Here’s my interview with Kathryn Calder, who is performing at Gypsy Sally’s tomorrow night at 8 PM.
Canadian indie rock musician Kathryn Calder has found much success as one of the keyboardists and singers with indie favorites, The New Pornographers. She also has a successful solo career, and is currently touring to promote her third album, a self-titled album. DC is her last stop of her current tour. Calder took time out of her busy schedule to chat with me via the phone about what touring is like, her writing process, and her work honoring her mother. Kathryn Calder is performing at Gypsy Sally’s tomorrow night at 8 PM.
How is your solo work different than your work with The New Pornographers?
Both are quite different, especially the song writing. With my three albums all are my songwriting. The New Pornographers is a collaborative effort. Carl Newman (the lead singer) does the songwriting. Dan Bejar aka Destroyer writes some songs. The band comes in separately and records their part. Then Carl turns it into an album.
Who worked on your new album?
My solo album is a creation of my friends and me who came by to play. My husband, Colin Stewart, has a big part to do with it too (he co-produced it). The ideas for the songs come from me.
What is your writing process like?
My writing process has changed over the last two records. This last one has a lot of atmosphere. I’d write the melody on top of the atmosphere. The last few records I would use my acoustic guitar to write the songs then bring it to the studio to arrange them. It didn’t work like that this time. I couldn’t get the songs to be interesting enough for me. I had a previous whole album written, scratched it, and started again. It was an epic process to record. It would be me sitting down at my computer with my synth and recording from there.
Who do you listen to? Who did you listen to growing up?
I listened to Brian Eno while making the record. I would go through phases and listen to particular things. I listened to atmosphere/ repetitive music. I listened a lot to William Basinski. He is really cool. He takes a melody, like a piano melody, and plays through the tape machine until it disintegrates as it gets harder and harder to hear. It becomes crackly, and I find it extremely soothing.
I’ve also gotten back into The Stone Roses record. I love lots of different music.
Growing up I had my normal phases. I started with the oldies. I loved the Beatles, tons of pop music (radio and TV), and got into David Bowie. My friends got me into The Beatles and I love Elliot Smith and My Bloody Valentine. The music world I’m currently in was introduced to me through friends.
What do you enjoy most about touring?
My favorite part is meeting up with friends I don’t get to see often besides playing live which I also enjoy! I enjoy seeing different cities and hanging with different friends. I love driving through different parts of the world.
What do you like performing in the DC area?
DC is a really great New Pornographers town. We feel very accepted here.
What are your pre-show rituals?
I warm up a bit and have a moment to myself. It depends on the show. Usually I’m running around like crazy and trying not to forget things. Sometimes the rituals go out the window. I do try to warm-up.
What has been your biggest highlight of your musical career?
That’s a tough one. There have been a lot of cool things. One of my favorite tours was in 2006 with Belle and Sebastian. They are amazing musicians and people. I was already a fan of the band.
What inspires you to write your music?
I write about what I’m thinking about a lot. Recently, I write about the philosophy of life. It comes out a lot in the record. I write about being vulnerable. I can’t control our environment, but try to, but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes you get blind-sided and don’t have control at all. I try to be OK with being that vulnerable. I try to figure out how to be at peace within this chaos.
Losing my mom and dad within a short period of time, it made my perspective on life very different. I try not to sweat the small things. I try not to worry about things that aren’t that big of a deal. (Laughing) It doesn’t always work.
In 2009 my mom died of ALS and my dad died in 2010. I’ve done a lot of work for ALS awareness. A documentary, titled A Matter of Time is coming out about the band and me writing my first solo record. I wrote my first album in my first family house with my mom in the house. It was written for her. The documentary is all done. It’s coming out soon! I’m excited!
How would you describe your music?
Not sure how to describe it. Atmospheric pop! Listen and tell me what you think! (laughing).
What advice do you have for budding musicians trying to have a successful career like you?
Follow your instincts. It’s a combo of luck and hard work. Follow your heart. There’s not one way to do it. For young musicians, keep practicing and keep getting shows and always keep building. Eventually something really cool will happen. Everybody gets frustrated and it is very normal, but don’t let it stop you. Keep plugging away at where you want to be and hope for the best.
How is the tour going?
Really fun!! Great tour!! Short and sweet. It’s close to the end. All the shows have been great and the people have been lovely. There are four of us in the band on this tour with no crew. It’s a do it yourself tour.
I love getting the new songs out in the world. We hope to win over some new fans, sell some records, get the music to people and have good shows. The shows get bigger and better.
How do you know when it’s a good show?
It’s a good show when the band is playing well together, it’s fairly apparent. You feel the flow with the group of people in the room with you. We figure out, what’s the vibe? I take each show as a learning experience. It’s important to get on tour and see it. On tour we see: what’s the best set list and what’s the best song to choose. We are winging it!
What are you reading now?
I am reading 500 books at the same time! (laughing). The most interesting one I’m reading is a rock memoir by Viv Albertine called Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. I haven’t gotten that far into it. It is about her living in the UK during the 60s and 70s and all these stories about bands (Sex Pistols and The Clash) and hanging around them. I’m fascinated about growing up in that particular time. I’m also reading anything by Elena Ferrante, an Italian writer. I am loving her books!
How do bands manage being on the bus?
Being on the bus, you need to be easy going. You can’t let everyone or anything bother you. Make sure you don’t bug people with your quirks. Being friends with people is way easier too.
Lastly what’s next for you?
Taking care of some things in Victoria then taking a break to recharge!