SoundOff with The New Pornographers’ Kathryn Calder

February 03, 2015


The New Pornographers (from back to front) Blaine Thurier, John Collins, Todd Fancey, Kathryn Calder, Neko Case, Karl Dahle and AC Newman (missing: Dan Bejar).

The lovely Kathryn Calder, known for her solo work, contribution to former indie-pop outfit Immaculate Machine, and now super-group The New Pornographers, fills us in on a few of her musical firsts and gushes over her Canadian indie-rock inspirations in this edition of SoundOff.

Do you remember the first album that you ever bought?

Unfortunately, yes. I was living in Holland at the time. I lived there for three years when I was a kid, so I was very influenced by the music that was going on in Holland. One of the bands that was huge that was actually a Dutch band, but had hits in Canada and in the U.S., was a band called 2 Unlimited.

Holland’s finest, 2 Unlimited.

It’s really embarrassing, but whatever. It’s cool for a kid that grew up with classical music. My mom and dad listened to a bit of popular music, but not really. They were listening to mostly classical and my brother was listening to heavy metal or metal. I really was led to my own devices to figure out what I liked and so 2 Unlimied was the first CD that I ever bought, and then it would have been Meatloaf and then it would have been Mariah Carey.

Is there a particular Canadian act that inspired you growing up? What made that artist stand out to you?

I think it would have been a tie between the Arcade Fire and The Constantines when Funeral and Shine A Light came out. Those two bands had an impact on me for different reasons.

(Funeral) was kind of one of those records that I immediately loved right from the beginning. I just put it on and was like, ‘Whoa, what is this band?’ And then I saw them live a couple of times and they had this incredible live show. Immaculate Machine actually played with them. We opened for them in Victoria at Lucky Bar. And that was a really cool night for me because they were one of my favourite bands.

Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies)” off 2004’s Funeral.

And then we met the Constantines in Toronto when Immaculate Machine was just starting to get going. We had a friend that was roommates with Bry Webb, and we stayed at their place. We stayed at Bry’s apartment and we didn’t know anybody. We were just this little band, and we had just booked this tour across Canada and it was so spotty, like we didn’t have our first show until Thunder Bay from Victoria. It was so hard to book shows as a young band.

We got to Toronto and we met all of these amazing people and Bry Webb was one of them. Owen Pallett was the other one we met, and he, of course, was playing with the Arcade Fire, so there was also that connection.

The Constantines’ “Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright)” from 2003’s Shine A Light.

The Constantines were just so nice. Really great people, and I wanted to be just like them. I wanted our band to be as cool as their band. Then they let us open for them in Victoria, and it was kind of the beginning of ‘OK, we’re starting to be taken a little bit seriously. And people are starting to pay attention.’ And I love that record, Shine A Light. It was just such a great record and I love every record they’ve done since then.

What was your first live music experience? Who did you see?

Aside from the classical music concerts that my parents took me to, the first concert that I really remember choosing to go to was “Weird Al” in Victoria. He was playing at one of the theatres in town and he had a fever and it wasn’t a given that he was even going to play. He was, like, waiting to see how he felt and he was late, and I as waiting there with some of my Grade 7 friends and we were so excited.

“Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Smells Like Nirvana.”

What’s your favourite Canadian venue, and what makes it so special?

The Commodore (Ballroom). It’s just a really nice space. It’s nice for bands backstage, and it’s nice for the audience out front. It’s always just a really great experience. I remember seeing Blonde Redhead there—that was a cool show. And Air!

Calder has witnessed a lot of cool shows at her favourite Canadian venue, the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, including French pop act Air. 

When you’re a teenager from Victoria, and all of the sudden you discover that there are really cool bands coming through Vancouver, it’s pretty exciting. Some of them do come to Victoria, but not nearly as many that go through Vancouver.

That was pretty fun, taking the ferry over and going to see Air. They had a person playing a theremin as an opener, and I was like ‘What is that crazy instrument?’ I’ve always wanted to learn it.

What’s the weirdest, strangest or best gig you’ve ever played, and where was it?

We were on a tour—this is with The New Pornographers—and we were playing with Belle and Sebastian, which in and of itself was incredibly mind-blowing for me. I was a big Belle and Sebastian fan, and I hadn’t really been in the band for that long. Maybe for a year? And we got offered this gig, and it was like ‘What is this crazy, amazing life I’m leading, right now?’

The New Pornographers toured with Belle and Sebastian in 2006. 

One of the stops was in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium where the Grand Old Opry was recorded. A couple of nights before, I had come down with laryngitis, so we are on the middle of this big tour with one of my favorite bands, and all of the sudden I can’t sing! And the Ryman was the first show that I was kind of able to sing after having laryngitis…it was this really crazy show at this historic building, and I had gotten my voice back, and I was like, ‘Thank God!’

Catch The New Pornographers on tour through Quebec and Ontario starting today.

The New Pornographers Tour Dates:

Feb. 4, Montreal, QC, Theatre Corona Virgin Mobile w/Operators
Feb. 5, Toronto, ON, The Danforth Music Hall w/Operators SOLD OUT
Feb. 6, London, ON, London Music Hall w/Operators
Feb. 7, Guelph, ON, Hillside Inside at Mitchell Hall, St. Georges Church w/Operators
Feb. 8, Hamilton, ON, Molson Canadian Studio at Hamilton Place w/Operators


–Julijana Capone

Wanna talk music? Email me at or follow me on Twitter @thejulijanaruin.

About the Author

Julijana Capone

Originally from Winnipeg, Julijana is NMC’s senior publicist and the managing editor of Amplify. In addition to her role at NMC, she is the founder of Light of Day Publicity, a company she formed to promote the work of emerging Canadian artists.

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