Kathryn Calder started her musical career in the band Inmaculate Machine, which she left after 2 albums and 4 Eps because it was impossible to coordinate with her new role in the New Pornographers, band that she joined before “Twin Cinema” and she is still with them. During 2009 she saved some time for the recording of her first solo album which was released in 2010, called “Are you my mother?” and that was the second best album of the year for this blog. All those musical projects are worth listening and we are also looking forward for her new songs. Now, just before the start of her first proper tour to promote her first solo album in the US, she has been kind enough to answer the questions of this blog. Here is the result.
You started your music career in the band Inmaculate Machine, which you left in 2008, what are your views about that stage?
I love those guys and I grew up in that band. We had so many crazy experiences and did so much travelling together, we became family.
In the album “Fables” you got Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand and the Cribs to do the backing vocals of “Jarhand, how did that happen? Do you still keep in touch with them?
The Cribs were recording in Vancouver with Alex Kapranos producing, and our producers invited them to get a tour of the studio where we were recording. We needed a gang vocal done, and it was perfect. We were so happy they were willing to sing on our album.
I saw a comic in Inmaculate Machine’s website in which, after being challenged by a radio program, you decided to sing a song in Chinese, so sorry, but I really think I ought to challenge you to sing a song in Spanish (come on! I’m sure it would be easier than Chinese! And I’m not asking you to “Sing me Spanish Techno”)
Ha! It was a silly joke! I still can't believe we went through with it but I'm glad we did. It's hard to sing in a language that you don't know!
You play guitar, keyboard, piano, accordion, percussion… did you have musical formation or did you learn all that by yourself?
I took piano lessons, singing lessons, guitar lessons. The accordion I just figured out. I like lessons, it keeps me on track.
You were in an indie band before, but wasn’t it such a nice coincidence finding out that the biological brother of your mother was in an indie band too?
I wasn't in a band yet when I met Carl, I was 14 or 15 and I hadn't learned about rock music yet! I really loved to sing, and meeting Carl was inspiring to me, but I never thought I'd be doing the same thing. As it turns out, the subconscious decisions I was making at the time were all leading me to the path I'm on now.
I suppose, as the New Pornographers were already a bigger band, that you found some differences in playing for Inmaculate Machine and playing for the New Pornographers, what things surprised you more?
Oh they were just such different bands. I was surprised by how difficult trying to be in both bands at the same time was! I thought it would be easy, it was not.
You joined the New Pornographers as a part time member, only for touring, but in the end you have been in the band since “Twin Cinema” and are now totally involved with the band, are you writing songs for the band or do you prefer to keep them for your solo project?
I was on a trial period for about 5 shows, and after that I was a full time member of the band. I don't contribute to the song writing, I leave that to Carl and Dan, but I do contribute creatively by playing on the record and coming up with ideas.
I’ve seen a couple of interviews in which Carl Newman states that, even if he thinks that “Challengers” was the right record to make at that time, he understands that a lot of people didn’t like it, but I like it a lot, am I the only one? What are your views about that record now?
I think a lot of people did like it and some people didn't. I love that record, some of my favourite songs to play are on that record, but in the end it doesn't matter. As long as some people love it, then that's enough.
You (as the New Pornographers and as your solo project) have contributed to campaign with Oxfam and other non profitable organisations; do you think that music can be a good way to make a wider audience notice the activities of those organisations?
Oh I think it's a great opportunity, of course! Lots of musicians support all kinds of charities, and those charities always need support.
About your solo album, even if you recorded it while you were taking care of your mother, and that you can’t exactly call it a happy-shiny-pop record, it isn’t sad or depressing in anyway (even if there are some sad songs). I think that in the end the record makes you feel nice and kind of optimistic was that the intention or it is just something that I see on it?
That was definitely the intention. I didn't want to make a depressing record, because that's not how I see life. I see life as ups and downs that we try to make sense of. So although there are some sad songs, and sad times in our lives, life isn't one dimensional, so I tried to make the record reflect that.
The title of you album “Are you my mother” is inspired by a children’s book, was that book important to you in some way or it was just that you thought the name was right for the album?
I just love that book, and think it's such a sweet story. It popped into my head as the right name for the album, so I went with it. I'll analyse it fully in another few years!
You recorded the whole record at home, but the sound is great and doesn’t sound amateur or anything like that, you also used some items like Kleenex boxes and fling cabinets for percussion, and out of tune piano backwards, what do you recall about the recording?
I recall us having a lot of fun with whatever instruments we had lying around. I love being creative like that. I find it amusing. We recorded it mostly in my mom's living room, but I did have a professional with me to make it sound fancy and good!
I think you are recording new songs, is the recording process like the first one, recording it at home with a lot of imagination and or improvisation or are you recording it a the studio? Will you release a new album or single anytime soon?
The process was very similar to the last record, except I was more prepared this time around. We also used the Hive Studios in Vancouver, and another studio in Victoria to record drums and other instruments. I love recording at home, I prefer it, but you do definitely get more done in a studio because there aren't distractions like laundry and groceries!
You are going to start a proper tour to support “Are you my mother”, and I read once in your facebook that it was highly unlikely to play in Europe because your record is not out here, well I have it, and I’m sure a lot people more too (internet makes it easy to buy records from around the world) so please reconsider it and play in Europe too! (you could support the New Pornographers at least in you next European shows)
You're sweet! I think I will be trying to come to Europe this year! Nothing is confirmed yet, but there's lots in the works. I'm heading out down the coast of the US in a month, for a couple weeks of shows, and I have other dates planned.
You made the original artwork of your record and it’s amazing, and the two videos for “Slip Away”and “Arrow are really beautiful as well. Do you participate in them or did you just rely on the right people to produce them?
Thanks! I had really amazing people making those videos. Dean Tzenos directed Slip Away, and Jon Busby directed Arrow. I helped with the ideas, but they did all the work executing them.
You have played a few times in Spain with the New Pornographers, what are your memories about that shows?
That the food was fantastic and the crowd was really amazing! I love Spain.
Which bands from nowadays do you listen?
I've been really enjoying PJ Harvey's new album 'Let England Shake', also The Dodo's new record,'No Colour', is wonderful too.
Which song, from any other artist of all time, do you wish you had written?
Any number of Paul Simon songs. I'm trying to think of one in particular. That's hard, he has so many amazing songs!
You sometimes use your Facebook to ask for book recommendations by your fans, so now it is your turn; please recommend us three books to read.
Salman Rushdie - The Enchantress Of Florence
Haruki Murakami - The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
Angela Carter - Wise Children
Anything else you would like to tell to your fans to end this interview?
Thanks for listening!