Collins (the Evaporators, Destroyer), keyboardist Ben Thurier, and alt-country queen Neko Case on vocals. Owing to conflicts with her own schedule, Case, who sings on Brill Bruisers, isn't with the band on tour this time out; taking her place is rising local chanteuse Simi Stone.
"You feel this weird pressure with hometown shows," says Newman, who with the group played the Bearsville Theater once before, in 2010. "I'm guessing the neighbors are, like, 'Carl's in a band? I wonder what he does.'" They'll find out this month.
The New Pornographers will perform at the Bearsville Theater in Bearsville on July 9 at 7pm. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down will open. Tickets are $35. (845) 679-4406; Bearsvilletheater.com.